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Same-sex couples should consider a marital agreement

A lot of same-sex couples who had been together for a long time celebrated the Supreme Court's declaration that gay marriage was legal by doing what a lot of other couples in love have done. They eloped.

While they probably didn't sneak out of their parents' houses in order to do it, many did marry suddenly without a big ceremony. They may have done so without a lot of thought about what it meant for their future finances in the event of either death or divorce.

Fortunately, it isn't too late. Whether you are a same-sex couple that has already tied the knot or one that's getting ready to do so, a marriage agreement can make the future a lot smoother. The only difference between agreements made before or after a marriage is whether they're called "premarital" or "post-marital." They accomplish essentially the same things.

Here are things that you and your spouse or spouse-to-be need to consider.

1. Each of you needs to have your own attorney look over any agreement that you devise. Even if you are in complete accord, having your own attorney read through the paperwork and offer any advice about shortcomings or potential alterations is wise. That way no one can ever say that you or your spouse lacked sufficient understanding of the agreement when you signed it.

2. An agreement is designed to protect your assets when your marriage ends. If it ends in divorce, you both may have property or assets that you brought into the relationship that you want to protect. Keep in mind that, if you have children, the agreement cannot dictate issues like child support or custody. That is under the control of the state and cannot be dictated by private agreements. The court is obligated to protect the child's interests, not yours.

3. You can, however, agree that a child that you have will inherit wealth that you wouldn't necessarily want to see go to your spouse if you split up or die. For example, if you inherit the family farm that's been in your family for generations, your agreement can stipulate that the inheritance bypasses your spouse even if you die and goes to your child. That could be important if your spouse has other potential heirs, like children from a previous marriage.

For more advice on what a marital agreement can do for you, consider seeking an attorney's advice as soon as possible.

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