How do I wade through a prenuptial agreement?
You are recently engaged and you’ve got prenuptial agreements on the brain. Maybe friends or family are asking if you will be signing one or you would like your significant other to sign one or your fiancée has asked you to. Whatever your circumstance, the truth is that prenuptial agreements are very common and there are some legitimate and practical reasons to sign a contract.
Reasons to Sign a Prenuptial Agreement
You or your fiancée:
- already own a home or other real estate in your own name
- own a substantial amount of stocks or have large retirement account(s) or 401(k)
- have children/grand-children from a previous marriage
- have a lot more money, earning capacity and/or assets than your soon-to-be-spouse
- will be financially supporting the other spouse while they attend college or graduate school
- own your own business
- are expecting a large inheritance or business buy-out
Basic Information about Prenuptial Agreements
Prenuptial agreements (also called “prenups”) are most commonly created in situations where one person has considerably more assets or earning capacity than their partner. These agreements can cover a host of topics including future property settlements or spousal support while, ironically, providing some “assurance” that the marriage is based on love and not money.
Simply, a prenuptial agreement or contract is where a couple sets out legal ground rules about how current and possibly future assets will be divided should the marriage dissolve. These agreements are valid and enforceable in every state and the District of Columbia with most states having adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA).
Prenuptial Contracts can cover a broad range of topics including:
- how property brought into and acquired during the marriage would be divided
- who is responsible for paying debts brought in and acquired during the marriage
- in most states an agreement can state how much alimony or spousal support one spouse will pay the other and for how long but a spouse cannot give up their right to this support
- Many prenuptial agreements include clauses stating that the agreement isn’t valid unless the couple remains married for a certain number years and that the agreement is invalid if one spouse is unfaithful during the marriage
- Note that prenuptial agreements cannot solve custody and visitation issues of the couples’ children.
Prenuptial Agreements are Living Documents
At any time, you or your spouse can agree to cancel or make edits to the contract. Sometimes agreements are changed when one party has an affair or other circumstances change.
Consider these Do’s and Don’ts
- Each spouse should hire a qualified family law attorney to write the agreement, or at the very least, to look it over before it is signed.
- Ensure there is a complete list of all the assets and debts of each party.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Open and honest discussions about a prenuptial contract should occur very early in the engagement.
- Get it signed well in advance of the marriage or it could be invalidated later on the grounds that one spouse was “coerced” into signing it.
- Try not to think of it as an unromantic forecast of bad things to come but rather as prudent and careful planning.
Prenuptial agreements should be legally binding documents prepared or at the very least reviewed by a qualified family law attorney; preferably two, one representing each spouse. You could find that your agreement is invalid if specific disclosures and procedures are not followed. Please contact the Bellingham family law attorneys at Tario Law & Associates, P.S. for help in determining if a prenuptial agreement is recommended in your circumstance and then to draft, write or review your legally binding prenuptial contract.