Prenuptial agreements serve a number of vital purposes in the world of family law. Primarily, their purpose is to avoid lengthy, expensive, and emotionally draining litigation in the event the marriage ultimately fails. One sometimes overlooked advantage of these agreements is the protection they offer for a spouse’s inheritance. If you are contemplating marriage, and especially if you have inherited or expect to inherit property, it’s a good idea to speak with a Massachusetts family law attorney to learn more about the benefits that a prenuptial agreement may provide.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
Not everyone understands what a prenuptial agreement is or why they may need one. But many of those who have gone through costly divorce fights wish they had had a prenuptial agreement at the time they were married. A prenuptial agreement is a contract that soon-to-be spouses sign which dictates, among other matters, how certain issues will be resolved if they later get a divorce. More specifically, a prenuptial agreement may include terms that resolve the division of marital assets and debts during the divorce.
This is where a prenuptial agreement can play an important role in protecting a spouse’s inheritance. One concern a spouse may have at the beginning of the marriage is that an inheritance he or she has received, or will receive during the life of the marriage, may end up becoming marital property. Marital property generally includes all property which is acquired by either spouse during their marriage and which is subject to equitable distribution at divorce. Massachusetts divorces are controlled by equitable distribution principles which aim to achieve a fair (not necessarily equal) division of marital property.
Why Would I Need a Prenuptial Agreement to Protect My Inheritance?
In a Massachusetts divorce, the Probate and Family Court has jurisdiction to assign to either spouse “all or any part of the estate of the other”. This includes all “benefits, rights and funds accrued during the marriage”. Massachusetts divorce law requires an equitable distribution that focuses on factors including the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and the amount and duration of alimony, if any.
When the marriage is short-term, an equitable division usually approximates both spouses keeping the property with which they entered the marriage. However, with longer-term marriages, an equitable division generally, but not always, approximates an equal division of property between the spouses. Depending on the circumstances, a spouse with lower earning potential or greater need may be awarded a larger share of the marital assets, even if the other spouse was the primary earner during the marriage.
How SederLaw Can Help You
Drafting an enforceable prenuptial agreement is something that is best left to a skilled attorney. There are both substantive and procedural requirements that have to be followed, including required financial disclosures between the future spouses. Failure to abide by these requirements could allow the other spouse to one day challenge the prenuptial agreement in court.
Our knowledgeable Massachusetts family law attorneys can explain to you the advantages of a prenuptial agreement and get to work drafting an agreement that will protect your rights now and down the road. To find out more, contact our Family Law and Probate attorneys.