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How can I protect my assets without a prenuptial agreement?

Many people may find it unceremonious to bring up the topic of a prenuptial agreement before getting married. Though a prenuptial agreement is a good way to protect one's assets in the event of a divorce, not everyone has a prenup in place. So, what are some options available to couples to protect their assets when they do not have a prenup?

The answer to the question regarding what can or cannot be protected is that it depends on the situation. For instance, when it comes to bank accounts, if the accounts were separate before marriage but comingled after marriage, then the accounts are considered to be joint and will be treated like marital property. Thus some couples may find it helpful to keep their bank accounts separate, but have a joint account to deal with their joint expenses during marriage.

Similarly if one party owned a home prior to marriage but added their spouse's name to the deed of the home after marriage, the home then becomes a marital asset and will have to be addressed in property division. Additionally, if a non-marital property or home which is only in one party's name is renovated or upgraded using monies from a joint account, then the court may have to indulge in the arduous task of evaluating what percent of the value of the non-marital property is marital and what percent is not. Thus, it is best to keep non-marital property separate. Furthermore, even if a spouse's name is not added to the deed of home after marriage, one can draft a will or create a trust to pass the home to the other spouse upon the primary holder's death.

With respect to retirement accounts, it is important to keep copies of the statements of the accounts before marriage. In essence, any monies in the retirement accounts prior to the marriage will not be divided, but the assets in the account after marriage will be considered marital assets and will be divided between the parties. It is important to always reevaluate and update beneficiaries following a divorce. These are just some simple ways to protect one's assets without a prenup.

Source: Money, "5 Ways to Protect Your Money Without a Prenup," Rebecca Zung, May 6, 2015

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