What’s the Difference Between a Prenup and a Postnup?

6.3.19Whether you and your spouse have a pre or post nuptial agreement, they are a good way to make divorce or death a little less overwhelming.

If you are wealthy, expect an inheritance or have been married before and have children from a prior marriage, you may want to consider a prenup or a postnup as a useful planning tool. An article from Investopedia, “Prenup vs. Postnup: How Are They Different?” explains why these documents are important.

A prenuptial, made before the marriage occurs, or a postnuptial, made after you’ve said your wedding vows, serves to protect both parties from the emotions (and some of the drama), if the marriage should hit the skids or when one of the couple dies.

Although negotiating a prenuptial agreement before your wedding may seem unromantic, these agreements can save a lot of heartache and money in the event of divorce—especially when it's not a first marriage. When a couple decides to divorce, prenups can prevent nasty, drawn-out, excessively expensive litigation. A prenup details everything, so everyone knows exactly who gets what and there’s no room for argument. These agreements also can dictate financial distributions in case of a spouse's death, which is especially important for couples with children from previous marriages.

Prenuptial (before a marriage) and postnuptial (after a marriage) agreements detail how a couple will divide their assets if the marriage ends. Prenups are useful if one spouse has substantial assets, a large estate, or anticipates getting a large inheritance or distribution from a family trust. A prenup can protect each spouse’s premarital assets, as property and income in a marriage would otherwise be deemed community property.

Have an attorney draft one of these agreements, because tax law can create complications.

A prenup can have terms that state how much your spouse will receive of your estate if you get divorced or die. This is critical if you have a significant estate and children from a previous marriage to whom you want to leave some of your estate. If you don’t sign a prenuptial agreement that states this, most states will automatically give your surviving spouse a share of your estate at your death. With a prenup, you can predetermine a specific alimony amount or even eliminate this.

Postnuptial agreements are almost identical to prenups. The big difference is that postnuptial agreements are made after the wedding. You will decide how to divide marital assets, as well as any future earnings, in your postnuptial agreement.

While you are doing this type of planning, talk with an estate planning attorney to create a new estate plan and be sure that your estate plan is aligned with your prenup or postnup agreement.

Reference: Investopedia (April 25, 2019) “Prenup vs. Postnup: How Are They Different?”

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