Learn To Love The Prenup


Signing on this dotted line could safeguard your financial future.

When it all seems so basic and so reasonable, do you really need lawyers? Well, yes, because if you do it yourself—and the internet is happy to help—you risk painting yourself into some weird legal corner where you're worse off than if you'd had no agreement at all.

Things vary from state to state (some, but not all, have adopted the Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act). Like Spielberg's napkin, homemade prenups may not stand up in court anyway, so if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right.

In fact, experts urge that each party have his or her own lawyer. "Interview three or four," advises Nachshin. "Get somebody who your [future] spouse's lawyer can work with; you want to avoid antagonism." Ask them, he insists, how many prenups they've handled. "The lawyer who drafted Barry Bonds' first agreement had never drafted one before," he says, with the hindsight of a man who later had to defend it in court.

And, speaking of protocol, do you need to tell your friends or family about your prenup? Only if you want to complicate things. "Once you bring it into the family structure, you'll get five opinions," says Altman, "which can create static and misinformation."

Honesty is key. Each person needs to spell out exactly what they're bringing into the relationship, both good and bad. If there hasn't been full disclosure by one of the parties, the court may throw the entire agreement out. Everything gets laid on the table—debts, inheritances, and assets—so there are no surprises. And the process reveals which values are ultimately the most important, like compassion, caring, and fairness.