4 Conversations to Have before Tying the Knot

Stacy D. Phillips

I love a good wedding, and even more than that, a strong, healthy marriage where both parties feel fulfilled and share control. I am going to two weddings in August, including a COVID-delayed wedding where the couple has already gotten married and had a child but are finally able to celebrate with family and friends, and the other one a new wedding.

After two years of pent-up demand due to COVID-related cancellations, rescheduling, and waiting, 2022 is predicted to be the busiest wedding season in many years, according to The Wedding Report. A good number of these may be receptions for already married couples whose weddings were derailed in 2020 and 2021, but still signify the beginning of a lifetime commitment.

While successful wedding days take months of careful planning and coordination, many couples put surprisingly smaller effort into charting out the fundamental elements and plans for their marital relationship. Having honest pre-wedding conversations with your partner about the big subjects will not only help you gain an understanding of what the rest of your life may look like, but can help mitigate, bypass, overcome, handle, or otherwise cope with control issues that could wreck your marriage. I recommend that engaged couples have open, two-way conversations surrounding their goals and expectations for family, financials, careers, and lifestyle. Ideally, these discussions should have taken place long before the engagement.

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Develop Financial Intimacy in Your Relationship: Tips for Newly Engaged Couples

Kristina Royce

Valentine’s day has come and gone, and in its wake, newly engaged couples are preparing to embark on one of life’s great journeys—marriage. But having a successful marriage in 2022 involves more than falling in love and finding your soulmate. It requires familiarity with the innermost workings of your partnership, including your finances. While this may make your relationship feel more like a business arrangement, couples are wise to have their eyes wide open when it comes to money. There are tremendous financial consequences that can arise during a marriage, and establishing financial intimacy is key to a healthy relationship. Couples who are getting ready to wed will benefit from making this a priority. Keep in mind these key points if you’re looking to develop your financial intimacy.

1. Communicate Openly and Honestly

Financial intimacy requires an in-depth understanding of your unique financial circumstances as a couple. It is impossible without one relationship pillar: communication. Initiating open lines of communication early on in your relationship can help build a strong foundation of trust for the future, but it’s never too late. The more you know, the more prepared you are in marriage to handle any challenges or changes that can come down the line. Discuss your assets, expenses, financial goals and wealth-building strategies. Be aware of who has access to certain records, accounts and financial documents in the marriage, and whether that access is equal. By doing so, even if you were to wind up divorcing your spouse, you are less likely to feel blindsided by the financial implications.

“Develop Financial Intimacy in Your Relationship: Tips for Newly Engaged Couples,” by Kristina Royce, was published in Worth on February 15, 2022.

You can read the full article on our website

Protecting an Inheritance from the Ravages of a Divorce War

Stacy D. Phillips

It is not uncommon for divorce to bring out the very worst in people, especially when a soon-to-be ex-spouse is used to being the one in control of the relationship. The contentious tug of war can even result in threats to an inheritance that you know was always intended just for you but unfortunately was not kept or segregated as it should have been.

While most people are unlikely to experience a Succession-like drama over control of a multibillion-dollar media conglomerate, you should be keenly aware that money from an inheritance received before or during a marriage can, in fact, be one of the most high-stakes exceptions in a marital estate.

Things get complicated when inherited funds are commingled with marital property or when inherited property has your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s name on title documents. And when things get complicated in divorce, they can trigger an extremely costly legal battle with the ultimate outcome decided by a judge. Continue reading

As Wedding Season Approaches, It’s Prenup Season

 Stacy D. Phillips

As the summer wedding season approaches, so does “prenup season.” Often, the mere mention of a prenuptial agreement (prenup) makes people uncomfortable, as if these documents and the discussions they prompt constitute a wholly unromantic anticipation of ultimate failure—even before the couple share their first dance.

High-net-worth individuals need to protect their financial interests before marriage. A carefully considered, well-crafted prenup is an insurance policy of sorts, should the marriage not work out as everyone hopes.

Here are some scenarios we see frequently in our practice that indicate the vital importance of a prenup:

  • When an individual has children from a prior marriage, to ensure that they are taken care of in the event of divorce or death during a subsequent marriage.
  • When an individual’s family has substantial wealth, to ensure that separate funds used during the marriage to purchase a home, vacation property, fine art, or other valuable assets remain their separate property (unless there is a written intention to gift it to the marital estate/community property).

What is the right time to discuss and sign a prenup? As early as possible before the wedding. Neither party should feel pressured to sign something on the eve of the wedding. Moreover, prenup discussions can bring out issues between couples that need to be addressed, perhaps even in pre-marital counseling. At its extreme, this process can make both parties reassess their readiness to marry each other. At its best, these discussions provide a forum that forces couples to work through the practical aspects of marriage: managing money, raising children, allocating responsibilities of income earners and caregivers, and possible religious differences.

While there are no one-size-fits-all agreements, here are a few cautionary aspects essential to every prenup:

  • Each party should be separately represented by an experienced matrimonial/family law attorney or estate planning attorney. Attorneys who practice in the divorce realm, however, offer an added advantage: they understand the detritus of failed marriages, so they write prenups defensively.
  • The ultimate goal is to have a clear picture of what happens in death or divorce. If the agreement is too complicated or too vague, it won’t serve its purpose.
  • There must be financial disclosure of assets and income of both parties.
  • A spouse who is successful in securing a prenup that is punitive also runs the risk of having that agreement successfully attacked in the future.
  • Be protective. Be fair. Don’t be greedy.

Prenups can prevent not only divorce battles but estate battles as well. After all, it is the peaceful resolution of family matters that matters most.