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Money Matters with Nimi: Darling, I Want a Pre-Nup

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A prenuptial agreement commonly referred to as a “prenup,” is a written legal contract between two people who are about to wed. It clearly sets out terms of ownership of assets before the marriage, how future earnings should be treated, and potential division of assets if the marriage doesn’t endure. It can also be used as a tool to direct what happens to assets of one spouse upon his or her demise. In a nutshell, it defines who gets what, should there be a divorce or death. Each party will employ an attorney to review the document before it is executed.

Prenuptial agreements have existed for thousands of years in one form or another particularly in European, Asian and Far Eastern cultures where royal families had such vehicles in place for the protection of family heirlooms and wealth particularly jewels and real property. In Nigeria the concept of prenuptial agreements is a relatively new and is not the common practice but they are increasingly being considered among the wealthy.

A touchy subject

Whenever the word “prenup” is mentioned it tends to raise eyebrows. It is almost as though one is pre-empting the fact that things might not work out? Won’t your partner or fiancé be concerned and interpret such a contingency or back up plan as seeming distrust or pessimism, even before the marriage has got started?

The fact is that in the West, about one in three of all first marriages end in divorce, and the statistics for second and third marriages are even worse. Some legal and financial experts suggest that a prenup should thus be considered as part of smart financial planning. In a perfect world, there would be no divorce and therefore no need for prenuptial agreements. Sadly, the reality is that divorce is on the increase all over the world, even in African societies like ours where it used to be regarded as a social taboo.

It is usual for most people to focus primarily on the emotional and physical sides of the marriage union whilst the financial aspects are often ignored. Yet money problems can have a powerful influence on a relationship and several surveys on money and relationships have shown that money is the most significant factor that causes conflict in both new and established relationships.

In marriage, there is a wide range of possible disagreements from how much money or how little there is, to how it is spent, who brought more into the marriage, who earns more, who spends more, who is frugal and who is wasteful, who contributes more to the household budget, how to arrange joint finances or how much each partner is expected to contribute to the household budget and the extended family, perhaps one person is very frugal with money and wants to build a nest egg, whilst the other is frivolous and prefers to spend all the money.

Our attitude to money is shaped by our earliest experiences, and formed long before we meet our partners. Understand that you cannot change feelings created by a lifetime of experience. If you and your partner are used to talking openly about finances, then a frank discussion about what will happen to money and assets if the relationship doesn’t last will be much easier.

Apart from the agreement clearly outlining financial responsibilities and assets, some prenuptial agreements also clarify expectations as far as behaviour during the marriage is concerned and what should happen if those expectations are not met.

Does it have to be an awkward conversation?

The “money conversation” should happen as early as possible. Don’t wait until the wedding is imminent; you don’t even have to wait until you are engaged. It is important that your partner understands early your views on these matters. If you are the one that is recommending the use of the prenup, carefully consider your motives.

Pre-nuptial agreements are usually introduced by a richer spouse to protect assets from a partner who may be bringing unquantifiable value to the marriage. If you are afraid that the marriage will put your wealth at risk, perhaps this is the more important consideration for you than the marriage itself and you should reconsider getting married at all whilst you resolve these issues. If your fiancé asks for a prenup, would you feel that this request conveys a lack of total trust and commitment?

Is a prenup for everyone?

Many financial experts in the West believe that every couple ought to have a prenup since half of all marriages end in divorce. On the other hand, one must not ignore the Christian perspective where the general belief is that a prenup is unwarranted. Marriage is a sacred covenant intended to last “until death do us part.” Should a couple be contemplating and “preparing” for divorce before they are even married? This does not reflect solid, Christian commitment. A prenuptial agreement would thus be undermining the couple’s marriage in considering the issue of divorce at all.

There is a common misconception that prenuptial agreements are only for the wealthy. The truth is that you don’t need to be a multi-millionaire for a prenup to make sense; anyone who has been married before and is bringing children and significant assets to the new situation should consider a vehicle that protects their dependents and loved ones; a prenup is only one of several options. Here are some other scenarios in which a prenuptial agreement might make sense.

You are the owner of your own business or part owner of a family business
You may be receiving an inheritance
One of you is much wealthier or makes substantially more income than the other
You have an extended family that is dependent on you including elderly parents, and siblings
Your business is set to experience extraordinary growth
You anticipate a significant increase in income through a large contract that you have just received
You are in the entertainment industry and are negotiating some significant endorsements and contracts that will catapult you into substantial wealth.

Circumstances change. It is important to be aware of the fact that even a well drafted prenup that protects you today might not be appropriate at the time there is the need to enforce it, as family circumstances might have changed significantly as existing or potential children may not have been considered.

Discussions about finances are necessary for every couple contemplating marriage but prenuptial agreements may not be necessary for every couple. For a young couple who both earn more or less the same income and who are coming into the marriage with approximately the same networth there may not be a strong need for a prenup. For late in life marriages and those starting new relationships in their 40’s 50’s and later, there is likely to be some financial baggage as well as dependents that need to be protected through a prenup or other effective vehicle such as a trust. Each couple must look at their unique circumstance to determine what is most appropriate for them.

Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance. You can reach Nimi via the following: Email; [email protected] | Website: www.moneymatterswithnimi.com | Twitter: @MMWITHNIMI | Instagram: @MMWITHNIMI | Facebook: MoneyMatterswithNimi

23 Comments

  1. Koffie

    August 21, 2014 at 11:08 am

    A prenup to me is unwarranted if the couple truly love eachother. Even if a party is frivolous and spends without thoughts of tomorrow, the other party could correct in love and their issues might be resolved. Bringing up a prenup puts a certain kind of pressure on the relationship. I just cant wrap my head around it…shouldn’t a couple be open with eachother and become one in all ramifications? But what do I know

    • Jo!

      August 21, 2014 at 11:22 am

      hehehehe, hmmn, you will hear

    • Amazingly me

      August 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Okkkkkk ooo pls continue deluding Yasef and living in a fools paradise. Love ko love ni, na love you n your pikins go chop when kassala burst?? Lwkmd!!! I am all for a prenup!!!!

  2. cynthia

    August 21, 2014 at 11:20 am

    i like the idea of a prenup…anything can happen…especially if u have a partner who mismanaged his finances and always expect you to support him or her. I hope Africans can embrace it someday very soon.. so many opportunists around lately. I will rather save up for my kids and my parents than a carefree husband or wife.

    • Bella

      August 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

      A prenup is the best thing in and for a marriage, we as Africans need to see this a liberating experience. How many times do we see ugly divorce wrangles , and how many times do we see people killing their spouses, and how many times do we see people stuck in loveless marriages for the money? How many times do we see couples being unfaithful? So if the focus is shifted from what I am marrying into vs the love I have for that person, does it matter whether they have nothing? You both leave with what you came in with, and whatever you buy together will then be split jointly! I am ALL for it! so many gold diggers and jigolo’s out there for the money and not the love of the person!

    • Nahum

      August 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      Amen girl!

  3. Akila

    August 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I am for pre-nup 100% since i have my own money.
    It was not inherited. I cannot allow anyone to drag me down after all i have been through.
    My friend says the other option is to hide all your assets and pretend to be broke.
    hidden bank accounts/undisclosed assets and documents and just be there like'” i aint gat no money””

    • yellowb

      October 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Your friend may not know that when you are in the middle of a divorce, your spouse has the right to hire someone to investigate your true worth. And if they find it, they can ask for a portion of it. The odds of you winning if you didn’t have a contract stating that it is off the table is very slim. Like you, I do believe in pre-nup for people who need to protect their assets.

  4. Prenups are necessary to avoid messy divorces. ♥ with ur heart & head.

  5. Uc

    August 21, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Prenup oooo Biko with so many case of finance being the top of divorce case………Especially with working women Yes working women are most hit Safe guard urself and your children sign a pre nup.

  6. Nahum

    August 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I am 100% in support of pre-nups especially to protect women. I really think this should be pushed in Naija. I think issues such as who gets the kids or joint custody should be discussed and agreed upon before the marriage. I think both parties should also protect their finances. Nigerian men, in cases of divorce, seek to completely destroy their wives financially and emotionally by keeping the kids from them and seizing their credentials, thereby leaving them unable to find employment. This needs to stop and if we encourage pre-nups we can gradually eliminate such evil practices.

  7. Aibee

    August 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Having a prenup isn’t so much a problem, the problem is whether Nigerian Courts will uphold a Pre-Nup. Pre-nups haven’t been tested in Nigerian Courts, to the best of my knowledge. However, I envisage that given the current state of our laws and jurisprudence, a pre-nup may not hold up in litigation for the following reasons:
    1. Contracts of a social/family nature are usually held to be unenforceable. You can’t sue your brother for not giving you his car even though he agreed to give you the car in exchange for your jeep.
    2. Contracts contrary to public policy are void and unenforceable. A Nigerian judge will probably rule that a Pre-Nup is contrary to public policy in that it violates the sanctity of marriage and leaves the parties open to the option of divorce.
    3. Sharing of assets, post-divorce- is already a tested point of law. Where there are no kids, assets are often split equally, especially where assets are held in the name of the couple and both spouses worked. Where there are kids, the custodial spouse gets child support and some form of alimony, particularly where (s)he wasn’t working.

    I’m just wondering out loud if a prenup will fly in Naija so if you have an opinion on this, please share.

    • Sem

      August 21, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      I respect your views as you have outlined them. True it has yet to be tested in Nigerian courts and how many judges in Nigeria will be willing to enforce the provisions of such an agreement, People should not forget that the vast majority of Nigerians are still illiterates and will not understand the concept of a prenup. I mean this is a country where so many people still do not make wills because they believe making a will means they are going to die very soon. Also we have different courts where matrimonial matters can be adjudicated upon such as High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal, customary court of appeal etc who would probably not enforce the provisions of a prenup. When the time comes Nigerians will be more enlightened and may see the need for a prenup. Besides a lot of people who are making noise that a prenup is good and they want one will probably be too afraid to get one before they marry cause of cultural views and fear of what the other spouse may think. Nigeria is just not yet ready for things like that….

    • Lorenz

      August 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Does not accepting the concept of a prenup make you illiterate? Cultural believes and literacy are two different things entirely. So i don’t know how you arrived at your conclusion that a vast majority of Nigerians are illiterate. The concept of a will and a prenup are two different things. Here is the major difference: One has a probability of 1 and the other; far less than one.

    • Lorenz

      August 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      “beliefs”

  8. @edDREAMZ

    August 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said…
    .
    I really love pre-nup and think every couple really need it to….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  9. spoonfullofsugar

    August 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Prenups are not valid in Nigeria anyway. Neither is alimony etc etc.

  10. sum1special

    August 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    No need for pre-nup in Nigeria because we believe in working out our marriages, although people might start doing it here since we can follow follow Americans.

  11. el patron

    August 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Pre nuptial agreement in naija! Do any how ur husband will chase you out of the house..is it me and ur father that bought it.
    But in the westerner world wise up man! To avoid story that touch sign that sh*t blad! Main reason i can’t marry a white woman! Enjoy ur money! I my money!

  12. Lorenz

    August 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I don’t believe in prenups. As far as I’m concerned, asking your spouse-to-be for a prenup is indirectly telling him/her that shes not worth much. Why marry her if you have this lingering feeling that her future value is not greater than her present value. In most cases I’ve seen, the richer party initiates the prenup without having any idea of what it does to the psychology of their spouse. If its true love that makes you want to marry him/her; marry her, take the risk and hope for the best. If you feel you need a prenup before marrying someone, then you probably shouldn’t be marrying that person in the first place.The bottom line is, a prenup connotes the acceptance of failure of a marriage before it fails. Like a friend once said; “why buy a gun if you’ll never get to use it”.

    • oj

      October 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      don’t forget we live in a world where betrayals abound. some people are wolves in sheep covering, hence the need. tho with all sincerity, I share ur view to some extent. should it happen in naija? my answer is no. because I think it would be abused. afterall, didn’t a groom murder his bride cos she refused to sign one?

  13. Primebabe

    August 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

    In this Nigeria where a guy marries two women in two separate court houses within one month, upholding any pre-nup will be reeeeeaaallly hard i think

  14. aaaeventsanddesign.blogspot.com

    August 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    like someone said “The bottom line is, a prenup connotes the acceptance of FAILURE of a marriage before it fails; “why buy a gun if you’ll never get to use it”.

    aaaeventsanddesign.blogspot.com

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