Just because you love your spouse doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a prenup before you get married. There are a number of reasons why a couple would want to consider signing a prenup (or marriage contract) before getting married. Talking about what would happen if you were to divorce can lend itself to peace of mind and a happier and more open and honest relationship. It could also mean that both parties save money by not having to pay for an expensive divorce.
What is a prenup or “marriage contract”?
A “prenup” or a “marriage contract” is a contract that you sign before you get married that outlines what happens to your assets in a divorce. Given the high divorce rate and how messy (and expensive) a divorce can be, prenups have become very common.
Even still, bringing up a prenup with your partner can be a tricky conversation to have. Many couples fear having the conversation with their future spouse or having to discuss their finances openly with their fiance or lawyer. Who wants to talk about the possibility of a divorce when you are in the midst of planning for your wedding? It’s an icky way to start your marriage.
Couples find that talking about a prenup or a marriage contract is an awkward conversation. We’ve listed here 5 reasons why you should have the conversation anyway.
1) It allows the couple to manage their expectations as to what would happen in the event of a divorce
Couples rarely outline in any meaningful way what would happen if they get divorced. Weddings are happy occasions but it is important to have a serious conversation about what happens after your big day. What are your expectations when it comes to marriage? Where do you plan to be in five years? Do you plan on having children?
Consulting with a lawyer about your marriage contract or prenuptial agreement is an opportunity to discuss your marital plan beforehand so that both parties are on the same page. It’s a way of formalizing your expectations surrounding your marriage.
2) You get to decide what happens to your assets .. not the government
The reality is that close to half of all marriages end in divorce. You should consider whether you want the government to control what happens to your assets in a divorce or whether you want control over what happens to your assets.
In the province of Ontario, marital assets are divided based on statutory laws that govern division of matrimonial property. Generally speaking, the assets both parties bring into the marriage are totaled and then divided in half. This usually results in one party making a significant payment to their spouse in the event of a divorce (known as an “equalization payment”). If you want specific assets excluded from this calculation, you would need to outline that before you get married through your prenup or marriage contract.
3) You can protect your inheritance from your parent’s estate
You may stand to inherit a significant amount of wealth from your parent’s estate at some point in your life. If you family has money or assets that you want to keep in the family, consider getting a prenup or marriage contract. With a prenup you can exclude possible inheritances from your equalization so that you don’t end up giving up those assets.
4) You can address who will be liable for all of the debt
In many relationships, one person may have a significant amount of debt (such as a student loan debt). In the event of a divorce, you could be responsible for part of that debt. With a prenup, you can list the debts that your spouse is bringing into the marriage and outline that your spouse will remain solely responsible for the debt.
5) You have significantly more assets than your partner
The opposite may also be true. You may be entering into your marriage with significantly more assets than your partner. You don’t need to be extremely wealthy for this to be a relevant consideration for you. Your marriage contract can address what happens to your house, your car and your RRSPs. If you own a business, you should strongly consider getting a prenup prior to getting married to avoid the possibility of your spouse taking a portion of your business in a divorce. Your marriage contract or prenup can also deal with spousal support.
Very few couples marry believing that it will end in divorce. Remember, just because you are discussing a prenup with your soon-to-be spouse doesn’t mean that a divorce is in your future. It just means that you know what would happen in case it does.
Addressing these issues can help you avoid a costly court battle down the road. At Tailor Law, we regularly work with couples who want a marriage contract. Contact us for more information about how to get a prenup.