I'm getting married in about 10 months. My fiance and I are considering a prenuptial agreement. Neither one of us have anything complex that we're looking to protect, but we would like some bounds established for things like retirement accounts and pre-marriage assets in the event that we one day divorce. We would not like to spend a lot of money having such simple (in my mind) paperwork created prior to our marriage.
Go for it -- someone needs to be the Guinea Pig. You may want to fist google the phrase "legal zoom ripoff."
If, after doing that, you decide that you don't want to be the Guinea Pig, then you have two options. One option is to hire two separate divorce attorneys and pay lots of legal fees to two different attorneys. The other option (and in a case like this, probably much better and definitely much less expensive) is to hire one attorney who acts as a mediator in helping you and your betrothed formulate the agreement. Then the attorney, still acting as mediator, can draft the agreement.
Evan Farr is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by NELF (National Elder Law Foundation), which is approved by the American Bar Association, and is a member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of NAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys). Evan is licensed to practice law in Virginia, DC and Maryland, none of which have procedures for approving certifying organizations. NOTICE - Unless expressly stated otherwise, this communication: (1) is not legal advice absent an existing attorney-client relationship between us; (2) does not create an attorney-client relationship; (3) does not constitute an offer, acceptance, or contract amendment; (4) may contain confidential or legally privileged information protected by the attorney-client relationship and/or work product privilege; (5) is only for the use of the individual to whom it is intended by the sender to be sent, and if you are not such recipient, disclosure, copying, distribution or reliance upon this communication is prohibited; and (6) is not intended, and cannot be used, to avoid tax-related penalties pursuant to treasury department circular 230.
The easy answer is you get what you pay for. The only way to get an agreement that you can rely upon would be to use an attorney. Trying to do one without an attorney is risky.
First, congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Second, congratulations on having the sense to have a valid prenup in place prior to your wedding. I am not licensed to practice in Virginia. This general information response is not legal advice, and should not be considered as legal advice by you or by anyone reading it. This is a general information, Q&A forum only. You should meet with a family law attorney, who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Only they can answer your specific legal questions regarding the proper drafting and execution of a prenuptial agreement in your state. This is a basic, general information site only.
Based on my experience, the boilerplate prenuptial agreements that I have seen, that are sold online, are probably not what you want to use. You certainly do not want to find out five, or ten years after your wedding date that the cheap boilerplate prenup will not be enforceable if either of you challenge its validity in court. There is just too much at stake, and prenups are a specialized area of law.
Every prenup is custom tailored to each set of circumstances. Each state may have different requirements for the drafting, negotiation, execution, and enforcement of a prenuptial agreement.
What if you get married in Virginia, then move to New York, or Massachusetts or California, then one of you files for divorce? Which state law would control the validity and enforcement of your prenup? This scenario happens all the time. A skillfully drafted prenup will address this and many other common scenarios.
In respectful contrast to another answer posted for your question, there is no way I would recommend having one lawyer act as counsel or a mediator for both parties to a prenup. Not even as a scrivener. You and your fiance need separate legal counsel.
Suggestion: Contact several lawyers in your jurisdiction who draft prenups as part of their family law practice. You probably do NOT want a general practitioner to draft your prenup. You probably want an experienced attorney who focuses their practice on family law matters, and who has experience drafting and negotiating prenups. Tell them you are considering a prenup. Ask them if they would consider discussing the facts of your case, and drafting your prenup for a flat fee. Begin your search here on Avvo, or contact your local bar association for a referral. Or do both. It is worth your time to search vigorously, and select your attorney wisely.
I can tell you that many experienced family law attorneys, after meeting with you to discuss your assets/liabilities/goals will be able to give you a fairly good estimate of the cost for a properly drafted and properly executed prenup. Many excellent, experienced, family law attorneys may also agree to a flat fee, especially if this is your first marriage, you do not have children from a prior relationship or marriage, there are no complex trust or closely held businesses involved, and you and your soon-to-be spouse have been upfront with all of your assets and liabilities, and have discussed who is responsible for those assets and liabilities, and you are both in agreement with your goals heading into the marriage. Sometimes when couples are not communicating, the prenup negotiation can get drawn out.
In my experience, the cost to the party paying legal counsel to draft the prenup is usually significantly more than the cost to the other party, who must retain their own legal counsel to review the document before signing. Each party having their own counsel protects both parties. I always like to have both lawyers sign the prenup along with the parties.
The fact that you have ten months before the wedding date is a good thing. If possible, I like to get the prenup wrapped up before the wedding invitations go out. Be sure to leave plenty of time (absolute minimum two months before the wedding) to get the prenup properly drafted, negotiated, and signed.
I hope this helps. I wish you much luck.
These comments are NOT legal advice and should NOT be considered legal advice. There is NO attorney-client relationship established between myself and anyone on this forum or website. There is NO attorney-client relationship established through the exchange of information on this website. Each legal matter is unique. Nothing can replace consulting directly with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.
Chapter 8 of Title 20 of the Code of Virginia governs premarital agreements in Virginia. Section 20-151 addresses the enforceability of such agreements. The enforceability of contracts in Virginia is fact specific and depends upon the particular document and the circumstances of its execution. There exists an inherent conflict between you and your fiance in entering into prenuptial agreement. No single attorney can provide both of you with legal advice. As you have sought advice on this forum, you would be prudent to consult with your own attorney before signing such an agreement.
The foregoing is intended to be general legal information concerning Virginia law based on the scenario as written and not legal advice to anyone in particular. The information provided should not be relied on as legal advice or as an appropriate basis for any legal action, and it's provision does not establish an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Information shared or provided on a public forum is obviously not confidential or private. Every situation is unique and you should always immediately consult with a Virginia attorney to discuss all your options in light of your particular circumstances before acting.
It is unlikely that the Agreement will be properly written, executed and notarized without the expert services of a skilled, matrimonial attorney. I personally would urge you to seek the advice of an experienced local attorney.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The responses set forth herein do not constitute legal advice. Likewise, the responses do not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is provided for general informational purposes only. The responses are limited in nature so as to only provide general information, without the benefit of all of the necessary requisite facts, which if provided, could significantly alter the information provided, given that the issues involved in the Family Law/Divorce, etc. practice areas are fact driven. I strongly encourage each questioner to consult with an experienced local attorney so that proper legal advice may be provided. By viewing the responses and answers provided on this site, you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney providing an answer. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with all of your specific facts and all of the circumstances. Please further be advised that the law changes frequently and can differ greatly from one state to another. The answers provided herein are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance identified by the question or not contained in the question.
It may "hold up" in that it is a valid and enforceable agreement, but even if it does, that doesn't mean that it gives you the outcome that you wanted. Family law a remarkably complex area of law, particularly the classification of property acquired before or during the marriage or even after a separation, and it is not uncommon for agreements to have holes in them big enough to drive a Mack truck through.
You are best off taking the time and spending the money to consult with an experienced family law attorney with whom you can discuss (1) the default law in the absence of any agreement, (2) the specific scenarios you are trying to implement or avoid, and (3) specific contingencies that could frustrate your goals, or which could generate unintended results. You might find that the default law is not what you think it is, and that you don't really need to have a pre-nup, so long as you know how to manage your assets and finances during the marriage, or that your goals do necessitate a thorough agreement that covers a number of different eventualities.
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