Getting Married? Protect Yourself with Marriage Insurance First!

You insure your car, your home, your health and your life… but what about your marriage? Before you say “I do,” consider getting marriage insurance in the form of a prenuptial agreement, or a premarital agreement as it’s called in Massachusetts. Most people assume that a premarital agreement is only for the wealthy and only protects your assets in case of a divorce. In reality, a premarital agreement can be useful for anyone, and doesn’t only address divorce. It can prevent future disagreements and miscommunications between the couple to actually prevent a divorce. Just like every other insurance policy you have, you hope you never need it but, if a problem arises, you’ll be glad you have it.

First of all, it’s crucial to know that in Massachusetts, marital assets are defined very broadly and include assets obtained prior to and during the marriage, by inheritance or solely with funds used by one spouse. These include retirement funds, pensions, business interest, trust interest and intellectual property rights. For example, a 401K retirement account earned prior to the marriage is dividable in a divorce, depending on the length of the marriage. If you want to protect your retirement account or business in case of divorce, a premarital agreement is the way to do it. Even if you or your fiancé/fiancée have no significant assets now, you’re likely going to acquire more in the future, so consider a premarital agreement.

Business partners typically sign an agreement outlining expectations for the operation of the business. They also make a plan in case one of the partners decides to leave the business. When a couple becomes married, they form an intimate and legal partnership with each other. For a marriage to thrive, it should have a sound financial and operational plan that both spouses agree on right from the beginning. While this may sound unromantic, for many it provides the basis for a successful long-term partnership. For example, in a premarital agreement, the couple may decide together that one party isn’t going to work if they have children. Another couple may agree on keeping separate bank accounts for personal use, and a joint account where they’ll each contribute a certain percentage of money for household bills. Expectations for retirement planning can also be incorporated into a premarital agreement.

Here’s a perfect example of how a premarital agreement could have saved a marriage. John and Mary each had children from previous marriages. During the course of their 12-year marriage, John began to give his adult daughter large sums of money to help her during a time of financial distress. While Mary was initially agreeable to this, John ended up giving his daughter so much money that Mary felt it impacted their retirement plans. They ended up fighting about this issue for years and the marriage deteriorated as a result. If they had set up goals and expectations for the use of their money in a premarital agreement, they likely could have prevented this issue from overwhelming the two of them, to the point where Mary filed for divorce.

Once you become legally married, you can’t then enter into this kind of agreement – it needs to be signed prior to the marriage. If you’re considering a premarital agreement, hire an experienced family law attorney to prepare it or to review it on your behalf. In Massachusetts, both parties should be represented by legal counsel. Otherwise, the agreement may not be enforceable. There are very specific laws that relate to the enforceability of these agreements, and a family law attorney will explain these to you. Protect your marriage right from the beginning so you can have peace of mind and a successful long-lasting relationship.

A Cape Cod native, Chantal Hayes Rice, Esq. has been a member of Hayes & Hayes Attorneys-At-Law, P.C. since 1999 before starting Cape Cod Divorce & Mediation, P.C. While she also practices in the area of real estate, probate and estate planning, she concentrates her practice on general family law, divorce mediation, collaborative law and limited assistance representation (LAR).

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About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for CapeCod.com, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.