When you’re counting down the days to your wedding (and perhaps to honeymoon celebrations), the last thing you may want to be thinking about is the “business side” of your upcoming marriage. But while it may seem counterintuitive, there are many benefits to balancing the excitement of the moment with thoughtful planning for your financial future.
Holding a proactive conversation about how you and your partner will handle your marital finances can lead to a better-shared understanding of your relationship. It can help you feel more confident in your financial footing, resolve concerns before they become a problem, and reduce stress later down the road. As part of this conversation, a carefully drafted prenuptial agreement can play a valuable role in creating clarity and setting expectations for your individual financial responsibilities.
But a prenuptial agreement doesn’t appear out of thin air—it’s the result of careful collaboration and cooperation between partners and their attorneys. It also requires a hefty dose of transparency and documentation.
If you and your partner are considering putting a prenuptial agreement into place, here’s what you need to know in advance about the information you must provide.
Creating a solid foundation for your prenuptial agreement
To draft a lasting prenup, and one that has a better chance of sustaining a challenge in the future, you need to provide your attorney with access to a variety of personal and financial information. Primarily, the focus will be on detailing your assets and liabilities. This can include anything from student loan debt to retirement accounts, heirloom jewelry to birthday presents.
Your prenuptial agreement should create the fullest degree of financial transparency possible between you and your partner. To that end, it’s important to provide all relevant information. Withholding details could jeopardize the legality of your agreement and potentially lead the court to declare it void in the event of a divorce.
If you are concerned about overlooking information, speak frankly with your attorney so they can help you fully account for all your assets and liabilities.
What to bring to your attorney’s office
Both you and your soon-to-be spouse will need to produce a variety of documents detailing your income, assets, and liabilities/debts.
The list below provides a starting point as you begin to gather the necessary information for you each to give to your respective attorneys. That said, please note that the exact documents you’ll each need may vary, because every couple—and every prenup—is different.
Proof of income
This refers to any money that you and your soon-to-be spouse regularly receive, either through employment, business, or investments. This may include:
- Recent pay stubs
- Income tax returns for the prior year
- Business tax returns from the prior year
- Retirement plan annual statements
- Any other recent financial statements
Proof of assets
This refers to the real and personal property owned by you and your soon-to-be-spouse, including:
- A completed financial affidavit
- A recent copy of bank account statements
- A recent copy of any investment account statements
- Documentation related to any businesses owned in whole or in part by either party, including estimated values
- A copy of all real estate deeds
- The property appraiser’s valuation estimate and tax bills for real and personal property
- A copy of all vehicle registrations, titles, or bills of sale
- A detailed and complete list of tangible personal property, such as jewelry, antiques, and collectibles
List of liabilities
This refers to the financial obligations and debts owed by you and your soon-to-be spouse, which may include:
- A copy of any mortgages and notes on real property, as well as the status of any payments
- A copy of any notes or lien documents on tangible personal property
- A copy of any unsecured loans or notes
- A copy of any car loan documentation
- Credit card statements
- Student loan statements
- A copy of medical bills
- Tax bills
Other relevant details
In addition to the documents above, be prepared to provide your attorney with:
- Information related to an anticipated inheritance
- Details about pets
- Details about sentimental shared belongings (if they currently exist)
- Any information about existing wills or your estate (including names of beneficiaries)
- Paperwork regarding anything else you believe to be pertinent
If you’ve already discussed or have intentions about ways to address certain issues that could be part of the prenuptial agreement, such as alimony or equitable distribution, you should also provide this information to your respective attorneys in writing. This way, they can advise you as to how those ideas can be incorporated, or modified, to best address your concerns in your final agreement.
New Jersey’s requirements for prenups
The 1988 New Jersey Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) sets forth criteria for prenuptial agreements. The goal of this law is to protect vulnerable spouses from unfair agreements that could interfere with their rights in the event of a divorce.
Among the criteria, your prenup must be in writing and signed by both you and your spouse—in this case, verbal agreements are not legally binding. It must also be fair to both parties, even if one spouse brings significantly more assets to the marriage than the other.
Additionally, the law requires that your prenuptial agreement must be accompanied by a statement of assets and liabilities that each spouse affirms is true and accurate at the time of the document’s execution. Often the agreement itself recites that each party relied on the disclosures on the statements, to help support that the contract was fair and that each party was fully informed before entering said agreement.
Given that prenuptial agreements are considered private contracts, unless they are produced as evidence in a contested divorce proceeding in the future, they are not a matter of public record.
Bear in mind that New Jersey law bars prenuptial agreements from addressing child support or custody. However, they can stipulate plans for spousal support, equitable distribution, or children or support received for children from a previous marriage.
Start your marriage with confidence
Divorce may be the last thing you want on your mind as you prepare to get married—but in the event that a divorce does become necessary down the road, a prenuptial agreement may save you time, money, stress, and uncertainty as you navigate your changing circumstances.
Whether you need help drafting, reviewing, negotiating, or challenging a prenuptial agreement, our experienced team of New Jersey family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC is here to help.
We help you navigate the ins and outs of the documentation needed to solidify your prenup, which once executed, can help you start your marriage with a sense of security. Schedule a coordination call so we can help you and your new spouse begin your lives together on strong financial ground.