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How can a prenup become an estate planning tool?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a prenup? Chances are that it won't be estate planning. However, a well-crafted prenup can become an integral part of any estate planning options.

Asking your fiancee to sign a prenup may not be romantic, but it can provide asset protection and preserve legacies intended for adult children. This is a common scenario with later-in-life second marriages, especially when there is a big disparity in the ages of the couple.

Signing a prenup under those circumstances need not mean that the spouse with fewer assets will be impoverished if he or she is widowed during the marriage. It simply directs that the intended portion of the estate be divided among any children of a prior marriage as ultimately intended. The couple can then put in place an alternate estate plan to cover the needs of the surviving spouse — life insurance policies, usufructs, trusts or other bequests.

A prenup can avert the problems inherent in the following hypothetical situation:

A financially successful widower with three adult children decides to marry a woman 30 years younger than he is. She has two young children of her own but few assets. With no prenup in place, when the man dies a few years into the marriage, his young wife inherits the bulk of her husband's wealth, bypassing his children. This places her own children in line to inherit one day what rightfully should have gone to her late husband's adult children.

A vital requirement for all prenups is full disclosure of both parties' debts and assets. This will avoid any unpleasant surprises later on in the marriage. If you want to learn how a prenup can become part of your estate plan, a family law attorney is a good source of information and guidance.

Source: The Spectrum, "‘Prenups’ important in estate planning," Bo Bingham, accessed Aug. 21, 2015

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