So your daughter is getting married. He seems like a nice enough chap, alright. You wish them well and look forward to grandchildren.
With all that, however, you can't help but to be thinking about the estate planning you have done. You worked hard to put together the assets that you have, and that you want to pass on to your progeny. You may also be in the position of being the steward of your family's generational wealth, and you take that role seriously.
Your whole purpose in putting together the estate plan was to be sure this wealth is used responsibly, and not squandered. The goal is that what you have started, or continued, perpetuates for generations to come. Now, suddenly, there is a new person in the mix. It was always a possibility, but now it is real, and imminent.
To you, your daughter entering into a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) seems like a very good idea indeed as part of the overall planning of your estate. You want to protect her, as well as the the goals you have set forth in your own financial planning.
The problem is, your daughter doesn't like the idea of entering into a prenup with her fiancé. “The whole idea of marriage,” she says, “is that two become one, that everything becomes shared – the good, the bad, the ups, the downs….” Her idealism is contagious. Now you feel like a bit of a scrooge for even suggesting the idea. You're not.
Take a step back from both of your perspectives for a moment. Let's not view this as you foisting some legal contract on your daughter during the days of her happy wedding planning. Don't see this as you suggesting that her divorce is imminent. What this is, instead, is an opportunity to give your daughter (and her fiancée) a wonderful gift.
Instead, let's think of this as an opportunity for you to empower your daughter to take hold of her finances, to be able to address financial discussions with her soon-to-be-spouse head on and in a healthy and productive way, and to proactively plan for her own (and potentially her children's) future.
Disputes about finances tend to be one of the top areas of conflict in marriages. Often the values and perspectives regarding money are symptomatic or reflective of other values and perspectives. You have the opportunity to empower your child to engage in these discussions, with her intended, before the wedding. Yes, her aspiration that “two become one, that everything becomes shared…” is a beautiful thing. She now gets to understand that bringing that aspiration to life, in her relationship, is not magical … but intentional; that her marriage will be stronger, healthier and happier, when she can have these kinds of conversations with her spouse.
The context can be “the prenup” – or premarital financial planning in general. Through this process, one of two things Is likely to happen. One, the couple productively discuss these grown-up matters, and come to terms on expectations going forward. Along with this, they learn that they can tackle these types of issues, together, so that they don't bury “difficult” conversations in the future. Of course, the other possibility is that the couple may discover that they cannot productively discuss financial matters. While of course this would be incredibly difficult, is it not better to discover that now? When perhaps you, or another trusted advisor can help them with this important part of their impending relationship?
You must realize, too, that in empowering your child, you may not agree 100% with what she and her betrothed come up with in a pre-nup. You may need to structure your own finances in light of your disagreement. But even so you will have done your daughter an immense service by providing this gift of empowerment.