Marriage is an exciting time for couples as they begin to plan for their future together. However, it can also be difficult to openly and honestly answer many questions which will arise with your partner. This is particularly the case when it comes to financial security, if the marriage ends in divorce. With the rising trend of people putting off marriage until later in life, individuals have more assets which they accrued before marriage. Without some written agreement in place, these premarital assets may be considered in a divorce settlement.
This is why prenuptial agreements are becoming more common; it makes it clear to a court which assets are off limits when assets are divided equitably amongst the parties. For instance, a common misconception is that separately held bank/credit card accounts are not automatically subject to distribution in a settlement. These accounts can become “co-mingled,” or, if the value grows during the marriage that aspect of the account can be considered marital property. This also applies if you have inheritance and the value of that increases during the duration of the marriage.
Courts in Pennsylvania have become more lenient when it comes to evaluating the validity of prenuptial agreements. The prenuptial agreement protects individuals from losing assets that might be important to them. The agreement must be entered into with transparency and without duress or fraudulent behavior (such as not disclosing all of the assets and debts to your partner before entering into the agreement). Overall, prenuptial agreements are a means to provide peace of mind to potential partners entering into marriage.
What could your prenuptial agreement include?
- Real Property (properties owned including houses, apartments, rental properties, and land)
- Assignment of debt
- Ownership of businesses, along with their respective debts and assets, that might have been started before or during the marriage
- Estate planning such as wills (ex. who can execute the will) and trusts
- Financial accounts such as bank, investment and retirement accounts
- Gifts or inheritance
As previously stated, prenuptial agreements have been viewed favorably by the courts so long as both parties understand the terms of the agreement. The terms must be clear and unambiguous. Once an agreement is finalized, the court treats prenuptial agreements as a binding contract; in other words, it’s very difficult to get out of them unless you can prove that the agreement was not entered in good faith (such is the case with any written contract).
It is important to have an experienced attorney guide you through this process in order to ensure that both sides have equal input, that all of your debts and assets are openly discussed prior to entering into an agreement, and that one side didn’t unfairly benefit from the agreement.
If you are interested in finding out more information about prenuptial agreements and how they might benefit you, please contact the THOMAS SMITH FIRM, P.C., at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-860-3747.
3 Simeone v. Simeone, 581 A. 2d 162, 525 Pa. 392 (1990)4 In re O’Brien, 898 A.2d 1075, 2006 PA Super 93 (2005)