I'm getting married. Is there anything I can do to protect myself before and after marriage?

Of course! With divorce rates on the rise, there are ways to protect yourself and your assets before and after marriage, including doing the following:

1) Entering into an Ante-nuptial (aka Prenuptial) Agreement: An ante-nuptial or prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into between an unmarried couple before they marry (and in consideration of marriage.) The agreement provides guidance for estate planning as well as a possible divorce. For example, if a wife to be owns a home and her own advertising business before marriage, the ante-nuptial agreement may direct that she retain these assets after divorce or that the assets be passed down to her children in the event of death without challenge from her husband. Put simply, this agreement tells the parties and the world that the assets belong to that spouse only and will remain their respective property in the event of divorce or death. Some agreements also have provisions related to spousal support (how or if it will be paid) in the event of divorce. An ante-nuptial agreement requires that both parties to the marriage disclose to one another all assets and debts. Each party should have sufficient time (more than 30 days before the marriage) and the opportunity to see their own attorney for the agreement to be valid.

In the unfortunate event of a divorce, a party protected by the agreement can implement the terms and protections of the agreement and cut through many arguments about marital versus premarital property or passive growth versus active growth. An ante-nuptial agreement can also dispense of the stress of trying to trace your assets to before marriage or hunting down the documents necessary to prevail.

After marriage, you should attempt to maintain the identity and integrity of your premarital assets by keeping them separate from the assets accumulated during the marriage. That way there can be little argument of "intermingling" a premarital asset into a marital asset.

For more information on whether you need an agreement like this, please feel free to contact me at 440-930-4001.

2) Snapshotting your premarital and marital life: In the event you do not want to ask for an ante-nuptial or premarital agreement, the second best protection you can give yourself is to "Snapshot" your life. What does this mean? It means obtaining a list of all of your assets and obtaining the most relevant (up-to-date) valuations or account balances on those assets prior to marriage and keeping them electronically and physically safe.

This means for your premarital real estate, obtain an appraisal, obtain the mortgage balance and statement which exist before marriage. Keep after marriage, all records of mortgage payments and the pay-down in the mortgage. Be careful when refinancing the home, try not to refinance marital debts using premarital equity. If you sell your premarital home during marriage, keep all records of where the net proceeds went!

For bank accounts and retirement assets, get as much information on what you own before marriage. For example, keep official records of how many shares of Ford Motor Stock, IBM, Apple, Mutual funds etc. that you have before marriage. Keep all monthly statements which show what was added to the accounts after marriage. If you can keep these account separate from accounts created during the marriage, you will be in better shape should a divorce occur. For retirement assets, you will want to have your 401k statement at the time before marriage and after including documents which show how much you and your employer contributed to your retirement after marriage.

3) Keep your pre-martial and marital assets separate: If you can, not only keep records of your premarital assets, but also keep these assets separate from your marital assets. Try to avoid combining premarital and marital assets in one account. This way you can trace your premarital assets and maintain a clean division.

4) Advise your parents and loved ones to give you and only you gifts or inheritances: Astute estate planning can help protect your assets as well. Parents and loved ones can help keep your assets separate by "gifting" or "bequeathing" assets to you and you only. In the event a loved one gives you a financial gift, keep all records of the gift and be able to trace where it goes during the divorce. This will remain your asset in the event of a divorce For estate planning and gifting information, feel free to contact OMDP's estate planning department at 440.930.4001 or https://www.omdplaw.com/practice-areas/estate-planning-probate/

For more information, all 440.930.4001 and ask for Attorney Anthony R. Pecora or email him at apecora@omdplaw.com

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