Grab your banjo and a plate of hot chicken, because we’re diving into the spicy world of Tennessee prenuptial agreements – where love meets legalities and twangy tunes! If you clicked on this article, you’re probably engaged or getting engaged soon and have started thinking about prenups. First off, congratulations! Second off, great job in taking the first step in securing your financial future and strengthening your soon-to-be marriage. Prenuptial agreements (or prenups, as we like to call them) are great tools to align with your spouse on all things finances. But do you need a prenup lawyer to get one? If so, how much does that cost? What do they even do? What goes into a prenuptial agreement in Tennessee? We’re going to dive into all of that and more below.
What does a prenuptial agreement lawyer do?
A prenuptial agreement lawyer is the person you hire to create your prenuptial agreement and walk you through the process from start to finish. They are experts in the law and likely have the experience to provide you with best practices on how to approach your prenup for your specific situation. You may also wonder if your prenup lawyer is also your divorce lawyer. Spoiler alert: they’re not. A huge misconception about getting a prenup is that you’re just planning for divorce and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, many prenup lawyers don’t even do divorces! When you’re hiring a prenup lawyer, you are hiring someone to help you create a contract and a lifelong marriage.
What is the cost of a prenuptial agreement attorney in Tennessee?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of prenuptial agreements and lawyers, you may be thinking to yourself, “How much is this going to cost me?” Never fear, we have your answer and some cheaper alternatives to boot! To start off, the cost of a prenuptial agreement attorney varies based on several factors. We break down those factors below.
Cost of living in your area
As you can imagine, where you live plays a huge part in how much your attorney will charge. An attorney in Nashville is going to charge much more than an attorney in, say, Gatlinburg. Comparing Tennessee to other states, the cost of living is 11% lower than the national average. This is good news for you because you’re likely to pay less for an attorney than you would in other states.
Skill of your attorney
Of course, the skill and experience level of your attorney will also play a part in how much they charge. If you hire a law school grad and prenup newbie, you’re likely to pay much less than if you hired a prenup vet with over 10 years of experience.
If you have a complex set of finances, this will take your lawyer much more time to sift through your financial documents to understand what they’re working with. More time understanding your finances means the more hours they work and the more they will bill you. If you have basic finances, say, you own a home and have a 401k and that’s it, then your lawyer won’t spend as much time on the financial documents of the prenup process.
Your prenup needs
What are you asking for in your prenup? Are you asking for a ton of different and unique clauses that aren’t in the standard prenup? Or are you asking for a simple “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours?” The complexity of your prenup goals will also play into how much time your lawyer spends drafting your prenup, and ultimately, charging you for it.
Average cost in Tennessee vs. alternatives
The average family law attorney in Tennessee charges $265 per hour. If you have basic finances and basic prenup requests, it could potentially take your lawyer around 11 hours to complete. This may include 1 hour of consultation/Q&A, 2 hours of drafting, 4-6 hours of negotiations, and 1-2 hours of review with the client and signing. This would come out to approximately $2,915 for a prenup lawyer in Tennessee. That doesn’t include what your partner would pay for their prenup lawyer.
Don’t fret! There are cheaper alternatives available. Enter: HelloPrenup. With HelloPrenup, you and your partner are in the driver’s seat for the prenup ride. You are able to create your own prenup, on your own time, all from the comfort of your own home. You two independently fill out a questionnaire, negotiate the terms, and finalize it. You can still have an attorney review that final agreement (if you want) and the cost will be way less than if the attorney had drafted the contract from scratch. The best part? This all costs you $599 per couple. Of course, if you want to add on an attorney review, that will cost you extra. This isn’t necessary in Tennessee, though!
Do we need a lawyer to have a valid and enforceable prenup in Tennessee?
Short answer: nope! Many people mistakenly believe that hiring a lawyer is a prerequisite to having a valid prenup, and it’s not true! In Tennessee, you do not need to have a prenup lawyer for a valid and enforceable Tennessee prenup. (See Tennessee Code Title 36. Domestic Relations § 36-3-501). In fact, most states do not require one, except for limited exceptions.
However, we never discourage the use of a lawyer, as they bring many benefits to your prenup agreement. Prenup lawyers can help ensure you are compliant with state law, possibly increase your odds of an enforceable agreement, and provide you with legal advice. Not only that but if you have legal questions, they have answers. You won’t be left in the dark about anything prenup-related!
What are prenuptial agreement requirements in Tennessee and the UPAA explained?
So, what does it take to create a valid and enforceable prenup in the great state of Tennessee? Well, Tennessee is one of the states that has not adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). The UPAA is a guideline for states to adopt (or not adopt, like TN) to create consistency across states as it pertains to prenup laws. The UPAA basically lays out guidelines for the validity and enforceability of prenups. However, Tennessee has chosen not to adopt it at this time. That means the Tennessee legislature creates its own rules for what is a valid and enforceable prenup agreement.
In Tennessee, to have a valid and enforceable agreement you must do the following:
- The agreement must be in writing (no verbal agreements)
- The agreement must be signed by both spouses
- The agreement must be notarized
- The agreement must be entered into “freely, knowledgeably and in good faith and without the exertion of duress or undue influence” (See Tennessee Code Title 36. Domestic Relations § 36-3-501)
- Each party must provide full and fair financial disclosure (See Randolf v. Randolf, 937 S.W.2d 815 (1996))
- The terms of the agreement are against Tennessee’s public policy and/or laws
Important Tennessee case law regarding prenups
Reece v. Elliott: A case about financial disclosure in Tennessee
The husband and his future wife signed a prenup before their wedding. The agreement said they’d keep their own property separate and waive inheritance rights for the benefit of their respective children from prior relationships. They both had independent legal counsel and disclosed their assets, though the agreement didn’t specify the value of some of the husband’s company shares.
After the husband’s death in 2003, his wife sought to void the agreement, claiming that the husband didn’t disclose all of his assets regarding the shares. Her attorney had reviewed the agreement and asset list, but no stock value investigation was conducted. She thought she had no claim to the shares as per the agreement.
The court disagreed with the wife and said the prenup was valid because she wasn’t misled and had the opportunity to inquire about the value. Also, Tennessee favors prenups and will enforce them liberally.
Randolph v. Randolph: Landmark case on Tennessee prenups
In this case, the term “knowledgeably” from the Tennessee prenuptial agreement statute (See Tennessee Code Title 36. Domestic Relations § 36-3-501) was defined as the requirement for “full and fair” disclosure of a party’s assets and their respective values. According to the Randolph decision, what constitutes “full and fair” disclosure may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case, and it doesn’t necessarily mean listing an exact set of assets. Instead, financial disclosure should provide the other party with a “clear idea” of what assets are involved. Additionally, the court in Randolph emphasized that a significant indicator of whether an agreement was entered into voluntarily and with full knowledge is whether the party had independent legal representation.
Moral of the story? Tennessee courts won’t invalidate your prenup if every last asset isn’t listed, as long as each person has a good idea of what they are. Also, having legal representation isn’t a requirement, but can be a good way to show you entered into the prenup voluntarily and knowledgeably.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]