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Estate Planning and Prenuptial Agreements

The beauty of estate planning is that it allows people to put their affairs in order. Perhaps after the divorce papers are signed, a person will put together a new individual plan of how their remaining assets are to be dispersed to the kids, what sort of medical care is desired and how other family responsibilities are to be handled. It can be as simple or as complex as needed.

Then a new wrinkle happens and love once again walks through the door. You have everything in place as an individual, but now there needs to be a sound new plan for moving forward as a couple. A prenuptial agreement can serve that purpose. Anyone can download a standard issue prenup agreement off the internet, but these contracts should ideally be as individual as the couple themselves. Once deemed unromantic, they have become quite commonplace if only because they serve the purpose of protecting the individual's rights.

Why do it?

Traditionally speaking, a prenup can address such issues as making sure your assets go to your children. This can be imperative for people with large estates or those looking to keep the family business in the family. It often addresses assets ranging from a family-owned vacation property to the rights surrounding a 401(k) plan. Perhaps there is an issue of spousal support where the new spouse doesn't want to be in the position of paying their own money to the old spouse.

It's also worth noting that a prenup isn't only drawn up for the man. Many women these days have successful careers before, during and after raising kids; or a woman may have focused on a career instead of raising a family and now is marrying for the very first time later in life. Whatever the circumstances, combining a couple's finances could end up looking more complicated than a business merger. Simply put, a prenup keeps the assets accrued before the marriage separate from those accrued during the marriage.

Syncing it all up.

It's crucial to coordinate a prenuptial agreement with the couple's will or trust. By talking with an attorney with a background in estate planning, one can ensure that the prenup drawn up doesn't invalidate the original will or estate plan. The attorneys (each side should hire their own) in turn should work together to ensure that the contract is fair and just for both parties.

When to do it?

The hardest part is to broach the subject. But it's a conversation that has to happen before the marriage for the contract to be valid. Sticking points can be worked out between the two sides so everyone knows where they stand and what their obligation is before walking down the aisle.

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