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Thinking about marriage? Here’s what you need to know before you pop the question…or say “Yes”!

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Valentine’s Day: the day that couples celebrate their love for each other. This day is famous for a surge in marriage proposals…but before you pop the question (or say “yes”), have you thought about the legal aspects of an engagement and marriage?

While discussing the financial and legal side of an engagement can certainly be uncomfortable, it’s much better to discuss them before you walk down the aisle than after. Here are a few things that are important to discuss before you become engaged:

1. The Ring: Florida is one of many states that may require the engagement ring to be returned if the wedding never takes place. The ring is given as a symbol and a promise to marry, therefore, if the couple never marries, the ring must be returned in most cases.

2. The Prenuptial Agreement: When creating a prenuptial agreement in Florida, you must think about what assets you want to protect and make sure to create an accurate list of said assets. When hiring an attorney to prepare your prenuptial agreement, you should also want to consider hiring an estate planning attorney to focus on the estate planning issues involved under the agreement.

3. The Cohabitation Agreement: A cohabitation agreement manages the rights of the parties who are not married, but live together. This is an extremely important document; if you do not have one in place and the couple separates, one party could be left with nothing. Cohabitation agreements can be as complex or as simple as the couple would like. It is essentially a prenuptial agreement without specific intent to marry.

4. Advanced Directives: Advanced directives such as designations of health care surrogate and powers of attorney are recommended when cohabitating with a romantic partner. These documents are very important to have in place as they allow your partner to act for you when you are unable to do so.

5. The Division of Property: It is crucial to establish the division of property before marriage. Once a couple is married, any income and property may be subject to distribution should they divorce. If you clarify the assets of what each party brought into the marriage it can avoid “transmutation” or “comingling” and avoid them from being distributed to the other party.

6. The Stepchildren and Existing Family: Where there are children from a previous relationship or dependent elderly parents, caring for them financially, emotionally or physically will need to be addressed via legal agreements. These agreements need to be decided (preferably before marriage) as it is not uncommon that the rights of the new or acquired family can obliterate the rights of the existing family members. Stepparents may be considered to be the financial provider even after a couple divorces. However, the financial obligation typically ends if the biological parent dies or remarries. Be as explicit as possible when explaining your wishes to your attorney.

Addressing these sensitive topics now can only serve to reduce stress, save time and money, and minimize any post-divorce conflict. To make an appointment to discuss any of these issues please give us a call at (727) 537-6818 today!