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Premarital Agreements: A Potentially Critical Element of an Effective Estate Plan

Posted by Karrie R. Hruska | Apr 01, 2016 | 0 Comments

Karrie HruskaDespite public perception, premarital (also called prenuptial or antenuptial) agreements are not only about planning for divorce.  Yes, they can provide protection in the event of a divorce, however, they can also provide necessary protection for estate planning purposes as well.

In Iowa, absent a premarital agreement, it is impossible to disinherit your spouse.  If you have a will or trust your spouse can “elect against” the plan and take up to 1/3 of your assets (note that it is possible to “disinherit” your spouse via a trust if the appropriate elements, including your spouse's written consent, are met).  If you don't have a will your spouse can elect to take all your assets (when you do not have kids or all your kids are also your spouse's kids), or ½ of your assets if you have kids from a prior relationship.

While many people choose to leave significant estate assets to their spouse, that may not be the case in a second marriage scenario, particularly if there are children from a prior relationship.  In that situation, it is likely that a spouse would want to make sure that their children receive a significant portion of estate assets.  Without a valid premarital agreement, the deceased spouse's estate plan could be disrupted by state law.  A premarital agreement can prevent this situation from happening and ensure that your intentions are carried out.

Premarital agreements are very flexible and can be tailored to fit your particular needs.  For example, premarital agreements can include different provisions for death and divorce.

In order to be valid in Iowa, a premarital agreement must be signed before the marriage (so long as the required elements are met, South Dakota and Nebraska allow for postnuptial agreements, or agreements signed after the marriage).  If you are planning a wedding and have questions whether a premarital agreement is right for you, contact a Moore, Heffernan estate planning attorney to discuss in further detail.

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About the Author

Karrie R. Hruska

EDUCATION University of South Dakota, B.A., 1996 University of Iowa College of Law, J.D., 1999 ASSOCIATIONS The Iowa State Bar Association State Bar of South Dakota Woodbury County Bar Association Karrie R. Hruska joined the Firm as an associate in 2008, becoming a partner in 2009....

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