Parental involvement in prenups: Where to draw the line

If your young adult child has announced their plans to marry, it’s understandable that they and their spouse-to-be may not be considering getting a prenuptial agreement. Young couples without many assets of their own and a pile of student loan debt often believe prenups aren’t for them.

As a parent, you may have concerns about your child going into marriage without a prenup. If so, you’re not alone. Those in the legal profession who deal with family law matters report seeing increasingly more parental encouragement of prenups.

That’s in no small part because there’s often a lot at stake. If you have a business that your child has a share in (even if they have no involvement in the operations), that could be at stake if their marriage ends in divorce. If they’re listed as a co-owner on any real estate or other property, that could be at stake also.

Inheritances are considered separate property and not subject to division in divorce – unless the assets are commingled. Therefore, unless you’ve set up a trust that’s “divorce-proof,” your child could lose a share of their inheritance if they aren’t careful not to mix it with the couple’s joint assets.

Too much involvement could invalidate the prenup

A good course of action is often to let your child know what’s at stake (especially if they don’t know the details of these assets) and encourage them to get a prenup to help protect them just in case the marriage ends one day far in the future. If your child is concerned about asking for a prenup, they can always put the blame on you or the terms of the business or trusts.

What’s crucial to remember is that you can’t get involved in the terms of the prenup nor can you put pressure on your future son- or daughter-in-law. Both people have to agree to get a prenup, and both should have their own legal representation. 

A prenup needs to protect both people. It can’t be solely for the purpose of protecting one spouse. All or part of a prenup can be voided if one person can show they were pressured to sign, didn’t have their own counsel or if it’s one-sided or “unconscionable.”

It can seem like a fine line to walk. It may be helpful to seek some legal guidance of your own before wading into a prenup discussion with your child.