Washington is a community property state. Generally, after two, ten, or even twenty years of marriage, Washington courts will strive to ensure an equitable distribution of property and debt acquired during the marriage. More specifically, this means that all income, credit card debts, stocks, and other retirement benefits accrued since you were married is a community asset/debt that should be split equitably upon divorce. Prenuptial agreements in Washington are frequently utilized to protect both spouses from the unintended consequences of a divorce.
Discussing a prenup with your fiancé (or a “postnup” with your new spouse) may be an awkward subject. No one goes out of their way to discuss ending a marriage especially right before or right after the marriage was executed. Having an open conversation with your soon-to-be-spouse may save a great deal of confusion, distrust, and pain down the road. Prenuptial agreements act like insurance contracts. You purchase auto or homeowner’s insurance with the intention of never having to use it. It costs you money and annoyance having to deal with setting it up. If you are ever in a car accident, the insurance is well worth the issues it caused in the first place.
What Protections Can a Prenup Provide?
Prenuptial agreements are contracts signed by both the future husband and wife. With that in mind, the agreement can be manipulated in many different directions to help provide for the individuals’ specific needs and desires. Maybe the wife is entering the marriage with a property owned for generations in her family. A prenup can protect that property and ensure that – despite the separate nature of the asset – it would assuredly be allocated to her in the event of a divorce. Perhaps the husband just started a company. A prenuptial agreement can lay out the terms of an eventual divorce regarding the allocation of company assets upfront so that there is no confusion in the event of a divorce. A carefully drafted agreement can protect you in many ways:
Discussing prenuptial agreements well in advance of a marriage is best practice to avoid a few pitfalls common in these scenarios. Courts have the opportunity to void property agreements if the contracts were unconscionably created. For example, if the agreement was discussed and signed the week before the marriage, upon dispute, the court may hold that one party had insufficient opportunity to investigate and understand the consequences of their signature. It’s often recommended that you start the prenup process at least a few months before a wedding. This will allow both spouses to discuss their finances openly and honestly. It will also allow the partners to individually seek legal representation, which is often deemed a requirement to ensure fairness.
If you’re interested in protecting your separate assets, or you and your spouse want to create your own marriage insurance agreement like a prenup, speaking with a family law attorney early on may be a huge boon. The experienced legal team at the Law Offices of Magnuson Lowell PS understand the difficult position partners are in to protect their assets. Call our qualified litigators today for a free case evaluation.