Can Prenuptial Agreements Help You?
A prenuptial agreement, also called a premarital agreement or a prenup for short, allows a couple to set the terms of property rights for their marriage. There are a lot of misconceptions about what prenuptial agreements are and who uses them.
What Can a Prenup Do For Me?
While wealthy individuals do often use prenups, prenuptial agreements have far more uses than simply protecting the assets of a wealthy individual. Prenups can be used to:
- Protect one party's assets
- Protect a party from assuming the debts of the other party
- Determine how property will be passed upon death
- Clarify financial rights and responsibilities during a marriage
- Avoid long, costly disputes in case of divorce
If You Don't Get a Prenuptial Agreement
Absent a prenup, your state has a series of family laws that determine how property is handled during marriage and after marriage. In most states for instance, your spouse is entitled to:
- Share and receive ownership of property acquired during the marriage
- Receive some of your property upon death
- Share in any debts acquired during the marriage
- Share responsibilities in managing property acquired during the marriage.
There are many good reasons to deviate from your state's laws. For instance, if you have children from a previous marriage, upon your death you may want your property to pass to your children rather than transfer to your current spouse. The advantage of prenuptial agreements is that you can craft them to meet your particular needs.
Creating a Valid Prenuptial Agreement
Originally, prenuptial agreements were heavily scrutinized by judges because they were traditionally used to protect a wealthy individual from a partner with substantially less financial means. The fear was that the poorer spouse was being coerced to sign and that such agreements encouraged the dissolution of marriages.
Today, however, every state allows prenuptial agreements, and divorce and remarriages are more widely accepted. In addition, women are considered to have a more equal place in society and require less protection from courts. As a result, most prenups will be upheld as valid.
The Courts Role in Prenups
Courts do, however, still analyze prenups with a careful eye so it pays to do it right. Create a prenup that is clear, understandable and justifiable. If a judge decides that your prenup is unfair or doesn't meet state requirements, the agreement will be set aside.
Although it is perfectly fine to negotiate and create a basic prenup yourself, both parties should get the prenup reviewed by their own attorney who can advise them on their rights and review the prenup to ensure it complies with state law.
Consult an Attorney Experienced with Prenups
If you and/or your spouse are considering a prenup, you may need at least one experienced family law attorney. A good lawyer will ensure that your prenup fits your needs and can stand up well to challenges that may arise. Note that it's important to speak to a lawyer familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. Most offer free consultations, so your first step should be to contact an experienced family attorney.