When couples get married in Minnesota, they have a number of rights regarding property and finances. Occasionally, however, they may wish to alter those rights by entering into an antenuptial (or prenuptial) agreement. Although there may be a variety of reasons for entering into such an agreement, they are commonly used to protect business interests, preserve financial estates, provide for children in blended families, or simply clarify financial rights in case of death or divorce.
Because they modify legal rights, these agreements must meet specific requirements to be enforceable. To be valid, Minnesota law requires that an antenuptial agreement MUST:
· Be in writing;
· Make a full and fair disclosure of the assets, debts, and income of each party;
· Be signed before the date of the marriage (preferably at least several days before);
· Be witnessed by two people;
· Be notarized (the notary CANNOT be one of the witnesses).
In addition, each party must have had the opportunity to consult with an attorney of their choosing. It is possible to waive this right, but doing so is not advisable, and can open the agreement to later challenges. Minnesota courts have held that the circumstances surrounding the signing must be “procedurally” fair: each party must understand the terms of the agreement and how those terms affect their rights, a party must receive something (“consideration” in legalese) for giving up rights, and the agreement cannot be the result of undue influence or duress.
Finally, to be enforceable, the agreement must be “substantively” fair and reasonable at the time the parties sign it, considering such things as their respective economic circumstances, the property they each brought to the marriage, their earning capacities, and their ages and health. Likewise, the courts will consider whether there has been a change of circumstances that would make the agreement unfair at the time it is enforced. If the court determines that the agreement is both procedurally and substantively fair, it will be upheld.
To discuss antenuptial agreements, or any family law issue, call Kruse Family Law at 612.231.9865 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.