According to a recent survey, 62% of attorneys from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have seen an increase in clients seeking prenuptial agreements during the past three years — a fivefold increase from the past two decades.
Millennials, who are marrying later in life than their predecessors, may have more assets to protect than members of previous generations who wed before entering or excelling in a career.
Additionally, the “great wealth transfer” is underway. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants anticipates that the distribution of assets from baby boomers to their heirs — expected to total over $30 trillion — will continue for several decades. Millennials who stand to inherit substantial sums of money may feel compelled to protect it.
At the same time, millennials and Gen Xers may enter a relationship with significant debt and want to protect their partner from getting involved. This debt could come from college loans, business loans, or previous failed relationships.
At HelloPrenup, we’ve been privy to a host of stories regarding ‘the talk’ — discussing a prenup for the first time. Some couples may have negative preconceived notions about prenups, thinking that their assets aren’t worth protection, or that they might increase the risk of getting a divorce if they ask their partner for a prenup.
Others hear the word ‘prenup’ and feel a twinge of disloyalty or fear of expressing what might be perceived as doubt in the relationship. Most of the time, couples find that they are equally uninformed with regard to what purposes prenuptial agreements actually serve.
There are many valid reasons why someone would or would not want to initiate a prenuptial agreement. The most important thing for couples is to understand each other’s reasons, regardless of how you agree with one another.
We believe that it is possible to enter lovingly into a relationship intended to last a lifetime while acknowledging that partners can change in incompatible ways. Wanting to have conversations around protecting current and future financial assets is an indicator of conviction in the longevity of a relationship — it shows that a partner is willing to compromise and mold their lives and habits with those of their partner. For couples who may feel like they don’t yet possess the vocabulary to have effective conversations about asset management, or those who know they could benefit from a mediator, we advise seeking counseling for prenuptial agreements.
What is couple’s counseling for prenuptial agreements?
It is several weeks into post-engagement bliss, and time to start having some important conversations. It may be the case that, prior to becoming engaged, couples had not yet participated in meaningful discussion surrounding finances. Conflicts can erupt when, for example, one partner prompts a discussion about a prenup, and the other shuts down.
“We need to preserve the love.
This is only a matter of business.”
-Susan Scherman, Esq.
A person’s reasons for wanting a prenuptial agreement ultimately boil down to what they value, and a prenuptial agreement counselor can serve as an unbiased mediator in a couple’s journey to explore and understand each other’s values.
Why are prenuptial agreements potentially tenuous?
People have had their entire lifetimes to form opinions, beliefs, and values around money. How abundant and available our basic human resources were in our childhood and adolescence — food, water, temperature-controlled shelter, safety, and parental love and nurturing — have significant influence on how we spend and prioritize money. Partners also likely grew up experiencing different versions of hard work, privilege, financial distress, and financial devastation. Many of our millennial clients in particular reference stories of the 2007-2009 recession, where their homes were foreclosed on, or they graduated from college without a well-paying job.
Prenuptial agreements are potentially tenuous documents because conversations about money often trigger different emotions in others. Some may feel shame or inadequacy around money. Others may feel powerful and ruthless. A few may be ambivalent or careless, while others have idealistic yet ill-conceived plans.
While it is common that when couples fight, they often fight about money, the truth is that money usually represents some other insecurity within that individual. Lack of money could symbolize the insecurity of losing a job, not getting a job, experiencing rejection, or dealing with unforeseen major expenses. It could represent pressure to ask for help, which may go against some partners’ philosophies.
People can act equally insecure when they come into large sums of money through inheritance or trust distributions. They may feel pressure to preserve it. They may feel undeserving. In response to those emotions, they may act reckless or overprotective.
The point is that people can act up in all kinds of unpredictable and unexplainable ways when money is brought up in conversation. Having a trained counselor there to keep the discussion calm and focused can be a powerful solution for couples who need help getting to a shared understanding of personal values.
What are the benefits of working with a counselor prior to entering a prenuptial agreement?
It is often common for one party to desire a prenup while another one is against the idea — a counselor can work with one or both parties prior to or during the negotiation service. Ideally, a couple would seek counsel prior to visiting an attorney. Meeting with a counselor can help couples decide if a prenup is really what they want or need based on their assets and state laws.
While an attorney is more concerned with providing legal and financial advice, a counselor will focus on relationship advice and getting to the root of trust issues that may make the prenuptial conversation and process contentious. A counselor is also concerned about the emotional reasons that lead up to a prenup, as well as how the prenup may affect your relationship over time.
It can be helpful to discuss important questions before visiting an attorney, so that you and your partner are both in agreement. For example, you may want your agreement to detail how your current assets will be handled during the marriage, as well as how they will be protected if the marriage goes awry.
Additionally, a counselor can pose questions to help couples discuss solutions for potential conflicts that a prenuptial agreement might address. For example, if the couple decides to have children but then divorces, what parenting rules, custody or visitation agreements might the couple want to have in place? While these discussions may cause unpleasant emotions, they are ultimately geared toward securing your current and future assets, which include children and pets.
If you’re interested in seeking prenup counseling services tailored specifically to the prenuptial agreement process, consider reaching out to Susan Scherman, Esq., a prenuptial agreement consultant, as well as a mediator, divorce mediator, lawyer who has created a conflict resolution model for helping her clients — mostly couples — resolve relationship challenges in cost-effective, practical, non-adversarial ways prior to getting a prenuptial agreement. At $350 as a fixed fee to reach a solution, Susan is able to work with one or both fiancés, and is a great option for those who are feeling hesitant with the process and needing more.
“Your beloved wants a prenup and you’re feeling skitterish?
Will a prenup be good for me? Probably, yes.”
-Susan Scherman, Esq.
Overall, we hope couples see that going through counseling for a prenuptial agreement can be an empowering and informative process for a newlywed couple. It can actually be a lot of fun to enter a conversation about money and discuss goals and hopes for the future.
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