Spring is here, which means that wedding season is not far behind. While you are planning for the big day, it’s important to address one of the most complex issues of marriage, joint finances. Money is one of the leading causes of stress in a marriage or long-term relationship. According to a recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll for SunTrust
, 35% of participants “blame finances for the stress they experience in their relationships.” As people marry later in life and/or marry for the second time, each spouse possesses his or her own history with money, increasing the potential for conflict. Fortunately, if you are getting ready to tie the knot, there are actions you can take to help avoid problems down the line:
- Discuss your values: We all have unique views about money, including our priorities, how we address saving, spending, and debt, our approach to giving, how we feel about kids and money, among others. Understanding your partner’s perspective from the start will help identify and resolve points of potential friction, or perhaps, establish areas for compromise.
- Review your finances ahead of time: Before individual finances become “joint” finances, make sure you understand what you each bring to the table. Conduct a complete inventory of income sources, typical expenses, assets, debt, and any major anticipated outflows or inflows.
- Decide who will “own” what: This applies to both assets and liabilities, although you should consult your lawyer to understand the laws that apply to spousal debt in your state of residence.
- Be honest: Financial “infidelity” can be devastating to a marriage. Keeping assets hidden or secretly spending can destroy the financial trust you have in each other. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an individual bank account or a credit card in your name only; in fact, that can be important in helping you maintain your own “good credit” should you ever need it. But don’t hide it; it’s better to be transparent and share this information with your partner.
- Plan for the unexpected: No one wants to think about the possibility of a marriage ending in divorce or the pain of losing a spouse. However, planning for the unexpected can help avoid additional stress during a very emotional time. This is even more critical in a blended family situation with children from former marriages. Putting in place clear directives, including a will, trust structures, if appropriate, and legal and medical advanced directives, will help to safeguard your assets and ensure they are distributed according to your wishes.
If there is a significant disparity between you and your partner in terms of assets, you may want to consider whether a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) would be appropriate. A prenup is a legal contract that a couple enters into before getting married. Its purpose is to outline how the couple’s assets and liabilities will be divided in the event of a divorce or separation. The structure of a prenup typically includes a list of the couple’s assets and debts, as well as provisions for how those assets will be divided in the event of divorce. It may also include spousal support provisions, property rights, and other agreements related to the couple’s finances. To be legally binding, the prenup must meet certain requirements, such as full and fair disclosure of assets and debts, and the agreement must be entered into voluntarily and without coercion.
Although your wedding may be one of the most memorable events in your life, it’s important not to overlook the importance of finances in your marriage. By giving careful consideration to your financial decisions and taking steps to secure your future together, you can ensure that your marriage thrives for many years to come. If you or a loved one is anticipating an upcoming wedding, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss how this event might impact your wealth plan. You can contact us directly by phone at 212.492.7000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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