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Prenuptial agreements:
Following proper legal procedures

Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope, but if you want that prenup to have legal force, it's best to do things a little more formally.

Without a formal contract, you could end up a lot less rich -- like director Steven Spielberg. His ex-wife, Amy Irving, got half of what he earned during their four-year marriage because their prenup was scribbled on a napkin and she didn't have a lawyer. Her take: $100 million.

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Here are a few more tips:

  • Use only matrimonial lawyers who are familiar with prenups and the laws of the state in which you will be living.
  • Know that you cannot waive rights to child support payments.
  • Understand that your spouse's will can't supersede the prenup if the will is stingier. But a will can be more generous than a prenup and leave the widow or widower more than what they agreed to before the marriage.
  • Finally, and although it seems obvious, make sure the agreement is in writing and the signing is witnessed by a lawyer. It is recommended the contract be signed in triplicate with the groom- and bride-to-be each getting an original copy, and a third being kept with an independent lawyer, CPA or in a safety deposit box.
A valid prenup Keeping it up to date

--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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