We get this question a lot! How long before your wedding do you need to start the prenup process? And when should the prenup be fully completed? Well, that answer depends on your state laws. A good rule of thumb is to get the process started three to six months before the wedding day. However, there are some general guidelines to follow that will ensure you’re compliant in every state. Keep reading to learn more about the timing of prenups and your upcoming wedding.
When to Get a Prenup?
The timing of when to get a prenup is largely dependent on what is required in your state. For example, in California, there is something called the 7-day rule which mandates seven calendar days between the presentation of the final draft and the signing of the document. This means that you CANNOT start the prenup conversation nor can you finalize the prenup a few days before the wedding in California.
Other states have different rules. For example, in New Hampshire, generally speaking, there is a requirement to finalize the prenup 30 days prior to the wedding. So, no, you cannot start the prenup conversations 30 days before; the prenup must be “done and dusted” at the 30-day mark in New Hampshire.
Again, every state has different parameters, so it’s important to be mindful of your state’s requirements.
So, what is a person to do? HelloPrenup recommends starting the prenup process three to six months before the wedding day. This should give you plenty of time in any state to get the prenup drafted and signed with enough time before the wedding day. Keep in mind there are typically negotiations during the prenup process which may take a significant amount of time to work out between you and your spouse. You need to give yourself plenty of buffer for any obstacles!
If you have any doubts, concerns, or legal questions, you should always reach out to a local family law attorney!
Why does timing matter when it comes to getting a prenup?
You may be thinking, why does it matter if I get my prenup six months or one day before the wedding? Well, the answer can vary slightly depending on what state you’re in, but generally, there are a few common reasons.
For one, courts don’t want people to be coerced or under duress when they sign a prenup. When a prenup is executed too close to the wedding day, it may indicate that the spouse was forced to sign the agreement (i.e., coercion or duress). For example, let’s say a husband wants to get his wife to sign the terms of the agreement that are really favorable to him, and him only. He may get the idea to “spring” the prenup on her last minute so she has “no choice” but to sign. Courts are trying to avoid coercive situations like this when it comes to signing prenups.
Two, people should have enough time to review the terms and understand what they mean. For instance, if your partner sprung a prenup on you on the day of the wedding, you might be too flustered to read it, let alone have enough time to understand the legal implications of the terms. In other words, people should be signing contracts that they understand the terms of.
Three, both spouses should have enough time to get a lawyer if they want one (or require one). For example, if you presented the prenup to your partner a day before the wedding, he or she probably doesn’t have enough time to hire a lawyer, so may forgo one because of the time crunch. This is not ideal in the court’s eyes because it could create an uneven playing field.
Real Case Law Regarding Time of Prenup Execution
Let’s dive into what real state courts are saying about the requirement for when the prenup should be signed (i.e., executed).
A case in Florida from 2019 recently dealt with a prenup that was presented to an immigrant wife six days before the wedding by her future husband. The husband demanded that the wife sign the prenup the day before the wedding and threatened not to marry her if she did not sign. On top of that, the husband did not include financial disclosure, nor did either party waive disclosure. At the time, the wife was pregnant with their second child, and if she did not marry the husband, her immigration status might have been revoked. The result? The court said that with all of these things in mind (signing the contract the day before the wedding, not including financial disclosure, and the threat of the wife losing immigration status while pregnant) was enough to throw out the contract. Ziegler v. Natera, 279 So.3d 1240 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2019).
The Supreme Court of New Hampshire heard a case in 2003 involving duress and prenuptial agreements. John, a successful real estate investor, married Erin, a 22-year-old Thai immigrant, and presented her with a prenup just days before the wedding. Erin felt pressured to sign the agreement and cried during the negotiation, feeling as though she had no other choice. After John’s death, Erin sought to have the prenup invalidated, arguing that she did not sign it voluntarily. The court agreed, citing several factors that made the circumstances coercive, including the timing of the presentation, pressure from John, and an unqualified attorney representing Erin. The court invalidated the prenup based on duress. In re Est. of Hollett, 834 A.2d 348 (N.H. 2003)
The Massachusetts case of Osborne v. Osborne involved a prenuptial agreement signed only hours before the wedding. The wife, in this case, was an heir to a $17 million inheritance, and the husband didn’t have any significant assets. The agreement waived each spouse’s rights to the other’s separate property and to alimony in the event of divorce (i.e., the husband gets none of the wife’s fortune in the event of divorce and vice versa). At the time of signing, the wife was represented by an attorney, while the husband was not.
The husband argued that he signed the agreement under duress, but the Appeals Court ultimately found that there was no duress, despite signing shortly before the wedding and not having legal representation. Thus, the prenup was valid!
The case of Pownall v. Pownall set an important precedent regarding prenup agreements in Arizona. The case involved a husband and wife who were scheduled to be married, and four days before the wedding, they discussed a prenuptial agreement at the husband’s attorney’s office. The agreement aimed to keep the husband’s existing pizza business and any future businesses separate from the wife. The wife was informed by the husband’s attorney that he was only representing the husband, and the husband even offered to pay for her to get her own attorney. The wife declined the offer to have an attorney of her own. She signed the agreement, and they got married four days later. However, the husband filed for divorce two years later, and the wife claimed that the prenup agreement was not valid because it was not conscionable, and she did not enter it voluntarily.
The court ultimately found that the premarital agreement was valid. The court held that the wife had entered into the agreement voluntarily because she had the option to obtain independent legal advice but did not take it. Furthermore, even though the agreement was presented four days before the wedding, it was not considered involuntary because they could have postponed the wedding. Additionally, the court found that the agreement was not unconscionable because it aimed to protect the husband’s business interests, and the wife had enough financial disclosure of his assets since she had even worked for one of his businesses.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We put together a few frequently asked questions regarding the timing of a prenup below.
Q: Can we get a prenup the day before the wedding?
A: It depends on your state; however, this is generally not a good idea, regardless of your state. Some states will uphold prenups made shortly before the wedding (as you can see in some of the case law above), while other states will not. HelloPrenup recommends starting the process three to six months prior to the wedding.
Q: Can we get a prenup the week before the wedding?
A: Same answer as above. This depends on your state’s law. For example, this would not fly in California because of its 7-day rule.
Q: What is the perfect time to start the prenup process?
A: HelloPrenup recommends starting the prenup-making process three to six months before the big day.
To sum it up, a prenuptial agreement can be a great tool for you and your partner to feel financially protected in the worst-case scenario that the marriage comes to an end. However, there are some guidelines and requirements when it comes to creating a legally sound prenup. One of those requirements is timing. That is, how long before the wedding should you finalize the prenup? The answer depends on what state you’re in, but generally, you should start the prenup process three to six months before the wedding day in order to be compliant in any state.
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]