Prenuptial agreements usually appear in two different legal situations: divorce and probate. When a couple has a prenuptial agreement, and the agreement is severed by death, not divorce, the prenuptial agreement may still be enforced upon the surviving spouse. This may lead to the surviving spouse not receiving their rightful share of the decedent's estate. Generally, the surviving spouse is entitled to claim a certain amount of property and assets according under applicable law. This may not be valid when the couple creates and signs a prenuptial agreement before or after they marry. A prenuptial agreement determines the rights that each spouse has to the other spouse's property, and when a spouse dies, the prenuptial agreement usually replaces the state law regarding the probate process.
A couple may create a trust in connection with a prenuptial agreement, which can protect each spouse's assets. This can mean that when a spouse dies, the surviving spouse may not be entitled to any of the money or property left in the trust, or receive a limited amount of it. A prenuptial agreement may conflict with the terms a spouse creates in a will. The probate court will most likely choose to uphold the prenuptial agreement unless beneficiaries of the deceased's spouse can prove that the prenuptial agreement was created under false pretenses. Beneficiaries would have to prove that the agreement was drafted and signed under duress, encouraged divorce, or is unreasonable or unfair to the surviving spouse. If a spouse dies without a will and has a prenuptial agreement, the court may distribute the estate via the wishes that were stated in the prenuptial agreement. Most states do not allow a spouse to write another spouse out of their will, but they may allow a prenuptial agreement that leaves a person's assets and property to a person other than their spouse.
Prenuptial agreements may override a will if it contains certain clauses. If the prenuptial agreement contains an expiration date, or a sunset clause, and the date has passed prior to the spouse's death, the agreement will no longer be valid. If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement, and your spouse has recently deceased, do not be deterred. Our office has the ability to determine if your prenuptial agreement was valid at the time of your spouse's passing, or if it was created in a forceful or unfair nature.
If you have a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.
Legacy Counsellors, P.C.
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Easthampton, MA 01027
699 Bloomfield Avenue
Bloomfield, CT 06002