Getting Married in Washington? Consider a Prenup

May 16, 2022

So you are getting married and your head is in the clouds; you and your partner are looking forward to spending your lives together. Before you take the leap, you should make sure you are fully prepared for your future. There are many things that you should consider when you are going to get married and signing a Prenup can be a huge part of making sure that you are fully equipped for anything that could happen. Asking your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement can be nerve-wracking for some; you don’t want to make them upset. Although this might be a difficult topic to discuss, if you don’t sign one then you can end up regretting it in the future. There are many horror stories where couples did not opt for the prenup and one of them ends up losing everything when they got a divorce.

If you have never heard of it, a Prenuptial Agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse that states each individual’s rights and responsibilities in regard to premarital and marital assets and debts. It will detail what would happen if the marriage ends in divorce or death, and it is entered prior to getting married. Discussing a prenup with your partner will force you to communicate your financial goals, your attitude about money, spending and saving habits, and any accrued debt and assets obtained before and after the marriage. Financial problems are one of the main causes of separation, so discussing them before you get married will help you build a stronger and long-lasting partnership.

Community Property

Washington is a community property state; this means that all of the items that the couple acquires during the marriage will be considered marital property, and will be distributed equally between each person. One way you can circumvent the effects of this is by signing a prenup. You should consider hiring a lawyer to help you prepare the prenup so that all relevant topics will be included. It is very important to have an understanding of what terms you can and cannot include. In doing so, you will be able to limit how your estate(s) will be divided in the event of a separation, how your debts will be divided, the amount of spousal support you might have to pay, and how your assets will be treated during the divorce. Things can get a little more complicated when it comes to determining child custody and visitation. The court wants to ensure that decisions are in the best interest of the children.

There are many procedural requirements that must be followed when completing the agreement; if these are not accounted for then there may be a dispute in its enforceability later down the road. The first requirement is that the agreement cannot be given to your partner too close to the wedding date. This is because they might be forced into signing it without being prepared because they do not want to cancel the wedding. The agreement must be given to your spouse at least 7 days prior to getting married; although, it is ideal to give it to them much longer before to avoid any arguments about what is in it. The second requirement is that the person who is presenting the agreement should hire an attorney to draft it in advance. The other person who is receiving it should also consult with an attorney; if they do not, then they will have to sign a separate Waiver of Counsel document.

 

Lastly, both parties will need to disclose financial information, which will include their income, assets, and debts to make sure that each of them is making a well-informed decision about their rights based on their spouse’s financial information. The agreement must be fairly written so that one of the individuals will not get the short end of the deal; if it is unreasonable then it might be set aside in court. An example of this is if the agreement says that the wife will get more money if they get a divorce versus staying married; this would be promoting divorce and would likely be thrown out in the courtroom.

Common Reasons for a Prenup

There are many justifiable circumstances that might require a prenup such as you and your partner have already been married, you have children, one of you is wealthier, and one of you has more debt, among many other reasons. If you have been previously married and experienced a difficult divorce, then it is very smart to have a prenup in place so you know what your financial future holds. You are likely aware of the issues that can occur during the divorce process and you will want to make sure to be fully equipped for whatever may come. If you have children then you will want to protect their financial future; for example, you might want to create a living trust or will in case the parent dies.

Another reason you will want to get a prenup is if one of you is wealthier than your partner. This might come into play if one of you is marrying for money; without a prenup in place, then this can create rights for unfair advantage in spousal support or division of property and assets. It is also a good idea to get a prenup if one of you has more debt than the other. Premarital debt will usually be paid by the person who acquired them, whereas marital debt will generally be paid by both parties. If one of the individuals tends to spend a lot of money, and the other does not want to end up paying the bill, then you should definitely sign a prenuptial agreement.

Getting Started

You might be wondering, when should I start the process of a prenup. You should start the process of discussing your prenup as soon as possible when you and your partner decide to get married. You do not want the added stress of discussing your prenup too close to your wedding date; it is best to start finalizing your prenup 30 days prior to getting married.

Bringing the Topic of a Prenup Up

It may be hard for you to bring up the topic of putting a prenup in place, because you may fear that it will do harm to your relationship, or it will offend your spouse. To have a successful marriage, it is very important that you and your partner will be able to discuss important issues and have good communication. When discussing this with your partner, you want to make it clear that it should only be done as a precaution, and that you strongly hope that the issue will never arise in the future. You should always negotiate it in the most loving way possible and with your partner’s best interests in mind. Always be prepared to listen to all of your partner’s concerns and listen well without interruption.

Make sure that you tell your partner about all of your thoughts on the matter, but also be open to new ideas and compromises. By talking about your expectations about money with your partner prior to getting married you both will learn how to understand and support each other’s opinions. If you and your partner have a major disagreement regarding this then it may snowball into a major issue after you are married. Your goal when discussing the prenup is to come to a mutual understanding with your partner.

You might be considering creating a prenup on your own without the help of a lawyer; although you might not be able to understand all of the legal ambiguities of writing an agreement. The enforceability of a prenup that you create yourself will depend on whether it meets all the criteria that local laws require. There are many details that you might overlook if you do not run the agreement by a lawyer. It might not be worth the risk if things end up being incorrect or overlooked, which will end up coming back to haunt you. If you do end up hiring a lawyer then it will cost you money, but it may really save you if you need to use it in the future. The cost to draft a prenup generally runs around $750 across all states. If you need to get your prenup reviewed, then it will cost you about $450. You will likely need to pay an hourly rate to the lawyer writing your prenup; family lawyers charge around $250-$350 per hour. Sometimes, you may be able to find a firm that charges a flat rate to write your prenup.

You also might be wondering if you will be able to set terms for child support and custody in the contract. If you do include this in your prenup then you should know that the courts are not required to enforce it, because the court will make a decision based on the best interests of your children at the time of your divorce. Therefore, this might void the contract; most practitioners do not include child support and custody in prenups.

After reading this, you should have a better understanding of what needs to be done regarding writing a prenuptial agreement. You should consider hiring a lawyer to help you to make sure it is completed successfully. Most couples have no issue when coming up with an agreement; it is very important to discuss issues before you get legally married so there are no grey areas.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at The Aberdeen Law Firm to discuss your case.  We can help you navigate the process for a prenuptial agreement that works for you.

 

Related Article: The Unique Challenges of a High Net Worth Divorce in Washington

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