Thursday, December 09, 2004

prenuptial agreements

At lunch today, we got onto the subject of prenuptial agreements. The group consensus seemed to be that they were strongly recommended, almost a necessity.

For me, the best argument is that a prenuptial agreement dictates what happens in case one party dies. While wills and trusts can be modified, prenups are binding agreements. Existing assets can be allocated to children from a previous marriage, aging parents, siblings, and/or other relatives. Besides, if a couple can't get through negotiating a prenuptial agreement, what does that say about their relationship?

But I digress. The whole discussion made me wonder about the current percentages (the number of couples who sign prenups, out of the number of total marriages), so I went back to my desk and tried to find out.

According to several sites, it is very difficult to track numbers on prenups, because they can be written at home and do not need to be filed until they are about to be enforced. However, according to anecdotal and indirect evidence (lawyers drawing up prenups, number of divorces which are settled using prenups, etc.) the numbers have been on the rise since the 1970s, and prenups are widely used in the United States.

There is more resistance abroad; for example, the Chinese are about evenly divided on whether prenups are a good thing. One reason is that according to Chinese superstition, it's unlucky to mention divorce, when a couple is about to be married. Honestly, I think it would be more unlucky not to mention it.

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