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Happiness May Be a Prenuptial Agreement

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Pre-nup, anyone? With the wedding of H.R.H. Prince William and Kate Middleton less than two months away, there is speculation about any prenuptial agreement the two may have had drawn up. If they have, you can bet that it would have made interesting reading. But since pre-nups have unclear legality in Britain, it is more than likely that Will and Kate will not have to worry about signing one.

Truthfully, a pre-nup isn't just for royals or the wealthy, anyway. Though much more common in the case of a second marriage (especially if children from a previous one are involved), a prenuptial agreement is not such a bad idea for a "first" marriage either. And you don't have to be Donald Trump to request a pre-nup. Many young couples are either toying with the idea or have actually seriously talked about it.

The classic pre-nup is a legal contract which operates by ensuring that if a couple divorces, any possessions each had before marrying would remain their own and not be divided as part of the marital pool. You can make a pre-nup very individual, but traditionally, both sides are entitled to 50 percent of any income earned during the marriage period. If one of the partners earned little or nothing throughout the marriage, they'd be allowed to be given a percentage of their partner's earnings and possibly part of a future pension.

A prenuptial agreement can set your mind at ease. While this may make marriage seem like a deliberately calculated chess move, it is not as cold as it sounds, and -- if both partners are comfortable with this contract -- it can actually add to the happiness of the married couple. Practically speaking, there are benefits for both concerned. While you may have to stick with certain legalese, you and your partner can make changes and include whatever makes you happy and secure.

More and more engaged couples are signing a pre-nup. It is not a sign that divorce looms on the near horizon; it is a sign that everything you have worked for, and personally accumulated, will be protected. You had a pre-marriage life that you created. It is common-sense to protect your pre-marriage assets. Actually discussing a pre-nup is an ideal opportunity for you and your partner to place your financial lives out on the table. Going into marriage without a clear and concise idea of how you and your partner view monetary matters is a recipe for sure disaster.

When should you bring up the subject of a prenuptial agreement? Here's a hint: Don't wait until the week before the wedding! Ideally, this topic should be broached when you're moving into the permanent stages of a relationship. This is the time when you may be talking about marriage as a not-too-distant fact, and many issues involving this situation are being discussed.

Your prospective mate should know you well enough so that the idea of a legally binding, protective agreement isn't a complete surprise. You should be able to talk about this comfortably alone together. No one else, relatives or friends, should be involved in your discussions.

Talk about the pre-nup as being beneficial to both of you. Don't make it a one-sided deal that seems to protect only you. Ask for his or her opinion and take what he or she says very seriously. You're talking about your future. List all of your individual assets and prized personal items separately. Good examples of prized items are jewelry, collectibles and sports memorabilia.

Choose separate lawyers to work out the contract. Ideally, the lawyer each of you chooses should be someone who puts your best interests first. The lawyers know how to include what each of you wants in language that will make it legally clear.

Don't ever make this a one sided issue. Openly discuss what you both feel should be included in the document. Make sure to mention what will become of all future assets accumulated as a married couple. As far as the law goes, the best part of having a pre-nup is that you are not depending on the divorce laws of any state to protect you financially. You are deciding that what the two of you want is different from the contract that state law would give you in the case of a divorce. You -- not the state -- are making the decisions about your life.

Forget about the pre-nup once it is written, witnessed and signed. Liken it to a will:
You don't often think about it, but, when you do, you feel secure knowing you have one.

The ideal marriage should be a contract that takes into consideration many components: love, respect and economics. Protecting what you have, as well as your future, is a smart move in all ways.

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To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen Houghton.com and visit her Keys to Happiness blog. Also, take a look inside her book, "And Then I'll Be Happy!" You may e-mail her at
kch@kristenhoughton.com.

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