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Prenuptial agreements can have benefits for Massachusetts couples

Valentine's Day came and went this week. While the champagne may be gone, the chocolates eaten and the red roses wilted, couples in Massachusetts and around the country hope that the underlying love represented by these traditional symbols endures. The numbers bear out that hope, as an estimated 4 million Americans were engaged this past Tuesday.

An engagement can be a heady time, filled with preparations for the wedding and a married life together. But just as couples manage the smallest details of their weddings, they should devote the same attention to financial planning, including a prenuptial agreement. After all, the legal documents a couple chooses to sign will be around far longer than the wedding cake.

If a partner wants to consider a prenuptial agreement, it is essential to bring up the matter as early as possible. Waiting to the last minute can produce an awkward situation. In addition, it will take some time for a complete agreement to be drafted and signed. A prenuptial agreement should take into account each partner's assets, so it may take some time to catalogue everything. In addition, states such as Massachusetts impose certain requirements on prenuptial agreements. Planning ahead can ensure that the legal requirements are met and that the agreement is enforceable.

Prenuptial agreements are especially useful for particular types of couples. A partner who has children from a prior marriage may want to sign a prenuptial agreement that gives those children an inheritance in the event of his or her death. Partners who are older, with significant assets built up over the course of a career, can benefit as well. But partners of any age who are expecting an inheritance can use a prenuptial agreement to protect those assets.

The number of prenuptial agreements is on the rise. Explanations for the increase include a jump in the divorce rate and the unsettling effect the recent economy has had on individual finances. But considering whether to sign a prenuptial agreement does not mean that a couple is cynical about the strength of their marriage. On the contrary, sound planning can evince a significant commitment between partners and a desire to deal with their relationship as openly and forthrightly as possible.

Source: Reuters, "When Valentines and prenups go together," Kathleen Kingsbury, Feb. 15, 2012.

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