Do You Need a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

Aug 8, 2012 by

Couples looking forward to getting married are often confused about pre-nuptial agreements. Do they need one? Isn’t a pre-nuptial agreement just for rich people? How do you get one? Can you write it yourself? Addressing the five W’s should clear up any confusion.

Who

It can be a good idea for a couple to have a pre-nuptial agreement but it is especially critical for individuals with children from a prior marriage or with previously acquired assets that they’d like to keep as separate property. Regardless of which state in which you reside, a pre-nuptial agreement protects both parties in the unfortunate event of a divorce.

What

A pre-nuptial agreement is a legal contract that states how a couple’s assets and debts will be divided should they divorce. The agreement may also cover expectations regarding work, care of children, retirement benefits, inheritance rights and other issues of concern to the couple. The agreement may not, however, replace a will or cover child custody or support. Although some states allow a couple to draft the document themselves, to ensure validity if ever challenged in court, attorneys must draw up the pre-nuptial agreement. Each party must have separate legal representation to ensure that their interests are being protected and that they understand the agreement. Each party must fully disclose assets, income and liabilities and the resulting pre-nuptial agreement must be fair. Be aware that the agreement usually provides no protection against debt incurred during marriage.

Where

In the US, a pre-nuptial agreement is valid in every state regardless of where the marriage took place or where the couple resides. To ensure adequate protection in other countries, consult an attorney knowledgeable about the local laws and restrictions that may apply.

When

To ensure validity and avoid the possibility of the agreement being overturned in court due to suspected duress, the pre-nuptial agreement should be drawn up under normal conditions and signed well ahead of the wedding date.

Why

A pre-nuptial agreement provides peace of mind for both parties and is an act of love and respect. Drafted while a couple wants the best for each other, during a time of love rather than dissatisfaction, the agreement prevents potential problems in the future.

The potential benefits of a pre-nuptial agreement are evident. As you plan for your future as a married couple, it can be a good idea to consult with an attorney to advise you regarding applicable state laws and other issues you may not have forseen. This will help clarify whether or not a pre-nuptial agreement is right for you.

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