Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Art of the Prenup -- Use Sparingly

It seems to be becoming more and more fashionable to have a prenuptial agreement. I get calls from people in their early 20s, with no assets, asking for one. Last week I got a call from a very excited young man who asked me to prepare one. I asked him when the marriage was occurring. He said "tomorrow". I declined the assignment.

Prenuptial agreements are not lollypops. They are extremely serious agreements that can cut deeply into the financial rights and obligations of a marriage. Money, finances and security are a very important element of marriage. Therefore, I have always been very wary about drafting prenuptial agreements. Here are some of my reasons and how I attempt to balance competing interests of legitimate needs of clients and potential damage to the marriage.

As a lawyer, I seek to do no harm to my clients, only to help them. I view being a lawyer as a helping profession. I always try to go beyond the technical, asking open-ended questions to find out if there are any issues affecting the work that my client and I will do together. Often these open-ended questions reveal important facts and circumstances that bear very strongly on the work that we do.

When approached about drafting a prenuptial agreement, many lawyers go into technical mode. A standard prenuptial agreement is drafted and presented, without thinking about the effect it will have on both parties and the marriage. Giving a client an off-the-shelf standard prenuptial agreement may not be acting in the client¹s best interest.

When a potential prenuptial agreement client comes into my office, I spend a great deal of time talking with him or her to find out the basis of why they feel they need a prenuptial agreement. If my client is the party whose rights will be limited by the prenuptial agreement, I have a long talk with him/her (usually her), and the talk usually ends with tears - not mine.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

For more information, contact the Family Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at


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