A very nice guy called me looking for an experienced lawyer in Chicago to prepare a pre-nuptial agreement. He didn’t really want one, but his wealthy Dad said that if he didn’t have one he’d be cut out of his inheritance.

The two of us had a long conversation and I was able to refer him to a top lawyer who should be able to help.  During the conversation a lot of information came up which I thought would be relevant to anyone who is looking to have a pre-nup done.

1. Don’t delay. Any pre-nup done under the gun, usually 30 days or less before the wedding, is likely to get voided. My caller was doing this six months in advance and that’s the right time to do it.

2. There are two of you, but each of you can’t use the same lawyer or law firm. The lawyer is supposed to look out for only one of you.  Get your own attorney and make sure your fiance has their own too or it might not hold up.

3. Anything can be in the document.  What you put in there is based on your goals and what’s unique to you. It can be as simple as listing everything acquired before the marriage or more specifically focused on certain items.  It can also change over time based on the length of the marriage.  One NFL player we were involved with had a pre-nup that said his wife would get $1 million cash if they got divorced and nothing else.  If you both agree to it, it’s usually legal.

4. If you own a house before the marriage and only your name is on the title, it’s your house.  You don’t need a pre-nuptial agreement for that.  Just don’t add your fiance/spouse to the title.

5. Same is true if you inherit money.  If you don’t put those dollars in a joint bank account or otherwise co-mingle them, you can keep that money. It’s when it’s not clear that you kept the money separate that you have problems.

By the way, it’s a great idea for everyone to have one of these agreements in place. Nobody goes in to a marriage expecting that they’ll get divorced some day, but of course it happens.  Much like when business partners break up and distribute assets based on a partnership agreement, a pre-nup can save you lots of time and money for lawyers if something goes wrong and the marriage ends. It’s not romantic to think of it this way, but in a marriage you really are just business partners, legally speaking.

This can be confusing, so if you have any questions or want an attorney referral, fill out our contact form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5320 for a free, confidential consult.