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Prenuptial Agreements: Do You Need One?

When you plan your wedding, you intend to be married forever. Your wedding vows include a pledge till death do you part, so you are right to think that your marriage will last. Unfortunately, many marriages come to an end through divorce. Although you do not think it is likely, it is best to ensure that you are prepared, just in case. When a marriage comes to an end, it can be quite acrimonious, and couples may have major disagreements regarding how to divide their assets and property. A prenuptial agreement is a way to protect your assets and ensure that you can uncouple more civilly if you decide to divorce.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, commonly called a prenup, is a contract between a couple before they get married. Part of the divorce process requires a couple to make decisions regarding the many settlement issues. The prenup is a document that generally outlines how assets and debts are to be distributed in the event the couple divorces. It should also address other issues as well, such as spousal support. The agreement is something that the parties agree to before they tie the knot. It is a contract, and when properly drafted and executed, it is legally binding.

Do You Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many people are under the false belief that prenuptial agreements are only for the rich or famous. In reality, anyone of any social or economic status can benefit from the use of a prenup. Prenups are actually more common than you may think. Although it is always in your best interest to obtain a prenup prior to marriage, some couples may feel that the document turns a romantic event into a business deal. Prenuptial agreements are designed to protect both parties and may make uncoupling less stressful if the spouses decide to terminate their union later.

Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

There are benefits that both parties may have when they put a prenuptial agreement in place. A prenup offers a resolution to the settlement terms of a divorce. The prenup addresses these issues and makes the separation and divorce of a couple easier and less stressful.

  • Clarification of Finances - Married couples often intertwine their finances. As a result, it can sometimes become unclear as to which assets should belong to which party if the couple goes their separate ways. A prenup provides a definition of finances and how they are to be distributed in a divorce.

  • Protects Each Party’s Property - Couples who own property prior to marriage will want to ensure that they will keep it if the marriage ends. Generally, both parties enter a marriage with personal property, but ownership can become blurry when couples begin to share their assets.

  • Addresses Issues of Spousal Support - Spousal support, also called alimony, is money that one spouse pays to the other after divorce. Support is typically provided to one party in order to ensure they are able to continue to live the same lifestyle as they did during marriage. It is helpful to address spousal support as part of a prenup.

  • Helps Preserve Marital Assets - After they are married, couples often begin to improve their financial situations. In some cases, they could lose some of what they have worked so hard for if they start to argue over finances in a divorce. A prenup can assist in the preservation of marital assets.

  • Improves Communication - Communicating with your spouse during divorce can be challenging. However, with a prenuptial agreement in place, couples have already ironed out most or all of the issues, and therefore, they will likely have better communication throughout the process.

  • Reduces Disagreements - Even the most friendly of divorces can turn acrimonious in the blink of an eye. A prenup is one way to reduce the potential for disputes since the couple has already come to an agreement regarding the most important matters in a divorce.

Requirements for a Prenuptial Agreement in Washington

A prenuptial agreement is a contract. As such, it is subject to some legal requirements in order to be valid. If you fail to include the important legal points necessary, one party may challenge it later. One of the most important requirements of a prenuptial agreement in Washington is that it must be in writing. Verbal discussions or agreements do not make a prenup. Both parties must agree to and sign the prenup agreement voluntarily. The prenup cannot be made under force, duress, intimidation, or deceit. It is best to seek legal guidance to ensure that you create a valid prenuptial agreement.

What Should I Include in a Prenuptial Agreement?

There are a number of matters that you will want to address and include in a prenup. You will want to list and define your premarital property as well as how to divide marital property. Discuss how to resolve marital debt in case of a divorce. If a party has debt going into the marriage, you should also define how that will be paid. If you have children from a previous relationship or marriage, discuss their needs.

Consider issues that come up with inheritances and retirement. If you have a business, you will need to define how to smoothly divide the business. Include all matters that would need to be resolved in a divorce. You may also consider including a sunset clause. This means that the agreement will end after a specific length of successful marriage. A skilled attorney will assist you in creating a prenuptial document that meets all your current and future needs.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Enforceable?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two parties. As such, it is enforceable as long as the contract is made in a legal manner. A party may be able to challenge a prenup under some circumstances. For example, if one party lied about their finances, it could mean that the agreement was signed under false pretenses. When one party forces the other to sign a prenup using pressure or force, the other party may claim that it is not valid. For these reasons, you will want to have a qualified attorney draft or review the document prior to signing it.

A couple may choose to sign a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage to protect ownership of individual assets and govern other financial aspects of the relationship. To learn more about prenuptial agreements, contact our experienced legal team at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 222-6327 today.

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