What is a prenup, and why do I specifically think every woman getting married should have one? Big questions, with simple answers.
A prenup is shorthand for a prenuptial agreement. It’s a legal document that couples put together before getting married that outlines how financial and lifestyle assets will be divided or shared in the event of a divorce.
Lots of people think that getting a prenup means that you don’t really trust your partner, or that you’re going into marriage thinking it will end. To that I saw: phooey. Marriage is, at its core, a legal arrangement. You have to get the government involved with your wedding license, and where ever you live, there are laws about how marriages can be conducted. (For example: it’s illegal to marry your first cousin in 24 states.) And states have divorce laws as well; you can’t just say “well, we’re not married anymore! Thanks for you time, enjoy the rest of your life.”
So legally speaking, marriage is a contract of its own. If you wouldn’t buy a house or start a business with someone else without a legal protection, why would you get married without the same?
Why should women get a prenup?
Women in particular need to have a prenup before they get married. That’s thanks to our old pals the wage gap, the motherhood penalty, and the divorce penalty. What am I talking about?
Well, women are paid less throughout their entire careers, meaning they have less money for retirement. Women also get paid less when they become mothers. This is so common we have a term for it: the motherhood penalty. Mothers make an average of $.58 to a father’s $1.00 in the workplace.
On average and companies are less likely to hire women after they become mothers. One study showed that “22.6% of the childless female applicants received callbacks for professional and managerial positions, compared to 18.4% for mothers.”
These discriminations mean that women need to be protective of their assets. A prenup is one way of doing that. In a prenup, women can outline that the assets they earned or acquired prior to marriage are to remain solely theirs in the event of a divorce. That means that if you enter marriage with $100,000 in your name, you can leave the marriage with that same $100,000, thanks to your prenup.
Difference Between Prenup and Postnup
A prenup is created and signed before you get married. A postnup is created and signed after you get married. Beyond that, they can cover the same information. It’s really just about when you sit down and make one.
What To do Before Getting a Prenup
Communicate with partner
Marriage is not about winning at the expense of your partner, and neither is getting a prenup. I think this idea, that you need to punish your partner in your prenup, is why they have such bad reputations. Instead, sit down and communicate clearly and calmly with your partner about what you want covered in the prenup and why. Be open and honest here. It’s ok to revisit this topic several times if there is a lot of ground to cover.
Try and keep emotions out of the process
Emotions will definitely be part of the equation but try and remain on the same side. Remember, the prenup is to protect both of you. It’s not there to punish either of you. The more you can remain calm and practical about the terms of the prenup, the easier the process will be.
Research prenups in your state
Each state has different laws around marriage, divorce, and prenups. It’s best to be aware of the laws in your state before you begin the process. A quick Google will give you a good overall view of how prenups are handled in your state.
Become familiar with the terms and process
Similarly, knowing the language will make this whole process much less intimidating. Legal terms are often weird and hard, so breaking down the terms for yourself into easy to understand language will help you feel more comfortable. I suggest making a spreadsheet or a word document with common phrases and their definitions.
Get a lawyer
For prenups, you can hire a lawyer or use a company like HelloPrenup. If you opt to hire lawyers, you and your partner will each need one. being represented by the same one would be a conflict of interest for that lawyer. A company like HelloPrenup is usually much cheaper, but does require that you do a little more work, like print out the finalized prenup and get it notarized.
The more complex your assets, the more I lean towards shelling out for two different lawyers. If, for example, you come to marriage with two pieces of real estate, each in different states, a pet, and a trust fund, I would want a lawyer to be able to handle the nuance of those assets.
If you come to marriage with $100 in your 401k and a really nice suit, you can definitely use something like HelloPrenup. Your financial situation is much less complex.
Lay all assets on the table
Don’t hide anything! That could be used against you later in the event of a divorce. Put it all out on the table; this is your chance to protect it all! If you need a guide to how to talk to your partner about money, we’ve got one right here.
How much does a Prenup Cost?
This depends on the state you live in, which lawyer you hire, or if you use a service like HelloPrenup.
For example, at HelloPrenup, the process works like this: you and your finance each fill out a questionnaire, then you collaborate and negotiate on the points of the prenup. Once you’ve finalized terms, you print it out, sign it and get it notarized. The cost is $599. (And if you use our code BRAVELY50, you can save $50!)
If you go with a lawyer, the fee is likely to be between $800 and $1,700 for each partner. How much will depend on how much time the lawyer has to spend on it.
What Should a Women Ask For in a Prenup?
What should a woman ask for in a prenup? Here’s a quick guide.
Any assets obtained or set up before marriage
This is things like your workplace 401k or 403b, your IRA, your cash savings, real estate, your car, your jewelry. Anything that is valuable to you, financially or emotionally.
Division of assets if the marriage ends
In your prenup is where you get to lay out what you want to happen to joint or individual assets if you get a divorce. For example, you can sate that any debt brought to the marriage is the responsibility of the person who incurred it, and not the partner. You can state that the house you bought together will need to be sold and the profits split equally between the two of you.
This is the most important part of a prenup, so get specific here!
The rights to any intellectual property
Did you create a million dollar idea while married? Who owns the rights to that? Put it in the prenup!
Inheritance, heirlooms, or gifts
Again, this is your chance to get detailed about any gifts given during courtship or marriage, or any family heirlooms you’re bringing to the marriage. If you bought your wife a car while dating, you can state in the prenup that you would like it back if you get divorced.
A prenup is also the chance to layout post divorce financial support for a spouse. It’s not the place to lay out childcare- that has to be determined by a new lawyer during divorce proceedings. But if you are a stay at home spouse, you can put in your prenup how much spusal support you want to receive, and for how long post marriage.
How you will manage money as a couple
You can put language into a prenup about how you’ll manage money as a married couple. If you want all joint accounts, you can put that in. All separate? Some of each? It can all go in the prenup.
What happens in case of death
While you will also want a will for when each of you passes away, you can put language into your prenup for death scenarios. This usually states that in case of death, the prenup is still valid.
If someone cheats an infidelity clause in a prenup can mean that they owe the other partner an amount of money or a financial asset, like the family beach house.
You need a prenup! I hope it’s clear by now why. I also hope it’s clear what women should ask for in a prenup.
If you’re interested in growing your financial wealth, you can also check out our post on how two women reached millionaire status.