I am engaged to be married in six months. My fiance, "Ken," has presented me with a prenuptial agreement. We have been together for 5 1/2 years. I am 35 years old, and this may be my only shot at having my own family. I love Ken and want to spend the rest of my life with him.
I have shown the agreement to two attorneys. Both told me that it is one-sided. If the marriage should end I will not be entitled to anything, and I will be nothing more than a live-in girlfriend. I am so confused. I tried to discuss it with Ken, but he is very stubborn about the wording and insists that it should remain.
I have no one to confide in because I don't want my family and friends to know. Please help me.
Embarrassed in Staten Island, N.Y.
A man who loves the woman he's about to marry should be willing to ensure that she is treated fairly. You should not be faced with being penniless if the marriage doesn't work out.
Unless a compromise can be worked out that is fair to both of you, you should not go through with the marriage. Your legal counsel should be negotiating with his legal counsel, and the two of you should remain above the fray.
While we're on the subject of legal documents, read on:
Please remind your readers to be certain their estates are in order. One of my neighbors, "Graham," has been hospitalized twice for serious problems. After the first incident, I tried to convince Graham and his wife, "Carolyn," to make a Living Will and a Living Trust. Graham was all for it; Carolyn didn't want to take the necessary steps. Evidently, his vote didn't count because nothing was done.
Now Carolyn is in the hospital. Her illness is serious. Neither of them is covered in the eventuality of death. This means the survivor will have to go through probate -- a costly journey. Their home is not in joint survivorship, so that will go through probate, too.
It doesn't matter how much a person owns. Everyone needs, at the very least, a will and a Living Will.
How true. In recent weeks, I have lost two friends, both with no warning. The first to die was a beautiful woman in the prime of life. She was in the best of health until an infection suddenly overwhelmed her. Who thinks about mortality in the prime of life? She didn't, and now her survivors have a headache on top of their heartache.
The second was a gentleman I had known for more than 20 years. He carried my name in his wallet as the person to notify in case of an emergency. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance one afternoon and instructed the doctors and nurses not to notify me or his family because he was sure he'd be home within a few days. Then he slipped into a coma. He had talked to me about how he wanted his estate distributed in the event something happened to him -- but he never put it in writing. By the time the government and the lawyers get finished with it, there will be little left for the people he loved.
What I'm trying to convey is that we're all going to go. And few can predict exactly how or when. So unless you want your hard-earned assets sold to pay death taxes and estate lawyers, make a will. Unless you want strangers or emotionally stressed relatives determining what will happen to you if you're too sick to speak for yourself, make a LIVING will. The choice is yours. Personally, I'd rather stipulate.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate