Modern High Asset marriages commonly involve Pre-Nuptial agreements to preserve and protect each spouses‘ property. If one spouse takes advantage of the other and the Pre-Nuptial is unconscionable, it may be attacked as invalid as a matter of law. There are a few considerations you should make sure of before determining if a Pre-Nuptial is valid:
- Did you sign the Pre-Nuptial voluntarily?
- Were you given fair disclosure of the property or obligations of the other spouse?
- Did you waive the right of disclosure in writing?
- Did you have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other spouse?
If you answered “NO” to either (1) or all of (2)-(4) then you may be in a position to contest the Pre-Nuptial agreement. It is difficult to show that a Pre-Nuptial agreement is unconscionable. The Courts have made it clear that “unfairness” which is short of unconscionability does not make a Pre-Nuptial unenforceable. Determining whether a Pre-Nuptial agreement is valid or not is in large measure a question for the judge and not for the jury. This means that a judge will make the determination if your spouse has forced you to sign a Pre-Nuptial in an unconscionable way.
For high asset divorces, Pre-Nuptial agreements are more common. If you are a spouse that was pushed into signing a Pre-Nuptial without fair disclosure or without adequate knowledge of the property or obligations enforced in the agreement you may have a claim. Depending on the circumstances, invalidating a Pre-Nuptial agreement may be time consuming and costly, so an experienced attorney must be consulted.
Assess your situation at the time you signed your Pre-Nuptial. Did your spouse muscle you into signing the Pre-Nuptial, thus possibly invalidating the Pre-Nuptial? Once you have answered these questions find an experienced attorney that is familiar with contesting or setting aside unconscionable or unenforceable Pre-Nuptial Agreements.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
One the most complicate and transparent ways an individual may defraud a spouse during a marriage is with the use of a trust. A trust is an entity that separates equitable and legal title of all property or money placed within it. Prior to, during, or after marriage, a spouse may create a trust and name the children of the marriage or others, as the beneficiaries. The spouse then may start siphoning community property and separate property into the trust removing the property from the community. This is a tactic commonly practiced when a spouse has failed to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
Circumstances like this happen in High Asset Divorces because a trust may be used to protect properties from the other spouse. Attack the trust as a party of the case and request an accounting. It takes an experienced lawyer to understand which trusts can be attacked and which trusts are impenetrable.
Trust busting consists of complex and arduous litigation depending on the circumstances. The circumstances of a trust are important in divorce cases. Here are a few questions you should ponder when assessing any trusts during a divorce:
- Determine when the trust was created;
- Determine if the trust is revocable trust or irrevocable trust ;
- Determine who the beneficiary of the trust is;
- Determine who the trustee of the trust is;
- Determine who the settlor of the trust is;
- Determine the type of property or money that is placed within the trust; and
- Determine when the property or money was placed in the trust.
These are just a few inquiries you should make prior to meeting with your lawyer. It will save you time and money. Depending on the answers to the seven inquires stated above, an experienced lawyer may be able to bust the trust opening the property and monies for the final hearing in a divorce case. There are many defenses and unsettled law in connection with trust busting and an experienced attorney must be sought.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
When couples says “I do” one must be thoughtful of the potential consequences to a Small Business owner. A Small Business owner without proper preparation and/or knowledge may soon be saying “our assets” instead of “my assets”. Small Business owners should closely examine their fiduciary duties to their spouse in reference to community assets that may arise when two individuals acquire a marriage license and marry or marry by common law. A small business owner can protect his/her premarital property by keeping it under their control rather than risking community characterization.
Pre-Nuptial agreements are binding technical contracts that safe-guard an individual’s properties, monies, and business belongings in detail. These contracts may be specific, complex, and meticulous. An attorney should be consulted. The Pre-Nuptial agreement can dictate, regulate or mitigate manage next of:
- The entitlements of spousal support
- The inheritance regarding Insurance Policies
- The specific allocation of resources and properties in a Will, Trust, or Business
- The marital property claims in reference to both parties
- The ability to Own, Sell, Purchase, Rent, Mortgage, and Regulate any Separate or Community Properties
If an individual has married before a Pre-Nuptial contract is executed there is still hope and a path to take in order to insure protection of your small business. A Post-Nuptial agreement protects a Small Business owner’s property after the fact and should be utilized if required or desired. The Post-Nuptial agreement is similar to the Pre-Nuptial agreement but more care and specificity is required since some or all an individual’s assets may have taken on the attributes of community property because of the spouse’s inherent property rights after the marriage has taken place.
There are three major Ante-Nuptial agreements:
1.) Partition and Exchange Agreement: This Agreement regulates the financial allocation of a Small Business allowing monies and stock to remain separate property rather than becoming community property over time. It also separates and characterizes each spouse’s future income. The agreement allows Small Business owner’s the ability to have independent control over their business without empowering or including their spouse in decision making or management.
2.) Agreement Concerning Income from Separate Property: The principal feature of this agreement is to protect an individual’s corpus & income that exists or is produced by their Small Business. Even If there is an existing Post-Nuptial agreement that inhibits a spouse from attaining stocks or money within a specific Small Business, the actual income the Small Business produces may become community and the other spouse is entitled to their share upon dissolution of the marriage. This is tricky, for a Small Business owner is right in believing that the property and assets of the business itself is independently theirs, but he/she is wrong in the assumption that the profit made by their business is independently theirs as well. This Agreement allows a Business Owner to control, manage, and personally own all the income that is realized through his/her company. This Agreement must be signed by the owner and his/her spouse and should be as concrete as possible to avoid problems in any type of litigation process.
3.) Complex Estate Planning: Estate planning is helpful and smart. Many Post-Nuptial agreements allow independent properties to modify the community status of property to attain certain tax breaks that are applied to married couples. This may put a smile on a Small Business owner’s face for a while as he/she reaps the benefits of tax-deductions, but if a divorce occurs these tax exemptions could become proof of the existence of community property to be awarded to his/her spouse. Pre and post marital agreements may not be necessary dependent on specific situations, but if they are necessary the agreements will ensure the control of one’s business assets, income, and properties. The law was created to help ensure the protection of people’s premarital rights. If you are a Small Business owner read up on yours rights and avoid not being taken advantage of by a once loving spouse in the future.