Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement – An Attorney’s Personal Experience

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As part of my estate planning law practice, I work with clients in drafting and executing prenuptial agreements prior to marriage. This is something that I am particularly passionate about, largely due to what I have witnessed and experienced through the divorces of my parents, friends and family members. I have written and advised on the many benefits of prenuptial agreements – not only in terms of protection of assets, but also in terms of strengthening the current relationship as the couple work through the process.

Eventually I had the opportunity to sit in the client’s seat in getting a prenuptial agreement, and what I learned while in that seat I believe is worth sharing. As part of my wedding planning process, and in following the very advice I give to many of my clients, my husband, Curt, and I signed a prenuptial agreement.

Like many things in life, my understanding and appreciation for the process of drafting a prenuptial agreement was heightened by actually going through the process personally. From an attorney’s perspective, I intellectually understood the benefits and had witnessed the positive relationship impact through others. From a client’s perspective, I was able to experience it all firsthand and I must admit — I was surprised by how positive the impact was.

Prenuptial agreements are generally about ensuring that in the unfortunate event there is a divorce or death that things are fair and equitable.First, we had an experience while working on the prenuptial agreement that I did not expect. There were a couple of decisions to be made that we were both kind of stuck in our own corner on. Unlike the process leading up to this, which we breezed through with ease, neither of us could come up with a middle ground option. After further discussions, and with help from our attorneys, we identified what the issue was — it was our fears! Fears that did not even pertain to our relationship specifically, but fears that were rooted in our adverse childhood experiences, and those experiences’ impact on how we each viewed relationships and commitment. Not only did identifying those underlying fears almost instantly lead to resolution in the specific prenuptial decision, but it has had a substantial positive impact on our relationship. In my opinion (an opinion shared by my husband), this discovery alone was worth the investment of the prenuptial agreement.

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Second was the sharing of ALL financial information. Curt and I had been very open about our finances: We had lived and shared costs jointly for a couple of years leading up to the marriage and purchased a home together prior to our marriage. However, actually sitting down with a print-out of every account, investment, and debt typed out on paper with the valuations listed felt incredibly open, honest and vulnerable. Because we married in our late 20’s, we had individually grown our own retirement accounts and had pre-marital property and business interests. Not only were we able to learn what each of us had individually, but it gave us an accurate sense of what our finances were going to look like as we proceeded forward jointly. This was an exercise I can honestly say we would not have done if we weren’t required to do it by the prenuptial process.

Third, we were required to talk about things we wouldn’t normally talk about, simply due to the fact it is not where we were at in our lives at the time. We discussed the possibility of growing our family, purchasing additional/future properties, expanding or acquiring new business interests, and making large purchases — whether it be individually or jointly. This process made us aware that we were truly going to be a team going forward — and it had the added bonus of making me even more excited for our wedding day! I felt fortunate to have talked through some of the logistics of these topics prior to the marriage rather than in the manner we had when dreaming about our future together. I felt we were able to preventatively address potential situations with intention and had time to reflect and ponder.

Last, we had fun going through this process. Despite my background and experience with prenuptial agreements, I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive when we started working on this. After all, I knew Curt supported and agreed with the decision to sign a prenuptial prior to marriage, but I had no idea how each of us would handle or react to some of the conversations to be had. Thankfully, we had a very positive experience working through the prenuptial agreement.

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We learned a lot about each other. We were understanding, patient, considerate and agreeable. We were able to be realistic and open-minded towards the process. I remember at one point Curt had asked if I really thought that he would be adversarial and malicious in the event of divorce – I communicated that I did not expect it but, if I was being honest, I could not guarantee that I wouldn’t be – especially with a family and personal history of substance use disorder! This was not just about protecting ourselves, but also each other. We felt like the other truly had our best interest in mind — after all, prenuptial agreements are generally about ensuring that in the unfortunate event there is a divorce or death that things are fair and equitable.

It is not often that I am able to write about legal topics from the perspective of the client. In the rare instance that I am able to have this experience, I am always grateful for it because of the things I learn that not only help me as an attorney, but because I can share the experience from a different perspective with others. I gained a new understanding of, and appreciation for, prenuptial agreements — and years later I can truthfully and gratefully say that it helped Curt and me start our new marriage on a solid, supportive foundation.

Rachel T. Schromen is an estate planning attorney and owner of Schromen Law, LLC in St. Paul, MN ( Ms. Schromen speaks frequently on the topic of Addiction Trust Planning, including providing training on the topic to attorneys in the Metro Area.

Last Updated on November 30, 2022

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