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Do I need an attorney to make a prenuptial agreement?

UPDATED: February 9, 2020

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To write a pre-nuptial agreement without an attorney is possible, but not advisable. There are a number of legal requirements for a pre-nuptial agreement, or prenup, and such agreements are often challenged in court in the event of a divorce. For this reason, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer and make decisions correctly from the beginning so your rights are protected later.

How can a lawyer help me create a pre-nuptial agreement?

For a premarital agreement to be valid, certain conditions must be met. The law will differ from state to state, but most states have six major conditions.

  • The pre-nuptial agreement must be in writing and must be signed by both parties. 
  • Both spouses have to disclose all their assets, any financial obligations, and their income. Some states allow one party to sign a waiver of full disclosure, but this must be done willingly and knowingly.    
  • Each party must have time to review the provisions of the contract and get legal advice if they so choose before they sign the agreement. 
  • No fraud or duress may be involved and both parties must enter into the contract voluntarily. 

A lawyer can help you make sure the conditions are met. Even better, if both parties have lawyers, neither can argue later that he or she didn't understand the terms of the agreement.

What is the purpose of a pre-nuptial agreement?

Premarital agreements, or pre-nuptial agreements, specify how property, assets, and money will be distributed in the event of a divorce. Some agreements have provisions for providing for the children in the case of death. Others may have provisions that would forfeit assets in the event of adultery but there are some states that do not allow this provision. Other provisions may signify the amount of spousal support that will be received after the divorce. These factors can have a huge impact on your finances, and you need a lawyer to protect your rights.

Sometimes premarital agreements are amended over the years as conditions change and sometimes they are contested. Sometimes the parents or children or a deceased spouse will contest a pre-nuptial agreement to allow probate laws to take effect. To ensure that your agreement isn't thrown out of court on a technicality, a lawyer can help you draft the document according to the rules.

Because of the legal complexities involved and because of the importance of the agreement, hiring a lawyer is highly recommended.

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