• Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

'Tis The Season For A Prenup


December is the most popular month for proposals, with the majority of proposals occurring on Christmas Day, and in the days before and after. First off, if you just got engaged congratulations! Once you finish basking in your new engagement glow, I invite you to consider a prenup.


Despite its unsavory reputation, premarital agreements are important, and the sooner you bring up your desire to draft one, the better. I’m not saying that a prenup is necessarily the first thing you’ll want to bring up after getting engaged – especially if you get engaged on a holiday. You’ll have plenty of time to discuss this after the holiday.

So what exactly is a prenuptial agreement? A prenup is a written contract where an engaged couple states their rights and responsibilities regarding premarital and marital assets and debts, and what would happen should their marriage ended.


I am here to provide some insight on whether a prenuptial agreement (or “prenup”) is right for you.



Who Needs a Prenup?

  • One or both parties has already been married.

  • One or both parties have children.

  • One party is wealthier.

  • One party has more debt.

  • One or both parties own a business.

  • One or both parties want to keep their personal life private.

  • One or both parties has an inheritance to protect.

  • One or both parties wants to ensure that any disputes are handled by arbitration and therefore kept out of the public eye.



Discussing a premarital agreement

Despite its unsavory reputation, premarital agreements are important, and the sooner you bring up your desire to draft one, the better. I’m not saying that a prenup is necessarily the first thing you’ll want to bring up after getting engaged – especially if you get engaged on a holiday. You’ll have plenty of time to discuss this after the holiday.


Nervous about having that talk? I’ve got you covered some tips on navigating that conversation.


Plan Early

It’s tempting to put off a conversation as uncomfortable as you fear this may be. However, in order to have the time you need to draft a comprehensive document that protects both you and your soon-to-be spouse, you must give yourself ample time.


Listen

The agreement is meant to protect both of you. Be willing to listen to your spouse’s apprehensions and worries. Looking at the situation from their perspective can make the process more productive.


Collaborate on the Agreement

Rather than presenting your partner with a completed document to sign, ask your spouse to help you create a prenuptial agreement. This way, you can both make your needs and desires heard. Working on it together will reinforce the notion that it exists to protect both of you.


Be Honest

Candor is crucial in prenup planning. Be direct when you explain what you want and why you want it. This honesty will benefit you and your spouse beyond allowing you to include the protections you want in the document. It can help you establish your expectations for the course of your marriage.


Own Your Decision

While your friends or family members’ failed marriages may have influenced your decision to consider a prenup, you must accept your decision to draft one as yours alone. Explain why you want to protect yourself and your spouse without blaming it on outside influences irrelevant to your relationship.




Tips for New Jersey Prenuptial Agreements


What are the requirements for a valid NJ prenuptial agreement?

New Jersey law provides that all premarital agreements must be in writing, signed by both spouses, and a statement of assets must be attached to the agreement. The purpose of the statement of assets is to guarantee that there will be fair and reasonable disclosure of the respective spouses’ financial information because misleading a prospective spouse about assets or liabilities at the time of entering into the prenup can be a basis for invalidation of the agreement. After the marriage, the premarital agreement may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by both spouses.


Although not required, it is advisable that both spouses consult with an attorney before entering into a premarital agreement. In situations where one spouse does not hire an attorney, a statement must be made in the premarital agreement that he or she freely, knowingly, and voluntarily waived the right to be represented by counsel or it could form a basis to challenge the agreement.



Challenging a prenuptial agreement

The spouse that contests the premarital agreement has the burden of proof and must show by clear and convincing evidence that either s/he executed the agreement involuntarily, the agreement was unconscionable (i.e., grossly unreasonable) at the time it was signed, that the other spouse did not make full and accurate disclosures of assets and liabilities on the statement of assets, s/he did not have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligation of the other spouse, or s/he did not consult with independent counsel and did not voluntarily and expressly waive the opportunity for legal counsel before signing the agreement. The court will find the prenuptial agreement unconscionable if it is shown that the challenging spouse would be without reasonable support, would have to depend on public assistance, or would be provided a standard of living far below the one s/he enjoyed before the marriage.


Considering a Prenup?

If you live in New Jersey and just got engaged or you’re planning to get engaged in the near future, a prenuptial agreement is a great way to plan for a safe, stable, and secure future. And, just as it’s important to choose the right partner to settle down with for life, it’s also important to find an attorney you can trust to help navigate this contract with compassion and professionalism. I can help make sure you start your marriage with kindness and honesty; Contact me at Van Tassel Law (201) 664-8566 to start the conversation.