Family & Relationships

Big Questions to Ask Before Getting Married

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Getting married and planning a wedding come with many exciting decisions. Where to hold the ceremony. Where to go on a honeymoon. What kind of reception to have. In the flurry of all you’re doing, it’s important to remember that the lifetime commitment you’re making is also a legal contract.

While you are accepting several rights and benefits, you are also taking on specific legal and financial responsibilities.

Here are a few questions you and your future spouse may want to consider as you prepare for marriage:

How will we manage our assets? What will be combined and what will be kept separate?
Will we use the same or separate bank accounts and credit cards?
What is our new budget and how will we pay bills?
How will we manage any debt either of us has as an individual?
Should we sign a prenuptial agreement?
How will we provide financial support for any children of prior relationships?
How do we intend to share income and property acquired during the marriage?

While discussing finances can seem rather dull and unnecessary, remember that a conversation about your finances is essentially a conversation about your future. Now is also the time to ask what your plans are. Do you want to buy a house? Have children? Travel?

Take time to discuss the following questions as well:

What financial goals do we want to work toward?
Do we need new furniture or other items that we’ll buy and own together?
Do we want to save to buy a house?
What are our plans for having children?
How will we fund our retirement plans?
What plans do we want to put in place for the future?

As you talk about finances, you may also discuss if you want to create a prenuptial agreement. This written contract created by two people before they are married typically lists the property each person owns, their debt and what each person’s property rights and responsibilities will be after marriage.

Why you may want a prenup before you get married

Proponents of prenuptial agreements use these documents to do the following:

  • Protect each person’s separate property and debt
  • Support an estate plan, especially if children from prior relationships are involved
  • Define what is marital property and what is community property
  • Reduce conflicts and save money in case of divorce
  • Establish procedures and ground rules for future decisions

Prenups also address common issues, such as:

  • Whether to file joint or separate income tax returns
  • Who will pay the household bills and how
  • Whether to have joint bank accounts and, if so, how to manage them
  • How to manage specific purchases such as buying a house or starting a business
  • Whether to have joint or individual credit cards
  • How to set aside money for savings
  • How to put each other through college or professional school
  • Whether a surviving spouse will be provided for in an estate plan or with life insurance coverage
  • How to settle any future disagreements — for example, through a mediator or private arbitrator

While creating a prenuptial agreement may seem contrary to the act of getting married (“Why should we decide how to split things at divorce when we’re planning a lifetime commitment?”) having an open conversation about money and property can actually build your relationship. Even if you don’t sign a written agreement, being able to talk about finances can ensure you’re both on common ground.

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