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Protect Your Business with Marital Property Agreements

» Introduction
As a businessperson, the most responsible and loving act in safeguarding your family is to insulate your property and assets from the risks of starting, running or operating a business. Marital property agreements are one of the most effective tools in shielding family wealth, property and holdings from the legal perils of litigation, judgment, seizure, forfeiture or other loss of assets.
» Step 1
A solid marital property agreement is powerful and simple. Such an agreement can be entered into either before or after the marriage and can be modified at any time by written agreement. As a married person your assets and wealth are not adequately addressed or insulated for the protection of your business or your family until you have this agreement in place. If you are single, you should study and understand marital property issues before considering or discussing marriage with your loved one.
» Step 2
Marital property agreements have an unwarranted and unjustified negative stigma that this article will hopefully debunk. Many people consider them to be a divorce planning device and therefore view them negatively or emotionally. Although they do accomplish the division of property and assets in the event of a divorce, they provide a more important layer of protection to the business owner and his or her family. The smart entrepreneur will recognize the primary worth of this contractual device to be asset protection, family protection and lending protection.
» Step 3
The most common form of marital property contract is often called a "prenuptial agreement." This contract recognizes and separates ownership interests in both the property owned before marriage as well as the property which will be acquired post marriage. This feature is important because it can shelter the non-business owner's separate property from creditors and liability of the business owner spouse. Future income can also be addressed in these agreements.
» Step 4
Post marital agreements can achieve the same kind of separation of assets and income after the marriage is entered should the parties agree to the property separation. The major benefit of post marital property agreements is the insulation of property and assets from any liability that may flow from either spouse's activities or businesses. However, another important advantage of post marital agreements is that lending capacity can be increased. For example, if you own a business that borrows a great deal of money for a large expansion or acquisition, the lender may restrict your future borrowing capacity until the large loans are paid down. As a result, your spouse may not be able to obtain a loan for a separate line of credit or other capital requirements for his or her business because of the restrictions. With a marital property agreement in place defining separate property issues of the two independent businesses, these lending restrictions could likely be avoided.
» Step 5
Even though marital property agreements should be regarded first as responsible business planning tools instead of divorce planners, they do serve the added purpose of insulating business assets and operations from the claims of divorcing spouses. No one plans or expects to divorce when deciding to marry. However, marriage is a leap of faith that sometimes meets with a disastrous landing as proven by our country's divorce rate. Thus, responsible business planning benefits from the marital agreement's divorce consequences.
» Step 6
Marital property laws vary from state to state. But regardless of where you live, your spouse could end up as the sole owner of the business or as a partner depending on certain circumstances and legal consequences. Certainly, in most cases this would be unthinkable if not merely unworkable. Having an insurance policy in the form of a marital property agreement against an unexpected divorce and subsequent property division can definitely be advantageous.
» Step 7
Pre-marital agreements are technical and have state specific legal requirements and procedures which impact their enforceability; therefore, a family law specialist or a contract lawyer with experience in drafting enforceable premarital agreements in your state of residence or domicile should be consulted and retained if you decide to enter into a proper marital property agreement.
» Step 8
With adequate planning and the right marital agreement, you can protect yourself, your spouse, your family and your business from unexpected liability and unintended circumstances arising from any business, professional or personal legal disaster. It is simply a smart business practice to use these powerful legal protection tools.
» Step 9
Marjorie Jobe is the author of "Business Law Battle Plan for Entrepreneurs: Protect Your Company from Lawyers, Lawsuits and Legal Disasters" and a practicing attorney in El Paso, Texas. Visit her website at www.marjoriejobe.com or www.jobelawfirm.com.


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