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What a prenup is, and when it's the right time to talk about one with your future spouse

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About 40% of engagements take place between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, according to WeddingWire. If you're planning to pop the question, there's another you might want to ask soon after: Should we get a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract that both members of a couple sign before getting married to establish how their assets will be divided in the event of divorce, or if one person passes away. It's meant to minimize litigation and conflict at the end of a marriage, if that ever happens.

Such agreements are becoming more common. About 6 in 10 attorneys say they have seen a boost in requests for prenuptial agreements, according to a 2016 survey cited from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

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What is a prenup, and why you should get one

If you want a prenup, or think you might, experts say it's smart to have this important conversation with your future spouse well before your wedding.

"The worst thing you can do is sneak attack your spouse by having them served with legal papers," Yesenia Rivera-Sipes, a lawyer in Yonkers, New York, who specializes in family and matrimonial law, told Grow earlier this year. "That doesn't really build trust, which is superimportant in having a successful marriage so that you never have to use that prenup."

Here are three other reasons it's best not to wait until the last minute.

  • Early prep helps your agreement hold up in court: Rivera-Sipes recommends having the conversation as early as possible. "I would say the sooner the better, because one of the ways you can challenge a prenuptial agreement is if it's done under duress — say, you were presented with the prenup on the eve of the marriage."
  • Rushing could mean you miss something: Prenups require full disclosure. Work with your attorney and carefully comb through your financial documents to make sure you're listing all of your assets, debts, and investments.
  • Fair agreements may require negotiating: Coming up with a fair agreement is a process. It can take a few days if both parties are on the same page about how they wish to split their assets, or it could take months if there are disagreements about how you'd divide a shared asset like your home.

Having an honest conversation with your partner from the start will help you establish open and honest communication and clear up any lingering questions about your finances before your big day. "Get it out of the way so that you can enjoy planning your marriage, and it won't be this dark cloud over what should be a very happy time in your life," says Rivera-Sipes.

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