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Mixing estate planning and marriage-prep

Most of our readers have heard the advice of seasoned attorneys regarding estate planning: get it done sooner rather than later. There is good reason for this advice. Engaging in early (and ongoing) estate planning can prevent a lot of problems, not only on a personal level, but also at the level of the family.

One way more and more couples are doing this is by using prenuptial agreements to define the way property is to be handled at the death of a spouse. This is a growing trend particularly among those who are marrying later in life who, in addition to bringing greater assets to the table, may also have children from a previous marriage they want to provide for.

The usefulness of prenuptial agreements, for those not familiar with them, is that they can be used to change the rules by which property is divided, not only with respect to divorce, but also at the death of a spouse. The same is true of a last will and testament and other aspects of estate planning, of course, but handling property issues in a prenuptial agreement presents an opportunity to take greater control of how property is dealt with at death within the context of the marital relationship.

So, although prenuptial agreements are popularly considered to be essentially divorce-planning tools, they can also touch on issues that are traditionally handled in estate planning. The key with this approach is to make sure the prenuptial agreement is coordinated with any estate planning documents, and to make sure that everything is updated as changes occur. Failure to coordinate a prenuptial agreement with a will, beneficiary designations and other documents could make for an uncoordinated and ineffective plan.

With any approach to estate planning, too, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that a comprehensive plan is established which will effectively meet your specific needs.

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