Premarital (Prenuptial) Agreements: The Basics
A premarital agreement, popularly known as a “prenuptial agreement” or “prenup,” is a legally binding contract ratified for the purpose of setting terms for the dissolution of a marriage should it occur. Both Virginia and DC have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, setting forth the elements of a prenup in Va. Code § 20-150 and D.C. Code § 46-503.
1. The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;
2. The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
3. The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
4. Spousal support;
5. The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
6. The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
7. The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and
8. Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
There is no specific form required for a premarital agreement, and it does not have to contain all of the items listed above. However, it must be entered into under the rules of a standard contractual relationship and without coercion (see Va. Code § 20-151 and D.C. Code § 46-506).
While an insistence or desire to enter into a prenup may appear to some as a sign of mistrust, please keep in mind that it would solve a lot of potential problems and emotional distress in the future should something go wrong in the marriage. And on a more basic level, it can help a couple be open as to what they expect of each other.
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