Top 10 Reasons Why “Prenups” Are Romantic for Farmers and Ranchers
By : Cari Rincker, Esq.
Prenuptial agreements (a/k/a “prenups”) are usually thought of as being “unromantic.”
After all—who likes to talk about divorce when they are planning their wedding? To the contrary,
obtaining a prenuptial agreement is one of the most prudent, intelligent things that a couple can
do, and it is especially important for farmers and ranchers. It doesn’t matter if the couple is young
or old, rich or poor. Almost every couple can benefit from obtaining a prenuptial agreement. Here
are the “Top 10 Reasons” why prenups are romantic:
1. There is something loving about telling someone, “No matter what happens to us, I
want to make sure that you’re taken care of.”
It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about what happens if the relationship should change and one
or both people decide to go their separate ways. Nobody gets on an airplane thinking that it is
going to crash, yet we still go over the safety instructions. Analogously, we don’t buy disability
insurance believing we’re going to get in a tragic farm accident one day. Especially with farmers
and ranchers, it’s responsible to think about (and prepare for) all of the Big D’s—Death, Divorce,
Destruction, Disability, and Disease. Divorce can have deleterious effects on multi-generational
Everyone wants to believe that the love of their life won’t hurt them. This naivety can come
back to bite. As one client eloquently said, “we realize that if we get divorced we’ll be different
people” and have a strained relationship. It’s nearly impossible to put yourself in the state of mind
of someone going through a divorce, sometimes lasting longer than World War II. Prenups allow
each person to say, “even if I someday hate you, I will still care for you” and make sure you get a
2. Getting financially naked help build trust.
Prenups are about disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. It’s dumbfounding how many couples
are engaged or married and “in the dark” about the financial well-being of their other half: what
s/he has both in assets and liabilities, what s/he does for a living and how much s/he makes, what
other income streams s/he has, what business interests does s/he have, what types of inheritances
does s/he expect. The divorce chapter in a couple’s life is not the time to learn the answers to these
People oftentimes do more due diligence when buying farmland, homestead or even a herd
sire than with the person they are about ready to marry. Marriage is, among other things, a
financial partnership. Without getting financially intimate with one another before marriage,
parties don’t fully know the financial health of other person. Only with financial transparency can
the couple have true knowledge about the person they are committing their life to.
3. Who wants to go to war in court with the love of their life?
If there is anything that matrimonial lawyers can agree on, it’s that divorce litigation is
expensive. A typical retainer for a contested divorce is five figures (i.e., over $10,000) and
divorces involving business interests (including farms and ranches) can be significantly higher. In
a prenuptial agreement, the parties can agree how to equitably divide marital property (including
business interests, appreciation of separate property, professional licenses) and whether spousal
maintenance (temporary or durational maintenance) may be appropriate.
Litigation ruins families. It’s unusual for two agribusinesses that have been in court
together to later do business with one another down the road; similarly, how will parents who went
to war in a courthouse learn to co-parent? Although prenups don’t ensure that there won’t be
issues to dispute, it will hopefully limit the conflict.
4. Prenups Empower Both Parties.
It is a common misconception that prenuptial agreements are really couples “planning for
a divorce;” to the contrary, prenuptial agreements are about empowerment of both parties.
Prenuptial agreements allow the parties to take the law in their own hands.
Matrimonial law is not clear-cut. There are many ambiguities and inconsistencies in the
law. Judges in different courts and different counties apply the law differently. It’s empowering
for parties to be in control of these important financial decisions.
One final note about empowerment–each party entering into a prenuptial agreement should
have independent counsel of their choice. Even if the couple hires a neutral third party mediator
to facilitate the negotiation process and draft the agreement, each side should nonetheless seek
separate counsel. It is required that each person knowingly enter into a prenuptial agreement
informed of their rights. The prenup process gives each party an opportunity to ask questions
about matrimonial law and how a prenuptial agreement may or may not affect certain issues.
5. The love of your life will care about what happens “when death do [you] part.”
Most states have a right of spousal election to prevent someone from disinheriting a spouse.
Prenuptial agreements give parties a choice on whether to “waive” their right to spousal election
to receive less or more than this amount; however, couples can opt to have their Last Will and
Testament decide. Furthermore, prenups may also require one or both parties to provide life
insurance for the other party or set up a trust for the other person.
6. It’s comforting to make promises with your spouse about how you’ll take care of him
or her during the marriage.
Prenuptial agreements are not always about the Big D; it can also provide promises for how
each spouse will take care of the other spouse during the marriage. Examples may include:
• Providing health insurance
• Obtaining life and/or disability insurance
• Purchasing a Marital Residence and putting it in joint name
• Providing the other spouse access to certain funds
• Putting monies in a household account
• Taking care of children
• Estate planning
7. True love keeps secrets.
Oftentimes, prenuptial agreements include a confidentiality clause requiring the parties to
keep the terms of the prenuptial agreement, financial information of the parties, and perhaps other
information obtained during the marriage (such as business trade secrets with the farm or ranch)
private. After all, true love keeps secrets. And it’s okay to have a contract say so.
8. “Roses are red, Violets are blue. A prenup is the first step to my financial future
It is important for couples to be on the same page with how they are going to manage their
finances together. Will they keep separate accounts or have joint accounts? Who will be managing
the finances for the household? Opening up the finances during the prenup process can be a great
conversation starter for these important decisions. This is a big undertaking for many couples.
Each person needs to think about their goals and values. The prenup negotiation process can take
weeks, or sometimes months. For many couples, this is their first step to building a financial future
with one another.
In order to prevent duress, couples should ideally sign a prenuptial agreement about 3-6
months before the wedding date or before the wedding invitations are sent out. However, if this
ship has sailed, couples should start the conversation as soon as possible. There are no “cookie
cutter” prenuptial agreements—each prenup agreement is as unique as each couple.
9. It says, “If we separate, I want the procedures to be fair.”
Prenuptial agreements allow couples to think about the separation scenario (or in the words
of Gwyneth Paltrow, “conscious uncoupling”). Who will live in the Marital Residence? How
much notice will the other party have to move out and find a new place to live? Will moving
expenses be paid for by marital funds? How will the procedures differ if the parties have children
or a second home? Will temporary spousal support be paid during this time? Will both spouses
have access to various bank accounts? How will attorneys’ fees and court costs be paid?
10. Who Doesn’t Love a Beautiful Sunset?
Some couples prefer to add a “sunset provision” to their prenup stating that the prenup
itself will no longer be valid after a certain number of years or after the first child is born.
Prenups get a bad rap for turning marriages into business relationships—but that isn’t the
case. Life and love are both about planning for the future. Let’s shift the lens we see prenuptial
agreements through–it can be a powerful way to bring farm and ranch couples closer together
instead tearing them apart. And maybe, just maybe, we could all see a prenuptial agreement as