Should Christians Have PreNups?

One of the hottest topics on the marriage circuit today is whether you should have a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”). While only 3 percent of married or engaged people have a prenup, USA TODAY reports that fully one-third of single people say they would ask their spouse-to-be to sign one, and 40 percent of divorced people say they would do so if they remarried.

A prenuptial agreement is a legal document negotiated before you marry that specifies how you will divide up your assets if your marriage doesn’t work out. A prenup can also help direct what happens to the assets of one spouse upon his or her death. Each party uses his or her own attorney to review the document before signing.

Some secular personal finance writers and estate planning attorneys believe every couple should have a prenup. They point out that half of all marriages end in divorce, so why risk adding financial pain to the emotional pain of a breakup? On the other hand, some Christian personal finance writers and estate planning attorneys believe no one should have a prenup. They point out that marriage is a sacred covenant and a relationship that is intended to last “until death do us part.” They believe a prenuptial agreement undermines a couple’s marriage and may even increase the likelihood of divorce.

Prenups are typically recommended for two reasons:

1. Wealth protection. When one person is bringing a lot of wealth into the marriage and the other person is not, or when one stands to receive a sizeable inheritance, those in the pro-prenup camp say a prenup makes sense. I disagree.

Marriage should be entered into with the goal of oneness in all things, including finances. If one person was wealthy before getting married, that person’s wealth becomes the couple’s joint wealth from their wedding day forward. If you fear that marriage will put your wealth at risk, perhaps your money means more to you than your future spouse. I encourage you to hold off on your wedding until you resolve that.

2. Other person protection. There are situations where the breakup of your marriage may hurt other people financially. Prenup advocates say this is another scenario where a prenup is called for. Here they may have a valid point.

Imagine this: One spouse—let’s say the man—has children from a previous marriage. In order to make sure those children receive an inheritance, he could put certain assets into a revocable living trust and also use a prenup in which his new wife waives any interest in those assets should he die. Using a revocable trust allows him the flexibility to make changes. Perhaps when his children become adults, he will decide that his wife would benefit more than his adult children from some or all of the assets in the trust. But if he set up a trust without a prenup here’s a potential problem: upon his death, his wife could attempt to claim a share of the trust assets using a process known as elective share, in which she would give up what she was entitled to as specified in his will and, depending on state law, demand up to 50 percent of his entire estate instead. However, a prenup trumps elective share. It would add a layer of protection for the children, further ensuring they will receive what their father intended for them to receive.

Still, even if you believe a prenup would make sense for your situation, there may be alternatives. Since some people cringe at the thought of using a prenup, it’s worth exploring the options. Here’s a real-life situation similar to the one described above where an alternative tool accomplished the same result. Frank’s second wife did not get along with his children. When Frank died suddenly in a car accident, the children from his first marriage received an inheritance because he had set up irrevocable life insurance trusts for them. This was an ironclad way of providing an inheritance to those children without subjecting them to any negotiations with their stepmother.

Here are the main questions to consider regarding the use of a prenuptial agreement:

  • If I am the one recommending the use of a prenup, am I overly concerned about protecting wealth I am bringing into the marriage?
  • If my fiancé is asking for a prenup, is that conveying a lack of trust in me? Am I comfortable with the request?
  • Would anyone other than my spouse or me suffer financially if our marriage fails? If so, are there other ways we could protect that person besides a prenup? (Talk with a Christian estate-planning attorney about that.) If there are no viable alternatives, are we both in agreement about the use of a prenup?

In an ideal world, there would be no divorce, and hence no need for prenuptial agreements. But we do not live in an ideal world. Still, before pushing for a prenup, pray that God would search your heart and check your motives. Consider other alternatives first, and whatever you decide, make sure there is unity in the decision with your future spouse.

What do you think – Should Christians have prenups?

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13 Comments
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  1. For me the thought of having a pre-nup just feels like you’re planning to fail. I don’t want to even consider that possibility as it really isn’t an option. In any event, I believe we’re one in all things, including our finances and if, God forbid, we were to get divorced, my wife would be entitled to half of what we have. I think the need to have a pre-nup for wealth protection just speaks to a lack of trust, and a sign of other issues in the relationship. I hadn’t considered the other reason – to protect others – but even with that, I’m hesitant because it speaks to a lack of trust in one spouse to do the right thing in regards to inheritance or money. Again, those issues need to be explored before the marriage takes place.

  2. Generally speaking, I’m against prenups. I feel the same way that Pete does. However, I have seen at least one instance where it isn’t a bad thing (so, as with any rule, there are exceptions).

    My mom got remarried a few years ago. My sister and I are both adults, living on our own. Her husband also has adult children. Mom and her husband signed a prenup stating that their stuff went to their children. This is not a lack of trust in the children (or spouse) splitting up things, but saves us the trouble of having to do so. The “kids” have only met a couple of times, in passing. So this saves us the issue of having to work with these strangers and come to an agreement during what will surely be stressful times.

  3. Agree with the other posters. We never even considered a prenup for ourselves.

    However, I think it’s a wise move when it’s a second marriage and there are children from the first marriages. It’s important to protect your bloodline from the worst case senario. There could be very different assumptions going into the marriage and better to uncover and resolve these issues while you still have complete control of your assets.

  4. Totally agree with the previous comments. If you have a pre-nup it is like saying…”yeah, this might not work out in the end.” So why get married?! My wife and I had said from day one that we are in it for the long haul. There is a reason the vows say, “till death do us part.”

  5. Marriage could be good, but If one person decides they want go their own way, and leave the marriage, by cheating, the honest person is punished. Why should they have to give up what they put into it if the other person isn’t honest?

    • True enough. But many people aren’t as honest as they should be about their ideas and what they want out of the marriage. Also some people change their minds, and go (for the grass is greener). I really agree on this, but have seen honest and committed people treated badly.

  6. A close family member of mine struggled with this issue before getting married and asked my advice. I told her that to me, it was a red flag. In my view, it screams: My money is more important to me than trusting in you, God, and our marriage, and in the event that things hit the fan, and at the end of the day, I’m out for myself. I would have a serious problem entering into a marriage with someone who didn’t trust me and my character that if something DID go wrong, I wouldn’t rip you off.

    Needless to say, my family member signed the pre-nup. She is now getting divorced and my fears have been confirmed – his money truly was more important to him than her or the marriage.

    There’s something to be said for getting married when you’re young and have nothing, like my husband and I did. ;)

  7. The person you divorce is seldom the person you marry or thought you married. Somewhere along the line somebody changed. Courts now consider divorce a “no-fault” issue. So regardless if one person has a five year affair, a drug or alcohol problem, in jail, or has spent all the money on gambling it is still no fault 50/50. Even if they want to end the marriage for no good reason at all the other has no ability to stop them. It takes two to make a marriage and one to end it.

    I believe in prenups for all second marriages where there are children or assets. A speed limit sign just keeps law abiding people safe. Speeders will still speed. Having a prenup opens the opportunity for conversation before the marriage and many differences in attitude can be disclosed and discussed.

    It’s easy to think they are not necessary until you lose years of work. The community property laws primarily protect debt collectors not spouses. Prenups spell out agreed upon conditions so everyone knows what’s going on and consequences are spelled out. If two people don’t agree for any reason they can still walk away before further investing their heart, time, and finances. If they cannot discuss these things before marriage while in the bloom of love without hurt or offence how will they handle it if a divorce does in fact happen? We don’t avoid buying insurance because we think it increases our chance of accidents. We buy it just in case it does.

  8. I am a man from the Netherlands and I am going to marry my love from Romania. After our marriage I will move to Romania to live with her, close to her family from which her mother is very ill. I will give up my job in the Netherlands and find a job in Romania, but as this is one of the poorest countries in the European Union, my salary will reduce to a quarter of what I earn now. On the other hand I have a debt of about 12000 euros, while she has a posession in the form of land where we want to build our house close to her mother so that we can take care of her when her illness becomes worse. And of course we want to have children. I suggested my fiancee a prenup to protect her for my debts in case something unexpected happens in these uncertain times. 12000 euro is a huge amount of money for Romanians. For her it is a 2 year income, even with her job as clinical psychologist. Creditors don’t know any borders and they will get her current posessions to equal my debts. She refuses a prenup as she sees it as a lack of confidence and she believes that God will watch over our marriage. I believe that he will do that of course, but I think that this prenup law is also provided by God to protect us so that she can not be held responsible for the debts that I made before I met her. I consider not using this prenup protection is like taking no health insurance because you believe that Jesus will heal you anyway. I consider her rejection as a lack of confidence because she believes that I have other reasonings for a prenup. Should I just let her take a decision whether we take a prenup or not and leave it all over to God?

  9. Hans – I would investigate the laws in your country and the terms related to the types of debt you have. In the U.S., debts held in just one person’s name are only that person’s responsibility under most circumstances. So, as long as you keep your debts in your name, a prenup may not be necessary to protect your wife from your debts.

  10. Wonderful article currently being featured in the Prosper Biblically Blog Carnival at http://prosperbiblically.blogspot.com/2010/09/september-prosper-biblically-blog.html

  11. My husband had me sign a pre nup before marriage. He is wealthy and I am not. He was married to his late wife for 25 years and explained that he and she built the wealth and it belongs to his children upon his death. He is almost 70. I am in my late 50′s and am concerned about if he dies. Our home will go to his children and he has said, but it is not written anywhere that he will leave me enough money to buy a small house. We have been married for 4 years and I am concerned about my welfare in the future as I have only a small savings. At this point, I would rather be alone and figuring it out for myself.

  12. Lauren – Attorneys I’ve talked with tell me that pre-nups are especially common in situations like yours where there are children from a prior marriage that one spouse wants to protect. However, it does seem like a concern that your future needs may not be covered in your estate plan. Attorneys have also told me it’s common to write in a provision that states that upon your husband’s death you could stay in the house until your death (I always hate writing things like that!) and at that point it would be up to his kids to determine what happens with the house. I’d encourage you to open up a conversation with your husband about this.

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