Can I Write My Own Prenuptial Agreement in California?

Posted in Divorce on June 7, 2022

A prenuptial agreement is a great way to protect your assets against every possible eventuality. If you and your spouse want to head into your marriage free of anxiety about the future, put the details of what will happen should you get divorced down in writing. While you may be tempted to draft a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement on your own to save money on legal fees, it is much safer – and better for your peace of mind – to have an attorney do this for you.

Do You Need a Prenup?

Contrary to popular belief, prenuptial agreements aren’t just for the ultra-wealthy. They also don’t mean you expect your marriage to fail. A prenup is simply a legal document that organizes key issues in the event of a divorce. It can determine how you will divide your property, handle savings and retirement accounts, deal with the question of alimony, and organize other terms of a dissolution of marriage.

A prenup can help you avoid fights and a contested divorce case in the future. It can also protect your hard-earned assets from being shared with your spouse in a divorce under California’s community property division law. Although any couple could potentially benefit from sorting out the details of a divorce ahead of time, prenups are most common among couples with valuable and complex assets.

Couples in California Can Write Their Own Prenups

In California, state law allows couples to write their own prenuptial agreements. Under the California Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, as long as the contract respects and fulfills the state’s legal requirements, it will be viewed as a valid and legally binding agreement with or without input from a licensed attorney. It is important to realize, however, that drafting your own prenup or paying a small fee to fill out a template found online can be extremely expensive in the future if it is voided by the courts.

The Pros and Cons of Drafting Your Own Prenuptial Agreement

You might think you will save time and money by writing your own prenuptial agreement rather than hiring a lawyer to do the legal work for you. However, the reality that most couples who draft their own prenups face is the opposite: a legal mess that can cost them a great deal of both. The courts will not accept just any document as a legally binding prenuptial contract. The prenup must fulfill strict requirements laid out by state law, such as:

  • Full financial disclosures were submitted by both parties.
  • No terms are illegal, unconscionable or go against public policy.
  • Seven full days were given to both parties to review the document before signing.
  • Independent legal representation was given to the non-drafting party (unless he or she waived this right with a separate legal document).
  • Signatures are provided knowingly and voluntarily from both parties.
  • The document has been notarized.

In addition, there are best practices that should be followed for stronger prenups, such as using clear and concise language and avoiding ambiguous terms. It takes just one detail to be off or invalid for the courts to throw a “DIY” prenuptial agreement out and rule it unenforceable. This is why it is dangerous for couples to draft their own prenups; you may save money in the short-term by not paying for an attorney now, but you could be risking your entire financial future.

When Writing Your Own Prenup Isn’t Worth the Risk, Contact Ratzer|Dobis

Do not underestimate the complexity of a prenuptial agreement. This is a lengthy legal document that must be failsafe in terms of its language and policies for your assets and rights to be fully protected in the event of a divorce. If you have high-value assets or property that you wish to protect, such as a family-owned business or an inheritance for a child of another marriage, writing your own prenup is typically not worth the risk.

If you believe that you can successfully draft your own prenuptial agreement, have a family law attorney review it before signing to check its validity. Contact Ratzer|Dobis to schedule an appointment regarding a prenuptial agreement in Solana Beach today.