Marriage isn’t just a romantic idea. It is a legally binding commitment that affects both spouses for the rest of their lives and even after death. Your property and income generally combine with your spouse’s, and each of you can claim those property rights if you get divorced or the other spouse dies.
When you marry, especially if you have children from another relationship, creating a prenuptial agreement with your fiancé can dovetail nicely with creating a new family estate plan. Prenuptial agreements can serve several important roles in your new family. Signing one can give you peace of mind for the rest of your life and protect the extended family relationships after someone dies.
How can a prenuptial agreement make estate administration less contentious?
They can set property aside as separate
Maybe you already own your home outright and want it to pass to your children – not your spouse – when you die. Perhaps you have a business that you want to protect as separate property so that it goes to your partner or a relative (not your spouse who has no business experience).
A prenuptial agreement allows you to name certain assets as separate property, preventing your spouse from laying claim to those assets if you divorce or after you die. Having such terms included in the prenuptial agreement can make your estate plan that much more secure and enforceable. It’s important that both spouses have aspects that protect them, as a one-sided prenuptial agreement may not hold up under scrutiny in court later.
They help both spouses achieve mutual understanding
Few things lead to probate complications more quickly than unrealistic expectations. While it may be uncomfortable to talk about what you want them to receive when you die, you need to be clear about your plans.
If your spouse assumes that they get to inherit everything from you, they might find your actual estate plan rather disappointing. When you talk about those expectations and plans before you get married, both spouses go into the marriage with realistic hopes. The process of negotiating your prenuptial agreement and designating certain property as separate can help clarify what your spouse can expect from your estate when you die.
Drafting a prenuptial agreement can be a way to strengthen or clarify your estate plan.