Planning For “What If” Before You Say “I Do”

Most people don’t get married thinking about – let alone planning for – divorce but the fact of the matter is divorce happens. And while it’s certainly not a romantic notion to think about ‘what if’ while you say ‘I do,’ it’s also not a terrible idea, either.

Even those who aren’t rich or famous should give some careful thought to protecting assets should the union unravel. A prenuptial agreement is a great way to protect your financial future in a worst-case scenario, but even if you opt to forgo a prenuptial agreement, there are still plenty of ways to be strategic without sacrificing romance.

Think of it this way: You put on a seatbelt before driving your car, even though your reason for doing so is, at its core, somewhat morbid and pessimistic. But it’s also smart and reasonable.

And the be-all-end-all of divorce isn’t the only reason to give some thought and planning to your finances, as even happily married couples can benefit from some financial safeguards. For example: creditors can come after joint accounts and property if a spouse has unpaid debts or gets sued.

Furthermore, estate planning is infinitely easier when at least select assets are kept as separate property – assets such as cash, investments and real estate that you owned before you married – as well as gifts or inheritances you receive during the marriage. The operative word here is ‘separate’ since separate property can quickly become marital property without a little financial planning.

So here are some ways you and your spouse can help to protect what’s yours.

Consider a Prenuptial Agreement. Yes, this can be a tough thing to bring up with your future spouse and might be the last thing you want to talk about while planning your wedding and looking forward to your future together. However, a prenuptial agreement can alleviate the “what if” stress in the back of your mind, and allow you both to move forward in your marriage without financial questions hanging over you.

Joint & Separate Accounts. If you want to share an account, open it together – rather than adding your spouse to an existing account. If you’ve already commingled money, open new accounts in your name only should you receive a gift or inheritance, and then use the separate account to pay expenses for any property that’s in your name only.

Retirement Accounts. First, stop making voluntary contributions to your 401(k) as soon as you can do so legally so that contributions made after your separation won’t be considered marital property. Second, you can ask to exclude the funds that were in the account before you were married.

Real Estate. Much like your more liquid assets, real estate that was acquired or inherited before or during a marriage should be kept in your name only and then funds from your separate account should be used to pay the mortgage, maintain the property or remodel.

Get A Post-Nup. Similar to a prenup, postnuptial agreements can not only help couples divide assets, but can also help if they want to divide assets contrary to what their state laws dictate. A written agreement is much better – and easier to uphold – than a verbal agreement. This can be a great option if you’ve decided to get married without a prenuptial agreement in place.

Paper Trails. Keep bank, brokerage and retirement account statements from the month or quarter prior to getting married and if you own a business or other hard-to-valuate property, consider getting it appraised before the wedding. Keep copies of wills or trusts that prove an inheritance and account statements that show the deposits. And if you receive a gift, keep a copy of the check or ask for a letter from the giver documenting the value.

 

While it’s not necessarily romantic, a little rational forethought can help mitigate the pain that comes with the dissolution of a marriage. So if you’re seeking a divorce – or just wanting to carefully plan for the remote possibility of one with a pre or post nuptial agreement – call Tampa divorce attorney Christina Anton with Anton Garcia Law for a family and divorce attorney who is knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to Representing Your Best Interests.