The Pros and (Very Few) Cons of a Prenup Agreement

It pays to be prepared

couple signing a Prenuptial agreement
Younger generations are seeing the light
Getty Images

Marriage is and always has been a transaction. From the dawn of civilization, marriage has involved a give and a take — of stability, assets and, at the risk of sounding like some washed-up 90s-era comedian, freedom. When you strip away all the fantasy, marriage is really just a contract. It might sound harsh, but a growing number of people are beginning to view marriage through this practical lens, opting to sign prenuptial agreements that will protect their finances in the event of a divorce. One Harris poll from 2022 found that 15% of married or engaged Americans have signed a prenup, up from 3% in 2010. And of those who had signed such an agreement, 40% were reportedly between the ages of 18 and 34.

In uber-wealthy circles, prenups are as common as at-home cryo-baths and caviar toothpaste, or whatever rich people spend money on. Prenups are what allow public figures like Reese Witherspoon and Gisele Bündchen to seamlessly navigate the distribution of their assets when divorce bells start a-ringing. But for all the married plebes out there who only share one or two properties and an aging cockapoo between the two of them, prenups have always been more of a morbid fascination than a legitimate legal consideration. 

Times are changing, perhaps in part because Millennials have a different idea of marriage and divorce than any previous generation. During their youth, same-sex unions were legalized, high-profile celebrities married and divorced quicker than tabloids could print, and record numbers saw their own parents split up. 

Divorce and family lawyers in the U.K. recently explained to the Independent that prenups are really an “anti-lawyer insurance policy” on a marriage. Richard Horwood, a partner and lawyer at Stewarts law firm, said “in the same way that you hope your house isn’t flooded or burned down, you hope your marriage works out, [but] even if it doesn’t work out, you don’t want to waste lots of money on litigation.” 

While Rupert Murdoch files prenups with all of his soon-to-be-five wives for obvious reasons, lawyers recommend that non-billionaire couples file prenups too, especially if one or both is expecting a large inheritance or a major pay-out on an investment or business venture. 

“I think more people are recognizing that they’re not scary, and they’re not just for celebrities,” Horwood told the Independent. “[Like] having a will in place or lasting power of attorney, it is just one of those slightly boring life admin things that we should at least think about.”

There’s always the chance that a spouse-to-be will find the prospect of a prenup insulting, inappropriate or degrading to the romance they’re hoping their marriage will embody. But what was once strictly a punchline now appears to be a priority for some young couples who are both idealistic and pragmatic about what’s on the line when they tie the knot. Because a marriage is a contract at the end of the day, yes — but it’s also a commitment to true partnership.

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