What?! You want me to sign a prenup?
A prenup may leave you cold if you're the less wealthy partner. But it could be to your advantage.
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) You've really been looking forward to getting married except for one niggling detail: your partner has asked for a prenuptial agreement.

You want it to be no big deal, you're a reasonable person, and you understand that your partner's family may be applying pressure. Still, the request has left you feeling a little miffed.

Yes, you have less money than your fiance(e). But money really wasn't what drew you into the relationship and it certainly is not what's keeping you there.

Fair enough.

But assuming you're not marrying a controlling jerk (in which case, the prenup is the least of your worries), you might consider the three ways in which a prenuptial agreement might actually be to your advantage.

Build a foundation for your marriage

For starters, talking about a prenup (whether you opt for one or not) is an opportunity for you and your partner to get your financial lives out on the table, which is never a bad idea, since marriage is as much an economic contract as a social and spiritual one.

And, it hardly needs to be said, money can be a huge source of contention between couples, especially when it's not dealt with openly.

"(The prenup) is about having to communicate and negotiate, which will lay a foundation for your partnership," said Shae Irving, senior legal editor at legal information provider NOLO and coauthor of the upcoming book, "Prenuptial Agreements: How to Write a Fair and Lasting Contract."

A successful prenup is one in which both partners feel they've gotten what they need. So even though you have less money doesn't mean you have less say in deciding what the provisions of a prenup will be.

The key, Irving said, is to "focus on fairness (and on) what each person needs to feel well cared for."

Improve your financial security

In fact, a prenup is an opportunity for you to protect yourself financially, not just your high-net-worth honey.

"It can be a way to establish some net worth for the less wealthy person," said Arlene Dubin, author of "Prenups for Lovers: A Romantic Guide to Prenuptial Agreements" and a partner in the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

So take it as an opportunity to negotiate a deal that will make you better off in the long run.

Some couples, for instance, decide that the wealthy partner will pay for all of the living expenses while the earnings of the person with the least money will go exclusively toward building up his or her own nest egg.

Or they may decide upon outright transfers of money either at the start of the marriage, at various periods throughout the marriage or in the event the marriage dissolves or the wealthy spouse dies first, Dubin said.

"Prenups are as varied as people. Everyone has their own style and their breaking points," Irving said. So, it's important that you both respect each other's preferences and limits.

Override state law

But, you figure, why should you make all these decisions now? Besides, aren't there state laws that would give you a fair shake in the event of divorce or death or even better than a fair shake?

To the first question, Irving and Dubin both note that you and your partner are more likely to be fair and generous with each other when you're at the prenup stage presumably when you're most in love than you would be in divorce court.

Or, in the event of your partner's death, there's no guarantee the wealthy spouse's family will want to protect you as much as your partner did.

As for the state protecting you, educate yourself about the laws governing marriage where you live. When you take your vows, "you're saying 'I do' to the laws of the state," Dubin said.

The majority are equitable distribution states, where a court decides what each partner contributed financially to the marriage and in the event of divorce will divide assets accordingly. That may mean the split is far from 50-50. So if one of you is planning to stay home and care for the kids, you might want to establish up front that assets will be split 50-50 in the event of divorce.

What's more, generally speaking, assets brought into the marriage and inheritances received by a partner are not considered joint unless they've been commingled with other marital assets. So if you marry someone wealthy who then doesn't work or for some reason can't work he or she may not contribute much to the marital asset pool and "you could end up with nothing," Dubin said.

With a prenup, "you're deciding what the two of you want is different than the contract that state law would give you," Irving said.

Get good legal advice

If you both agree a prenuptial agreement is the right decision and it's very possible discussions about it will lead to the opposite conclusion -- it's critical you each have your own lawyer representing your interests.

Find ones skilled in negotiation, not prosecution, Dubin advised. And make sure they are well versed not only in marital law but in estate law, too.

If you're going to feel good about it, the process shouldn't be adversarial. "It's not, 'What can I get if things go wrong?'" said Irving. "It's a way to build trust (because) you're talking right up front about what's important to you." Top of page