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3 tips to protect your assets without a prenuptial agreement

If you're getting married, it's important to talk about finances with your partner. Many people use the creation of a prenuptial agreement as a springboard for such discussions. A prenup allows couples to formally pin down decisions about finances in a mutually-agreed-upon contract.

However, what if a prenuptial agreement isn't right for you? What steps can you take to protect your personal finances during marriage?

Tips that will help you protect your assets during marriage

Although it's certainly recommended, you don't need to have a prenuptial agreement to protect your assets. Here are three tips to protect your assets during marriage:

1. Keep your premarital assets separate: Be sure to open a new joint account regarding your marriage. Rather than combining and merging your personal accounts, create new ones that you and your spouse will share. Moving forward, use the new joint accounts for your finances after marriage, but keep your personal assets saved and separate in their original accounts.

Keeping assets separate also applies to your personal property. If you have a second home, keep that home in your name only. Also, any taxes that you pay on your personal assets you will want to pay separately in a separate tax filing. Keeping assets separate relates to inherited property and money for personal injury awards, too. You have the right to keep these assets as your own, but you can't commingle them with accounts in the name of your spouse.

2. Maintain good records: It's important to keep track of anything that you buy with your separate funds. That's because, when you purchase these items with separate funds, the purchased items will be considered separate property. However, you will need to have detailed records that show the money trail.

3. Remember property appreciation: Don't forget that the appreciation of value that applies to your separate property might be considered marital property. If the appreciation is passive -- and the property increases in value without you doing anything -- then it will probably be considered separate. However, if the appreciation is active -- and happens because you invested money or time into improving the value of the property -- then the appreciated increase in value will likely be marital property.

Learn more about marital property and asset division

Whenever you sign a contract, you should know what you're getting into and you should read the fine print. A marriage contract is no different in this regard. Be sure you understand fully what it means to get married -- especially in terms of your personal property rights.

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