My name is Elise Buie. I am the founding attorney at Elise Buie Family Law, where we practice law in the areas of divorce, custody and adoption. A key part of my practice involves drafting pre-and post-nuptial agreements; also known as marital agreements. A prenuptial agreement or post nuptial agreement can be a key component of, or compliment to, your estate plan.
A marital agreement is a contract entered into by a couple before or after marriage. The agreement spells out the property rights of one or both parties involved in the case of death or divorce. To ensure enforceability, you will need to meet with your family law attorney to discuss your options.
The main goal of both an estate plan and a pre-or post-nuptial agreement is the same; to clarify your intentions in the case of death or divorce. Both avenues require parties to engage in open and honest communication about their finances, their goals and their desires. Through a streamlined approach you can best articulate to the court your wishes with regard to your property. Your marital agreement puts the decision-making power into your hands, instead of allowing your rights or the rights of your family to be determined by state law.
Working with your estate planning attorney, you will be able to set up the underlying infrastructure for your financial future. You may draft a will, establish a trust, and complete power of attorney documents. An estate planning attorney will be able to review the various tax consequences of your financial arrangements and help you to create the best plan that works for you. Your marital agreement should supplement that plan.
For example, in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement you will categorize property as separate or community. If one party has a large amount of debt, perhaps, they may wish to limit this debt to separate property, so that marital property cannot be used to collect on the debt. Or perhaps they wish for advice regarding providing a financial gift to their children and minimizing the risk upon death or divorce that the gift will revert to someone else.
Marital agreements also help protect children from previous or future relationships by allocating your assets to them (at least in part) instead of all to your new spouse. To save your assets from an acrimonious divorce later on, or a confusing probate proceeding, many couples turn to a marital agreement to save time, heartache, and expense.
Marital agreements are also flexible. They can protect property such as paintings, heirlooms or your family business and are not limited in scope. They are the perfect complement to your estate plan, and just as with your estate plan, and each marital agreement is uniquely tailored to your situation.
For assistance establishing a marital agreement speak with one of our Washington State Family Law Attorneys at Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC. We provide free consultations to help get you started with planning your marital agreement today.
Photo credit: Neda Andel on Flickr