Is Separate Bank Account Enough or Do I Need a Prenup?
According to Bank of America, about 28 percent of adults between the age of 23 to 37 have chosen to keep their banking accounts separate from their spouse’s finances. Is having a separate bank account enough to protect you should the marriage fail? In California it is wise to still consider a prenuptial agreement.
California is a community property state. This means that any property that is acquired during marriage or domestic partnership is considered “community property”. Similarly, any debt acquired is considered “community debt”. community property and debt includes:
- Earnings made by either spouse during a marriage;
- Anything purchased with earnings that were made during a marriage;
- Pension plans;
- Credit card debt, even if it is only in one spouse’s name; and
According to the California courts, each spouse or partner owns one-half of community property and is responsible for one-half of the community debt. While keeping your money in separate bank accounts may seem like a responsible way of handling differences in spending habits and a way to avoid conflict in a marriage, it could ultimately backfire on you if you get divorced in California. Even if your spouse has separate credit cards, you will be responsible for one-half of the debt they take on during your marriage upon divorce. If you are the spouse with a good paying job or you make smart financial decisions, having a separate bank account will not protect you from your spouse asking for one-half of the community property after you split.
If part of your marriage was spent in a non-community property state but you decide to file for divorce in California, all property will still be treated as community property and is referred to as quasi-community property.
Any assets you had prior to marriage in California are considered separate property. Inheritances or gifts that are to one spouse also fall under this category. Once something is deemed separate property, it continues to be separate. For instance, if you owned a property prior to marriage and rented it out, the rental income is separate property too. If you use your inheritance to purchase a new bike, that remains a separate asset.
How a Prenuptial Agreement Protects You
A prenuptial agreement can help determine what will happen to all community property and community debts. If your intent is to keep finances separate, a prenuptial agreement can make sure that each person’s income and debts remain separate property throughout the marriage. Prenuptial agreements also help in circumstances where it is hard to tell what is community property versus separate property. For instance, one person bought the home prior to the marriage but since then both parties have contributed to remodels and upgrades throughout the house. Suddenly, you may need to hire a forensic accountant to split assets or debts.
Contact a San Jose Attorney To Learn More About Prenuptial Agreements
Our experienced San Jose prenuptial & postnuptial agreement attorneys understand that money can be a difficult topic in most marriages. However, creating a financial plan early can help save you financial burden later. Contact us at 408-841-7200 to schedule a free consultation today and learn how we can help you.