How A Prenuptial Agreement Can Affect A Will

All financially responsible individuals want to protect their loved ones after they pass, not least when they have significant assets to distribute to their beneficiaries. 

It’s important to learn how a prenuptial agreement can affect a will in many ways. Generally speaking, a Last Will and Testament is the primary document to ensure that assets are distributed as you intend, but what happens when a Prenuptial Agreement contradicts the terms set out in the Will? 

Ultimately, there is no single rule to cover all cases. However, the following information will give you a far better insight of what to expect.

When is a prenuptial agreement valid?

A prenuptial agreement, also known as a pre-marital or antenuptial agreement, is a legal document that couples file to determine how their assets would be divided following a divorce or death. For a prenuptial agreement to be properly drafted, it must;

  • Be filed before the couple marries,
  • Entered voluntarily by both partners,
  • Include accurate financial info from both parties,
  • Be considered legally fair for both parties.

The prenuptial agreement is often used by wealthy and high-asset individuals to protect their wealth in case of a divorce, but it is also 100 percent enforceable in most states following the death of one spouse. It should work in conjunction with your Will and a formal Estate Plan.

Understanding a spouse’s right to inheritance

A Will and Estate Plan is commonly used to list your beneficiaries when you pass away, along with details on who will receive each property. It also names the executor of the document, as well as final arrangements for your burial and guardianship of your children.

However, under state laws, a surviving spouse will retain the right to inheritance following your death. So, when your Will is submitted to the courts for probate, a surviving spouse can claim their due inheritance under “common law” or “community property” depending on their location.

In common law, surviving spouses can legally inherit properties that have been designated to others in your Will or opt for their elective share, which is the amount they are entitled to under local state laws. In community property states, surviving spouses receive 50% of all income and assets acquired during the marriage.

A prenuptial agreement can be designed to overrule these laws by getting a spouse to legally waive their right to this inheritance. Instead, they will inherit assets as detailed by the legal document. 

Couples often use prenuptial agreements to protect their assets during a divorce or to ensure that their assets can be distributed to children from previous marriages following their death. Nonetheless, there are several other reasons why wealthy individuals may want their spouse to waive their rights under state laws. Prenuptials are the way to make it happen.

What happens if the prenuptial conflicts with the Will?

Prenuptials are designed to work alongside the Will, but it is possible that the two documents will conflict each other, especially if you make changes to the latter after the wedding perhaps to include new beneficiaries. 

The distribution of a high-asset individual’s estate can get complicated, and there is no one set rule for every situation. In most cases, though, probate courts will uphold the prenuptial agreement unless it is deemed unfair or that the deceased did not enter it knowingly or voluntarily. As such, any details within the Will could be invalidated by the presence of prenuptial.

In short, then, posting a prenuptial can be deemed a smart option for both parties because;

  • You will know that all beneficiaries (not just your spouse) will receive their inheritance as intended while also knowing your wealth is protected during a divorce.
  • Your surviving spouse will have their agreed inheritance protected, even if your Will attempts to discord them.

If you are actively concerned about protecting your family after your death, filing a prenuptial agreement ahead of your wedding is highly advised. Likewise, you should ensure that it works in conjunction with your Will.

To learn more, get in touch with our legal experts today.

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