What are Premarital Agreements?

Premarital agreements, also popularly called prenuptial agreements or prenups, is an agreement between two people before marriage. According to the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, P.C. website, premarital agreements are a necessary evil in some cases where finances may be a sensitive area. In California, premarital agreements are “enforceable without consideration” subject to the rules set in Family Code Section 1610-1617.

Under California law, a premarital agreement has to be in writing, signed by both parties and has an effective date the same as the official date of marriage. The agreement may include the rights and obligations of each party regarding:

  • Real property, including disposition in the event of a divorce or death
  • Other property and assets, including disposition in the event of a divorce or death
  • Life insurance policies
  • Child and spousal support

A premarital agreement may be revoked or amended through a written agreement by both spouses and is likewise “enforceable without consideration.” A premarital agreement may become unenforceable if:

  • The signature of one spouse was obtained under duress, undue influence or fraud
  • Reasonable and full disclosure of property and financial obligations were not supplied by one party
  • Independent legal counsel was not sought regarding the terms of the agreement because the time period between the presentation of the agreement and signing was less than 7 days
  • One party did not fully understand the terms and consequences of the agreement

A premarital agreement is an invaluable legal instrument that will protect the rights and properties of both spouses if it is executed fairly, reasonably and with full disclosure. Like with any other legally binding contract, however, it is advisable to have a lawyer go over a premarital agreement prior to signing to ensure there is full understanding of its consequences for both parties. A lawyer would also be able to make any changes to the agreement which will make it a more acceptable legal protective instrument.