Your adult child has found the partner they want to spend the rest of their life with. It goes without saying that your family is excitedly awaiting the wedding and (with any luck!) the grandbabies. But as the couple chooses their venue and wedding party colours, you may be nervously wondering how this new marriage could potentially harm both your and your child’s financial security. While your child is going into this marriage with the rosey-glasses of love, you’re looking long term. It’s only natural you want to protect your bloodline from potential divorce.
Think of a Prenuptial Agreement as an Insurance Policy. When we drive a car, we have insurance. But statistically speaking, a person is more likely to have a divorce than to get into a major vehicle collision. This can be a good way for the future spouses to frame the agreement. After all, we don’t have insurance so that we can get into accidents, and we don’t get prenuptial agreement so we can get divorced. It’s simply an insurance that’s in place in case unfortunate circumstances come to pass.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play the “Bad Guy”. It’s not unusual for parents to take an interest in their child’s financial affairs. Your family has worked hard to create significant assets, and it’s in your family’s best interest to protect your business or fortune. Your child may hesitate to bring up prenuptial agreements because they don’t want to offend their future spouse. While you want to secure a good relationship with your new in-law, securing your assets is often a top priority. You may want to push on the subject a little. However, if your child won’t listen, consider other options, like trusts, to protect assets and property from potential disaster.
You could, for example, buy a house as a wedding gift, but rather than hand the newly weds the deed, you can put the property in a trust for your child’s use. You may also want to consider entrusting the family cottage or any other properties your child and their spouse may use. This will prevent your new in-law from seizing the assets if the worst should happen.
Prenuptial Agreements Are About Fairness, not Equality. The best way to help your child and their future spouse seriously consider a Prenuptial Agreement is to approach it as something that’s in everyone’s best interest. The agreement should protect the family’s assets and business, but it shouldn’t be designed to leave your child’s future spouse destitute. In general, people are more interested in an agreement that’s fair than one that’s equal. For example, if your child and their spouse both work high-pressure, high-paying jobs, and they plan on paying for a nanny to care for any children, it’s probably fair for them both to waive their right to spousal support.
However, if one of the partners will leave their career in order to provide your grandchildren with the best possible parental care, the prenuptial agreement should consider the potential career-sacrifice of that spouse. Including a generous spousal support for them in the prenuptial agreement will help prevent them from having a court overturn the agreement as unfair. The couple should discuss how much support is reasonable and for how long.
The validity of prenups differs significantly from one jurisdiction to the next. Depending on which state, province, or country you’re in — the UK doesn’t accept prenups as legally binding at all — they may be more or less useful. Fortunately, whether the happy couple decides to write a prenup or not, there are many tools available to help you secure your assets against a future ex-in-law. Our team of estate advisors is here to help.
At MacMillan Estate Planning, we specialize in helping you create a financial and legal life plan that can handle all the bumps along the way. Contact us today for a free consultation at (403) 266-6464.