A prenuptial agreement is the most valuable planning tool for any marrying couple, but it's not worth its weight in paper if it's not done right.
We've discussed Prenuptial Agreements 101 here. Now let's look at 4 common prenup mistakes to avoid.
1. Don't avoid the discussion with your spouse-to-be.
We aren’t going to sugar coat it: discussing a prenuptial agreement is not necessarily romantic. It might even feel painfully awkward. But avoiding the discussion with your partner can have long term consequences.
Studies show that clarity about financial roles, responsibilities, and expectations may actually deter marital conflict and divorce. And marriage is about far more than sorting the wedding gifts, it involves serious financial planning. Don't skimp on the important conversations before you get married. Getting married is the most significant legal and financial arrangement you will ever enter.
Bring up the topic gently. Assure your future spouse that you want the agreement to be fair. You're beginning together in best possible way - by being open and honest about the hard stuff.
2. Don’t wait until the last minute.
The premarital agreement process takes time, and it’s not something that can or should be rushed. California law even imposes special time restrictions. If you do not comply with the timing rules, your premarital agreement can be invalidated.
In addition to California’s time rules, you must avoid any unnecessary stress. Even the appearance that a spouse was forced or pressured to sign can cause an expensive, prolonged legal battle – the exact thing you’re trying to avoid in the first place. California courts can even invalidate premarital agreements on the basis of duress, among other grounds.
It’s critical that each spouse have a robust, meaningful opportunity to review the premarital agreement with his or her independent attorney. It’s critical that there is ample time to negotiate, refine, and complete the agreement. A rushed agreement simply will not be as strong.
We recommend that you have an agreement drafted at least 3 months before the wedding.
3. Don’t fear asking questions.
Everyone gets insecure sometimes. Some folks are intimidated by attorneys or fear “sounding stupid.” The bottom line is that you must feel comfortable asking your attorney all of the questions. Any question that you have – no matter how small.
A premarital agreement is all about you’re and your future spouse. It must meet your needs first and foremost. The most important thing is that you understand the agreement, including the legal ramifications of every provision.
This agreement could be in place forever, and it’s rare for people to amend their prenups during their marriage. Now is the time to understand, and it’s your attorney’s job to create an open, comfortable, non-judgmental environment during the process. If you’re not getting that type of client service, that’s a major attorney red flag.
For more Los Angeles prenuptial agreements resources, visit our website dedicated exclusively to premarital agreements.
4. Don’t hire the wrong attorney.
First, it’s critical to hire a California family law attorney if you need a California prenup. Most non-family law attorneys do not fully understand the specifics of family law.
Family law is technical and operates by its own set of rules. You simply cannot afford the risk of having a family law novice draft such an important, potentially permanent, document. If your attorney doesn’t know each and every rule, you take the risk of having your agreement invalidated due to a totally avoidable technicality.
Within the world of family law, not all attorneys are created equal. Prenups touch on sensitive, personal issues and the right person will have a collaborative, open, and emotionally intelligent ethos. You want an attorney who will take the time to get to know you and your needs personally. You want the highest level of client service for this important process – not an outlet style, churn and burn situation.
Whichever attorney you choose will be your advisor, confidant, spokesperson, and representative during the creation of this important document. As the saying goes, don’t be pennywise pound foolish. You’ll pay for it down the road if the agreement is invalidated or does not accomplish what you need it to do if you ever need to use it.
-- The Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein is a full-service divorce and family law firm. We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County. Give us a call or check out our website: (310) 750-0827 | www.emilyrubensteinlaw.com