With Valentine’s Day approaching, many are thinking of marriages and, for those marrying later in life or not for the first time, prenuptial agreements as well.
Although not romantic, prenuptial agreements, or “prenups” make sense for those who are coming into a marriage with property or money and also children whom they would like to provide for. Sometimes, one of the parties has assets, but, in more and more case, both parties want to protect the things they already have in the unfortunate case of divorce.
Many people think prenups are easy and simple. I commonly hear someone say that they just want to keep separate what they already have. It seems simple to do that. While owning one home and having a bank account is not as complicated as a large estate, a prenup is a legal document that must be done right.
Just ask Harry Hahamovich. He and his now ex-wife Dianne signed a prenup in 1986. They were married for 22 years before a divorce was filed. Harry and Dianne signed what they and their lawyers believed to be a well-written agreement, spelling out that each was entitled to keep their separate property. It must have seemed simple at the time. But, 22 years later, they could not agree on what separate property meant. Dianne believed that any increase in value of Harry’s property during the marriage and Harry’s earnings during the marriage were marital assets. Several Florida courts previously agreed with Dianne’s interpretation, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal did not. The trial judge agreed with Harry and concluded that the prenuptial agreement was valid and its language was broad enough to cover everything Harry earned and owned during the marriage. The trial judge looked at the agreement as a whole, including the sections where Dianne waived her rights to all of Harry’s assets. Dianne appealed that decision to the Florida Supreme Court. Harry eventually won a ruling in his favor, seven years after the divorce was filed.
The case of Harry and Dianne Hahamovich shows how important it is to prepare a prenup correctly. A prenuptial agreement is like an insurance plan. It’s not something you want to use, but, if something happens, you wanted to be protected. No one wants to think about divorce, but it’s better to think and prepare for it when you are looking forward to marriage and not when you are trying to end it.
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