A prenuptial agreement allows a couple to explicitly grant ownership of their respective assets before they marry, in case they divorce in the future. This document specifies childcare decisions, asset and property division, and alimony payments. In the event of a divorce, can help ease the process while protecting your valuable assets.
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Learn more about prenuptial agreements A prenuptial agreement is an agreement couples enter into before marriage to contractually agree on how their affairs and assets would be settled in the event of separation or divorce.
Other names A prenuptial agreement can have several other names including:
Who should use this form? Prenuptial agreements are becoming more common as a general planning tool for couples who do not want to risk leaving the terms under which they would settle a potential divorce or separation in the hands of the state where they live. Prenups are especially useful for couples intending to marry under the following circumstances:
When one or both individuals comes to the marriage with significant assets or debts.
If there is a significant income gap between the parties.
If one or both individuals have been through divorce before.
If one or both have individuals come into the marriage with children.
Prenuptial agreements can be complex and are typically governed by state law. It is important to understand your state’s rules around what makes a prenup enforceable before drafting and signing your agreement. Many couples choose to have their prenuptial agreement drafted by an experienced family law or estate planning attorney help ensure that their agreement is enforceable in their state.
If you choose to draft a prenup on your own, keep in mind that many states have laws requiring that each party sign the agreement voluntarily, and with a full understanding of the terms. The best way to ensure enforceability of a prenup is to have the agreement reviewed by independent counsel before you sign.
What to include in a prenup A prenuptial agreement includes disclosures by each party of all assets and debts, and details on how these will be divided in the event of separation or divorce. The agreement usually includes a definition for what the couple will keep as separate property, even after they marry, and what rights they intend to waive such as:
The right to share in each other's estate upon either spouse's death.
To alimony, or spousal maintenance.
To each other's separate property, or increase in value of that property.
To other claims they might have had to make under their state's divorce laws.
A prenuptial agreement may also define how finances will be handled during the marriage. It may answer questions such as who will pay household bills, whether bank accounts will be separate or shared, and how large purchases will be made. A prenup can also outline agreements of financial support for either spouse and any children, including children from previous relationships.
Generally, the agreement is only valid after it is properly signed by both parties and the marriage is complete. Some couples opt to only have the agreement cover a certain number of years after marriage and draft a “sunset clause” into their agreement, which is a paragraph laying out when the prenup will no longer be valid.
Next steps To be valid and enforceable in most states, each person should have the agreement reviewed by a separate lawyer. To be properly executed, the agreement must be signed and dated by both parties. Some states also require the signature of 1 or 2 witnesses, and an official notarization of the agreement.
Make at least 3 copies of your prenuptial agreement. You and your fiancé should keep one and give the remaining copy to a trusted third-party. A prenuptial agreement will only be submitted to court in the event that either party is trying to enforce the terms of the agreement in the event of a separation or divorce.