prenuptial agreement

How Does a Prenuptial Agreement Affect My Virginia Estate Plan?

Marriage is a pivotal and controversial societal institution that often takes a beating. Although the Census Bureau reports that divorce rates declined between 2011 and 2021, divorce rates in the United States for first marriages remain at 50% and grow higher for second and third marriages. These numbers drive many people to enter into a prenuptial agreement before marriage. But how does a prenuptial agreement affect your estate plan in Virginia?

Prenuptial Agreements Explained

A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that both parties agree upon and sign before marriage. “It explains what they’ve decided the rules should be about their property and what obligations they have to one another when the marriage ends, either by divorce or upon the death of one of the parties.”

Such an agreement details both parties’ financial assets like bank accounts, stocks, bonds, trusts, digital property, business assets, cars, and real estate. Prenuptial agreements are created with specific provisions according to the agreed wishes of the parties. They explain the arrangements for alimony, child support, asset divisions, and more if the parties divorce or one of them dies.

Prenuptial agreements can minimize or eliminate conflict during a marriage or when a spouse dies. Such a legal contract finalized according to the Virginia Premarital Agreement Act will affect your estate plan.

Prenups and Estate Plans

Under the law, a prenuptial agreement’s terms are ultimately enforceable upon a spouse’s death. It clarifies the rights and responsibilities of each spouse when the other one dies. Why is this important?

A prenuptial agreement can classify each person’s assets as marital, separate, or a mixture. Property or other assets acquired after the marriage can also be classified in this way and added to the prenup and your estate plan. Separate assets belong to the original owner. Shared or marital assets belong to both. Your estate plan must clarify which assets belong to whom and how they are to be distributed – and it must agree with any prenuptial agreement.

Without a prenuptial agreement, one spouse can alter the other’s wishes about estate distributions. If you decide to leave your spouse 20% of your estate and the rest is divided between your children, your surviving spouse can choose to challenge this allocation. This is allowable under state law unless a waiver like a prenuptial agreement is in place.

Second and third marriages or those with spouses having children from a previous marriage are good cases for a prenuptial agreement. The contract can specify that your estate should go to your biological children, not your spouse’s children from a previous marriage. You can create a trust to benefit your second spouse and their children in your estate plan if you so desire and fund it with assets not governed by the prenuptial agreement.

Get Help with Your Virginia Estate Planning

Prenuptial agreements are only one factor that can make estate planning complex. A Virginia Estate Planning Attorney from Promise Law in Newport News can seamlessly integrate your prenuptial agreement provisions into your estate plan and other necessary provisions to help secure your and your family’s future. Begin by participating in our free Estate Planning Workshop. This educational resource helps you avoid critical pitfalls and learn vital factors to help you build a solid plan. Register for this virtual workshop by following the link to complete an online form and then follow the instructions on the screen.

After attending, you are entitled to a complimentary consultation with Promise Law. There is no obligation to take the consultation or to partner with us. The information is easily understandable and totally free.

Get the help you need with your Virginia estate planning today with Promise Law.


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