What Are Prenuptial Agreements?

Prenuptial agreements are contracts between people who intend to marry ("spouses-to-be") in which they agree upon how to divide property and provide for spousal support in the event of divorce or legal separation and to protect each person’s estate upon death.

Prenuptial agreements are valid in Tennessee and have been provided by statute since 1980. There are limits to what a prenuptial agreement can control in the event of a divorce or legal separation but the significant benefits, particularly in probate, outweigh those limits.

Who should consider a prenuptial agreement?

Anyone who has accumulated significant assets, a business, land or has children from a previous relationship should consider a prenuptial agreement. If you are getting married later in life, it is more important to consider such a prenuptial agreement.

Some reject the idea of using a prenuptial agreement as "planning for failure," but a properly prepared prenuptial agreement protects both spouses-to-be and gives their extended families security and confidence that their parent’s legacy will not be lost.

Why you should consider the prenuptial agreement?

The protection of inheritance rights of children from a previous relationship or other preferred heirs is often the most important motivation for signing a prenuptial agreement. In Tennessee, as in most states, a surviving spouse has first priority over other heirs in probate, even if there is a Will that provides otherwise. A surviving spouse’s rights can override the dictates of a Will and if exercised, he or she can often take the majority of the estate.

This result is ordinarily NOT what the couple intends when they decide to marry. Instead, most couples with children from previous relationships want to provide for their children fairly. A valid prenuptial agreement allows the couple to do just that. A prenuptial agreement allows the prospective married couple to plan for death as well as divorce and preserve their legacy for their children.

When should you consider a prenuptial agreement?

Prenuptial agreements must be negotiated and signed well in advance of the wedding date. The law requires that both spouses have time to review the agreement and consult with independent legal counsel so that each can make a fully informed decision without undue pressure. Discussions about a prenuptial agreement should begin early so that both spouses-to-be can be fully informed of the benefits of the agreement and how it may affect them and their heirs.

Where can you get more information about prenuptial agreements?

Prenuptial agreements can create or limit very important rights and responsibilities. Don’t leave your and your children’s future to chance and, "hope it all works out." Call me for more information regarding whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you. If you have been presented with a proposed prenuptial agreement, call me to review it and I will explain how it affects your rights and responsibilities.