Doctors and Marriage: Should You Have a Prenup?

Dennis G. Murray, MA

Disclosures

April 19, 2017

In This Article

Older Doctors, Second (or Third) Marriage

"As more people marry or remarry in their later years, there's an increasing emphasis on protecting pensions and retirement benefits if the marriage doesn't work out," says family law attorney Marlene Eskind Moses. Plus, there are often kids involved in second marriages, as well as older parents who may need expensive care, so couples rightfully want to protect these interests as well.

Experts also say that doctors who own their own practice would be very wise to have a prenuptial agreement, especially if they built up substantial equity in it before getting engaged. The contract covers the physician, but it also protects the partners from the hassles of divvying up property in a split.

"We had a situation in a 4-doctor practice where the other 3 doctors insisted that their partner, who was getting remarried, get a prenup," recalls Gary N. Skoloff, a family law attorney with Skoloff & Wolfe, in Livingston, New Jersey. "A few years earlier, the practice had been turned upside down during his divorce proceedings by accountants who spent a year going through receipts and other paperwork in attempting to properly value the doctor's stake in the practice. And the partners sure as heck didn't want to go through that again!"

In a case like this, where a doctor has an equity stake in the practice and wants to remarry, a prenup can protect his or her interest in the practice both before and after the marriage, says Skoloff's partner, attorney Jonathan W. Wolfe. "Without a prenup, in most states the appreciation in the value of the practice will be considered a marital asset, unless it's protected by a prenup," Wolfe says. This can lead to even greater problems in a future divorce, he explains, because "the business will have to be valued both at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce."

Emotional Comforts and Discomforts

Prenups are all well and good in theory, but what if your sweetie refuses to sign the document?

"That happens," Ginita Wall says, "and I've seen engagements broken off because of it. Or the person who wanted the prenup gives in and abandons the idea. The third thing that can happen, and it often does, is that the couple agrees to modify the prenup and come to terms they can both live with."

Even if you and your fiancé(e) don't think a prenup is necessary, don't be surprised if someone else nudges you to sign one. That's becoming increasingly more likely these days, lawyers say, because parents sometimes own investment properties or businesses with their children and don't want to see the new spouse possibly inherit something they had earmarked for their son or daughter.

"A prenup in a second marriage is really important," Gary Skoloff says. "By shielding certain assets, it can actually help preserve and enhance the new relationship. Everyone is immediately comfortable with one another because they know their interests are protected."

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