Before you come into a marriage with a significant amount of your own money, it is important to know what your rights are and learn all the possibilities of what could happen to it. No one likes to think of death or divorce during such a happy time, but it is a necessity when you are planning a life with someone. You need to think about how you want your personal assets distributed in the event of your death or divorce.
If you want to have the freedom to distribute your separate (premarital) money or other assets at your own free will without needing to tell your spouse about it, then you should consider the ways that you are legally—and somewhat ethically—able to do this. As always, you should make sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney in Charlotte before you make any decisions.
Get a premarital agreement
In order to save, spend, and distribute money that is solely your own, the best thing to do is make sure your spouse agrees to have a clear separation of accounts. By signing a prenuptial or premarital agreement, both you and your soon-to-be spouse are formally agreeing that the money and assets each of you have obtained before your marriage will remain your own. These agreements also outline jointly-owned assets and properties and how they will be divided in the event of a divorce or death.
“Marital expenses” in Charlotte can cost you
People who do not get prenuptial agreements may be waiving the right to keep anything just for themselves. After a marriage, as soon as things like mortgage payments, car payments, or utility payments start coming out of bank accounts, they are considered to be “marital expenses.” If a divorce happens without a prenuptial agreement, a judge could likely rule that any bank accounts used were for various marital expenses. This could put each spouse’s bank account into play during property division,, despite whether one has significantly more money than the other or if the majority of the cash was deposited pre-marriage.
Signing a prenup gives you independence
Once you have a prenuptial agreement signed, then what you two determined to be your own assets are officially your own, throughout your entire marriage and after a divorce. If you keep one account separate for your own enjoyment, then you are not required to let your partner know how you are spending or distributing that money by any means. If you wish to use that premarital money to give gifts to your children or invest more of that money, you are fully free to do so. However, it may be a good idea to still let your spouse know to avoid any arguments at the dinner table.
Get a postmarital agreement
Similar to a premarital agreement, a postmarital agreement outlines what both parties accept when it comes to distributing assets and money after a death or divorce. The difference here is that a postmarital or postnuptial agreement is created and signed after you are already married. It is a little trickier to accomplish if some of your assets are already combined, but it is not impossible. That is why it is important to use an experienced family law attorney who knows all the ins and outs of premarital and post marital agreements.
Postnups are beneficial in extreme situations
Most middle class couples often do not get a prenuptial agreement because neither of them have significantly valuable assets. That does not mean they don’t need one, they typically just choose not to.
However, extreme situations do happen. Imagine five years into a couple’s marriage the wife’s great aunt passed away and left her with a small fortune in her final will. Since that fortune is meant for her and only her, the wife may not want to share that money with her spouse, especially in the event they get divorced later on. In a scenario like this, a postnuptial agreement could come in handy and allow the wife to spend her inheritance as she pleases without needing to talk it over with her spouse.
So, can I spend premarital money without my spouse’s approval?
If you get either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that protects your money you earned before marriage, then you do not have to tell your spouse what you are doing with that money. However, it is always a good idea to give them a gracious heads up.
If you choose to not get a premarital or postmarital agreement, then it is still not technically illegal to spend that money without telling your spouse, but you are opening up a can of worms. When you enter a marriage without any type of pre-existing legal agreement, you are consenting to combining your lives as one—and that includes your money. Even if you open up a joint bank account together, either spouse is legally able to withdraw money from that account no matter who deposited it. So, should you spend money without your spouse’s approval? It depends. For something small, there is probably no need to ask for permission. But when it comes to major purchases, it is probably best to discuss it with your spouse. After all, that’s why they’re your partner.
Do you need help creating a premarital or postmarital agreement? If so, you need the experience of a family law attorney on your side. The compassionate team at Epperson Law Group, PLLC fights to protect the rights and assets of everyone, no matter their age or gender. Call our office at 704-321-0031, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment today. We meet with clients out of our offices in Charlotte, Weddington, Concord, and Boone.