Couples should discuss finances before marriage

Date: May 30, 2011

Couples who are planning to walk down the aisle should have a frank and open discussion about money - and whether or not they want to enter into a prenuptial agreement - before they tie the knot, a financial adviser has recommended.

Roger Wohlner from Asset Strategy Consultants told the Times Herald-Record that while debt and money can be an uncomfortable issue to broach, people "should understand what debt they're marrying".

He pointed out that being frank about the amount each partner owes on student loans and credit cards could impact their future ability to purchase a house or a car.

This discussion can provide couples with guidance on whether they want to set up joint bank accounts, keep their finances separate or opt for a combination of the two choices.

Experts agree that the more planning a couple does before they get married, the less likely they will be caught out by a financial surprise later than life. Partners should not only be frank about their current financial situation, but work together to outline their long-term financial goals - such as property purchases, having children or making other significant spending or investment decisions.

A discussion about finances can also lead to the subject of whether or not the pair wants to sign a prenuptial agreement ahead of their big day.

These are becoming increasingly popular, especially as many people are waiting until they are older to tie the knot.

A prenuptial agreement is an especially good idea if one partner brings significant assets - or significant debt - to the marriage.

These are also popular options for people entering into subsequent marriages or relationships and can bring both parties better piece of mind.

This legally-binding document protects all assets that were accumulated before the marriage from debt, or from being lost to the spouse in the event of a divorce.

All financial agreements a couple enter into before the start of a marriage or de facto relationship - including a same-sex partnership - need to be drafted with care.

The best thing to do is to seek the guidance of an expert family lawyer, who can help the couple meet the various technical requirements that need to be fulfilled.

For example, each party entering into a prenuptial agreement must obtain independent financial advice before the document can be finalised - an experienced family lawyer will be able to provide assistance with this condition.