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Prenuptial Agreements to Have and to Hold

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Author: Pat Perkins

Lots has been heard about the prenup (premarital) agreements of the rich and famous: Donald and Ivana Trump, Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards, Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Rosanne Barr and Tom Arnold and Eric Benet and Halle Berry just to name a few. Whew!

But you don't have to be in the rich and famous parade to have a prenuptial agreement. Even if you are just a regular Joe or Josephine, there are many solid, positive reasons to add a prenup to your dowry, but these increasingly popular agreements have also seen some serious manipulation over the years resulting in demands that run the gamut from no mother-in-law sleepovers to mandatory sexual positions. (Imagine looking your attorney in the eye after agreeing to that one?) It does inspire a series of "what if" scenarios though, doesn't it? Like, what if your back went out or your leg was broken or you just ate a 5 course meal? Would you be in breech of contract for non-performance? LOL! Are contingencies written into agreements for such exigencies? Will the party who requested this clause need an unbiased observer to monitor compliance? OK, enough is enough; you get the idea.

Given the turnover of marriages and divorces in Stardomville, I guess it's understandable that couples considering marriage or remarriage would be desperate for a gimmick or quick trick to guarantee lasting bliss, but prenups, unfortunately, will never replace marriage counselors, no matter how well written, or prevent divorce. From the looks of some of the prenup demands couples are requesting, however, it seems they haven't gotten the message. What ever happened to talking things out?

If you think this is all baloney, look below at the list of constraining clauses and demands that have found their way into prenups. It gives reading the fine print a brand new meaning, doesn't it?

* One prenup is reported to have limited Sunday football to the watching of one game each Sunday on TV. Bet you can guess the sex of the spouse making that request?

* Rumor has it that in her prenup with Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones wrangled a cool $2.8 million for every year of marriage. What do they call a woman who charges for companionship that includes sexual favors? Ouch!

* Apparently Katie Holmes is no dummy either. For better or worse (is there really a "worst case" scenario here?), the buzz is that she collects $3 million for each year of her marriage when (if) it falls apart. If she can postpone instant gratification and hangs in there for eleven years, she will be entitled to half of hubby Tom's fortune. What happens if Sugar Daddy Tom goes bankrupt after eleven years of Katie's personal sacrifice? If I were Katie, I'd be lining up an attorney now for a divorce at the ten-year mark. (You know, a bird in the hand and all that . . . .)

* Industrial magnate and former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, must have signed his prenup with former wife, Jane Beasley Welch, during a blackout. Forbes reported that their prenup contained a sunset clause eliminating the prenup altogether after 10 years of marriage. Guess who walked away with $150 million as soon as the clause expired? Do you think Jack's attorney was out of a job after that? Maybe Jane hired him out of gratitude.

* What price addiction? One famous couples' prenup actually included the right by one spouse to have random drug tests performed on the other. Sniff, shoot up, swallow or drag on an illegal substance and it could be poof, goodbye inheritance. Someone will need a legal aid attorney.

* It is reported that Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards' prenup is infidelity proof. Wouldn't yours be if you had to pay your spouse $4 million each time you strayed? Sounds like a serious justification for buying either a chastity belt or becoming a monk. Hey, why take a chance? Of course, both spouses could just say no!

* Several prenups have included who gets the pet, the plot at the pet cemetery, even who is entitled to the cremated remains of pets deceased before the marriage. Can you imagine arguing over the equal division of Rusty's remains in a divorce case? One couple is purported to have included their "taxidermied" horse in their prenup. Bet it has a room of its own too!

* Does your spouse-to-be swear at your mother? No problem, do what one couple did, just add a pay-up clause in your prenup for each offensive remark. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain: either a non-swearing spouse and happy mother or a very full piggy bank. Definitely a win-win situation.

* Does your spouse need a little help staying on a diet? Apparently one prenup half thought encouragement meant fining the other for a weight gain of twenty or more pounds. Now that's food for thought!

Would you sign a prenup with clauses like the ones above? Love is blind and all that, but what about common sense? Does that fly out the window when cupid flies in? If the truth be known, these are things NOT to put in a prenup agreement, especially if you want it to be validated by a court of law. Frivolous or outlandish terms may cause a prenup to be set aside.

Prenuptial Agreement: What Is It?

A prenuptial (antenuptial, premarital) agreement is a written contract, usually prepared by an attorney, between two people who are about to marry. The contract specifies particular terms for the possession of assets, the handling of future earnings, the control of real estate, spousal support and the division of assets if the marriage is dissolved in the future. To be enforceable and stand up in court, generally a prenup must meet certain minimal requirements. They must:

* be in writing

* be signed by both spouses

* include disclosure of all the assets, income and debt of each party

* be signed only after both parties have had sufficient time to consider the contents and to obtain separate legal advice

* be truthful and involve full disclosure

* be entered into freely and voluntarily

The demand for prenups has increased as equality between the sexes has grown and as the number of divorces and remarriages has risen. Turning away from a formerly held position that a prenup was primarily an attempt by one spouse to limit the legal and financial benefits of the other, the law is increasingly recognizing the benefits of careful premarital planning and today, every state allows prenups. However, courts do examine these documents carefully and will set aside one judged to be unfair or one that fails to meet state requirements.

Prenuptial Agreement: Who Needs One?

There are many sound reasons for tying up a prenup before tying the knot. Couples who plan to marry each deserve to have knowledge of the other person's assets and debts. This is supposedly what matrimony is all about, honesty and full disclosure. If your honey seems a bit touchy on the subject of finances, finding out why before you marry is essential. Surveys have repeatedly mentioned money as the topic that most couples fight about. Simply discussing a prenup may tell you something important about the manner in which the person you are about to marry handles finances. Remember, once you are married, you not only share assets but debts as well.

Prenups are helpful in promoting harmony between offspring if either the bride or the groom or both have grown children from previous marriages. Blending families is difficult enough for newlyweds to manage without having grown children suspect a step-parent of ulterior financial motives. You can let all concerned know that you have no intention of running off with mommy's or daddy's money by creating and signing a prenup that leaves the estates owned by each partner before marriage to his/her respective children in the event of divorce.

If either or both parties have substantial assets that they want to protect when a marriage dissolves, a prenup can be crafted to not only help you keep what you brought into the marriage but what you expect to earn during your marriage--for instance, royalties on a book that you wrote before you were married or an expected inheritance from your parents. However, most states will set aside a prenup that intentionally leaves one partner destitute and a few states will not allow a potential spouse to sign away their right to alimony.

Prenups can be used to protect each partner from the other's debts too. Suppose a couple plans post-marriage to have one partner work to support the family while the other partner, using student loans to finance his/her education, attends medical or law school. It is reasonable for the party who plans to work to support the family while the other receives an education to request in a prenup that he/she not be held responsible for the student loans in the event of divorce.

Prenups are anti-anxiety measures for couples who have been "taken to the cleaners" in previous marriages and for those who have experienced particularly difficult, acrimonious or outlandishly expensive divorces in the past. These so-called "victimized" couples feel that a prenup containing asset division directions will prevent future antagonisms and the possibility of being bilked again. Better than an antacid, they say.

Prenuptial Agreements: What You Need To Know

Look for an attorney experienced in crafting prenuptial agreements (usually a family law attorney). The attorney you select should:

* willingly advise you of the pros and cons of prenups in general

* listen to your particular needs and ideas

* review with you all available options that can be used to insure that your goals and expectations are met

* explain how state laws affect the prenup you are about the construct

* advise you on the appropriateness of particular clauses and warn you of possible pitfalls

A prenup is not a magic pill and it can't anticipate all the financial and emotional concerns that are certain to arise in a marriage. But the security of having one in place will bring you more peace of mind than leaving your finances to chance in a divorce court.

About the author: Pat Perkins is a copywriter for Yodle Local, a business directory and online advertising company. Find more lawyers tips and info at Prenuptial Agreements to Have and to Hold

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