Couples planning to marry often want to know if they need a Pre-Nuptial Agreement (also known as an Antenuptial Agreement). One may ask their estate or corporate lawyer what he or she thinks and the answer may be "yes" in many situations, but three very common ones are if:

  1. It is a second marriage for at least one of the spouses and there are children of one or both people who will inherit instead of the spouse, 
  2. If there is an existing business to be kept out of the marriage, or 
  3. If the parties about to marry do not want to share their assets or the increases in value of those assets after they marry. Frequently, people want to protect their homes or their retirement accounts for themselves or their children.

If the parties fit into these general categories, they may benefit from such a Pre-Nuptial Agreement.

For such an agreement to be valid in Pennsylvania, there must be full and fair disclosure of all of the assets and liabilities owned by each party and a knowing waiver of rights without undue duress. Duress in Pennsylvania is the threat of physical force, not one party saying to cancel the wedding unless the document is signed. Although not required, the best way to ensure that these requirements are met is for each person to have their own lawyer, to sign such an agreement at least 30 days before the wedding, and to have all the assets, their values, and the basis for the valuations, listed in the document. Once properly executed, the document is a contract, the same as if you were buying a house – and its enforceable.

If all of this sounds too expensive or too complicated, the chances are the parties do not need the Pre-Nup!