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What do I need to know about prenuptial agreements?

Read everything before you sign it. That is common advice. You don't have to live in Texas to be familiar with the concept. If you sign something without reading it and then find out it said something you didn't know about or didn't expect, you shouldn't count on a court to rule your way if there's reason to raise or fend off a challenge.

In addition to knowing what is in any document you sign, it can also be important to know what the law may allow or restrict within the context of the paperwork. This is certainly true where prenuptial agreements are concerned. Just because language is contained in a legal vehicle doesn't necessarily mean it will stand up in court. This is where skilled legal counsel is crucial.

For many, the whole idea of signing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can be loathsome. However, there are many good arguments for why such contracts are helpful. If you enter a marriage with certain property or inherit assets during the marriage, a prenup can be a useful in making sure that those things remain in your possession in the event of a divorce.

There are, however, limits to what prenups can and cannot do. For example, under Texas law, a premarital agreement can allow the signatories to define material property, how it's managed and how to divide it in the event of death or divorce. If a full separation of everything is desired, that can be laid out in such an agreement, as well.

What you can't do with a premarital contract is include anything that would be detrimental to the support of a child that results from the marriage. Certain issues related to children might be included in the document, but they won't be executable unless and until a court gives its OK. If provisions of an agreement go against any public policy or state criminal statute, they would be void. Nor can a premarital agreement waive any spouse's retirement benefit that might be governed by federal law.

Perhaps the best argument for prenuptial agreements is that they can eliminate problems before they begin.

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