What are the benefits of a prenuptial agreement?

The benefits of a prenuptial agreement cannot be overstated. Marriage is a legal communion of property. If the marriage ends, deciding how to distribute property is often the biggest source of conflict for couples. Prenuptial agreements minimize such difficulties by:

  • Documenting each spouse's separate property to keep it separate
  • Avoiding court involvement and the potential for a judge to decide on property distribution
  • Avoiding extended court proceedings, which invariably include divorce attorneys who charge an average of $200 per hour
  • Assigning debt (credit cards, school loans, mortgages) to the appropriate spouse, so both spouses don't share debt liability
Will an existing living together agreement be enforceable after we marry?

Probably not. The courts hold that most living together agreements are not made in contemplation of marriage. You should create a prenuptial agreement to replace any existing pre-marital agreements.

How can I discuss prenuptial agreements with my future spouse?
Prenuptial agreements are often misunderstood. Some people see prenuptial agreements as an attack on trust. One spouse may believe that the other does not love him or her enough to share. Some argue that if the love is strong enough, it should not be an obstacle.

In fact, prenuptial agreements are about protection and planning, not lack of love. That is why they need to be separated from the emotional decisions surrounding a wedding. Beginning prenuptial discussions well in advance of the wedding date will allow both people to consider it without the added pressure of time constraints.

It may be helpful to consider that, in addition to serving an emotional and spiritual role in people's lives, marriages are also a communion of property.

Can we modify the prenuptial agreement after we are married?

Yes. In general, you will be able to alter or modify any terms of the agreement. The changes must be in writing and signed by both parties. The other terms of the agreement will remain intact, unless you revoke the entire agreement in writing.

What can and cannot be in a prenuptial agreement?
Any sort of property can be included in the agreement, such as homes, automobiles, stocks, checking accounts, business ownerships or personal belongings. Debts can also be categorized as separate property. This prevents one spouse from being liable for the debts of the other should the marriage dissolve.

Very few states allow specific spousal support agreements in prenuptial agreements, since they are often difficult to uphold in court. Therefore, LegalZoom's prenuptial agreement does not provide for the listing of a specific amount of spousal support. However, you can state that both parties waive the right to spousal support in total.

Child support payments cannot be determined in a prenuptial agreement. The court will follow state guidelines to determine the amount.

Who uses prenuptial agreements?
Prenuptial agreements are used by couples in a wide range of financial and personal circumstances. They are commonly used for the simple reason that couples do not want the law to dictate who gets what if the marriage ends. LegalZoom's prenuptial agreement can safeguard assets, protect loved ones, keep a business in the family and streamline divorce proceedings.

In the past, prenuptial agreements were most common among people who were marrying for the second time. A prenuptial allows for the preservation of assets from a previous marriage for any children from that union. This is still a frequent reason for securing a prenuptial agreement.

Another reason for the increase in demand for prenuptial agreements is that many people are marrying later in life for the first time. This means both partners frequently have assets to protect that they do not want to lose in the event of a divorce.

What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into BEFORE marriage. A prenuptial agreement establishes what will happen to you and your spouse's income and assets in case of death, divorce or separation.

Most importantly, prenuptial agreements preserve the nature of each spouse's property in the event the marriage ends. In other words, separate property will remain separate and will not be reclassified as community property or be subject to equitable distribution should the marriage end.

Are prenuptial agreements valid?

The courts typically uphold prenuptial agreements unless one person shows:

  1. The agreement is likely to promote divorce
  2. The agreement was written and signed with the intention of divorcing
  3. One party was forced into signing
  4. The agreement was created unfairly
Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

The answer depends on your specific circumstances. You should seriously consider a prenuptial agreement if any of the following circumstances apply to you:

  1. You have children from a previous marriage
  2. You own a business or are involved in a family company
  3. You each have significant assets
  4. One of you has considerably more assets than the other
  5. You are concerned about your future spouse's significant debt