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Prenuptial agreements:
Signs of a valid prenup

Perhaps the most important ingredient of a solid prenuptial agreement is honesty. Both parties must FULLY disclose their assets. If it turns out either person has hidden something, a judge can toss out the contract.

An ironclad agreement also must be signed well in advance of the wedding. You can't present your honey with a prenup two days before the big day and say, "Uh, by the way, I need your signature on this."

The document should be signed as early before the nuptials as possible to avoid the appearance of coercion, another key reason why some agreements are rendered null and void.

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"I recommend at least one month before the wedding and preferably before the invitations have been sent out," says Nancy Dunnan, financial adviser and author. "Then you both have time to back out if you're uncomfortable with the terms. If the discussion revealed such deep and basic differences between two people that they decide not to marry, it's obviously best if all the talks took place well in advance ... You don't want to have to send back presents!"

A valid prenup also is "fair" and will not leave one of the parties destitute. "No matter what state you're in, the state will look for equity to make sure one spouse is not being taken advantage of," says Joseph P. Zwack, an Iowa lawyer and author of a best-selling handbook Premarital Agreements: When, Why and How to Write Them.

Prenups can include responsibilities that don't deal with money, but you should avoid making demands that might seem frivolous, such as requiring that your spouse not gain weight, or that he or she quit smoking and take out the garbage three times a week. A judge could look askance upon terms that are less serious than, say, stipulating what religion your children will observe if you and your betrothed are of different faiths.

"It's dangerous to do that, and you're flirting with having the whole thing set aside," warns Zwack.

Approaching the subject Proper procedures

--Posted: June 15, 1999

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See Also
What's a prenup?
Who should have one?
Approaching the subject
Signs of a valid prenup
Follow proper legal procedures
Keeping the prenup up to date
Legal benefits of having a prenup
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