The holiday season is the busiest time of year. Families are getting together, shopping, and eating to celebrate life, love, and happiness. It is one of the busiest engagement seasons of the year (maybe tied with Valentine’s Day). Whether you get caught up in a moment of excitement and spontaneously decide to get married or plan your engagement for an entire year, the moment you say “yes” is the moment your entire world will change forever. You have made a commitment, for better or for worse, to become a unit as opposed to an individual entity. Once you finalize your commitment, you are bound by law. We do not want to take the romance away from your engagement – after all, it is one of the most romantic moments of your life! However, once you finish basking in your new engagement glow, take a look at the reality of marriage and the legal issues involved.
Yours, Mine, and Ours
Many have the assumption that only people with significant wealth need a prenup, but this is not true. Everything you and your spouse earn, create, and purchase during a marriage becomes marital property under Minnesota law. Many people decide before getting married how things should be separated if they happen to get divorced. The decision is made in the beginning when both parties are in love before there are significant assets involved to fight over. Another area that many people do not think about for prenuptial agreements is intellectual property rights. Unless otherwise agreed to, intellectual property created during the marriage is also marital, even though one spouse may have created the property entirely on their own. Even with property that is considered non-marital, such as inheritance to one spouse, there are ways under the law it can become marital if there is not an agreement or prenup to state otherwise. An example would be if one spouse received an inheritance but then “co-mingled” the money or inheritance with marital property or put the money into a joint marital account. Take the story of Kurt Cobain’s daughter and her divorce. Frances Bean Cobain is at risk of losing her father’s famous guitar to her soon-to-be ex-husband because of his argument that it became a marital asset. While this will likely not end well for him, she is spending a lot of money in legal fees to prove this property belongs to her and her alone.
Keep Yours Yours, Mine Mine, and Ours Ours
Rather than risking a hefty legal battle, consider a prenuptial agreement. This is not an acceptance of inevitable divorce. Rather, think of it as an affirmation of your love and respect for one another. It shows that you are not interested in what the other party financially brings into the marriage, but in the person. Believe it or not, the prenuptial agreement is not just about money and property. It also may stipulate expectations about the marriage.
The point is, marriage is a legal contract. In that same vein, you should have a legal contract protecting the assets and expectations of the parties prior to entering into the contract. If you are basking in the glow of your engagement, consider the legalities relating to your upcoming union. Contact the Divorce and Family Law experts at Lake Harriet Law at (612) 750-4843.