Prenuptial agreements are documents that state which material goods individual members of a couple will retain in the event of a divorce and what they will split between them. As legal documents, they must be precisely worded, but it is possible to draft your own and have it validated by a notary public. Also known as material property agreements and prenups, they can be useful for anyone, regardless of net worth.
Determine Property Ownership
Discuss a prenuptial agreement with your soon-to-be-spouse before drafting one. If needed, you may choose to involve a mediator to explain the terms and necessity of a prenuptial agreement. Discuss the different aspects of your upcoming marriage as they pertain to matters of finances and property.
Writing Your Prenuptial Agreement
Write the agreement as clearly as possible to increase the chances of your prenuptial agreement being accepted by a court if it is ever needed. Indicate who will pay debts incurred during the marriage and how joint assets acquired during the marriage should be divided in the event of a divorce. The agreement should also outline who will get the house, how bank accounts will be split and specify the division of other investments and assets.
The prenuptial agreement can also include details pertaining to any potential alimony or spousal support and can detail estate planning measures. While state laws can prohibit you from disinheriting a spouse, a prenup may override this, as it takes affect before the marriage.
Making a Prenuptial Agreement Binding
Each partner should take the prenuptial agreement to separate lawyers to get a fair and legal appraisal of the terms. Depending on which state you live in, if you did not each have a different lawyer to represent each of you and the agreement is not concisely written, the agreement may not be binding. If the lawyers suggest changes, heed their advice.
For the prenuptial agreement to be valid, both parties must agree to the terms within the agreement, both parties must disclose their true personal information and both parties must sign the agreement with a notary public present.
Sign the Prenuptial Agreement as Early as Possible
Make sure that you wait an appropriate amount of time between having the prenuptial agreement signed and the wedding day. While laws can vary with each state, signing a prenup the morning before your wedding is seldom appropriate. In California, you must generally have seven days to think about the agreement before getting married.