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Popular culture gives prenuptial agreements a bad reputation. From television shows where women refuse to sign, because she is afraid it means he does not love her, to rap songs where men aggressively sing about using them to protect themselves from gold diggers. It is no wonder that the average woman gets sick to her stomach when she thinks about a pre-nup. However, I am here to tell you that with the right preparation, pre and post-nuptial agreements are nothing to fear, my jewels. You just need to think about them appropriately.
In her audio book on prenuptial agreements, professional consultant to the rich, Ginie Sayles recounts a friend of hers who (out of what seemed to me like self-righteous entitlement) refused to even look at the prenuptial agreement of the wealthy man who wanted to marry her. When she ended up as a penniless single mother after a nasty divorce from a less established man, she came back to him calling for help. Although, he helped her out financially even then and reapproached her with another opportunity at marriage, she still refused to sign the pre-nup. Eventually, this man found another woman to marry and what became of the woman we will never know.
The problem is that many people are afraid of prenuptial agreements. Either they believe it ties them into something that they will not be able to get out of, or that if a man does not present one it is a mark of true love. Fortunately, for us smart women, neither is the case. Prenuptial agreements are simply a legal arrangement of how things should happen if you should divorce. The same as a will is a legal arrangement of how to distribute assets if you die. It is not a request to die one day (that is inevitable). It is just a smart way to ensure that things happen the way you want them to happen when the time comes.
First let’s address some of the crazy myths some people believe about prenuptial agreements.
Myth #1. You have to sign the Prenuptial Agreement the way your fiance gives it to you. This is false. Being presented with a prenuptial agreement is only the beginning of the conversation. Your fiance is fully prepared for you to take the document to your lawyer and go through it, adding and subtracting until it includes everything that makes you comfortable and does not include anything that made you uncomfortable. You then, bring it back to him and continue the conversation. This is called legal recourse and it is absolutely necessary and expected. Blindly signing a prenuptial agreement that is given to you would just be silly.
Myth #2. It is permanent. This is another big myth. The contract can be updated and continue being updated before, during and after the marriage. Postnuptial agreements are just as valid and important as prenuptial agreements.
Myth #3. It means he does not love you. If you are listening to this podcast, then as a devoted social climber, I should not have to reiterate all the misconceptions about “love” that cause so much heartache and confusion in this world. Just know that prenuptial agreements are not an indication of more or less love. Wearing a seatbelt while you drive is not an indication of whether or not you are a good driver or whether you should trust the other people in the car, it is just there to protect you in case of unfortunate events that could come from anywhere.
Myth #4. You will end up with nothing if you sign it. The fact is, that yes, many women do sign prenups and walk away with little financially. Most of the time, these women did not care to read it, or ask a lawyer to read it as they should have. A woman who does not review a prenup before signing it is like a person who ignores the “Beware of dog” sign and hops a fence. Are they going to blame the owner if they are bitten, or should they have thought about it before ignoring what was written? Furthermore, a woman never truly ends up with absolutely nothing if she plays her cards right. Even if she signs a document saying that she will leave the marriage with exactly what she came in with financially and what she earns from her own job, she will still have plenty of opportunities while in a financially elevated social circle to network, rub elbows, make friends and potentially find a new husband who is more generous. But she will never even get that opportunity unless she makes the move.
It may seem cold and calculating to say that a woman could potentially be keeping an eye out for another husband while she is married, but each woman knows her own situation. If you know why you are in that marriage, then follow your instincts.
Now, if you get the prenup, and are looking over it with your lawyer. Here are a few thing you should look out for as well as what you might want to include for yourself according to your lifestyle and what he can afford.
Make sure there are No back doors or exception clauses to nullify promises. Have your lawyer look for any signs that he may be negating any financial promises under various conditions. For example, if she leaves me before we have kids she gets nothing. Make sure that at minimum it states that this is a mutually agreed upon compensation for your time (and you can’t get back the years you’ve lost).
Make sure he Collateralizes money promises in escrow – Ask the lawyer to ensure that language includes the statement that money must be set aside for you in the event you get a divorce. Some men do shady things to make sure all of their money is tied up at all times in case they are sued. Your contract should state that your money be set aside and as much as permissible, not dependent on his financial condition.
Ensure that the contract includes a paragraph that irrevocably prevents extensions – Some men may include an extension clause that extends the amount of time you must be married for the agreement to remain in place and may press you to endorse extensions every time the contract is due to expire under threat of divorce. Make sure under no circumstances can an extension be requested.
It is useful to specify periods for upgrading your position (but never reducing) — if his net worth is increasing, your lifestyle will also be upgraded, and so should your contract. It’s like getting a raise or a bonus. After all, behind every successful person, is a spouse that facilitated their rise.
Other things that people have been known to include in their contract are:
-cash settlement/savings account
-health, home, and/or car insurance
My dear jewels, asking does not make you greedy. It makes both of you conscious of the fact that you have been presented with a prenuptial agreement, and there is a need to prepare for the future. By now, in your relationship, you both know why you are there and you have a vision for your future together. This conversation should not be difficult, and it is only so for the ignorant and uninformed. The wealthy rarely have relationships with those whom they do not respect. If he respects you, he will understand.