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Protecting Your Future: The Importance of Prenuptial Agreements in Modern Marriages

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What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that details what assets each party brings to a marriage and how they should be handled in the event of the marriage’s end. (A similar document known as a cohabitation agreement exists for those who want to live together without marriage.) It’s particularly useful if one of the spouses has more assets or significantly higher earnings than the other or if one spouse plans to stay home and raise children rather than pursue a career.

People often think setting up a prenuptial agreement means they don’t believe their marriage will last. That’s not at all the case. Many people end up not needing the prenup (as it’s called for short), but those who do may be glad they have it. It’s also a good way to have an open, honest discussion with a partner-to-be about the always difficult topic of finances and priorities. Think of it as somewhat similar to home insurance–you hope you never need it, but if something happens, you may be relieved it’s in place!

Prenuptial agreements can be simple or complex, depending on what needs to be included. That, in turn, affects how long it takes to develop. Plan and allow plenty of time to ensure you’ve carefully considered everything that applies in your situation.

What Is Legally Required to Set up a Prenuptial Agreement in Saskatchewan?

One of the primary legal considerations is detailed in the Family Property Act: For the agreement to be considered binding, each spouse must have a lawyer to provide them with independent legal advice. While this may sound like it complicates the process, it’s actually a positive; when each spouse has separate representation, it’s much more difficult for one spouse to coerce the other into accepting terms they disagree with.

The agreement must be in writing, signed by both spouses, and witnessed. It can include the division of assets and debts and is to include full disclosure from each spouse. It’s possible to set the grounds for spousal support or to waive that support. However, one thing that may not be included in a prenuptial is parenting time arrangements if the marriage ends. That has to be handled separately as part of the divorce process.

Why Should a Couple Set up a Prenuptial Agreement if They Don’t Have Many Assets?

It’s a logical question; if there isn’t much to divide, why spend the time and effort determining how it should be divided at a later date? The primary answer to that question is: Things change. One spouse may find themselves earning more money than they’d expected; they might receive an unexpected (or expected, for that matter) inheritance; significant debts may be accrued by one or both spouses; or the couple may have children, and one spouse either leaves their career or takes a reduced role to become the primary parent. These future items can have a substantial impact if the marriage doesn’t survive.

Why Shouldn’t a Couple Just Draw Up a Prenuptial Agreement on Their Own?

The first reason a couple shouldn’t do this on their own is that it likely won’t be legally binding because the Family Property Act referenced above requires each party to have their own lawyer. But there are other good reasons, too. Working with an experienced prenuptial agreement lawyer can help you avoid pitfalls that could eventually cause the agreement to be deemed invalid by the court.

  • Ensure the terms of the agreement are legally valid so that you aren’t relying on something that would not be upheld by a court, such as the previously mentioned parenting arrangements in the event of a separation and divorce.
  • Neither party withheld information. The prenuptial may not be upheld if one spouse failed to disclose certain assets or debts.
  • Any sign of coercion. If both parties had a lawyer, but on the eve of the wedding, one spouse forced the other to accept last-minute changes without input from their lawyer, the agreement could be invalidated.
  • Unfair provisions. It’s not surprising that sometimes, one party would want to saddle the other with all the marital debt or refuse to share assets. But the court will consider the fairness of the agreement and may refuse to honour it if it is grossly unfair.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement Be Changed or Revoked Later?

Yes. Couples can change the terms or fully revoke the prenuptial agreement after it’s been signed and witnessed. However, both parties must agree to the changes or revocation in writing to do so. To ensure that the changes or revocation are valid, it’s highly recommended to have a prenuptial agreement lawyer review.

What Is a Postnuptial Agreement?

A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that it’s drawn up after the couple are already spouses. It outlines how assets and debts are to be divided in the event of a separation. They can include items such as spousal support, but as with prenups, parenting arrangements cannot be done through these agreements.

What Should I Do if I Want to Set Up a Prenuptial Agreement?

Call Panko Collaborative Law & Mediation at 306-518-8107 for a consultation. We understand how uncomfortable this topic may be for you. As discussed above, wanting to protect your assets is not wrong or shameful. In the best possible world, you’ll never need to use the prenup to settle anything. But if you do, you’ll be glad to have it. Our compassionate prenuptial lawyers will help you take a holistic approach to viewing your future through the lens of the prenuptial agreement.

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