Premarital agreements, also referred to as prenups, should be negotiated by a family law attorney. If everyone could stand up for themselves, perhaps lawyers would not play a part in this most intimate of negotiations. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, people don’t often stand up for themselves. Perhaps it is low self-esteem or an inability to articulate one’s needs. Or maybe the individual is not aware of what they are legally entitled to. Many times, many prenup clientele do not have the perspective to ask for what they need.
When working with a lawyer to draft a prenup, which are a financial planning document, the client must be able to predict what their financial situation will be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and even 30 years. The question to consider is: “When I am 65 will I have enough money invested to provide me with income for the rest of my life?” Most people in their 20′s and 30′s do not have this perspective. Women who plan on having children often do not take into account that they may be out of the workforce for many years. Even if they are able to continue working they may not be able to work full time or maximize their job potential because of the many obligations that go with parenthood. A lawyer will help them gain perspective on how the future may look in a variety of situations. Additionally, women who are not planning on having children should be aware that unforeseen events may take them out of the workforce.
It is particularly difficult to negotiate with someone who has gone through a divorce before. They often insist on the iron clad agreement that prevents any wealth sharing. This stance can also come from a parent of the party getting married who has had bad experiences in marriage. Wealthy families often impose this on their heirs, even to the point of including a clause in their trust that state that should their child marry without a prenup they will be disinherited.
While it is true that lawyers can poison the relationship by making pejorative remarks about the spouse (“she is a gold digger”, “he is greedy”), but at least both parties have someone taking their sides and seeing the agreement as a financial planning tool — and nothing more. An experienced family law attorney will put the client’s needs above his own views and prejudices. They will know what kind of agreement will be enforced by a court and what will not. They will help the client see what their needs might be should their financial circumstances change, should their health decline, and/or should their role in the family take them out of the workforce. In this uncertain area of the law, you would be wise to retain a lawyer to insure you have an enforceable agreement that will take into account your future welfare.
The best premarital agreements are the ones where the parties are able to talk honestly about financial issues and reach reasonable compromises that take into account both of their needs. A properly drafted prenup is like insurance. It should protect you if you become disabled or you have to take care of a family member. Additionally, a fair agreement is likely to lead to a better marriage and an agreement that is less likely to be attacked. For assistance in drafting this type of prenup, contact the Los Angeles family lawyers at Walzer & Melcher today.
– Peter M. Walzer, Partner, Walzer & Melcher