When you’re about to get married, all kinds of thoughts run through your mind. You may be wondering how you’ll adjust to living with someone new, what kind of wedding you want to have, or even where you’re going to live after the big day. But one important question that often doesn’t come up until it’s too late is whether or not you should sign a prenuptial agreement. If you’re not sure what a prenup is or why you might need one, don’t worry – we’re here to help! This guide will explain everything you need to know about prenuptial agreements in Arizona, so read on for more information.
What Is A Prenuptial Agreement In Arizona?
A prenuptial agreement is a legal contract that helps married couples decide certain issues about their property in advance. This ensures that prenups protect both spouses and prenuptial agreements are legally binding documents in Arizona.
The easiest way to think of a prenuptial agreement is as a preface to a marriage. In essence, the document is meant to help you demarcate your existing property from what you acquire during your time together with your spouse. The focus is not so much on deciding how many rights each party has over the other’s property, but rather which pieces of property actually belong to whom at a certain point in time.
You can include anything from family heirlooms to lifelong investments in the prenuptial agreement as it is a good idea to include those assets that you feel will be important in your marriage. As prenuptial agreements are legally binding, it’s best that they only include the things that belong exclusively to you. That way, if anything happens to them, there won’t be any ambiguity regarding their ownership or liability among family members.
Types Of Assets Covered By Prenuptial Agreements
While prenuptial agreements can cover basically anything of value between two people, here are some of the most common assets covered by prenups:
Household Items and Furniture
Even before tying the knot with your significant other, you should consider what household items each of you owns and whether they would remain with you if the relationship were to end.
Personal Property, Including Antiques and Collectibles
This includes items such as artwork, sports memorabilia, musical instruments, and collections. Make sure you find out whether your prenuptial agreement allows for you to keep these items if the marriage ends in divorce or separation.
Most prenups do not include provisions about who gets which car or other vehicles upon the termination of a marriage, so this should be discussed before signing the prenuptial agreement.
Bank Accounts and Investments
While prenuptial agreements can cover bank accounts, stocks, and other investments, it is important that both parties seek financial counseling before entering into any prenuptial agreements together. Doing so can help you avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings about each other’s finances or investments after marriage.
Generally, prenuptial agreements allow for the separate management of financial affairs during the course of a marriage. Under community property laws, they may exclude certain assets from division in the event of a divorce, but prenuptial agreements can’t change what’s considered individual property under Arizona law.
Businesses and Professional Practices
Many premarital agreements attempt to address ownership interests in either party’s business, whether it is a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. If either party receives certain bonuses or salary increases during the course of their marriage, it is important that prenuptial agreements specify whether this amount would be considered additional separate property or marital property.
It’s especially important to address debts in prenuptial agreements because if you were to pass away or become disabled, creditors may try to attach your spouse’s assets or vice versa. To avoid this situation, prenuptial agreements can ensure that each person will keep his/her own estate free and clear of claims by creditors of the other party. Arizona prenups also provide that in case one spouse files for bankruptcy, he/she will not consider any community property when doing so.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Although prenuptial agreements cannot directly affect alimony payments in Arizona since only a court can do this, premarital agreements may address whether either spouse would be entitled to any spousal support or maintenance in the event of a divorce.
Disagreements and Miscellaneous Provisions
Arizona prenuptial agreements often include:
- a waiver by each party of any rights to advance attorneys’ fees in the event of a dispute over the prenup
- an acknowledgment that no person has made any promises, representations, or inducements other than those contained in the prenuptial agreement
- a document that states that there are no children born of either party’s previous marriage residing in the spouses’ home at the time they sign their prenuptial agreement
- notices about the potential prenuptial agreement’s effect on spousal benefits from a former employer or benefits plan
- a release by each party of any claims against the other party
How Do I Apply For A Prenuptial Agreement In Arizona?
In Arizona, prenuptial agreements must be an agreement between a man and a woman who are both planning to get married. In order to apply for a prenuptial agreement in the state of Arizona, you need to have either:
- signed a premarital or prenuptial agreement before getting engaged or
- have had your fiancée sign a prenup before you were ever engaged
Prenuptial agreements cannot change any provisions that are not already considered marital rights, for example, child support. Prenuptial agreements can only modify what is already considered marital property like splitting everything down the middle.
This prenuptial agreement must be in writing and executed by both parties (the man and woman who are planning to get married) before the wedding. Each party should have its own independent legal counsel for this prenup. The prenuptial agreement must also be notarized or witnessed by someone authorized to perform either of those functions.
Can A Prenuptial Agreement Be Changed After It’s Been Notarized?
Many prenuptial agreements are drafted but not signed until shortly before a wedding takes place. During the premarital period, one or both parties may change their minds about certain aspects of the prenup that was initially agreed upon. For example, one party might want to add alimony provisions, while the other party might want to remove them. Or, one party might want to change the premarital agreement’s time limit.
Often, prenuptial agreements are not changed once they are signed and notarized—this would be a breach of contract. To avoid this situation, prenuptial agreements should include a provision that allows for changes in writing before the wedding takes place. This way there is no question about whether the parties have agreed to the changes or not.
Can You Modify A Prenuptial Agreement?
It depends. A prenuptial agreement may be modified within the prenup, but if you later get married you cannot modify it at that time. It will not be considered “fair and reasonable” then.
If you do wish to modify a premarital agreement, then a new premarital agreement must be made in order for it to be considered fair and reasonable by a judge when either party requests a modification during a divorce proceeding.
The bottom line is that a prenuptial agreement can be an effective way to protect your assets in the event of divorce. Whether you are newly engaged or have been married for decades, it’s never too late to consider applying for one. Our experienced Arizona attorneys will help you determine whether this type of legal document might make sense for your situation and then guide you through the process of getting everything in order. Call us today to know more!
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The attorneys at GillespieShields are well-versed in a variety of different legal fields, ranging from family law to civil suits, employment disputes and probate cases. Although we specialize in several areas of practice, our greatest passion is family law. We believe in giving families peace of mind no matter their situation, and we fight hard to maintain that peace. Whether you’re filing for dissolution or divorce, determining custody of your children, or thinking about adopting children, our experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way. During our private, one-on-one consultation, we’ll take the necessary time to answer all of our questions surrounding Arizona’s family laws, your family’s unique situation, and the possible court outcomes. Contact us today for your consultation!
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