Prenuptial agreements, otherwise known as prenups, are contracts that are created between partners prior to marriage. They are agreements which concern the division of assets, such as property and money, in case of death or divorce in the future. Prenups have traditionally been associated only with the rich and carry with them the rather negative assumption that divorce is imminent, many couples are now seeking to secure their assets, protect themselves from going into debt, and to make their financial future more predictable.
This article will cover when a prenuptial agreement could be beneficial to a couple, the legalities and processes involved, and how much a prenup costs in the state of Maryland.
Who Should Get a Prenuptial Agreement in Maryland?
Prenuptial agreements in Maryland are best suited to couples wanting to secure their assets. They are no longer reserved exclusively for the wealthy, and couples across the income spectrum can benefit from having a plan should the marriage end.
Today, prenups are designed not only to protect the more wealthy spouse but to ensure that the assets are split fairly in the event of divorce. Couples may also be interested in a prenuptial agreement if there are children from a previous relationship involved. In these cases, a prenup may address inheritance rights. Another common scenario is when a couple decides one spouse will work while the other stays at home to tend to the house and children. In the event of a separation, a prenup agreement may dictate any alimony payments. This type of forethought can help make a difficult divorce process go more smoothly.
What Issues do Prenuptial Agreements Cover?
In Maryland, a prenuptial agreement can be used to outline the financial rights and obligations for both parties ahead of their anticipated marriage. Some issues and provisions that can be covered include:
- Rights of properties acquired either before or during the marriage. This includes each spouse’s rights to buying, selling, or controlling any property during the legal union.
- Alimony payments following separation. These refer to whether one of the parties will be liable to pay alimony, how much will be due, and for how long.
- The division of all financial assets and debts.
- Inheritance rights, including protecting the inheritance of any children from a previous relationship.
However, there are few limitations. It is important to note that in the state of Maryland, the custody of a child or the terms of child support are not covered in the agreement. The specifics of such matters can only be determined at the time of separation, not before. The court bases custody and support judgments based on what is in the child’s best interest, not on what the couple believes to be the ideal outcome before they are ever married.
How Much Does a Prenup Cost in Maryland?
In Maryland, a lawyer will typically charge per hour for the time taken to draft the contract. How long this will take depends on the complexity of the agreement and your current financial situation. Without the specifics of a particular situation, it is estimated that a standard prenuptial agreement will cost between $1,200 and $2,400. Obviously, the greater the complexity, the greater the fee.
Many couples may try to save money for events they consider to be sure things as opposed to “what ifs’ such as the wedding, a honeymoon, the purchase of a house, or having children. Nevertheless, couples are advised not to attempt to create their own draft.
As a legal document, the wording and language must be correct for the court to accept the contract. This can make drafting an agreement without adequate legal knowledge a waste of time, both for the couple and the courts. If you do decide to draw up your own agreement, it is strongly advised that you speak to a lawyer to check your work for accuracy and completeness.
Maryland Prenuptial Agreement Law
Many states in the US follow the law specifically governing prenuptial agreements called the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act. However, there is no specific law to it. Instead, those agreements are governed by contract law. This is a complex area of law that makes a promise between two parties legally binding.
This determines how the contract must be structured for it to be considered legal and what type of language must be used throughout the document for it to be accepted in court proceedings. According to the law, both spouses must also offer full disclosure of all their assets and debts to each other prior to the drafting and agreement of a contract.
The laws also dictate that the prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties for it to become legally binding. You can make changes to them at a later date, but any amendments must also be in writing and signed by both parties. For the agreement to be validated, a verification signature from another party is not required by law. However, it is advisable to have a third signature to strengthen the validity of the document if it were to be used later in court.
Are Prenuptial Agreements Worth it in Maryland?
Prenuptial agreements in Maryland are legally binding and will typically hold up in court. Once signed, it is usually very difficult to prove that a prenup should be invalidated. Therefore, for any couple looking to secure their financial future, it’s worthwhile to come to an agreement.
However, the contract laws in place do protect against fraud, coercion, duress, mistake, undue influence, incompetence, or unconscionability. In any of these incidents, either party can challenge the agreement.
An example of fraud might be if a husband hid various assets from his wife when the prenup was agreed upon or vice versa. For added reassurance and to strengthen your prenuptial agreement, you can hire an accountant to produce certified financial statements for each party which will be attached to the contract.
The courts in the state of Maryland take a general stance that most adults are capable of understanding the full scope of the agreement that they are signing. However, the court will look into any unfair breach of contract and come to a fair deal on whether the contract was wrongfully validated and formed dishonestly.
Note that prenuptial agreements can only be enforced in the case of a legal divorce. If a marriage is annulled, the courts will no longer enforce them, with an exception to special cases.
Prenuptial agreements in Maryland are useful for any couple planning to get married that wishes to secure their individual assets in the unfortunate event of a divorce. Governed by the Maryland state contract laws, they can help iron out any issues relating to property rights, inheritance rights, alimony, and other financial assets and debts.