Divorce: hands of wife and husband signing divorce documents, woman returning wedding ring

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Premarital Agreements and the Family Business

Dear Carolyn,

My daughter is getting married next year.  We have family business and my daughter works in the business. Is a premarital agreement appropriate for her, even though she is only 25?  When should she bring this up with her fiancé?


Carolyn Answers…

Yes, a premarital agreement is appropriate if you want to protect family business assets in the unfortunate event of a future divorce or for estate planning issues.  Since your daughter works in the business, her active efforts in growing a family business become marital property and thus, divisible in a divorce.  If you do not want this result, then a premarital agreement is the solution.

When should one bring up a premarital agreement?  My advice is to bring the premarital agreement up as soon as the relationship is very serious, so that if signing a premarital agreement is a problem, no one goes deeper into the relationship.  Bringing up the premarital agreement might go something like this:  The couple is sitting around watching television and the topic of a premarital agreement comes up on the television program.  You daughter nonchalantly says:  “my family typically has premarital agreements.”  This is probably easier in the second marriage, so a first marriage has to be handled more carefully and tactfully.

In the end, it is the couple’s decision on the premarital agreement; first marriages can become quite emotional on the issue.  You, as the parents, control the assets, and if you cannot get your child’s cooperation on the premarital agreement, then there are trusts that can be created to help with divorce and estate planning.  Please seek a qualified family law specialist for the premarital agreement and an estate planning specialist for trusts, who also might consult with the family lawyer.


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This blog is an excerpt from Ask Carolyn, available on kindle.  

Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at askcarolyn@rhinotimes.com, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427.  Please do not put identifying information in your questions. 

Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.  The column also uses hypothetical questions.  A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your unique case.  Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn.”