With all of the technology available at our fingertips, people may wonder why they can’t just have ChatGPT write their prenup or download a free online prenup form that covers everything. Well, generally, when something is free (especially in the legal world), it’s probably not high quality. But why not? Let’s dig into the “why not” and look at the dangers of using free online prenup templates.
What is a Prenup?
First things first, for those of you who don’t know, a prenup is a legally binding contract that outlines how assets, income, inheritance, and debts will be divided in a divorce. It can also include provisions for spousal support (i.e., alimony) and other matters.
Prenups are as much emotional documents as they are financial ones. Getting a prenup facilitates in-depth conversation with your partner, and the end result is total alignment on life and financial goals.
What is a Free Online Prenup Form?
A free online prenup form is a prenup template that can be downloaded and filled out, and signed by future spouses, usually without the help of an attorney. They are typically only a few pages long (red flag #1), are not specific to the couples’ needs (red flat #2), and are typically not compliant with state law (red flag #3).
So, why do people get them? Well, there are a million different prenup forms available online, and people are often drawn to their convenience and affordability.
The Dangers of Using Free Online Prenup Forms
Now, let’s dig a little deeper– why should you not use a free online prenup form? While they may seem convenient and cost-effective, they come with a ton of risks that make it all not worth your time.
Lack of Personalization
Free online prenup forms are generic templates that are highly unlikely to be suitable for YOUR specific needs, wants, and circumstances. For example, a free prenup form may include a waiver of alimony by default, but the couple actually doesn’t want to waive alimony because one spouse plans to be a stay-at-home parent (thus, possibly requiring alimony one day). This is troublesome for many reasons, but one is definitely the fact that it doesn’t align with the couples’ needs and goals (i.e., lack of personalization).
Lack of Legal Accuracy
First things first, does ChatGPT really know the law? We’ve done our own intel grab on it, and as lawyers, we can tell you that it is not always accurate. Same thing with the free online prenup forms. It is especially difficult for a prenup form to be accurate in each state because prenup laws are dictated by state laws. What is a valid and enforceable prenup is not necessarily a valid and enforceable prenup in another state.
Lack of Legal Guidance
What we mean by “legal guidance” are the actions that take place around the prenup process that are not necessarily put into writing. For example, did you know that in California, a prenup is not enforceable if it is done too close to the wedding? Well, your prenup template probably did not tell you that, and what you don’t realize is that even if the prenup is perfectly legally accurate, but it was executed too late, it’s still not valid (in CA).
Other examples of this are that some states require one or more witnesses to the prenup. Your prenup form probably doesn’t tell you that in Minnesota and several other states, you need to have witness(es) to your prenup.
Also, most states require that prenups are not unconscionable, which basically means egregiously unfair (but each state has its own definition of this). Do you know what that means? Does your prenup template explain to you what could be considered unconscionable? Probably not, and that could be problematic for you if you ever try to enforce your prenup down the road (i.e., a judge could throw it out for being unconscionable).
Lack of State-specific Information
We’ve sort of touched on this in the sections above, but each state is very specific in its requirements for a valid and enforceable prenup. For example, in New York, you need to acknowledge your prenup in the same way that you do a deed. What on EARTH does that mean? Well, it’s basically just a certain block of contract language that needs to be included in the notarization section of the prenup, but does your prenup form and/or ChatGPT know that? Because that specific requirement isn’t super explicitly stated anywhere, but it is well known in the New York family law community as a must-do. Again, this is problematic because if you fail to follow your state’s requirements, you do not have a valid and enforceable prenup!
Lack of Legal Change Updates
The law is an ever-changing beast. If it stayed the same forever, women still wouldn’t be able to vote, and you’d have to get a blood test in order to get married. We know the law changes, and that does not exclude prenup laws! Prenup laws can change, and they do change. In other words, your free online prenup template may not reflect the latest case that was released just a few days ago. This can lead to catastrophe for your agreement (i.e., you don’t have a prenup because it could be declared unenforceable for not including this new law).
Risk of Ambiguity in Contract Language
Because of the low quality of the prenup (I mean, these templates are typically only a few pages long, which is not good), the prenup’s language may be ambiguous or conflicting. In other words, it might say something so vague that a court would have no idea if it meant X or Y. Needless to say, prenup forms are notorious for being confusing and inviting misinterpretation. This can result in the prenup being thrown out.
An unenforceable prenup is a completely useless prenup. If it’s unenforceable, that means it’s getting thrown in the garbage, and you will need to abide by the default laws of your state. Free online prenup forms may not meet your state’s legal requirements for a valid and enforceable prenup.
The Benefits of Using HelloPrenup
We want to make it clear: HelloPrenup is not a free prenup form/template. We utilize an in-depth, dual-party questionnaire that allows for thousands of different contract outputs based on both spouses’ answers (i.e., personalization of the contract). All versions of the contract output have been created and reviewed by multiple attorneys. Not only that, but we are also state compliant with all of the up-to-date laws in every state.
HelloPrenup can help you create a personalized agreement that meets your specific needs and goals. Based on the answers you provide in our detailed questionnaire, our software will generate a prenup that makes sense for your specific situation.
An Abundance of Legal Knowledge, Guidance, and Expertise
Many attorneys across the nation have contributed to and reviewed all of the different versions of the HelloPrenup prenup. There have been not one, not two, but many different lawyers who have reviewed our contract and put their stamp of approval on it.
HelloPrenup consults with attorneys in different states and invests significant time into legal research to ensure all requisite state-specific laws are incorporated into the document.
Avoidance of Ambiguity
Again, back to the fact that not one attorney but many attorneys have actually reviewed the prenup language and their stamp of approval on it. This also includes checking for ambiguity (in addition to legal accuracy and state compliance).
While many different lawyers have reviewed the general contract language, that is not to say that there are attorneys reviewing YOUR specific contract for YOUR unique situation. If you want someone to put a stamp of approval on your specific contract (as it applies to your life), you should speak with an attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about free online prenup forms
Q: Are free online prenup forms enforceable?
A: We can’t say for certain, as enforceability depends on many different things (the situation, the contract, the state laws, and the judge presiding over the case).
Q: Is HelloPrenup an online prenup form?
A: No, it is not a “template,” it is a dynamic contract that is tailored to each individual couple’s needs.
In conclusion, while free online prenup forms may seem like a cheap and easy solution, they come with potential dangers, like ambiguity, lack of state compliance, and lack of legal guidance. Spending a little money to get a prenup ($599 with HelloPrenup) is well worth the cost!
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]