Everything You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements in Pennsylvania
You may hear it called a premarital agreement, an antenuptial agreement, a marriage contract or even a “prenup” for short. The purpose of such a document is to settle financial matters in advance of the event of either a divorce or death.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about prenuptial agreements in Pennsylvania!
What is the point of a prenuptial agreement?
A prenup can also protect assets that may be acquired by either party throughout marriage, so that in the event of divorce, those assets may remain the sole property of one spouse. There are many ways to structure a prenuptial agreement, and its use is not limited to the wealthy. Many couples can benefit from a prenup depending on their circumstances and desires.
The difference between a prenup and a cohabitation agreement
If a couple is only living together with no intention of getting married, they can only enter into a cohabitation agreement. However, if a couple is planning on getting married soon, such as if they are engaged or are planning their wedding, then they can enter into a prenuptial agreement.
Pros and cons of premarital agreement
By entering into a premarital agreement before marriage, you may feel more secure about your financial situation and the protection of assets. A prenup can also provide a “clean slate” so all parties are understanding of what is shared and what will remain separate as far as finances, assets, and even debt. It’s a common misconception that prenups are designed to primarily protect one party, when rather both parties can stand to benefit from a well-drafted prenuptial agreement.
Conversely, prenups may make couples more concerned with finances than their personal relationship and commitment to one another. It can shift thinking, before marriage even takes place, to the real possibility that the relationship will end in divorce. Ironically, the marriage becomes more concerned with money after a prenup than it would have been without the prenup.
Can a prenup in PA protect future income?
A prenuptial agreement can protect future earnings. For example, if a spouse enters marriage with little to no assets, but then starts a business, takes over a family business, or acquires assets, a well-drafted prenuptial agreement may allow the spouse to keep the asset as his or her separate property in the event of a divorce. While future earnings can be protected, so can future debts be avoided.
What should you include in a prenuptial agreement?
Marital Property vs Separate Property
Your prenuptial agreement should clearly distinguish between marital assets and separate property. Marital property includes assets the couple acquired throughout the marriage, while separate property includes assets which a spouse owned before getting married or assets which were gifted or given through inheritance.
Debt Liability Limitations
You may also wish to include protections against the debts of the other spouse. Limiting your debt liability, instead of having each spouse owe half of everything, can substantially limit the stress of a divorce.
Alimony (Spousal Support)
In most marriages, the lower-earning spouse may be entitled to alimony payments from the higher-earning spouse. A prenup can help impose certain spousal support provisions or even waive a spouse’s right to a prenup by including an alimony waiver.
Inheritance & Child Support
You can use a prenup to ensure that your children from a previous relationship will inherit some of your property, thus preventing accidental disinheritance.
It is important to note that child support cannot be waived by way of a prenup as parties are not allowed to bargain away the rights of their children.
Prenups are also a great estate-planning tool, ensuring that your plan is fulfilled to your wishes. Keep in mind, you must also create wills, living trusts, and other estate documents to protect your family’s future.
Finally, a prenuptial agreement may include descriptions of each spouse’s responsibilities, such as who will take care of the household expenses, how joint bank accounts are managed, the contributions of each spouse to the savings account, and even how disputes are handled.
How long before a wedding should you get a prenup?
Ideally, the process for getting a premarital agreement should be started at least 2-3 months in advance of the wedding. If you feel you may have a complicated agreement with many considerations, then starting even sooner is a good idea.
How much does a prenup cost in Pennsylvania?
The average cost of creating a prenuptial agreement is typically $2,500, but can greatly vary depending upon your financial situation and what all you wish to address in the agreement. Couples should expect to pay at least $1,200 and that’s if your finances are fairly straightforward. The cost of a prenup can also depend on where you live and the law firm you use.
Can a prenuptial agreement be voided in Pennsylvania?
Prenuptial agreements may include a sunset clause which voids the agreement when your marriage lasts a certain amount of time.This clause can instore trust in your marriage and faith in your spouse that you believe the marriage will be a long and happy one and therefore the prenup will no longer be necessary.
One other scenario is that a prenuptial agreement is deemed not enforceable in Pennsylvania if the party opposing the agreement can establish, by clear and convincing evidence that the party did not execute the agreement voluntarily. Lack of full disclosure of assets is also a reason that a prenup can be voided. Finally, proof of duress or coercion to sign a prenup can also be a reason it may be voided.
Can a prenuptial agreement ruin my relationship?
Many couples worry that entering into marriage with a prenuptial agreement is assuming the relationship will ultimately end in divorce. One common question is, “Are couples with prenups more likely to divorce?” The answer is there is no substantial evidence that shows that marriages with a prenuptial agreement divorce any more frequently than those without one. The divorce rate is based on an immeasurable number of factors, a prenup being only one of them.
Additionally, couples may wonder, “Does prenup mean no trust?” Even marriages without a prenuptial agreement may lack trust. Having one does not indicate you trust your future spouse any less, it simply means you wish to have certain aspects of your finances and assets kept separate, and in many instances this can be to the benefit of both parties.
Can I do a prenup without a lawyer?
Like most legal matters, it is strongly advised to work with an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney to assist you with creating your prenuptial agreement. While it’s both legal and possible to create one without a lawyer involved, it could present many challenges and pitfalls that could impact both parties in the future. A lawyer knows how to properly structure a prenup so it is fair and in your best interest. They can also help identify blind spots and loopholes you want to avoid. Additionally, for a prenup to be legal and binding, it must be placed in writing and signed by both parties.
One additional consideration is that it’s smart for parties to have separate legal counsel for a prenuptial agreement. This means that each spouse should have their own individual family law attorney. The attorneys also have to be from separate law firms. This helps address the perception of a conflict of interest, much like divorcing couples.
How the Family Lawyers at Colgan and Associates can help you
Our team of trusted family lawyers and divorce attorneys at Colgan & Associates stand ready to assist with your family law matter, including prenuptial agreements. We proudly offer no-cost phone consultations to individuals hoping to better understand their circumstances and how we may be able to assist you. If you or someone you know is planning to get married in Pennsylvania and would like more information on prenuptial agreements, please reach out to our family law attorneys today at tel:(717) 502-5000