When I got engaged, I wanted to make sure I fully understood what happened after my partner and I signed on the dotted line of our marriage license. I was most eager to find out how marriage would impact our finances, from whether or not it made sense to file joint taxes to which assets would still be individually owned and not commingled after we became newlyweds.
This led me to have a conversation with a divorce lawyer, who explained the benefits of a prenuptial agreement. A prenup is not only useful in the event of a future divorce (which I hope does not happen), but preparing one is also a way to get clarity on what financial assets would continue to be separate after marriage.
Ultimately, we decided not to get a prenup, but it’s something I still think about and wonder if it would have been the right thing to do. Marriage is romantic, but finances are not. Having a plan in place for how things would be split up if we ever split up would ease a lot of my nerves.
That’s why I wondered if getting a postnuptial agreement, also known as a postnup, is something we should consider. Some experts say postnups aren’t as easy to enforce in court as prenups, but in many cases they’re better than nothing. Here are four benefits to getting a postnup, according to family-law lawyers.
1. It takes the stress off your relationship
After you get married, you and your partner might start making changes to your overall financial portfolio. That alone might cause some stress on the relationship.
Family law attorney Brent Kaspar says that a postnuptial agreement is a way to help you have in-depth discussions about money with your partner.
“The process of setting up a postnuptial agreement requires you and your partner to have in-depth discussions. To write a thorough contract, you’ll need to talk about your finances, your hopes for the future, and whether or not you want children,” says Kaspar. “Also, the contract itself can be reassuring. Some couples use it to outline relationship responsibilities and expectations on top of financial details. When you both know what you expect out of the relationship, you’ll feel more secure. That means less stress and less risk of a relationship breakdown and divorce.”
2. You get clarity around assets
Even though I don’t always think I have many assets, the truth is I do. I have a savings account, investment accounts, a business, and more. My partner and I also had a few joint assets before we got married (accounts and investments). One benefit of a postnup is understanding how ownership of these assets works now that you are married.
“If you and your partner have been together for a while before getting married, you may already have combined assets. You can use a postnuptial contract to officially share ownership of these assets,” says Kaspar.
3. It minimizes uncertainty in the event of divorce
When entering a marriage, divorce isn’t something you plan for, but it can happen. Family-law attorney Sabrina Shaheen Cronin says that since divorce can be a breeding ground for disagreement, frustration, and vindictiveness, causing thousands and thousands of dollars to be spent on attorneys, a postnup can help mitigate this long before it might ever be needed.
Says Shaheen Cronin, “Postnuptial agreements address issues such as property division, inheritance payments, insurance policies, debt, and support payments, all of which need to be determined prior to the entry of a divorce judgment in order for the agreement to be valid.”
4. It’s useful if your financial situation changes later in life
As the years go on, there could be financial changes that happen within the relationship and the couple’s personal lives (from their income to a change in career). Shaheen Cronin says it may be worthwhile to consider a postnup to protect those new assets in the event of a divorce.
Most couples with significant assets will sign a prenup before marriage, she says, but for couples who have more moderate incomes and limited assets, a prenup probably wasn’t signed. As time goes on, though, that could change — either spouse could come into an inheritance, get a big salary boost, or you could invest together. A postnup could help you figure out who would own what in the event of a divorce.
Additionally, says Shaheen Cronin, “It is possible that at the beginning of the relationship the spouses did not have any debt to speak of, and therefore did not discuss what would happen in the event of a separation. Then, later in the relationship, one of the spouses incurred a significant number of debts for which the other spouse does not want to be responsible.” In that case, a postnup could help you clarify who’s responsible for the debt and put it in writing.