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Deciding whether a Texas prenuptial agreement is necessary

Some engaged Houston couples feel premarital financial contracts diminish the romance and trust in a relationship. However, some individuals feel marital financial management and clarification of spousal property are important matters to iron out ahead of marriage. This conversation comes up eventually, but some couples prefer to address finances before marriage to avoid possible conflicts.

Property ownership rights change when people marry. The assets and debts you have entering marriage are yours alone, along with inheritances and gifts acquired during marriage. However, if you commingle separate property with other assets – like using an inheritance to fund the purchase of a marital home – your separate property status might be in jeopardy, without a prenuptial agreement.

Any assets accumulated during a Texas marriage, including individual spousal income, are shared equally in divorce, under community property laws. A prenuptial agreement allows spouses-to-be to decide how to label property. You choose how property is to be divided at the time of divorce or a spouse's death, rather than letting a judge make decisions for you.

Texas laws also permit prenuptial provisions dealing with spousal support and child-related issues. An attorney can explain the legal restrictions that apply for these sensitive matters. When drafted properly, prenuptial agreements are upheld by Texas courts, freeing spouses of state property division rules that might not be beneficial.

Few prenuptial agreements are rejected, but some are invalidated when rules are broken. The documents must be signed by both parties voluntarily, without evidence of undue influence or duress. Prenups may be dismissed, if a party unfairly fails to disclose a complete accounting of assets and debts prior to the agreement's signing.

Although wealth protection is often a priority, couples enter into prenuptial agreements for several different reasons. For many, it is satisfying to take control of finances before heading into marriage. An attorney can answer questions and guide you through the process.

Source: Texas Bar Journal, "The Wedding Planner" Judith Bryant, Dec. 16, 2014

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