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Maybe this is your second marriage. Maybe you have a lucrative job or a substantial inheritance. Perhaps you and your partner just want to make sure all available assets are properly managed as part of a marital community. There are many situations where a prenuptial agreement – or a prenup – may be useful. In Washington, prenuptial agreements are valid, but there are a few issues to consider and a couple consequences to avoid by doing them properly.
In its most fundamental form, a prenuptial agreement is a contract between potential spouses whereby they agree to create separate rules and obligations that apply to their own marriage that do not typically apply under Washington law. Most often, a prenup is going to focus heavily on maintaining separate assets that were acquired prior to the marriage, so those assets do not commingle into a community pot. There are several options available. Knowing what’s right for you and your marriage requires a thorough understanding of Washington family law.
This depends on a case-by-case basis, but it usually starts with calling an attorney. There is no law in Washington that requires prenuptial agreements to be drafted by attorneys, but there are several major pitfalls that attorneys know how to properly navigate. Once you meet with your attorney, they should take some time to understand your circumstances, and generally get a good grasp of your financial situation.
Once the attorney has all the relevant information, they will typically draft the prenup and send it to you for review, discussion, and changes. Here is where the process gets a bit tricky. The rough draft will get sent to the spouse or their attorney for review where additional changes are often made. This negotiation process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. Finally, once everyone agrees, there is often a final meeting to review one last time and execute the contract.
While there is no law requiring that either party have an attorney, if one party has an attorney, the other party should most likely be represented by a separate attorney. A Court has the discretion to void an agreement if it feels the agreement was unfairly reached. One of the most common reasons to reach that conclusion is if one party but not the other had access to proper legal counsel.
Yes and no. While it is certainly possible two attorneys could make time to finalize a prenuptial agreement on short order, the proximity to the wedding is a potential pitfall. Courts do not like these types of wedding alter contracts because it creates an aura of duress – like one party is forcing the other party to sign it or they won’t get married. The best practice is to give yourself a few months at a minimum to finalize the project. If you are getting it done with less time, make sure your attorney is aware of the deadline and makes note of it in the contract.
At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS, our experienced family law attorneys will help you understand the ins and outs of prenuptial agreements. We offer a free telephonic case evaluation for every client and can answer your questions to help you become more familiar with the process.