From the ring to the venue to the honeymoon, many aspects factor into the wedding planning equation. In addition to hashing out these details, another matter is of vital importance for many couples: establishing a prenuptial agreement.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you need a prenuptial agreement (AKA, “prenup”), you’ve come to the right place.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at what a prenup is, why having one matters, and how to make a prenup.
We’ll also address why it’s important to get prenup help from family lawyers when dealing with the complexities of establishing and executing a prenuptial agreement.
What is A Prenuptial Agreement?
Also referred to as a “premarital agreement,” a prenuptial agreement is exactly what it sounds like a contract that two soon-to-be-wed people sign before marrying.
Legally binding documents covering how property rights will be settled during and after marriage, prenups provide critical clarity and direction in the event of the dissolution of the marriage (either by death or divorce).
What Does an Indiana Prenup Cover?
Prenuptial agreements vary between states. In Indiana, prenup provisions may include the following:
- Property rights
- Wills, trusts, and other related arrangements
- Life insurance death benefits
- Provisions for handling disputes with the agreement
- Any other issues compliant with Indiana state laws
Neither child support nor child custody can be addressed in a prenuptial agreement in Indiana.
Do I Need a Prenup?
It’s a common misconception that prenuptial agreements are just for the extremely wealthy. However, the truth is that all couples can benefit from having a prenup.
In fact, 15 percent of married or engaged couples reported having signed prenups—up from three percent just over a decade ago, according to a Harris Poll.
Driving this spike? Millennials. While less than five percent of married or engaged people over the age of 55 report having signed prenups, nearly 40 percent of 18-35-year-olds have (or plan to) set up prenups.
The Many Benefits of a Prenup
Prenups sometimes get a bad rap because they’re associated with distrust.
However, the truth is that they have many benefits—starting with allowing couples to proactively decide together how their property and debts will be divided if the marriage ends in the future.
Here’s a look at some additional benefits you can expect to gain when you set up a prenuptial agreement:
Create Open Lines of Communication
While setting up a prenuptial may not be the most romantic enterprise, it is an opportunity for honest discussion about critical topics, including finances, property, and expectations. Establishing and maintaining open lines of communication about these subjects can actually bring you closer together.
Save Time and Money
Divorce is time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with potential conflict. A properly drafted prenup means you’ll have already resolved common issues that often become stumbling points in divorce negotiations. While you’ll still need a lawyer, a prenup will not only minimize time and costs but also the headaches and hassles associated with going through a divorce.
Establish What Counts as Marital Property
Indiana follows the equitable distribution model in dividing marital assets (as opposed to community property), and many factors are taken into account. A prenup can help you avoid the contention that often arises during the division of assets and debt by deciding upfront what qualifies as marital properly, and the best way to divide it fairly. In most cases, a court will adhere to whatever you decide.
Protect What’s Important to You
Rather than leaving things like separate property and cherished family heirlooms to a judge, a prenup lets you specify exactly what belongs to each party, and how these assets should be distributed in the event of death or divorce.
Avoid Assuming Your Partner’s Debt
In addition to dividing accumulated assets, courts also divide liabilities, including debt. If your partner came into the marriage with debt, a prenup can absolve you from responsibility for that debt if you divorce.
The Downsides to Prenuptial Agreements
Some people might argue that there are drawbacks to prenups, including lack of romance, the possibility that it will ultimately be unnecessary, and potential tunnel vision when setting up your prenup.
After all, when you’re in a loving relationship, it’s hard to conceive of a future time in which you’ll be arguing over your belongings. Because of these rose-colored glasses, it’s possible to establish a prenup with terms that won’t ultimately ensure that you walk away with everything you deserve.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to get prenup help from family lawyers. A knowledgeable and experienced legal professional will guide you through the process of creating and executing a fair and mutually favorable agreement.
How to Make a Prenup in Indiana
Indiana is among the set of states that have adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (UPAA), a set of guidelines that decides whether a prenuptial agreement will be enforced. The UPAA mandates that all Indiana prenuptial agreements be written and signed by both parties.
In most cases, it’s advisable to negotiate the terms of your prenuptial agreement well in advance of your wedding. The contract should clearly define each spouse’s property at the tie of the marriage, as well as what will happen if the marriage ends in death or divorce. (Without the divorce provision alongside the death provision, a prenup is not enforceable.)
Note that verbal promises and assurances are not part of any prenuptial agreement in Indiana unless they are explicitly articulated in the document in writing. A court will not enforce any verbal agreements. However, it is possible to change the terms of your prenup after your wedding as long as you document the new terms in writing and sign the updated agreement.
Because of the personal, financial, and legal intricacies involved in the process of dividing property, each spouse should be represented by their own counsel. This not only helps to support a fair and equitable outcome for both spouses but also ensures that your prenup will meet all the criteria for enforcement.
In general, courts enforce prenuptial agreements. Judges are occasionally forced to intervene if a prenup’s terms are unclear and/or if disputes arise about the agreement. This may necessitate testimony from the attorneys involved in drafting and reviewing the document.
The court may also throw out a prenup if it was signed under duress or is deemed to be “unconscionable.” This doesn’t mean the court will invalidate the prenup merely for being unfair; however. Rather, if there’s no support for a dependent spouse, the court may step in.
Get Prenup Help from Family Lawyers in Indiana
While setting up a prenup may be the last thing you’ve got in mind when you’re getting married, doing so has many potential advantages—both in the short- and long term. In fact, rather than being an indication of distrust or a poor relationship, a well-planned prenuptial agreement is a powerful preventative solution.
However, all prenuptial agreements are not created equal. Whether you’re just starting to think about establishing a prenup in Indiana or you’ve signed one that needs updating, talking to an Indiana family law attorney can help you successfully navigate the process.