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Focus on prenups, postnuptial agreements: ensuring enforceability

For a number of very logical -- and often compelling -- reasons, increasingly more couples in Florida and across the United States have been executing both prenuptial agreements and postmarital contracts in recent years.

The long-held view of some persons that such documents are "deal breakers" and underminers of marital trust and bliss has rightfully given way in the minds of most people to the realization that marital contracts are most fundamentally planning tools of great utility. They help couples identify what is important to them in marriage and help them set forth that understanding while protecting premarital property in the process.

When done correctly, with close assistance from an experienced family law attorney, a well-crafted marital agreement can actually lend stability to a marriage and give marital partners peace of mind concerning important family matters.

There is a flip side to that, of course, centering on unintended consequences that can follow from a marital contract executed with a material defect.

A prominent example of that is playing out in the news currently following the setting aside of a prenuptial agreement by a New York court finding that a real estate tycoon unduly pressured his wife to sign the document prior to marriage. Although the agreement facially stipulated that no reliance could be made on oral statements to challenge it, that is precisely what the wife did. She argued, successfully, that her husband fraudulently induced her to execute the agreement by orally promising to destroy it when the couple had children.

The central point that commentators often point to in such a case is this: Marital contracts can on occasion be successfully challenged, notwithstanding their stated intent.

The obvious lesson to be learned from that: Consultation with a proven family law attorney well-versed in negotiating and drafting marital contracts can help ensure their lasting viability as both planning and legal instruments.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "NY court decision voiding prenup sparks legal row," March 12, 2013

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