By Adam Doll
Premarital (aka antenuptial or prenuptial) agreements are seemingly becoming more commonplace in the United States. According to a recent survey taken by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 62% of divorce attorneys reported seeing an increase in the total number of clients seeking premarital agreements in recent years. There are likely numerous reasons for the spike in premarital agreements being executed, but experts state that two of the main reasons are that many people are getting married later in life (and thus have more assets to protect) and there is less of a stigma in broaching the premarital subject. Asking for a premarital agreement is seemingly not as taboo as it may have been 20 years ago.
Iowa’s law on premarital agreements is contained in Iowa Code Chapter 596. At a whopping two pages in length you could become a quasi-expert in premarital agreements in a few minutes. In short, a premarital agreement is an agreement voluntarily entered into between two prospective spouses. It must be in writing, signed by both prospective spouses, and only becomes enforceable upon the marriage of the parties. There can be many variations of these agreements, from a simple “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” approach to a more complex and nuanced approach in which spouses’ financial rights may change over time to acknowledge a long term marriage. A premarital agreement allows spouses to detail the rights and duties of each party with respect to their property and earnings, management of property, disposition of property through divorce or death, estate planning, and the ownership and beneficiary designations on life insurance. Prospective spouses may also put anything else in a premarital agreement that is not in violation of public policy or in violation of criminal statutes. Two specific item that expressly cannot be put into a premarital agreement are limiting the right to child support or spousal support. These provisions would be deemed void if they were listed in any premarital agreement in Iowa.
Entering into a premarital agreement is no small detail and should never be taken lightly before signing. This document is something that will be with a person for the duration of their marriage and can significantly change what a spouse would receive financially at divorce, or death of their spouse, compared to what a spouse would receive if there was no premarital agreement. Also, it is very important to discuss this subject before marriage as currently in Iowa spouses are not allowed to enter into agreements like this after marriage, which are called post-nuptial agreements. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to retain professional counsel to guide you through the process.
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