Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement (sometimes called a "prenup") is a contract executed by two romantic partners prior to their marriage. Normally, the prenuptial agreement is utilized in order to alter one or more of the laws of Pennsylvania which may apply to a divorcing couple after their marriage.

Traditionally, prenuptial agreements have been perceived negatively. Some people think prenuptial agreements are just for couples who are planning to get divorced before they even are married. This is far from the truth. In reality, prenuptial agreements can be very beneficial. For example, while the types of laws normally impacted by prenuptial agreements include property, economic (e.g., spousal support/alimony), and divorce rights, such agreements can also address intestacy rights (i.e., how property is distributed upon death). Because prenuptial agreements can address intestacy rights, this type of agreement can be an integral part of estate planning and an absolute necessity for some couples, especially couples where one or both partners have children from outside the relationship. For these couples, failing to have a prenuptial agreement that alters the default intestacy laws, under certain realistic circumstances, could result in none of an individual's life savings going to that person's children, contrary to his or her wishes.

Many other couples find it beneficial to address property and economic rights in advance. Some studies actually show the couples with a prenuptial agreement, as a group, have a lower rate of divorce. One benefit to a prenuptial agreement is that it forces both partners to consider and address important issues including each partner's financial expectations, views on household responsibilities, financial health (including credit history), and long-term goals, prior to getting married. Additionally, even the greatest marriages, at one point or another, experience turbulence. By having a prenuptial agreement during those turbulent times, the couple is more free to focus on the underlying issues without the distraction of, and need for, defensively positioning finances "in case it does not work out."

In terms of securing a prenuptial agreement, it is important to know that Pennsylvania law also requires a complete disclosure of both sides' assets and liabilities prior to the execution of the agreement in order for the agreement to be enforceable. As a result, at a minimum, both sides should be given the opportunity to request disclosure of each other's assets and liabilities or be prepared to waive the right to a full disclosure. The disclosure requirement can be perilous if not shown proper respect. A person seeking to enforce the prenuptial agreement may run into problems if he or she failed to properly disclose an asset or liability, even if it was a mistake. In the alternative, a person seeking to void the prenuptial agreement because the other spouse has hidden assets or liabilities may be unable to do so depending on the presence and validity of a waiver in the agreement. Therefore, an improperly negotiated and drafted prenuptial agreement can carry significant risks and cause unintended consequences.

Given the risks inherent with a prenuptial agreement negotiated and drafted without an attorney, it is always recommended that someone considering or confronted with a prenuptial agreement secure legal counsel. At Wolf, Baldwin and Associates, P.C., our lawyers understand the importance and value of prenuptial agreements. We will take the time to review with you the process for securing a prenuptial agreement, as well as the way your particular agreement will impact and alter the default laws of the Commonwealth. We also work hard to compassionately comprehend your unique circumstances and needs. Once we understand your goals, we will strive to negotiate and craft a prenuptial agreement tailored to those specific goals while being respectful of the fact that you are will soon be married to the person "on the other side of the table." Contact one of our Pennsylvania prenup lawyers today.