Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement (or a "prenup" for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically details all of the property each person owns (as well as any debts) and specifies what each person's property rights will be after the marriage if a separation/divorce occurs.

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The Importance of a Prenup

If a prenuptial agreement isn’t processed, your state's laws determine who owns the property that you acquire during your marriage, as well as what happens to that property at divorce or death. State law could even have a say in what happens to some of the property you owned before you were married.

Under the law, marriage is a contract between the marrying couple, and with that contract comes certain automatic property rights for each spouse. For example, in the absence of a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise, a spouse usually has the right to:

  • Share ownership of property acquired during marriage, with the expectation that the property will be divided between the spouses in the event of a divorce or at death

  • Incur debts during marriage that the other spouse may have to pay for, and

  • Share in the management and control of any marital or community property, sometimes including the right to sell it or give it away.