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How Prenuptial Agreements Work


The Costs and Legalities of Prenuptial Agreements
Another reason for a prenup: A past marriage may complicate a future one. Greg Norman and Chris Evert announced their engagement only after he had reached an agreement with his first wife.
Another reason for a prenup: A past marriage may complicate a future one. Greg Norman and Chris Evert announced their engagement only after he had reached an agreement with his first wife.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Just as not everyone wants to promise to love, honor and obey, some engaged couples want to prepare their own prenuptial agreement. Books and online sources can provide information and forms to use. Doing it yourself is certainly the least expensive method. But be sure today's savings don't turn into tomorrow's financial disaster. Experts usually recommend that you consult an attorney to prepare the document. In fact, many experts believe that each party needs a separate attorney.

The attorneys you consult should practice matrimonial or family law. They should be familiar with prenuptial agreements and knowledgeable about the laws of the state in which you will live after your marriage. The attorneys co-write the document, keeping their clients' best interests in mind. This arrangement helps to make the prenup fair to both parties. It also helps to ensure that the document will be valid and enforceable in court, should it be necessary to invoke the prenup. Of course, hiring attorneys is more costly than preparing it yourself.

Prenuptial agreements are recognized as legally binding documents throughout the United States. However, you should check to determine whether you live in a community property state. In these states, the law considers assets acquired during a marriage to be jointly owned and under most circumstances requires them to be equally distributed when a marriage ends.

To be considered valid and enforceable, a prenuptial agreement must

  • be completed before marriage
  • be written
  • be notarized
  • be voluntary for both parties
  • contain full financial disclosure
  • be fair to both parties
  • not be illegal or opposed to public policy

A judge has the power to rule that the agreement is not valid if it fails to meet any of these criteria.

If you would like to know more about the legal aspects of prenuptial agreements, you can follow the links on the next page.


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