A survey last fall showed that family law practitioners are handling more marital agreements (also known as prenuptial agreements) than they had in the past. Couples are apparently taking the time to assess their non-marital property and to plan their financial futures before they get married. Unfortunately, data for individual states wasn't available, so it's hard to know where Illinois falls.
Thinking back to our discussion with our out-of-town friend -- we talked about her in our last post -- perhaps one reason is that couples are marrying a little later in life, when they've accumulated more savings and more stuff. Or, their parents went through a difficult divorce, and they don't want their children to go through the same thing.
Whatever the reason, a marital agreement is a popular and practical planning tool for a couple. Thinking about these issues ahead of time can help couples and families avoid disputes during the marriage as well as after the marriage, should that happen.
Like most things in a marriage, the marital agreement is based on collaboration and mutual consent. If a couple sits down together and talks out the issues -- at the kitchen table or in a law office with attorneys present -- they can head off a lot of heartache and confusion.
And, marital agreements aren't just for the McCourts (the notorious postnuptial case) and celebrities anymore. Attorneys report more middle-income and blue-collar couples looking to put in writing that, for example, each spouse is responsible for his or her own debts. In a slow economy, that's an important consideration.
As with any contract, there are some rules. Both parties must be competent and both must sign voluntarily. The agreement cannot be unconscionable or oppressive. And both parties must fully disclose assets and liabilities. Our friend cannot transfer all her money into a numbered Swiss account and simply ignore it in the marital agreement.
She can, however, give herself some peace of mind.
Source: WPTV.com, "More and more couples use prenuptial agreements," Claudia Buck, 04/18/2011