In Pennsylvania, there are several requirements for a validly executed prenuptial agreement.
- The agreement must be in writing; there are no oral prenuptial agreements.
- The agreement must be executed voluntarily; if it is found that either party signed the agreement under duress or unfair pressure from the other side, it will not be enforced.
- The agreement must not be unconscionable; if it leaves one party destitute or places an unreasonable burden on one party, it will not be enforced.
- The agreement needs to be validly executed by both parties “in the manner for a deed to be recorded;” in other words, the prenup needs to be notarized.
The requirements for a valid prenuptial agreement not only are necessary at the time of the agreement’s signing, but they must also be last for the duration of the marriage in order for the agreement to be enforceable should the marriage end in divorce. For example, one of the conditions of a valid prenuptial agreement might be that the marital home will go to one of the parties upon divorce. This might be conditioned upon that party making the mortgage payments directly from his or her income. However, if the couple decides to co-mingle their income and use that co-mingled income to make mortgage payments, the otherwise valid prenuptial agreement may be held unenforceable by a Court.
As previously mentioned, prenuptial agreements do more than just protect a party who is entering a marriage with a disproportionately large amount of assets. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement and without a valid will, the law will decide what assets go to the surviving spouse no matter what the true intentions were of the deceased spouse. Moreover, it just makes sense for couples to understand what their financial rights and responsibilities are prior to entering into marriage.
Anyone thinking about entering into a prenuptial agreement should seek an attorney for every step of the process as there are too many legal considerations to take care of without professional help. Both Attorney Sommer or Attorney O’Donnell are here to assist you if you would like to discuss this issue further.