FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why do I need a prenuptial agreement? I feel like I am planning for my marriage to fail before it starts, but my spouse brought it up and wants us to get one. What should I do about the prenup?
Think of a prenuptial agreement as insurance for your marriage. Like health insurance, car insurance, or homeowners insurance, you invest in these types of coverage to protect against the unforeseen. No one plans to get sick, in an accident, or have their home flood in a hurricane, yet we acknowledge that sometimes these things just happen - and when they do, they can be very expensive to fix. Having insurance allows you to relax knowing you will be protected and not go into financial ruin due to these unforeseeable circumstance in your life.
A prenuptial agreement offers the same peace of mind as any other form of insurance. It simply allows a couple to predetermine and fully customize the division of their assets in the event they should divorce in the future. Rather than being subject to default California community property laws, or leave their financial futures in the hands of a judge, couples choose a prenuptial agreement to maintain control over their finances and financial futures, no matter what happens.
Absolutely no one getting married expects to divorce. But nor does anyone expect to have a medical emergency, their house burn down, or a car accident. Just like any other type of insurance, a prenuptial agreement protects you from an expensive, time consuming, and emotionally and financially draining divorce process. In some cases, a divorce can take years to complete, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees alone. A good, solid prenuptial agreement can reduce the financial risk of a divorce, and help you move through a difficult time with as much ease as possible.
Q: But I know my spouse, and even if we divorced I know we would be able to do things fairly and equitably.
Before I started West Coast Prenup I was a divorce attorney, and this was number one thing I would hear from my clients:
"I feel like I am divorcing a completely different person than I married. I feel like I don't even know this person at all."
The consistent theme that was echoed by nearly all my divorce clients was that the person they fell in love with and married was not the same person they were divorcing. This can be troubling and disorienting when someone you love and trust turns into a stranger and starts behaving in ways that are completely incomprehensible to you. Marriage contains many unforeseen challenges and circumstances and it's simply impossible to predict what will happen.
The bottom line is that you can know someone inside out and trust them completely today, but to say that you will absolutely know someone 20 years from now, or know how they will behave in all situations in the future, is to turn a blind eye to human nature. People change. People grow apart. People can be unpredictable. It happens, and it is perfectly normal. There is a reason that 50% of marriages end in divorce! (If you live in Los Angeles, that statistic is closer to 75%.)
Absolutely no one enters a marriage planning to get divorced, and people who choose to get prenuptial agreements are not planning to divorce any more than anyone else. The only different between people with prenuptial agreements and people without prenups is that the people with the prenups will have a significantly easier, more amicable, and inexpensive process should they divorce.
Takeaway: Get a prenuptial agreement now, when everyone is happy and in love, and it will makes it a lot easier if things get ugly in a divorce.
Q: I don't need a prenup because my spouse will be punished by the courts in our divorce if they cheat or do something else that causes our divorce, right?
Many people assume that if a marriage ends because one person "wrongs" the other, i.e., cheats, that can be taken into consideration in a divorce when dividing up assets, and when making other decisions, like child custody, spousal support, etc. This is not the case in California. California is a no-fault state, which means that fault plays absolutely no role in a divorce proceeding. Your spouse could be the biggest jerk on the planet and you still have to divide up all your community property 50-50 with them. And maybe even pay them spousal support (alimony) for the rest of their life.
So, do not assume that if your marriage ends because someone does something awful, that awful person won’t still get half of everything – because without a prenup, they will.
Q: My future spouse and I do not have any assets right now that we need to protect, so why would we need a prenup?
A prenuptial agreement has very little to do with the assets you come into the marriage with. In California, all of your earnings and assets from before the marriage are considered separate property already, and would remain yours should you should divorce in the future. However, keep in mind, is that it is very easy for separate property from before the marriage to become community property during the marriage through what is called "commingling." Commingling happens when you mix separate and community property assets together (i.e., using premarital funds to pay for community expenses like rent and groceries, or towards a mortgage, etc.), such that the asset transforms from separate into community property.
To summarize, everything you come into the marriage with is yours, and is separate property, period. However, it is very easy to accidentally commingle separate property with community property. A prenuptial agreement can protect your separate property from unintentionally becoming community through commingling.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, you may not have assets now, but unless you have a crystal ball, you have no idea how much money you or your spouse will end up earning, or what kind of assets you may acquire in the future while you are married.
Here are some examples of what will become community property in the future:
- Both your pensions, retirement accounts, 401K, any stocks, interest on accounts, etc.;
- All cash accounts from earnings during marriage, including anything purchased with those earnings;
- Lottery or any other winnings - hey, who knows!;
- Proceeds from a lawsuit settlement.
Takeaway: Life is long, and hopefully so will be your marriage, and it is impossible to predict the future. Ask yourself if you could have predicted everything that has happened in your life so far. If the answer is yes, then maybe you can predict the future! For everyone else, consider a prenuptial agreement to make sure you protect not just your current but future assets.
Bonus info: Debts are also community property and I have done divorces where the only thing to divide was debt. Even if you did not rack up the debt, you're 50% responsible for it if your spouse did. And if the community debt outweighs the assets, you could leave the marriage owing money rather than having any to start your new life. A prenuptial agreement can, and commonly does, prevent your spouse's debt from becoming your own.
So even if you are 100% sure you will never be rich (and I hope this isn't true!), can you truly be 100% sure you and/or your spouse will never go into debt? Medical expenses, home market crashing, economy troubles, and many factors entirely outside your control can lead to significant debt. Without a prenuptial agreement, you will be 50% responsible for all your spouse's debt upon divorce.
Q: We have no plans to ever divorce/ divorce is not an option for us/ we do not believe in divorce, so why would we get a prenuptial agreement?
I have heard these various sentiments a lot, and it always blows my mind. Who in the world plans to divorce? I hate to break it to you, but not planning to get a divorce does not make you special - it makes you normal! No one plans for a tree to fall on their home, to get in a car accident, or to get sick - yet we don't bat an eye at buying homeowners insurance, car insurance, and health insurance. Think of a prenup as marriage insurance, and it is no more planning for your marriage to fail than health insurance is planning to get sick. It is just acknowledging that life is unpredictable, and sometimes out of our control, and about minimizing the impact an unexpected event (like an accident, or a divorce) will have on your life and finances.
Also remember that when it comes to divorce in California, it is not always up to you. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you are on), one spouse can divorce the other without their consent, or even participation in the process. Unlike some states, California is a "no-fault" state, which means you do not need a reason to get a divorce, and you can get a divorce even if the other party does not want to divorce.
Takeaway: A prenuptial agreement is insurance for your marriage. And remember, if you never divorce, your prenup will never see the light of day and is irrelevant anyway. Better to have one and not need it, then need one and not have it.
Q: What if I don't have a lot of assets or make a lot of money- do I need a prenuptial agreement?
No matter what your income, a prenup could be a good fit for you. A prenuptial agreement simply allows you to opt out of California default marital property laws, which currently states that all income and assets acquired during a marriage must be split 50-50 upon divorce, regardless of who earned them. This 50-50 division applies to all income from work, businesses you or your spouse may own or have an interest in, increase in value in stocks or other investments during the marriage, increase in value in any home you purchase together, or home one of you purchased before the marriage if you made payments on it or improvements to it during the marriage, checking and savings accounts, 401K's, IRA's, furniture and home furnishings, and anything else purchased, acquired, or earned during marriage.
Even marriages where there is relatively little to "divide," significant disagreements may arise, making the process long and costly for both parties. However, if the division of all assets is already predetermined before you separate, you may be able to avoid a process that can often take several years and cost both sides a fortune in attorneys' fees.
Q: BUT getting a prenup feels like expecting MY marriage to fail! Isn't this bad luck?
Absolutely not. Getting a prenup is no more expecting your marriage to fail than having health insurance means you are planning to get sick. The purpose of both is to make sure you are protected should the worst occur, and to provide you with the peace of mind such protection brings. In the case of divorce, a prenup allows you to be in control over the division of your assets, and also protects from the emotional and financial drain of a drawn out, contested divorce proceeding.
The prenuptial agreement process can also open up a lot of really valuable and important topics of discussion between you and your spouse about financial planning and goals for the future. Many clients have confessed to me that they feel much closer to their spouse and even more secure in their marriage and goals for the future after going through this process.
Getting married is a happy, wonderful time in anyone's life, and at West Coast Prenup we value this special time for all our marrying couples very highly. We strive to ensure the process is smooth, our clients well-informed at each step, and that we deliver an excellent product to our clients that reflects their and their future spouse's exact wishes and goals for the future.
WHY WEST COAST PRENUP?
At West Coast Prenup we understand that people work their whole lives to acquire a savings, home, business, retirement accounts, and the like, and these assets - regardless of the size or value - are meaningful to them. We believe that prenuptial agreements are the insurance of the family law world, and that our clients - not the courts - should have control over how their assets are divided in the unlikely event of a divorce. Most family law attorneys and family law practices dabble in premarital agreements. But, when it comes to protecting these valuable assets, rather than selecting an attorney that is spread thin across all areas of the law, choose someone who is an expert in the field.
AFFORDABLE, PREDICTABLE, FLAT-FEE PRICING
All of the services provided by West Coast Prenup are offered on a flat-fee basis that aims to be competitive and significantly lower than you will pay at any other family law firm.
Most family law firms charge an hourly fee, and require a large retainer up front - which might not even cover all the work that needs to get done. This can result in unpredictable and often much higher-than-expected legal fees, especially if there are lengthy negotiations. Even if the parties agree, hourly billing charges clients for every email, phone call, even text.
At West Coast Prenup you pay one flat fee, and that is all you will pay. Nothing hidden, no extra charges, no hidden expenses for "add-ons" to your prenuptial agreement. The fee is the same regardless of how long it takes conclude all services related to your premarital agreement. We believe this is the most transparent and client-centered way to do business, and it is extremely important to us at West Coast Prenup that we providing outstanding service and an outstanding product at an affordable price.
Please contact us for more information about services and pricing.