By Melinda Copp
Engaged? Congratulations! You have plenty to think about as you plan your wedding and new life with your partner. But in addition to choosing a dress and picking a honeymoon destination, getting married includes a few less romantic decisions. When you marry your sweetheart, you combine a lot more than love in a legal contract, including financial obligations, assets and property.
If a wedding is in your future, consider the following questions about how to marry your financial and legal obligations.
Do we need a prenuptial agreement?
Although thinking about divorce before you tie the knot is no fun, for many couples it makes sense to have a prenuptial agreement in place.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people that spells out how their assets will be split if the marriage were to end. Without a prenup, assets are split according to state divorce laws, which may or may not be in your best interests.
According to PrenuptialAgreements.org, a couple should consider a prenup in the following circumstances:
- One partner is much wealthier than the other. This prevents the classic married-for-the-money saga. And it can help protect the less wealthy partner by ensuring that person protected as well.
- This isn't your first marriage. For second marriages, financial and legal concerns are often different, involving children, property or other assets from the first marriage.
- One partner has high debt. If you divorce someone with high debt, then you may be responsible for it. A prenup helps avoid this situation.
- One spouse owns part of a business. Your business partners may not be happy when you divorce your spouse and he or she ends up owning part of the company.
Should we combine bank accounts?
The answer to this decision is personal for all couples. Some people prefer separate accounts, which means never having to worry about one spouse going on a shopping spree and always knowing how much is in your own account. Others like to combine everything and leave one person in charge of paying bills, shopping and managing the money. Talk to your spouse about their feelings on this issue. Whether you go with separate or joint checking accounts, financial advisors suggest creating a joint savings that you both contribute to over time.
Do we need life insurance?
No one likes to consider the worst-case scenario, but if one spouse were to die, you should think about whether or not the survivor would have enough money to cover funeral and burial costs, pay off outstanding debts and still maintain your lifestyle. According to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE), marriage is the ideal time to start thinking about purchasing life insurance. Not sure how much you need? The organization offers a calculator online at http://www.lifehappens.org/life-insurance/life-calculator
A marriage is a joyous and exciting event, as well as a legal union. Thinking about these questions before you walk down the aisle will help ensure you and your sweetheart are happy and secure for years to come.