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Rise of the prenup Thumbnail

Rise of the prenup

Along with booking the perfect venue, caterer and wedding photographer, you might want to consider adding a prenuptial agreement to your to-do list before saying “I do.” In its simplest form, a prenuptial agreement outlines specific expectations within a marriage and the division of assets in the event of a divorce. This legal contract may carry a stigma because it plans for the end of a relationship, but is it really a pessimistic exercise or just smart planning? Depending on your viewpoint, it can be the starting point for some estate planning and, at the very least, an opportunity to have an honest discussion before you tie the knot.

Money talks

Choosing to wed the one you love is a very special commitment. It’s also a major legal and financial decision – in fact, with all its complexities, marriage is much like a business decision. Two people come together to blend assets, salaries and (yes) even debt. A life of wedded bliss is ideally one where two people pull together in the same direction, choosing as a team how they will spend, save, invest and achieve life goals. It’s about open communication on hefty topics such as household budgets, saving for retirement, planning a home purchase and setting up education funds for children when the time is right.

With so much financially on the line, it’s important to begin talking about these big issues before marriage – and that conversation is the first order of business when planning to draft a prenuptial agreement. Here are a few things to think about when considering a prenup:

Financial boundaries. Discuss up front which assets each person is bringing to the union, and what they would wish to retain in the event of a marriage breakdown. This can be particularly helpful for people who’ve waited longer to partner up and may bring significant savings and property to the relationship.

Debt protection. If serious debt issues already exist or arise during the marriage, such as bankruptcy filings, tax liens or credit problems, a prenup may help to shield you (or your spouse) from legal and financial complications that might come out of left field.

Friendly separation. A well-planned prenup can save a lot of stress and heartache if a separation does occur. Honest, open conversations from the start may help keep the arguments over assets to a minimum when settling a divorce.

Getting started

Prenup legwork should include compiling a detailed list of all assets that each person owns or may inherit. Consider the following:


  • Banking, investment and retirement accounts
  • Real estate (that plot of land you bought five years ago or the family cottage you may inherit)
  • Business holdings (as an owner or co-owner in a venture)
  • Intellectual property (think of tech start-up founders)
  • Liabilities, such as credit card or student debt
  • Personal property (jewellery, automobiles, coin collections, etc.)


If the marriage will bring children together to create a blended family, prenuptial planning could include discussions around supporting the costs of post-secondary education and any other matters that may be unique to your situation.

It’s also important to note that certain provisions are not allowed in a prenuptial agreement, including details related to child custody and child support, anything considered immoral and terms not in accordance with Canadian law. If you aren’t sure about what you can and cannot include, the best advice is to ask a lawyer.[1]

Most unusual

When laying out the terms of a prenup, some people may make very specific demands. To give you a bit of an idea (and a chuckle), here are a few oddities that have made it through some negotiations.[2]


  • A husband was limited to watching only one Sunday football game with friends
  • A mother-in-law was barred from sleepover visits
  • As an incentive to be on his best behaviour with the in-laws, one prenup stipulated that the husband would have to shell out a $10,000 penalty to his wife if he were rude to her parents


Lawyer up?

There are a few ways to go about getting a prenuptial agreement, including books, kits and websites that offer templates to work from. But to ensure everything is done exactly right, you may want to consider the services of a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience with prenups. The details matter, so take your time getting everything exactly right. Once the written document is signed by both parties and witnessed, a court will generally uphold the agreement.[3]

Marriage is a big step – and your advisor can be a neutral sounding board for all matters related to investments, insurance and, yes, even details of a prenup. For more useful information, refer to this article, For love and money.



[1] Divorce law falls under provincial jurisdiction and rules may vary by province. Clients should always speak to a lawyer about their specific situation.

[2] The most bizarre prenuptial clauses

[3] Prenuptial agreement law

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