Couples who are engaged to be married expect to enjoy a lifetime of happiness. No one enters into a marriage expecting to be divorced one day, just as no one expects to have illness, job termination or other unfortunate events. Still, these things happen quite frequently, which is why most prudent people have insurance. Dealing with a setback in life is easier when you have a contingency plan. That’s where a prenuptial agreement may come in.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement (or premarital agreement) is an agreement between prospective spouses that deals with their property rights in the event of death, divorce or both. Prenuptial agreements may determine which property and debts should be divided upon divorce, which property should be excluded, which property should be excluded from the probate estate when one of the spouses dies, whether alimony should be paid upon divorce or separation and if so, how much and how long. Some states, including Pennsylvania, allow spouses to enter into prenuptial agreements after they are married (commonly called postnuptial agreements). Some states do not enforce postnuptial agreements, and some foreign countries enforce neither prenuptial nor postnuptial agreements.

A well-designed prenuptial agreement protects the health of your marriage as well as your property and income in the event of divorce. Prenuptial agreements spell out in advance the future consequences of a separation, divorce, disability or death, and they can reduce the stress and expense incurred if any of those come to pass, giving you peace of mind in your marriage. When you come to us with questions about prenuptial agreements, we take into account the goals of your marriage. At Pollock Begg, we approach our prenuptial agreements by looking for the ways in which they will promote the longevity of your marriage. We’ve fostered good relationships with other family law attorneys in our area, and this can make the process of negotiating a prenuptial agreement both friendly and purposeful.

What does a prenuptial agreement cover?

Prenuptial agreements can be used to:

  • provide for children from a previous marriage;
  • show your future spouse how he or she will be taken care of if anything happens to you;
  • protect a family or closely held business from being tied up in legal proceedings;
  • carry out your wishes for property acquired before the marriage;
  • make it easier for both parties to stay in the marriage through tough times by providing greater benefits to a surviving spouse than a divorcing spouse;
  • plan for tax implications.

What is full and fair disclosure?

One of the most important elements of a prenuptial agreement in Pennsylvania is known as full and fair disclosure, which is necessary to create an enforceable agreement. Prenuptial agreements may contain complete waivers of all rights incident to divorce, or they may be limited to certain assets or issues. A Pennsylvania divorce lawyer can help to choose the best options for the particular circumstances of a client.

Often the negotiation process for a prenuptial agreement will engender a healthy discussion relative to how a couple will manage their day to day finances, their financial and personal goals and their expectations for their life together. These discussions are the kind that need to take place in anticipation of marriage regardless of whether a prenuptial agreement is intended.

A prenuptial agreement may be one of the most important documents you ever sign. It might affect your property rights to real estate, retirement assets, investments, vehicles, tangible personal property, debts and alimony obligations in the future. Your entire net worth could be affected by a prenuptial agreement, so it is important to ensure your agreement is carefully drafted, complete, accurate and well-considered.

You’ll want to consider a prenuptial agreement if you’re working hard to create or are inheriting a business or property that will be dramatically increasing in value over the course of your marriage, if you have children from a previous marriage, if you plan to marry someone who is significantly above or below your financial bracket, or if you have a family or closely held business you want to keep out of any divorce litigation.

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