Consider Your Assets in Marriage Here are a few basics every couple should know about the assets they bring, acquire and inherit during marriage. BY AL JACOBS
Since money is a contstant cause of strain in most marriages, it's important to understand your assets.
Marriage is a union which incorporates several features, not the least among them financial. It’s true, of course, at the beginning of a marital relationship the romantic aspect often overrides other considerations. However, as the routine of everyday living takes hold, you and your spouse will discover the quality of your union will be measured as much in well-being as it is in hugs and kisses. I can still recall a popular slogan from my childhood days during the Great Depression, "When poverty walks through the door, love flies out the window." It’s for this reason the economic aspect of your marriage be considered from the onset.
A device many newlyweds favor is to retain premarital assets as personal property following marriage. In this way, if separation or divorce occurs, assets brought into the union are not jeopardized. You might note, however, maintaining separate property in this fashion requires care. If you have a pre-nuptial agreement, you may not at any time co-mingle an asset with joint or community assets. To do so will contaminate it and run the risk that it becomes the property of both spouses. Once again, the laws are established by the state in which you reside. If that’s the way you have decided to go, familiarize yourself with the rules so you meet the requirements.
Another circumstance which may trigger uncertainty is inheritance. As with personal property brought into a marriage, inherited property remains personal only as long as it is not co-mingled with community assets. This is particularly important if there are children from a prior marriage to whom the benefits of those inherited assets might rightfully flow.
It’s time to add a final thought to this business of safeguarding asset—a consideration you must not ignore—circumstances change with the passage of time. By way of testimonial, my wife and I entered into a post-nuptial agreement a few months after our marriage (we never got around to a pre-nup). We stipulated our personal assets at the time of our marriage would remain such in the event we might later go our separate ways. After a few years, when it became clear we were wedded-to-stay, we transferred everything into community property. Looking back now, after forty-six years, it all seems about right. I know of one family, however, in which the husband’s pre-marital assets are—after thirty-three years—still held separately. I know for a fact there is more than a little discontent because of this. The point I make is this: An important ingredient in any union is trust. There comes a time in every relationship when the safeguarding of assets becomes secondary to marital harmony. The trick is in recognizing when that time arrives.