Photo Credit: Larsen's Photography
Marriage is wonderful... weddings are beautiful. There’s the thrill of being in love and sharing your commitment with family and friends. There’s the joy of planning a day that’s uniquely yours and the happiness of celebrating with guests. And then there’s the after-the-wedding-day reality that inevitably sets in. After all, your marriage is bound to be an adventure, a roller-coaster ride filled with ups and downs, highs and lows and all sorts of unexpected detours and surprises. And if your relationship is solid and you two are truly the best of friends, committed to staying together and working through any difficulties that arise, then the rewards will be plentiful.
Which is why my blog today focuses on a couple of key points that both of you need to address — if you haven’t already — in these months leading up to the big day. We spoke with attorney Jennifer E. Paternostro, from the Sodoma Law firm, a leading family law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, for some expert advice. Here, her “I Do To-Do List.”
1. The Money Talk
Begin an open dialogue with your future spouse about all of your debts and assets. Decide on a plan for spending habits, as well as long-term financial goals. Is it more important to own a home and save for a child’s tuition or to take an annual European vacation? Does one of you have student loans that you want to aggressively pay down, which will cause the other to “chip in” more around the house?
If you haven’t already, begin saving to create a one-year emergency fund for you and your future spouse post-wedding. Decide if you want to open a joint account and for what that account will be used. Create a household budget and decide how much each of you will contribute and who will pay for what. Who will be in charge of balancing the budget and paying the household bills? Solidifying how the two of you make these important decisions will help build a successful marriage that will last a lifetime.
2. Insurance/Legal Matters
Decide whose health insurance to stick with after you say “I do,” and be sure to share your medical history with each other so there are no surprises. If neither of you has health insurance through your jobs, sign up for a private plan. You’ll also want to think ahead as your marriage progresses and plan a will, durable powers of attorney, and healthcare powers of attorney with advanced directives. Discussing these documents with your spouse and creating a comprehensive plan is important so that neither you nor your husband is left wondering what the other would have wished.
3. The Prenup
For most of you, this is a non-issue. But for any second-time brides and grooms who have acquired sizeable assets and property, it’s definitely something to consider. Not only can a prenuptial agreement help define items of property to which each person will be entitled, it can also determine how liability for debts will be distributed between the two of you. It can even help establish whether alimony will be paid should you separate. It may seem completely unromantic now, but such an agreement can help avoid expensive litigation in the event of a future divorce (which hopefully will never happen!).
As Jennifer says, “Soak up the joy that surrounds you and delight in the love that is shared between you, but do so while making smart, informed decisions about your future... it is imperative to have the open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations early on to avoid possible pitfalls in the future.” Tackle these topics now and you’ll enjoy a promising happily ever after.