Prenuptial Agreements & Blended Families

Prenuptial agreements can play a vital role in estate planning. These agreements are particularly important for couples with blended families who may want to preserve certain assets for their children from prior relationships. Commonly, people wrongfully assume that a Will is sufficient to fully preserve assets for such children. Unfortunately, that frequent assumption is wrong. Tennessee courts will not allow one spouse to disinherit another spouse regardless of what their Will says.

For example, let’s assume that Husband and Wife get married in 2008. Both of them have been married before and decide not to have any children together. Wife already has two teenage children from her first marriage, which ended when her husband passed away. Her new Husband does not have any children. Wife’s first husband left her $300,000 in a life insurance policy, which she set aside for her children’s education. If Wife dies without a Will, or if she dies with a Will that intentionally does not include her new Husband, he will still be entitled to a certain percentage of her estate – including the life insurance policy from Wife’s first husband. The best way for Wife to avoid this situation is if she and her new Husband execute a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married (or, in very limited circumstances, a postnuptial agreement after they get married).

Despite their importance, prenuptial agreements are often overlooked. If you are getting married, it is crucial that you speak with an attorney about a prenuptial agreement much sooner than later. Prenuptial agreements are very heavily litigated in court during divorce cases. As such, it is important that couples and their attorneys have the time necessary for all of them to do their due diligence in preparing the prenuptial agreement. As a part of this process, the couples must disclose all of their assets to one another and, ideally, provide each other with the temporary authority to speak with their mate’s financial representatives for additional information, if desired. In order for the prenuptial agreement to be valid, each person signing it must know and fully understand what assets the other person owns so that they can make an educated decision on whether or not they should voluntarily waive any interest they may later develop in those assets.

 

About the Author

Amanda Jelks is a Chattanooga native who assists clients throughout Tennessee and Georgia with estate planning, probate and certain business-related matters. Every estate planning client that works with Amanda, leaves her office with a burden lifted off of their shoulders because they know that they have guardians appointed to care for their children and that the assets they worked their entire life to acquire are properly preserved for the people and charities close to their heart.

Photo Credit: Kevin Delvecchio