What Does It Mean To Sign A Prenuptial Agreement?

Family Law Attorneys Helping Washington Couples with Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by prospective spouses before the wedding, which details each person’s rights, responsibilities, and expectations if divorce occurs or if one of the spouses dies. A well-drafted prenup can help bring the spouses closer together by encouraging communication and clarifying expectations.

Because a prenuptial agreement is a legal contract that alters certain rights or expectations, it is vital to understand the responsibilities you take on when you sign one.

What to Know Before You Sign Your Prenup

1. A prenuptial agreement is a legal contract.

The same attention should be paid to creating a prenup as is paid to creating any other type of contract, such as a contract to buy or sell real estate. When each person has their own lawyer, they gain the experienced representation they need to ensure the prenup is negotiated fairly and drafted according to the requirements of Washington law.

2. A prenuptial agreement has limits.

A prenup can be used for a number of important tasks. For instance, it can ensure that on the death of one spouse, that spouse’s assets go to his or her children from a previous marriage, rather than to the current living spouse. It can also outline what assets will remain the separate property of one spouse and what assets will be community property.

However, a prenuptial agreement cannot be used to change certain other requirements of Washington law. For instance, a prenup cannot absolve one parent of paying child support if the couple divorces. It cannot dictate who should have custody of children who have not been born yet. And it cannot do anything that would encourage or promote the couple’s divorce, such as stating that one spouse can get a divorce if the other does (or fails to do) a certain thing.

3. Connecting your prenup to your estate planning is often a smart move.

For older couples in particular, creating a prenuptial agreement that supports your estate plan is often a wise move. A prenuptial agreement can include provisions for college funds, trusts for children or grandchildren, or support for a disabled adult child, in addition to spelling out other expectations between the married couple. However, those provisions must also be incorporated into your estate plan.

4. No prenup can be made under duress – and “duress” may be broader than you think.

As a rule, a contract is void if one of the parties made it under duress, instead of entering it of their own free will. Many cases involving prenuptial agreements bring up the question of duress. Common factors that make a court more likely to find that duress exists include:

  • The spouse claiming duress did not have legal representation when the prenup was signed.
  • The spouse claiming duress is heavily disadvantaged by the terms of the prenup.
  • The prenup was signed too close to the wedding date–for instance, it was signed the day of the wedding or the day before.

The best way to protect both spouses against future duress claims is to ensure that each person has their own attorney whom they trust and that the agreement is created and signed well before the actual wedding. Taking the necessary time to create a strong, accurate, and legal prenuptial agreement also frees both newlyweds to enjoy their wedding day, knowing they’ve already taken care of many essential matters.

An Experienced Washington Family Law Attorney Can Help

If you’re considering creating a prenuptial agreement or you’re thinking about signing one, it’s important to consult an experienced lawyer who can help ensure your legal rights are protected and that the agreement accurately represents your intentions and interests. At Bolan Law Group., our Washington family law attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients with their legal needs. Call us today at (253) 470-2356 or fill out our short online contact form to learn more.

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