Prenuptial Agreements

Make an Airtight Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial agreements-- also known as "premarital" or "antenuptial" agreements-- are legal contracts executed by prospective spouses that establish what

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happens to their income, assets, and debts if the marriage ends in divorce,

separation, or death.

What's in a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many couples contemplating marriage--especially a second or subsequent

marriage--create prenuptial agreements outlining the rights and responsibilities

of each partner. Prenuptial agreements can set forth the rules for virtually

every aspect of a marriage, including deciding who is responsible for

household bills and expenses. The agreement should stipulate inheritance

rights of children from a previous marriage and enable each spouse to

waive the right to inherit from the other's estate.

As long as the agreement is voluntary and each spouse is aware of the

extent of the other's property, written prenuptial agreements are legally

enforceable. However, if one spouse fails to disclose assets, debts, or

liabilities, and the other spouse's decision to sign a prenuptial agreement

is not well-informed, a court will not enforce it.

Who Needs a Prenuptial Agreement?

You should consider a prenuptial agreement if either or both of you:

  • Have children or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • Own a business or are a partner in a business, law firm, or medical practice
  • Possess significant assets or property
  • Have much more money than your prospective spouse--over twice as much is the rule of thumb
  • Plan to support the other through college or a professional school
  • Have significant debt

Should We Make a Prenuptial Agreement?

The Pros:

  • Establishes ground rules for marriage
  • Divides assets fairly if the marriage is dissolved
  • Preserves inheritance rights of children from previous marriages

The Cons:

  • Not the most romantic way to begin marriage
  • Possibly expensive--lawyers can charge $500-$3,000 to write them
  • Validity may be challenged; courts may overturn

Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act

Many states have adopted some form of the Uniform

Pre-Marital Agreement Act, a set of guidelines for dealing with management

of property; disposition of property after separation, divorce, or death;

alimony; wills; and life insurance beneficiaries. The laws in states that

have not adopted the Act are generally very similar to the Act. No state

permits couples to include binding provisions about child support payments.

To Make an Airtight Prenuptial Agreement...

  • Each of you must have your own, seperate lawyer
  • Each of you must reveal all details about your assets and liabilities
  • Each of you must sign willingly and voluntarily
  • Do not sign the agreement at the last minute
  • Sign the agreement in front of a notary and/or videotape the signing ceremony
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