Are you wondering what a prenuptial agreement is and whether you should have one in your estate plan? In simple terms, a prenuptial agreement is a contract between two parties who intend to marry. This contract will outline exactly what property the parties agree to keep as separate, non-marital property and how that property will be divided in the event of a dissolution of the marriage or the death of a spouse. Now, we realize that the prenuptial agreement sometimes has a negative connotation but entering into a prenuptial agreement does not necessarily mean you do not have faith in your upcoming marriage or want to plan for a divorce. We want to share with you two reasons why a prenuptial agreement is important.
One of the primary reasons why couples enter into prenuptial agreements is that they want to outline how their property will pass when they die if they have children outside the marriage. In most states, if you have a surviving spouse, you cannot leave all of your estate to your children. It does not matter what your will says; the surviving spouse typically can elect to disregard the will and inherit up to one-half of the estate, depending on the state’s laws. A prenuptial agreement governing the distribution of assets can help to ensure that your property passes to your children and surviving spouse in the proportions that you desire rather than the proportions outlined in your state’s laws.
A second reason for entering into a prenuptial agreement is that you want to dictate to whom you wish to leave valuable assets acquired prior to the marriage. If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, those assets may become part of your estate that can be inherited by your spouse upon your death. If your desire is to leave those assets to someone other than your spouse, your will or trust alone may not be enough because of the rights given to spouses under the laws of most states. Therefore, including that information in a prenuptial agreement can help ensure those assets pass in the way in which you intend.
If you are marrying, or remarrying, make sure you consult an attorney experienced in these issues so that you can be certain you incorporate a prenuptial agreement into your estate planning, if it is prudent to do so. Our office can guide a family through their estate planning options. Our Stuart estate planning lawyers take a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your estate plan for the rest of your life. Please contact our office to learn more.