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Prenuptial agreements protect more than just the wealthy

When you get engaged, everything is hearts and flowers and champagne toasts. Life is going to be great.

Until it isn't.

Marriages fail every day in Florida – and before you marry, you should consider asking your intended for a prenuptial agreement. It is hard to ask the person you love to think about your marriage one day winding up in divorce court, but, in reality, it provides protection for both of you.

A prenup is a legal agreement that establishes things such as property rights and ownership of assets before your marriage. It also can address student debt, spousal support, estate planning and other issues. Laws in Florida and every state address how assets are to be divided in a divorce. A prenup, actually, tells the courts that you are OK with deviating from established law.

Even if you keep separate checking accounts in your marriage, things get commingled. If you buy a house as joint tenants as a married couple – even though only one spouse funds the down payment and pays the mortgage – that might be considered a marital asset to be divided.

Prenuptial agreements used to be considered tools for just the rich, for people with considerable assets to protect. But prenups can protect one spouse from another's student loan debt, for example. Or, if the person you are going to marry has significant earning potential as you get older, you can negotiate in advance a percentage of those future earnings. That gives both of you protection knowing the number won't be too high for the earner or too low for the spouse.

Each half of the couple should hire their own attorney to negotiate the prenuptial agreement and do so at least six months before the wedding. You each need someone on your side to look after your best interests.

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