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The Prenup

by Monty McDannald

Monty was a successful real estate investor and attorney for 40 years splitting his time between Texas and Mexico. He is published in Mexico. Semi-retired recently, he had an epiphany: His real passion lies in creative writing.

Ray and Shirley, his girlfriend of two years, were at a Mexican restaurant when  Ray popped the question; well, not The Question, but a question. 

“What do you think about prenup agreements?”  He asked sheepishly. She replied emphatically; “I will never sign one”. He thought to himself, We’ll have to revisit this later, maybe in a year or so. And then he called to the waiter, “Please bring the lady another margarita”.

A while later, Ray was thinking marriage. He popped the real question, and Hallelujah! Shirley accepted. However, he still had to broach the speed bump called prenup.

Why a prenup you ask? They both had failed first marriages, had kids, and had separate property to protect. Ray asked his real estate attorney, Darrel Prey, to get a State of Texas Prenup form so they could whip out a rough draft to get the ball rolling. Darrell filled out the form, Ray took it to show Shirley.

When he presented the document to her, she read the first paragraph and angrily threw it back at him. She said: “You can get me to do many things, but you can’t take my son from me.” Unfortunately, Darrell had accidentally left her son Jimmy out of the document saying she was a single woman without child. Ray was embarrassed and apologized profusely. However, he thought that there was some progress made as she didn’t reject the whole idea of a prenup as she had before.

In spite of that setback, a date was set to meet with attorneys and try to hash out an agreement. Shirley had hired a prominent attorney named Wiley Fox. He was widely considered to be an excellent family law attorney with a good reputation.  

Ray was a non-practicing attorney himself and had some knowledge of the law. He figured between Darrell and him, they should be able to hammer out a satisfactory agreement.

Darrell was late to the meeting. While they waited Wiley introduced himself and invited Ray into the conference room. Ray sat next to Shirley, and Wiley, and Ray exchanged some pleasant chit-chat for a while.

Wiley said, "Ray, your financial statement is very thorough and comprehensive, not like some I've seen before. I commend you for that." They exchanged some real estate stories waiting for Darrell to arrive. Ray thought they had built up a nice rapport and would be able to strike a reasonable agreement.

About this time, Darrell, Ray's attorney, arrived, met Wiley and Shirley, and sat down. Wiley then began his diatribe, "The real estate business is very risky and you have a lot of debt on your statement. One of my friends owned a lot of real estate and went broke a while back and lost everything."

He finished saying, "At a minimum, I think we need to have a lot of life insurance to protect Jimmy, the minor child."

Ray thought, I was seriously wrong about this guy. He is smooth as glass and cagey, and he used that facade to lure me into complacency.

Ray hated life insurance with a passion and felt that he was getting stampeded. Darrell was quiet and was not offering any kind of an argument in response.

Ray began to sweat and was suddenly was very thirsty. He asked Wiley for some water or coffee and also complained that the conference room was too hot. Wiley said he would be right back and would check on these things to make them more comfortable. When he return, he said, "I'm very sorry, but everybody is gone home.  There’s no water or coffee and the A/C has been turned off in the building as it is after 5:00 PM.  

Ray now understood why Wiley had set this meeting on a Friday in the late afternoon. It was a ploy by Wiley to sweatbox him, and it was working. 

Exasperated, Ray called out to Darrell; “Darrell say something! I need some help here.” Darrell replied; “Shirley, marriage is about sharing and sharing in a marriage is very important.” He continued talking for a while but at this point Ray had quit listening. He thought, Did Darrell remember that I was the one that instituted the whole prenup idea, and that I did that so that so I wouldn’t have to share my separate property?

Ray knew that he had been out-lawyered. He said to Darrell, "Don't you think that we would be better off not having a prenup after all?" Darrell agreed. Wiley then pulled out Shirley and Ray's financial statements and told them to sign and date their signatures. This would establish the value of their respective separate property as of the marriage, he explained. Any increase in value or income might be argued to be community property. That offered some protection.

And with that they were done and headed to the elevator. Excitedly Ray told Shirley, "Glad that's over. Now we can get married." Shirley replied, "Hold on. I'm not too pleased with the whole experience and will need some time to think about things."

Well, they did get married and have been very happy ever since.  In retrospect, Ray is glad that they didn’t sign a prenup, as it would have forever bothered Shirley and would have created a lot of dissention, and sparked a lot of arguments.

Prenups can be valuable but can also ruin a marriage.  .

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