Steps in the Prenup Process

Each Side Picks an Attorney

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Both spouses will need their own legal counsel to make a prenuptial agreement binding and give it lasting enforceability. A  good way to get out of a prenup is to argue you didn't have a lawyer and had no idea what you were signing.  A good referral source for cooperative attorneys is King County Collaborative Law. Typical fees in Washington run from $500 to $2,600 per side. Higher net wealth clients may pay up to $5,000 per side for a prenuptial agreement. 

Learn the Law

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In order for a prenuptial agreement to have sticking power, both parties should be well educated on the marital laws of Washington. You can read the Family Law Desk Book at the King County Law Library to get informed. Usually one hour is spent with the attorney explaining Washington family law and likely outcomes in divorce. The more fair your prenuptial agreement is the more likely a court will find it enforceable. 

How Does Law Impact You?

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It's good to know how the law will impact your life and future plans as a married person.  This is your starting point.  Are there any scenarios that bother you?  These are the areas you can amend by entering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreement terms should be considered in context with your other financial planning documents and accounts such as deeds, wills, trusts, LLC's  and beneficiary designation forms. 

Negotiate Prenup Terms, Check Assets/ Debts

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You and your spouse, with or without lawyers, need to come to agreements about how you want to treat separate property, community property and other issues after marriage like categorization of wages and how to handle divisions during divorce or legal separation.  We think all prenuptial agreements should include conflict resolution protocols and require a thorough back ground check and asset/ debt verification.  For high net wealth individuals, you may attend a prenuptial mediation to make negotiation easy and less stressful. 

Draft and Review the Document

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Typically one side's attorney writes the initial draft of the prenuptial agreement. Then the other side and their attorney review the prenuptial agreement. New terms are suggested. Language is tweaked.  Sometimes, the drafting party only shares a PDF file to avoid copyright infringement, or to maintain control over changes made to the prenup. Written changes are made to the draft documents.  Sometimes the parties meet in a four-way session with lawyers to reach final agreements on language.  

Finalize and Sign

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  Both parties should sign before notaries two final, original, matching documents. Banks, the law libraries, and copy stores have notaries on staff. Each party keeps a signed original.  You want to sign these at least 30 days before the wedding ceremony to maximize enforceability. That means you need to begin the process at least two months before the wedding to avoid the prenuptial agreement being suspect on its' face.  Keep your signed agreement safe from fire, and water. It is critical that you live the prenuptial agreement and follow the terms over time to show it is a valid agreement.