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Making the most of your prenuptial agreement

More couples are seeking prenuptial agreements as a way to prepare for marriage. It is not that they anticipate their marriages will end in divorce. They see prenuptial agreements in the same way as wearing a seat belt protects in case of an accident even though you don't expect to have one.

Since it is becoming more common for couples to wait before getting married, many partners enter marriage already secure in a career, possessing assets and owning real estate. They may also have their own businesses and a mountain of debt. If you are in this or a similar situation, you may want to avoid comingling your individual assets with your spouse's or becoming responsible for his or her debt. A prenup can help you meet those goals.

Keeping your agreement valid

While signing a prenuptial agreement is the first step to keeping your assets and debts separate from your joint property, the real work comes afterward as you live your normal life. Your contract with your spouse can define which of your assets you hold individually, but if you should reach the unfortunate decision to divorce, even the prenup may not be able to keep those assets separate if you have mixed them with joint property, for example:

  • Adding your spouse's name to individually-owned property titles
  • Using joint funds to pay for expenses for your individual property
  • Failing to keep records that show the differences in the value of your assets from the time you married
  • Failing to keep documentation that identifies gifts as separate property
  • Depositing your individual money, such as an inheritance or profits from your business, into a joint account
  • Using money from your separate account to pay for common household items

Advisors recommend that couples who have a prenuptial agreement should also maintain separate bank accounts as well as a joint account for common expenses. Your prenuptial agreement can outline how you will divide your joint accounts if you should need to.

Prenuptial agreements as well as postnuptial agreements, which you can create after you are married, can play an important role in estate planning as well as divorce. For example, if you and your spouse want to divide your assets or debts differently from the way Georgia law stipulates, your marital agreement can create a legal understanding. You may have questions concerning those laws and the additional limitations and benefits of prenuptial agreements, and you can find answers from an experienced attorney.

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