By Inna G. Materese | Esquire
There are few other times in a couple's life together as gleeful, romantic, and exciting as getting engaged and married. However, while it's not exactly the stuff of romance novels, discussing certain legal and logistical matters before tying the knot may protect your marriage from unraveling in the future. Before you say "I do" consider the following:
1. Do we need a prenuptial agreement? Most of us have some preconceived notions about prenuptial agreements. These agreements - meant to specify in advance each spouse's rights in the event that the marriage breaks down - are not just for the rich and famous. If you or your spouse own a family business, family real estate or property, or other interests you'd like to preserve, you may want to consider putting your intent to paper to ensure that those interests are protected in the event of death or divorce. Likewise, couples who anticipate a certain lifestyle (such as one spouse becoming a stay-at-home parent) may want to predetermine how either spouse will be maintained in the event of separation or divorce. Lastly, couples who are marrying for the second time and may have children from a previous marriage may want to preserve certain property or income for their children of the first marriage.
2. Will we purchase a home and/or how will we maintain a home? If you and your partner intend to buy a home together, consider the source of the funds for the purchase. Discussing how such a large purchase will be made ahead of time can stave off issues down the road. Consider whether you and your partner intend to title the property in joint names and how you intend the property to be passed down upon your death. If either you or your partner intend to move into a home owned by the other, you should discuss how each of you will contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the home and who would receive the proceeds from the same of that home in the event that you choose to sell it down the road.
3. What is Pennsylvania's law regarding assets and marital property? Knowing your rights and obligations pursuant to Pennsylvania's divorce and estate laws may not be the most romantic way to enter a marriage. However, being mindful of your rights and obligation to your spouse can help both of you determine the best way to plan your financial life together. Some couples choose to maintain joint accounts and pool their finances, while other prefer to maintain separate finances while contributing to joint expenses. Furthermore, you and your partner may have different ideas about how you want your property and assets to pass in the event of your death. Before you tie the knot, it is important to learn how Pennsylvania's law would handle your finances so you can prepare wills or other estate documents if you'd like your property to pass in a different manner.
4. If we have children, how will we raise them financially? Discussions regarding future children and parenting styles can be thorny. Not only can you and your partner have different ideas about prefered parenting styles, but you may also have different ideas about what kind of life you'd like your children to lead. Do you or your spouse intend for your children to attend private school? What kind of activities or expenses do you anticipate for your children? Do you wish to help your children pay for higher education? Discussing the kind of obligations and expenses you foresee for your children and how you, as a couple, intend to handle those expenses can help keep you on the same page.