The Prenup Revival
From mayonnaise to light beer, it is well-known that millenials are killing machines. But there’s one thing that seems to have escaped the Millenial Death March unscathed and is, indeed, flourishing in large part due to millenials: prenups. Prenuptial agreements are essentially contracts that allow couples to determine how their separate and marital assets will be divided if they divorce. In the past, they were stereotypically thought to only be needed (or wanted) when one or both partners were coming into the marriage with significant family wealth that they wanted to protect.
But in late 2016, the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers released results of a survey it conducted of its members; more than half of the attorneys who responded said that they’d seen an increase in millennials seeking out prenups, with almost 2/3 citing an uptick in requests for prenuptial agreements overall.
To understand why we are seeing this increase in prenups, it makes sense to look at several sociological trends when it comes to marriage and family. First, the median age at first marriage has increased steadily over time, to nearly 30 for men and 28 for women. This means that people coming into a marriage for the first time now have more years of work experience than ever—which means larger retirement accounts and possible investments, including real estate. The flip side of greater asset accumulation is, of course, debt. The average millennial has nearly $30,000 in student loan debt; some have substantial credit card debt as well. So while a prenup is usually thought of something needed to protect wealth or assets, it may also be a tool to prevent someone from becoming legally liable for debt incurred by their spouse prior to the marriage if they ever split up. More people in their 20s and 30s rely today on some form of continued financial support from their parents as well—which leads the parents of some millennial brides- and grooms-to-be to lobby for drafting prenups as well.
The average cost of a prenuptial agreement for a couple with fairly straight-forward finances is going to be somewhere between $2500-3500; with greater complexity comes higher cost. This is also a cost that will need to be borne by each partner, as both sides of a couple must be represented by their own, independent attorney. Agreements must also be presented and signed well in advance of the wedding date; if a contract is finalized too close to the wedding date, one could well argue that they signed under duress and/or did not have adequate time to read and consider the proposed terms. For this reason, it is a good idea to begin discussing a prenup as soon as you get engaged, if not before.