Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today



Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Happy African American couple

AARP Books

Visit the Books Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular


Financially Speaking

Do You Need a Prenup?

Find out how to discuss prenuptial agreements before you propose

Nothing I had ever written about prenuptial agreements — and I’ve written plenty — prepared me for doing my own. I knew the rules; top lawyers had taught me, in interviews. But to understand the emotions, you gotta be there yourself.

See also: Marriage and Money: Talk before taking the leap.
Prenups aren’t for sissies. What seems to one of you like a perfectly logical financial choice might feel like a snub to the other. Feelings can easily be hurt. Nevertheless, money talk is critical if you have any savings or assets at all — especially in later marriages like mine where adult children are involved.

A second marriage may need a prenup to protect kids and savings- hands with wedding rings

Second marriages may need a prenuptial agreement to protect children and savings. — Getty

If you’re at the prenup moment, it means that you’ve decided to marry rather than simply live together, a choice I discussed in my column of June 2011. Marriage brings financial rights and responsibilities. If you divorce, you can be required to share marital property and perhaps pay alimony. If you die, your spouse might be able to claim one-third to one-half of certain of your assets, depending on your state.

A prenuptial agreement frees you from these general rules. It’s a legal contract, between you and your spouse-to-be, setting forth what will happen to the money when you die or divorce. You can divide it (or not divide it) in any way you want. Prenups make sense if you have assets you want to preserve for children from a previous marriage, own a business that you want to keep in the family or have endured a costly divorce that you don’t want to risk again.

Prenups aren’t necessarily set in stone. If the marriage is going well and circumstances change, you can write a postnuptial agreement with different terms. For example, you might begin by deciding that, at divorce or death, you’ll each keep the assets you brought to the marriage. That way, your entire estate would pass to your own family, not to the family of your spouse.

Then, maybe a few years later, if you’re financially strong, you might decide to leave your spouse some extra money in your will. Or you might leave money in trust for your children, with the income going to your spouse for life.

The emotional problems arise when you’re not in similar economic circumstances. An implicit part of the marriage bond is that you’ll take care of each other, meaning that one spouse shouldn’t be left to struggle if the other one dies. To address this, your prenup might create two plans — one financial agreement in case of divorce and another one in case of death.

A particular point of contention might be the family house, especially if it’s your major asset. You might want your spouse to continue living there if you die, with the property eventually passing to your kids. But what if your surviving spouse wants to sell and live somewhere else? What if you’re marrying someone younger, potentially forcing your kids to wait many more years to inherit the property?

Next: How to get started discussing your prenup. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.