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A prenuptial agreement is a legal contract made before marriage that protects a couple in case of a divorce or death of a spouse. It may also be called a prenup or premarital agreement.
A prenup explains how to handle financial issues if the marriage ends. For example, it may list how to distribute your marital property, debts, or estate.
A prenup must be signed before the wedding, but the timing is flexible. Most lawyers recommend signing the agreement as soon as possible—at least 2 months before you plan on getting married. In many jurisdictions, an agreement signed too close to the wedding day can indicate that 1 spouse was pressured into signing and may invalidate the prenup.
Most couples use a prenup to protect valuable property or assets, preserve the rights to future inheritances, or avoid liability for each other’s debts before they get married.
This agreement also distinguishes the difference between separate and marital property. These decisions are much harder to make if you divorce without a prenup. And if you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse, the court will decide for you.
Consider a prenup as a type of divorce insurance. Paying for this agreement now has the potential to save you thousands in litigation costs if you end up divorcing later.
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Prenuptial agreements are an increasingly common way for couples to protect their personal assets. Our comprehensive guide to getting a prenup can help you with the process from start to finish.
All states agree on some basic rules regarding a valid prenuptial agreement during a divorce.
A prenup can address almost any financial matter. For example, a prenup can be used to:
These are just some of the possible ways a prenup can be used to clarify financial matters. If you're considering a prenup, it’s a good idea to sit down and make a list of the issues you think need to be addressed, so your agreement can be tailored to them.
There are 3 main things that a prenup cannot do:
State laws vary in what they consider a valid prenup. In California, for example, both parties are advised to have their own lawyers to review the agreement before signing. Be certain to know the laws of the state in which you're getting married before you create the prenuptial agreement.
A valid prenup should meet the following criteria:
If a judge finds your agreement to be invalid, some or all of the terms may be dismissed. It’s always advisable to meet with an experienced and local prenuptial lawyer before signing a prenuptial agreement.