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Prenup, postnup or nothing at all?

Almost everyone is familiar with the term "prenuptial agreement," which gives a couple control over their future wealth once they marry. You are probably used to hearing it mentioned in relation to entertainers and well-known sports figures who have assets worth millions of dollars, but prenups, as they are often called, have become popular with couples in many different income brackets-and so have postnups.

Prenuptial agreements are recommended

While a prenuptial agreement may seem to some a concept that might dampen romance or serve as a precursor of divorce, a discussion of assets is a healthy and practical way to address possible economic issues as couples begin married life. Some sign prenups so they can divide their debts fairly. These might include student loans, medical bills or credit card debt for young people about to marry. Older couples, or those about to embark upon a second marriage, may have debt in the form of mortgages, unpaid medical bills or 401K loans. People who own successful businesses or are on a path to acquire various pieces of real estate over time are often encouraged to draw up prenups.

Forming an agreement after the fact

You might not be quite as acquainted with the postnuptial agreement as you are with the prenup. This is a document that can be drawn up a week after your wedding or years after your silver anniversary, and it can cover just about anything. You can use it to assign duties around the house, such as who washes the cars and who cares for the vegetable garden. You can put down in black and white where you will go for summer vacations and which family members come to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. Many postnups are prompted, however, by the economic climate.

Managing the unexpected

Just as affianced couples might find that a discussion about finances helps prevent future disagreements, long-married couples may find cause to establish how assets or income streams should be managed. One example is how to handle a sudden financial windfall, such as an inheritance of considerable size. On the other hand, for couples who want to stay together despite issues such as gambling or heavy spending habits, the postnuptial agreement may help keep the marriage on track.

Making the best decision

Legally binding arrangements such as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements are not the solution for everyone, but they can serve to clarify certain circumstances that might otherwise cloud a marriage. Considering that communication problems are a leading cause of divorce, an attorney experienced with family law can help you decide whether a prenup or postnup would be in your best interests.

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