With restrictions lifted, weddings are back on schedule. The thought of a premarital agreement may seem cynical and unromantic to a couple in love – and may take the wind out of the blissful wedding planning sails. But these contracts are both logical and practical.

While you may think a premarital agreement is only for wealthy people, all couples can benefit, especially if they marry later in life.  If you enter a second marriage and each of you has family assets, children, and grandchildren, the contracts clearly outline the dispensation of assets should a divorce occur.  Premarital agreements protect each spouse in the event of a “gray divorce” and add a level of reassurance if the relationship breaks down.

A premarital agreement is a legal contract between two persons planning to get married. Agreements address the dispensation of separate and joint property, assets, and income – during the union and in the event of a divorce or the death of one spouse.

Why Sign a Premarital Agreement? 

  • There are children from prior relationships, and each individual wants to guarantee assets for their children. 
  • One spouse has significantly more assets than the other going into the marriage.
  • One spouse may have a financial interest in a business they want to protect in case of a divorce.
  • One or both spouse wants to avoid the emotional and financial expense of litigating a divorce should that occur.
  • Spouses may expect to inherit significant assets from parents and wish to protect the inheritance.  Sometimes, an estate is tied to the presence of a prenuptial agreement.

The most common reason individuals sign premarital agreements is for peace of mind and reassurance. Spouses tend to feel more secure understanding what will occur in the event of death or divorce. A premarital agreement removes the potential uncertainty of a court battle and guarantees you and your spouse make all meaningful decisions.

Contents of Premarital Agreements

In Florida, laws are determined by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. 

As property distribution is the primary focus of the act, Florida first defines the property marital assets and liabilities as:

1. Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually or jointly

2. The appreciation in the value of non-marital assets during the marriage

3. Interspousal gifts during the term of the marriage
4. All benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs

5. All real property held by the parties as tenants by the entireties

“Non-marital” assets and liabilities are defined as:

1. Assets obtained and liabilities incurred by either party before the marriage

2. Assets acquired separately by either party by non-interspousal gift or bequest

3. All income derived from non-marital assets during the marriage unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;
4. Assets and liabilities excluded from marital assets and liabilities by valid written agreement of the parties

5. Liabilities incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other spouse.

A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by the parties. It is enforceable without consideration, other than the marriage itself. 

Of course, prenuptial agreements are far more complex than we can outline in this short article. If you are getting married and are seeking more information on premarital agreements, call an experienced Sarasota family law attorney for assistance.

Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota-based family law and bankruptcy attorney who has helped hundreds of area residents work through life’s more complicated legal situations.