We are in the throes of wedding season. I just celebrated my 25th anniversary, and I haven’t been to a wedding for a couple of years. But not too long ago, I was going to what felt like one wedding a week, and I’m sure there are plenty of 20- and 30-somethings who are going through that now, or even getting married themselves.

With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of legal tips for those getting married. I’m an Illinois attorney and while it’s possible these tips apply in other states, they are meant for Illinois. Now that I have that lawyer disclaimer out of the way …

  1. Get a prenup. If you do that, most of this list becomes obsolete. It’s the smartest thing you can do and I wish it was mandatory for everyone getting married. Note that it can’t be done last minute if you want it to hold up.
  2. Assuming no pre-nup, remember that things acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets. Each spouse has an interest in them.
  3. If you owned a house before the marriage, it’s not likely a marital asset unless you put your spouse’s name on the title. If you aren’t on the title it’s worth discussing having that changed.
  4. If you are married to someone who starts a business during the marriage, that is also considered a marital asset. That includes people who become partners in doctor’s groups or other professional environments.
  5. Items inherited during a marriage are not marital assets unless you co-mingle them with the marital funds. If you need to know how to prevent that or require a more detailed explanation, give us a call. Generally speaking though if you inherit money and don’t want it to be a marital asset, open up a bank account in your name only and put the money there.
  6. Earnings from 401k or pension plans before a marriage aren’t marital assets, but the day you get married, your spouse has an interest in that money from that day forward.
  7. If one of you gets cold feet and calls it off, that can affect who keeps the engagement ring. If you proposed and call it off, the ring is a gift. If you were given the ring and call it off, you have to give the ring back.
  8. If you’ve been paying rent on your fiance’s home or helping with the upkeep, you are legally most likely just a tenant.
  9. Being on a mortgage or lease payment (like a car for example) doesn’t convey ownership rights if it happens outside the marriage.
  10. Getting married or not has nothing to do with kids and custody. That is based on the best interests of the child.
  11. While a pre-nup is best, you can always do a post-nuptial agreement.

The hope of course is that you’ll have a long, happy marriage. But it’s always best to be informed and prepared. If you have any questions please call us at 312-346-5320.