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Why not just call them divorce agreements?

When many people hear the term prenuptial agreement, the tendency is to think of them as basically divorce agreements—especially agreements that deal with the issue of property division. While it is true that financial planning for the contingency of divorce is a major reason people enter into these agreements, this is not the only possible use for these documents.

Prenuptial agreements can also protect a spouse from responsibility for the other spouse’s debts. Creditors are able to collect on joint debts from either spouse, but parties are able to assign sole liability to one party by means of a prenuptial agreement. This will not change the ability of the creditor to collect the debt from a joint debtor, but it will give the non-responsible party the ability to enforce reimbursement in court. 

Prenuptial agreements are also increasingly being used as estate planning tools by helping to keep property in the family and by allowing one to provide for children from previous relationships. Prenups can do these things because they effectively trump many default laws dealing with property entitlement.

Another important possibility for prenuptial agreements is that they can also be used to spell out the responsibilities each party has during the marriage. In other words, they can be used to help couples come up with a game plan for which they can hold each other accountable. Such plans may deal with each party’s responsibility for, involvement in and entitlement to: separate businesses; retirement benefits; household bills and expenses; credit card spending and payments; and contributions to higher education.

There are other possibilities, but this should be enough to convey the idea that prenuptial agreements are really quite versatile. Of course, it is important that couples contemplating a prenuptial agreement work with separate attorneys to ensure not only that their rights are protected, but that their interests are well represented in any prenuptial agreement. 

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Why not just call them divorce agreements? | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC