No couple, straight or gay, wants to spend time discussing the possible distribution of assets in a divorce when the “big day” is looming. But having open, honest discussions with each other and with their advisors about money—and putting an agreement into place that codifies those discussions in the form of a prenuptial agreement—can play an important role in helping couples get their marriage off to a strong start.

For same-sex couples, especially those who have decided to wed in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision Obergefell vs. Hodges, prenups can help establish the marriage on a solid financial and emotional footing. Many of these couples may have had separate assets all their lives and are now facing difficult decisions about whether to merge their finances or keep them separate, as well as how they intend to share expenses as a married couple.

That’s why it is critical that advisors encourage their LGBT clients to have thoughtful discussions about marriage plans and formal prenups, especially couples with substantial assets or differences in income or assets. Research has shown that same-sex joint tax filers tend to have higher income and are more likely to live in metropolitan areas and high-income/high-cost-of-living coastal states than opposite sex filers. The more there is at stake, the more critical a prenup becomes.

Division Of Assets

Take the example of a same-sex couple that lives a prosperous lifestyle, has largely merged assets over 20 years, and has kept very meticulous financial records. The couple is living in a property owned by one of the partners or largely relying on income earned by one party’s business, but the relationship has been stable for decades. This theoretical couple is probably unlikely to consider a prenup without prompting. The common thinking goes, “I've been living with this person for 20 years. There’s no possibility of divorce, so why do we need to talk about a prenup?"

But in the event of a divorce, defining marital properly is by no means black and white. This is because under law, assets accumulated before marriage are not considered marital property. The couple may feel that certain assets belongs to one party or the other, especially when there's an income disparity or one partner owns the house or business. Conversely, they may think, "We worked hard to put together these assets together over 20 years, so everything belongs to both of us.”

Absent a written agreement, neither of these perspectives will be of much help should the marriage end. Untangling these thorny questions is one of the primary purposes of a prenup. In divorce, courts have the responsibility of dividing property, and they can only divide marital property based on negotiation and any guidance provided by pre-divorce planning. A prenup serves as a contract that the court can enforce to determine thorny issues, such as the dispensation of real estate and the share of a business to which each spouse is entitled.

Lifestyle Expectations And Spending Habits

Though same-sex parenting, adoption and foster parenting is on the rise, only 23% of lesbians and 7% of gay men are financially responsible for a child under age 18, resulting in more disposable income for those without children. According to the same study, 48% of LGBT respondents categorized themselves as “spenders” vs. “savers,” as compared to 32% of straight couples, largely because the support of a dependent child plays such as massive role in the availability of disposable income.

Regardless of sexual orientation, the biggest issue for spenders is whether they are fully funding for retirement. Advisors working with spenders—whether individuals or couples—on investment or prenup planning should ask direct questions such as:

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