The legal boundaries that once defined marriage and family have gradually expanded over the years. These changes have made marriage and parenthood more inclusive and also more complicated. Marriage is now an exciting option for any couple who wants a full family life. It’s often a challenging option as well. It’s not unusual for a new marriage to create a blended family that includes newborns, stepchildren, multiple dads, and more than one mom. With so many shifts in obligations and responsibilities, some couples decide that it makes sense to protect their separately acquired assets rather than combine them.
If you’re on the verge of creating a blended family, it probably feels natural to want to share your financial advantages. As you must consider your future, it also makes sense to retain some of your assets and take steps to protect them. It’s important to finalize a financial plan before you settle into your new household. You and your future spouse must decide if and how you should protect your assets and what you need to do to ensure your desired outcome.
Attorney Steven M. Bishop understands that it’s important for couples to address financial issues before they begin a new marriage. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he’s seen what happens when couples fail to establish financial ground rules. Attorney Bishop believes that if you plan ahead of time, you can address your finances and begin your new family with one less complication. Here are a few things to consider.
1. You Should Consider a Premarital Agreement
In California, premarital agreements help you formalize your financial decisions and protect your assets. As you are entering what you likely anticipate will be a long-term relationship, you should try to make the process as stress-free as possible. California Family Code, Division 4, Part 5, Article 2 establishes the guidelines for premarital agreements. The codes give you a great deal of flexibility to create an agreement that works best for you, your partner, and your family. Premarital agreements allow you to determine what happens with current and future interests in real and personal property. This includes current and future income and earnings.
2. You Must Be Open and Honest
To create a premarital agreement that accomplishes your goals, you must include financial arrangements that satisfy both parties. This requires openness, sharing, and honest communication about your financial concerns. Before you begin negotiating your agreement, gather all documents that confirm your real property, income, investments, retirement benefits, and other assets. Full disclosure is key to establishing an agreement that satisfies both spouses and holds up in court. Premarital agreements are generally enforceable, but they are revocable under these and other circumstances.
- One of the parties didn’t execute the agreement voluntarily
- The agreement was unconscionable, as defined under §1615
- One party didn’t have full knowledge of the other party’s assets
3. You Must Consider Every Member of the Family
Marriage and family are no longer the narrowly-defined institutions they once were. In determining what ultimately happens with your assets, you must consider everyone within your family circle. California Family Codes give marital relationships and domestics partnerships virtually the same status. A legally married couple can be a man and a woman, two women, or two men.
The parent/child relationship has gone through classification changes as well. Adults can become parents through natural childbirth, adoption, guardianship, or assistive reproduction. California’s Uniform Parentage Act further expands family options by declaring that a child can have more than two parents. Exes, grandparents, and others gain legal rights and responsibilities based on a person’s “presumed” parenthood status
Once you enter a legal partnership, you become bound by California Family Codes. Before you make any family-related decisions about your assets, you must understand and consider the rights and responsibilities of each parent for the children in your new blended household.
4. You Must Consider The Children’s Best Interests
If a family comes before a California Family Court, the court makes decisions based on the child’s best interests. California courts accept most premarital agreements as they are written as long as they don’t adversely affect a child’s right to financial support.
5. Change the Appropriate Supporting Documents
As divorce, separation, and remarriage sometimes occur, you can’t ignore the possibility of future changes in your blended family. That’s why your life insurance policies, wills, trusts, and other accounts and financial instruments must mirror the terms of your premarital agreement. If you plan to insulate accounts and financial instruments from being considered part of your community estate, you must make the appropriate changes.
- Change policy and account beneficiaries, where allowed.
- Consider choosing a neutral, unrelated party as the executor of your will.
- Before you acquire real property, consider whether you wish to include your spouse as a joint owner.
- Set up a living trust with a trustee to enforce decisions according to your instructions.
6. Complete Your Premarital Agreement and Sign it
Your premarital agreement can’t just be a work in progress. You must formalize it in a properly executed format. Your goal should be to complete your agreement and sign it in time to become effective on your wedding day. To make sure your agreement fills all legal requirements, you should have a legal professional create the final version and retain a copy. You can save legal fees if you work together and establish the terms of your agreement ahead of time.
Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop
Life gets complicated when you’re establishing a household that blends two families. While you’re planning a future for your new spouse and children, you must consider every alternative for yourself. Whether you want to finance your ongoing lifestyle or plan for your golden years, protecting your assets is a prudent move.
Attorney Steven M. Bishop has worked with couples experiencing every stage of marriage. He has helped many clients through the legal challenges they encountered during marriage and divorce. He recognizes the benefits of protecting your assets to ensure your future. As you prepare to form your blended family, contact Attorney Bishop if you need more information about protecting your assets. To schedule a consultation, call us at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.