Know The Law – Prenuptial Agreements – 03/2011

March 1, 2011

Published by the Union Leader

Q: My fiancé and I were engaged last month.  We are professional equals and will bring roughly the same assets to our marriage.  Is there any reason we should consider a prenuptial agreement?  

A: The Diamond Information Center estimates that roughly 10% of all marriage proposals are made on Valentine’s Day each year, so your question is timely.  In short, yes.  Prenuptial agreements, once an anomaly, are becoming much more common, even for first marriages.  They are especially common for those previously married.  While prenuptial agreements may be viewed skeptically by some, in the majority of cases, such agreements are requested for good reason. 

A prenuptial agreement changes the legal rights spouses would otherwise enjoy by law upon marriage, typically by protecting income or assets.  A prospective spouse may wish to protect income or certain assets upon death or divorce for many valid reasons.  The ability to do so allows some parties, who might otherwise refrain from marriage, to marry while still protecting dependents, family members or others in the event of death or divorce.  Common reasons for prenuptial agreements include the protection of wealth (including premarital assets, professional practices, inheritances, gifts, family businesses or other assets), protection against debt, avoidance of acrimony upon death or divorce, and protection of children from a previous marriage, grandchildren, parents or other loved ones.      

The subject of a prenuptial agreement should be addressed early in a relationship, ideally before or shortly after engagement.  The terms of the prenuptial agreement should then be discussed by each party with his or her own counsel so that the process can be completed smoothly and well before the wedding date, both for legal and personal purposes.  As a practical reality, couples do not wish to deal with their prenuptial agreement in the days or weeks before their wedding vows.  As a legal matter, a prenuptial agreement requested at the last minute will be subject to substantial legal scrutiny, and may not be enforced.  Ideally, a prenuptial agreement should be completed well before the wedding date. 

A prenuptial agreement provides a degree of certainty to future spouses and can be an important planning device to implement spouses’ agreements before their marriage.  Having a discussion about your needs and requesting a prenuptial agreement early will help to ensure a smooth and quick process that concludes well in advance of the wedding date. 

Margaret can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
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