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What could happen if I don't have a prenup?

If you are getting married, you are likely getting a lot of advice from friends, family members, religious leaders, and even financial advisors on everything from what food to serve to whether a wife should change her name.

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Whether you take people's advice or not is completely up to you. However, it can be very important to understand both sides of a situation before you make a decision, especially when it comes to the legal changes surrounding your marriage. For example, if you are considering a prenuptial agreement, you need to know not only why a prenup may be beneficial to you, but also what can happen if you don't have one.

Prenuptial agreements modify the default rules that are set in place by the state legislature and case law. If you don't like the default rules you can change at least some of them. However, if you decide not to sign a prenup and ultimately get divorced, you may not be able to protect certain assets. It is likely that your marital assets and properties will simply be divided between you and your ex 50/50, in accordance with California community property laws. This could even include family heirlooms and businesses depending upon what occurs during the marriage.

Additionally, with a prenup, there can be a discussion of spousal support and what would happen if either party dies prematurely. It is also possible that you could be held financially accountable for an ex's tax liabilities and other debts. Without a prenup, you likely will not have nearly as much control over how your assets are divided.

On the other hand, if you don't have any separate assets or significant marital assets, a prenup may not be as effective. Further, if you don't get divorced, the fact that you didn't have a prenup doesn't exactly matter.

Often forgotten in a prenup discussion, is determining what will happen if one party dies prematurely. There may be need to define inheritances, especially if either or both parties have children from a prior relationship.

Deciding whether to sign a prenup or not depends enormously on your individual situation and goals. Once you can assess those things, you may want to seek legal advice on how to go about protecting them. Discussing your situation with an attorney who can help you understand the legal implications of your options can prove to be quite valuable as it can allow you to make an informed, confident decision. Couples often see an attorney mediator together to various ideas and whether there is a need for a prenup. Seeing a mediator together may reduce the stress of discussing a prenup.

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