Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Prenuptial and postmarital agreements each establish financial and property
rights of spouses for their marriage. But the prenuptial agreement is signed
before the marriage begins, and the postmarital agreement is signed after
the marriage begins.
Many people regard these agreements as devices to protect the assets of a
wealthy spouse from the other spouse in a divorce. But that is only one
possible use for these agreements.
More often than not, these agreements protect the assets of both spouses
not from each other but from creditors, whether one spouse has more
wealth than the other or not. For example, a lawsuit against one spouse will
likely not affect the property and income of the other spouse,if the
properties and income of the couple are completely separate.
Tax liabilities and business debts of one spouse will also likely not affect the
property and income of the other spouse, if the proper prenuptial or
postmarital agreement is in place.
These agreements can be useful in second marriages, too. Perhaps one or
both spouses wish to protect property for the benefit of children of prior
In addition, prenuptial and postmarital agreements will minimize legal
expenses in the event of death or divorce. It's better to make sure in
advance that your property will go where you want it to go, instead of
paying attorneys to decide the issues later
Couples are free to draft the terms of their agreement in a variety of ways.
They can characterize any of their property or income to be "separate,"
which means it is owned individually, or "community," which means it is
owned jointly. They simply need to designate the particular assets or income
as "separate" or "community" in the agreement.
The couple can designate property acquired in the past and property to be
acquired in the future. They can designate income from the past and income
from the future.
How much will the prenuptial or postmarital agreement cost? It depends on
the complexity of the case. But the cost of the agreement will be far less
than the cost of not having the agreement when it is needed in the future.
Some people think it is unromantic to have an agreement that establishes
separate ownership of various assets and income. But isn't it wise for each
spouse to protect the other spouse from possible creditor problems in the
future? With the proper agreement, if the husband is sued, his wife's assets
will likely be protected. If the wife is sued, her husband's assets will likely be