There are few topics less romantic than prenuptial agreements. That being said, for certain Massachusetts couples a carefully designed prenup can provide an otherwise unattainable peace of mind. In order to examine who should have a prenuptial agreement, let’s dispel some common prenup misconceptions.
Misconception #1: Prenups are only for the rich.
While high-net-worth individuals are often good candidates for prenuptial agreements, protecting wealth is usually not the primary reason for a prenup. What’s really important is not the amount of wealth involved, but the nature of that wealth. For example, business owner spouses can use prenups to shield their business interests in the event of divorce. Similarly, if a spouse may receive a sizable inheritance in the future, then a prenuptial agreement could shield the inheritance.
Misconception #2: Prenups only protect an advantaged spouse.
Let’s take a look at our two examples above. In the first example, our business owner spouse uses a prenuptial agreement to protect his business. Of course this is to his benefit, but it also benefits his business partners and their families, as well as their customers. Business relationships are often tense and intimate, so a change in business ownership due to a divorce proceeding can have disastrous consequences on more than the divorcing spouses. In our second scenario, the spouse inheriting wealth is not only protecting herself with a prenup, but she’s providing peace of mind to her preceding generation, that their legacy to her will go towards furthering her station in life, and not to an ex-spouse.
Misconception #3: A prenup shows lack of trust.
This is a bit of a logical fallacy. Traditional thinking says “If we really love/trust each other, then we don’t need a prenup.” But sensible thinking says, “If you love me for who I am, and not for my money, then you won’t mind signing a prenup.” Trust, therefore, can justify both having and not having a prenup. In this logical toss-up, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Misconception #4: Prenups take advantage of a weaker spouse.
Movies and television have created the idea that a prenup means that the economically weaker spouse walks out of a divorce empty-handed, destined for a life of destitution. However, contrary to popular belief, Massachusetts law requires that prenuptial agreements not strip one spouse of substantially all of their marital interests. Further, Massachusetts law requires that prenups not leave a spouse in a position where they are unable to support themselves. A prenuptial agreement that does either of these things will not hold up in court, and will be found unenforceable.
If you or someone you know is considering (or should be considering) getting a prenuptial agreement, put them in contact with a Massachusetts prenuptial agreement attorney. It’s not as romantic as a sunset walk on the beach, but it it’s a lot more pleasant than an ugly divorce. Stay tuned for future posts on the prenup law in Massachusetts.