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A prenuptial agreement offers protection, not a backup plan

The term “prenuptial agreement” doesn’t get many people excited. In planning for a wedding, thinking about the “what if” is borderline taboo. But, like most of life’s more important decisions, a proactive approach can simplify matters later and protect important property.

In a New Jersey divorce, marital property is divided in a “fair and reasonable” way. This may or may not mean equal 50/50 value, depending on circumstances. Discussions during the divorce settlement will determine who gets what — which is often a contentious process.

The law defines individual property and marital property differently. What you owned before the marriage is yours by law, but it’s difficult to prove and enforce after a marriage has combined estates.

Make your own decisions instead of leaving it to government.

In a fitting analogy, Forbes compares a prenuptial agreement to a will. When you leave a will, you leave a direct ownership plan. When you die without a will, the government will distribute your assets based on paper trails and state law. A divorce is similar.

Like a will, the prenup is a form of protection. It’s not just protecting your own interests, though, but other loved ones. When you have a blended family or inheritance with strong family lineage, it’s important to keep those items in the family.

Common reasons for an agreement include:

  • When a spouse is in debt
  • When you own a business
  • When there is a large income disparity between partners
  • When you have children from a previous relationship

Create a clear communication of ownership.

Prenuptial agreements define ownership, which includes buying/selling rights, decision-making rights, succession plans and more. In a long marriage, properties become entwined through labor and financial and mental investment. The prenup creates firm documentation of ownership, separating individual property from marital property.

Given the complex nature of property ownership and the ever-changing dynamic of American families, a prenuptial agreement isn’t a “what if things don’t work” document, it’s a streamlined communication of ownership and succession. An experienced New Jersey family lawyer will be able to help you create a binding agreement that details your assets and clearly communicates who owns what.