Adam Frank

Managing Director, Head of Wealth Planning and Advice, J.P. Morgan Wealth Management

As you prepare for your wedding, have open conversations with your soon-to-be spouse about your financial goals.

Wedding dates, guest lists, honeymoons…the list of choices when planning to get married can get overwhelming pretty quickly.  But take the time to think about your financial plans before you get married, to help set you on the right path.

Should I sign a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement sets out each prospective spouse’s rights and responsibilities if one spouse dies or the couple gets divorced. The agreement provides a roadmap for dividing and distributing assets instead of relying on state law, which can change from time to time. A prenuptial agreement can also be a valuable tool for planning since it can override presumptions about what is deemed community property, quasi-community property, separate property, and marital property. A prenuptial agreement can also prevent one spouse from being responsible for premarital debts of the other in the event of death or divorce.

A prenuptial agreement is most often used either when one spouse or one spouse’s family is significantly wealthier than the other, or when one family owns a business and wants to ensure that only family members are able to own and manage the business.

Negotiate a prenuptial agreement early

If you know that you plan to ask your fiancé to sign a prenuptial agreement, do it as soon as possible. Some courts have ruled that certain prenuptial agreements were entered into under duress because they were signed and negotiated too close to the wedding date. Therefore, the courts decided these agreements were unenforceable.

Examine employee benefits

Make sure you know how marriage will affect your employee benefits. If you and your spouse are working, would it be less expensive if you both kept your respective employers’ health insurance plans? Or would you save more if one of you switched to the other’s plan? Does one plan offer significantly better coverage? Marriage almost always qualifies as a life event that allows you to modify your benefits elections outside of the annual open enrollment period.

Review beneficiary designations and estate planning documents

Often, before you’re married, you will have named your parents or siblings as beneficiaries of accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, life insurance, and transfer on death (TOD) and payable on death (POD) accounts. Make sure to review these designations and accounts and, if appropriate, switch your beneficiaries to your new spouse – after the wedding, of course. Also make sure you update your estate planning documents, including Wills, health care designations, powers of attorneys, and others, to reflect your new situation.

If you plan to change your name

Make sure you apply for new identification and change registrations, including driver’s license, passport, airline frequent flyer programs, TSA Precheck, etc. There are certain companies that will perform the name-change process on your behalf for a fee.

Communication is key

Starting your marriage out with open lines of communication will help you better face future challenges together.  Having early, honest conversations about your financial goals, family plans and financial responsibilities will help to strengthen your marriage in the years to come.

Talk to a J.P. Morgan advisor about the different considerations.

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