Pre-nuptial Agreements in Washington State
A pre-nuptial agreement (prenupt) can be much more than a contract that defines asset distribution if you divorce. Prenupts can be useful planning tools to help your family avoid conflict down the road. Spouses may also execute a post-nuptial agreement after they marry. If you’re thinking about drafting a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement, here are a few things you should know:
Separate and Community Property
Spouses may own property before marriage, or receive property through gift or inheritance during the marriage. These classes of property are generally referred to as a spouse’s “separate property.” “Community property” is generally property acquired or money saved from earned income during a marriage.
In some states, separate property is always awarded to the spouse who owned the property before marriage or came to own it through gift or inheritance during their marriage. This is not the case in Washington state. In some cases in Washington state, even if a spouse keeps assets clearly segregated to help preserve the asset as separate property, the court may still award those separate assets to a spouse during a divorce or separation trial. Washington state law provides that all assets, both separate and community, are before the court for division in a divorce and those assets are to be divided in a fair and equitable manner. There is no definition of what this means, and the definition of “fair and equitable” may vary widely from one judge to another and one county in Washington state to another. A prenuptial agreement generally gives more certainty to the process than simply segregating separate accounts or assets and hoping this will secure separate property in a divorce.
Prenuptial Agreements for Asset Protection
Pre-nuptial agreements are not 100% reliable as a means of protecting earnings or ownership of property in Washington state. Washington courts have developed a body of case law to ensure that prenuptial agreements are fair. If certain procedures are not followed in signing a prenupt agreement, and enforcing the agreement results in an unfair distribution of income and/or assets to one spouse, then the court may refuse to enforce the terms of the prenuptial agreement.
Integrative Family Law can help you understand the requirements for an enforceable prenuptial agreement in Washington state. We draft prenup agreements in accordance with the most up to date legal precedents in the state and will do our best to make sure your agreement is enforceable.
What issues can a prenuptial agreement address?
Prenuptial agreements often include estate planning provisions, which direct what will happen to assets upon the death of a spouse. Prenuptial agreements can include provisions for a wide range of issues, including but not limited to:
- Rights to property owned prior to marriage
- Rights to property acquired while married or living together
- How each spouse’s income will be characterized after marriage
- Asset and debt distribution during marriage, divorce, or death
- Rights to buy, lease or sell property
- Management of a family business
- Rights to alimony, spousal support or other payments of money from one spouse/partner to another if you divorce or separate
- Entitlement to death benefits from life insurance policies
- Children’s inheritance rights
- Financial responsibilities of each party
- Agreements regarding whether or not the couple will try to have children
- Agreements regarding who will work if the couple has children
- Protection for intangible assets, such as patents, special degrees and special abilities of a spouse
Pre-nuptial Agreement Negotiations
If you’ve been asked to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that you don’t understand or that you don’t feel is fair, we can help you negotiate the contract and make sure your future interests are protected to the fullest extent possible. If you have assets you seek to protect through a prenuptial agreement we can help you make sure your prenuptial agreement is executed properly and gives the highest security of being found enforceable by a court.
Call Integrative Family Law for Help Planning Your Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements must be drafted and executed by a skilled, thorough, and knowledgeable attorney to make enforcement more likely. If you’re already married, Washington state allows post-nuptial agreements that function the same was prenupts. Call 206-859-6800 or email us at email@example.com to schedule an appointment with a skilled family law attorney in Seattle.
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Nothing on this page is intended as legal advice for an individual.
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