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Making The Complex Understandable

How do you protect your assets if you don't have a prenup?

Prenuptial agreements can save couples a lot of stress and unpleasantness as well as time spent in court when they decide to end their marriage. However, if you and your spouse don't have a prenup and your spouse doesn't what to get a post-nuptial agreement, there are things that you can do to protect at least non-marital and premarital assets in the event of a divorce.

In community property states like Louisiana, all assets that spouses acquire while married are considered to be owned equally. However, you can take steps to prevent assets that you want to protect from becoming marital property.

You can also work to protect the assets you brought to the marriage by keeping records of your account balances, your wedding day and/or by maintaining a separate account. Once you add even a dollar of your spouse's money to an account, it becomes marital property. If you owned a business prior to your marriage, get a valuation of it as of the day you got married.

Often, the most valuable asset that a spouse brings into a marriage is a home. When couples marry, the property-owning spouse often adds his or her spouse's name to the home's deed to help ensure that the spouse can remain there if the other one dies. However, it also entitles that spouse to half of the property's value. You may be able to avoid that problem by keeping the property in your name, but designating in your estate documents that your spouse inherits the home if you die.

What can make this tricky, however, is if both spouses' money is used to pay the mortgage, make home improvements or pay for maintenance costs. If you can afford to, you can help avoid that problem by paying for everything involving the home from premarital or non-marital accounts.

Many young couples marrying for the first time start out with few assets. Therefore, it's simply not a viable alternative to keep separate accounts and property. However, for people who marry when they are older and already have a fair amount of assets, these steps can help them keep what was theirs if the marriage ends without a prenup or postnup.

As noted, a prenup can help avoid many of these problems. However, if you don't have one, a Louisiana family law attorney can provide advice that may help you protect your money and property.

Source: ABC News, "5 Ways to Protect Your Money Without a Prenup," Rebecca Zung, May. 10, 2015

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