Preparing a Prenuptial Agreement: a Prudent Decision for Engaged Couples

The private lives of celebrities have always been the spectacle of the general public. Recently, many of the country's rich and famous engaged couples have entered into prenuptial agreements, which are legal documents that can define how the couple will handle their finances during the marriage and protect individual property rights in the case of divorce. One famous prenuptial agreement is that of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Their agreement awards Katie $3 million per year of marriage until the 11 th year of wedded bliss, thereby protecting Tom's primary wealth.

However, prenuptial agreements are not just for the rich and famous. As the marrying age of Americans increases-28 for men and 26 for women-and individuals bring more assets into the marriage, drafting a prenuptial agreement is a prudent first step for many engaged couples.

A prenuptial agreement is beneficial for couples who are bringing unequal financial assets or debts to the relationship. For example, a prenuptial agreement may be a good idea if one partner has a small business, a large inheritance or earning potential, or if one partner has more outstanding debt than the other.

When drafting a prenuptial agreement, couples should start the process early. Prenuptial agreements that are executed well before the marriage hold up better in court than those hastily put together a week before the wedding. Couples should also openly and candidly discuss the purpose and possible outcomes of a prenuptial agreement. It is important to put emotions on the back burner when discussing a prenuptial agreement and it is best to avoid emotionally-charged conditions in the agreement.

In states like Arizona, a prenuptial agreement must be signed voluntarily by both parties, and goes into effect at the time of the wedding. A prenuptial agreement may be voided by the court if it is discovered during proceedings that one party signed the agreement involuntarily or if a party failed to disclose assets or property when the agreement was written.

Newly engaged couples should consider drafting a prenuptial agreement if there is financial inequity between partners or if they simply desire to define how finances will be handled during the marriage. At this point in time, prenuptial agreements have become a prudent financial tool for all Americans.