Let’s cut right to the chase: no, free prenups are (usually) NOT legit. Just like any good thing in life, prenups aren’t free. Why? Because lawyers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school training to understand the law. Lawyers are not going to give away free legal work to everyone on the internet. Plus, downloading a free prenup template is not likely to be tailored to your specific needs. On top of that, it’s unlikely that the “free online prenup” is set up to be compliant with your state. Let’s dive into detail on why free online prenups just aren’t the way to go.
What Is A Free Prenup?
Well, a free prenup is likely to be some online prenup template that you can download and fill in the blanks with your information at no cost. It may be enticing because it looks all “legal-y” and has lots of big, scary legal words. But we’re warning you now: these are not legit. I mean, is anything that’s free on the internet really legit? Typically not.
What Is The Likely Outcome Of Getting A Free Prenup?
Okay, so what is SO BAD about a free prenup? It’s not like you go to jail if you get one or something…right?! Well, yeah, of course not. But, the worst case scenario (and most likely scenario) is that your free prenup will be thrown out by a judge if challenged. A court would likely see that the prenup is either not customized to your needs not state-compliant, or both. A situation that also could happen with a free prenup is that the court strikes some or most of the clauses but not all.
What does it mean if your prenup gets thrown out or clauses are stricken from the agreement? It means that the default state law will apply to your divorce case. For example, let’s say you downloaded a free prenup because you wanted to make sure to keep the house you bought during the marriage your separate property. You’re *pretty sure* your free prenup says this. Well, your spouse ends up challenging the prenup, saying it’s not legit and they want a cut of your house value. The result? Your free prenup gets thrown out because it’s not state-compliant. And what happens now? State default law will apply, which will likely say that any purchases during the marriage (including the house) are to be split up. The moral of the story? You downloaded a faulty prenup, and now the house that you wanted to protect is being “split up” in your divorce.
Free Prenup Templates Are Not Customized
POV: You are offered a free nose job, but the catch is you have to walk into surgery without ever telling the doctor about yourself. You can’t say what your desired nose outcome is, nor can you tell them your medical history. Your nose inspo is Bella Hadid, and your medical history is that you’re allergic to certain medicines and you have an autoimmune disease. But in this scenario, you can’t tell them that.
So, what happens? Well, your doctor just guesses and gives you a Hailey Bieber nose instead of a Bella Hadid nose. They also had no clue what your allergies were, so they gave you something you were actually allergic to. On top of that, you are dealing with an autoimmune-related issue that ended up turning into an infection. After all that time and pain spent, you still have to go back and get it fixed to your liking and treatment for the infection. Was the free nose job worth it?! Probs not!!
Back to the legal world– a free prenup is basically like a free nose job, just slightly less painful. It’s probably not going to be to your satisfaction, nor is it safe. A good prenup should be tailored to each individual couple’s needs. No two couples have the exact same finances and goals.
For example, one couple could have a combined net worth of $1 million with a goal of making sure all assets are separate, and no alimony is awarded. Another couple could have a combined net worth of $300,000 with a goal of limiting alimony (not waiving it) and making sure only certain assets are kept separate. If you used a free prenup template for both of them, at least one (or both) of the couples wouldn’t be happy with the results.
There is simply no “one-size-fits-all” for prenups, as there is no one-size-fits-all nose job. The bottom line is that you need your specific goals and situation to be heard and input into a prenup in order to get the outcome you desire.
Free Prenup Templates Are Usually Not State Compliant
The laws that govern whether or not prenups are enforceable come from each individual state. In other words, each state has its own rules around what is required for prenups. What is required for a valid and enforceable prenup in one state may not be required in another state.
For example, in Minnesota, witnesses are required for a valid and enforceable prenup. This is not the case for California. A free prenup template probably does not take that into consideration. So, ideally, a Minnesota free prenup template would have witness signature lines available at the end of the prenup, with the correct language, that allows witnesses to sign.
Another example would be the laws around what can go into a prenup. Can you talk about alimony? What about child matters? Insurance? It varies by state. For example, in New Mexico, you cannot contract around alimony. In most other states, you can include alimony in your prenup. So, if you were to download a free prenup template with an alimony waiver and you lived in New Mexico, not only would that provision not hold up in court, but it also put your contract at risk of being thrown out altogether.
Free prenup templates also do not give you instructions on creating and finalizing the prenup. For example, many states require notarization of the prenup. What about other types of unique state rules, like the 7-day rule for California? This rule requires that you leave seven calendar days between the final draft and the signing of the prenup. How could you possibly know that from downloading a free prenup template?! It’s just not likely!
Alternatives to Free Prenups
We know anything that is free is extremely enticing; we get it. But, like we said earlier, would you take a free nose job? Probably not. Think of a prenup like a nose job: you want it to meet your desired outcome, and you don’t want to have to do it twice. If you get a free prenup, chances are you’re going to wind up with your prenup in the trash and the state default law applying to your case. So, what are some other alternatives to a free prenup but not as expensive as a lawyer? Enter: HelloPrenup.
HelloPrenup is convenient and easy, just like a free prenup. It’s also much cheaper than using a traditional lawyer, but not quite free ($599 per couple). You can get your prenup done in under two hours and without spending thousands. The best part? HelloPrenup is state-compliant and customized to your needs.
The way it works is this: you and your partner each fill out your own questionnaires. After answering the questions, you go through “negotiations,” where the software will show you where your answer discrepancies are. You two will make decisions on how to proceed from the comfort of your own home. All that’s left? Download that prenup, sign, and notarize!
The Bottom Line
Free prenups are not to be messed with. They’re “dangerous” because they’re not likely to stand in court. If you get your prenup thrown out, state laws will apply to your case, which you may or may not be okay with. Not only will you possibly lose out on assets you meant to protect, but you also wasted a lot of time messing with that free prenup! If going the traditional lawyer route is not your style, that’s where HelloPrenup comes in. Check out some more info here.
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]