More and more couples are signing postnuptial agreements, as they face the fact that divorce is a possibility and it's smarter to plan ahead, according to a new survey.
Fifty-one percent of divorce attorneys polled by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers say they have seen an increase in postnuptial agreements over the last three years. These agreements are voluntary contracts between couples who have already married and usually cover issues involving finances, property, assets, children, support, and probate.
"Both women and men have become more sophisticated, and with more gender neutrality, having a contract between them is not as controversial as it was in the past," said Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "The stigma of a postnuptial agreement has evaporated."
Interestingly, 36% of the attorneys surveyed said they saw an uptick in the number of women requesting post-nuptials. While husbands still initiate post-nuptials 42% of the time, wives now account for 10% of all postnup requests, attorneys said.
"The motivating party typically has assets or money to protect. As women earn more money and procure more assets, they want the same protection men historically sought," Altshuler said.
While postnuptial agreements are often a tool for the wealthy, even middle-class couples are using them now, Altshuler said.
George Cassar, Jr. an estate attorney in Southfield, Mich., says he's seeing a lot more post and prenuptial agreements in estate plans as a requirement for the children to receive their inheritance. The agreements are being pushed by parents who don't necessarily trust their children's financial judgment.
"A lot of our older clients are looking at their children's lifestyles, seeing how they live beyond their means, and thinking, 'You're crazy with your money. We worked all our lives, and you guys are going to squander it,'" Cassar said.
Out of about 300 estate plans the firm has done a year, usually about 25 included a requirement that the children obtain a postnuptial agreement in order to receive their inheritance. In the last few years, however, that figure has risen to about 50.
Part of the reason for the increase is that the postnuptial agreement is becoming a decent substitute for a prenuptial agreement, which some people find offensive.