Premarital agreements need time

Celebrities are always getting engaged in the news. The latest “are they or aren’t they” is buzzing about Hollywood It Girl Jennifer Lawrence.

Once celebrities, like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, are engaged, their legal teams clamor to draw up a premarital agreement to protect their wealthy clients’ assets.

But people don’t always have to be rich to have premarital agreements. Sometimes agreements are drafted to protect legacies or family inheritances.  Sometimes agreements are drafted to ensure present or future businesses don’t become family issues down the road.

California has several requirements for premarital agreements. One of these requirements is the premarital agreement must have been presented to the other party at least seven calendar days before the agreement was signed.  The other party also must have been advised to seek independent legal counsel when presented with the agreement.

One of the most famous cases that discussed the importance of giving the other party enough to time to contemplate and seek independent legal advice regarding a premarital agreement is In re Marriage of Bonds (2000) 5 P.3d 815, 99 Cal.Rptr.2d 252. The Bonds case involved professional baseball player Barry Bonds and his now former wife, Susann “Sun” Margreth Bonds. The day before Barry and Sun married in Las Vegas, she was asked to sign a premarital agreement. In the end, the agreement was upheld by the California Supreme Court, but the case placed every family law attorney on notice that parties needed enough time to review the agreement and seek legal counsel to help avoid an argument that the agreement was not voluntarily entered into.

So if you live in California and want to draft a premarital agreement, make sure you give yourself and your intended enough time before the wedding to properly execute the agreement. It could be the difference between a simple parting of the ways and drawn-out costly litigation.

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