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Postnuptial Agreements and Estate Planning

A postnuptial agreement, sometimes referred to as a postmarital agreement or postnup, is a legal contract entered into by a married couple after they have wed. As an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, I have worked with married couples who have entered into these contracts. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement outlines how assets, debts, and other financial matters will be handled in the event of divorce or death. While postnuptial agreements are primarily associated with marital and financial considerations, they can intersect with estate planning in several ways:

  1. Asset Division:
    • Divorce Planning: A postnuptial agreement can specify how assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. This can have implications for estate planning, as the agreement may impact the distribution of assets upon divorce, potentially influencing what assets are available for distribution in an estate plan.
  2. Inheritance Rights:
    • Upon Death: A postnuptial agreement can address the rights of each spouse to inherit from the other’s estate. It may specify what assets the surviving spouse is entitled to receive and how the estate will be distributed. Without such an agreement, default inheritance laws may apply.
  3. Spousal Support and Alimony:
    • Divorce or Death: The agreement can outline provisions for spousal support or alimony, affecting financial arrangements not only during the marriage but also in the event of divorce or death. This can have implications for the surviving spouse’s financial well-being and inheritance.
  4. Debt and Liability Allocation:
    • Separation or Death: In addition to assets, postnuptial agreements can address the allocation of debts and liabilities. This can impact the financial position of the surviving spouse in the event of death and affect the estate planning process.
  5. Estate Tax Planning:
    • Inheritance Tax Consequences: A well-drafted postnuptial agreement can also consider estate tax implications. By outlining how assets are treated for tax purposes, the agreement may contribute to more efficient estate tax planning.
  6. Family and Heirloom Planning:
    • Distribution Wishes: The agreement can include provisions regarding specific family heirlooms or sentimental items, dictating how they should be distributed in the event of death or divorce.
  7. Business Interests:
    • Business Ownership: If one or both spouses have ownership interests in a business, the postnuptial agreement can specify how those interests will be treated in the event of divorce or death, potentially influencing the estate plan.


It’s crucial to note that postnuptial agreements are subject to legal requirements and must be entered into voluntarily with full disclosure and understanding by both parties. The enforceability of a postnuptial agreement can vary by jurisdiction, and it’s advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in family law to ensure that the agreement is legally sound and aligned with the intentions of the parties involved.

Additionally, for comprehensive estate planning, it’s recommended that each spouse also have individual wills, powers of attorney, and advance health care directives to address personal wishes regarding inheritance, decision-making authority, and medical care. The postnuptial agreement can complement these estate planning documents, creating a cohesive and comprehensive plan for the couple’s financial and estate affairs. If you are seeking the guidance of an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer or have questions about postnuptial agreements and estate planning, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message.

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