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Postnups: The documents you don't realize (yet) that you need

Most people have heard of prenuptial agreements and have a working knowledge of why they are so handy. But fewer realize the benefits of postnups or why they really need one.

It's also common to believe that if you married without a prenup in place, you have no options. However, these legal documents can provide a framework for a marriage that can be beneficial to both spouses. Here's how they work.

Similar to prenuptial agreements

Postnuptial agreements are like prenups and address the same issues. The difference is these legal contracts are entered into after the wedding and not before it.

They can include clauses detailing the disposition of financial assets in a divorce. They can also address how debts will be settled that were incurred by the spouses.

Why are they necessary?

Suppose you discover after the wedding that your wife has a major shopping addiction and a terrible credit rating. You worry that her inclination to play fast and loose with the family funds could leave you saddled with an enormous debt load for Louis Vuitton luggage or Prada business suits.

Enter the postnup. If you don't want to divorce your wife over her chronic overspending, you can negotiate with her and draft a postnup that clarifies that she will be responsible for all bills she runs up. As Texas is a community property state, you could also stipulate that any of her debts be deducted from her share of a property settlement in a divorce.

A postnup is also a useful tool to keep a serial philanderer from straying once again. A clause in the postnuptial agreement can dictate more favorable terms in the event that the straying partner's actions led to the divorce.

It's also possible to insert a clause that marital counseling must be attempted by the spouses prior to filing for divorce. As such, instead of driving couples toward divorce court, postnuptial agreements can have the reverse effect and cause a more measured and thoughtful reaction to adverse marital events.

Protecting children from former unions

A well-crafted postnup can protect portions of your assets for any children born or adopted during a previous relationship or marriage. You can specify certain items or a percentage of your assets be exempt from the community property rules of the state of Texas.

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