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Prenups in Minnesota must be signed without undue pressure

Love does not always last forever, and unless you hire a savvy lawyer, your prenuptial agreement might not last either.

A prenuptial agreement – commonly known as a prenup and in Minnesota legalese known as an antenuptial agreement – is drawn up between a couple before their marriage to determine the disposition of assets that are both brought into the marriage and, in some cases, assets that accrue during a marriage.

Love does not always last forever, and unless you hire a savvy lawyer, your prenuptial agreement might not last either.

A prenuptial agreement – commonly known as a prenup and in Minnesota legalese known as an antenuptial agreement – is drawn up between a couple before their marriage to determine the disposition of assets that are both brought into the marriage and, in some cases, assets that accrue during a marriage.

What is a proper prenup?

What constitutes a proper prenup? More importantly, under what circumstances can a prenup be invalidated?

The issue was first addressed by the state legislature in 1979. Lawmakers determined a prenup was valid if it involved non-marital property (the assets brought into the marriage), involved a full and fair disclosure of all assets and property, and both parties had the opportunity to consult with legal counsel. The law didn’t address marital property (assets acquired during the marriage).

In 1989, the state Supreme Court ruled that the law could apply to marital property if the agreement was fair before the wedding, fair at the time of the divorce, and was procedurally fair.

The issue of procedural fairness was addressed by the court in 2007 when it offered a four-part test as to whether a prenup was procedurally fair. The justices ruled that the prenup must be signed with full knowledge of what is at stake, both parties must have proper counsel and – most importantly – the prenup must not be signed under duress or undue influence.

The four-part balance test

Which brings us to the most recent ruling. In May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled on a case in which the wife of a Fulda farmer, upon divorce, said she was coerced into signing a prenup.

When a prosperous farmer planned to marry a woman who was not prosperous, he had his lawyer draw up a prenup and presented it to her days before they were to leave for a wedding in the Cayman Islands. He told her if she didn’t sign, the wedding was off. With family already en route, she signed the agreement one day before leaving for the wedding.

Nine years later, they got a divorce and the prosperous farmer sought to enforce the prenup.

However, the Supreme Court for the first time combined all the precedents and determined that while the 1979 law provides a “safe harbor” for a prenup involving non-marital property, when it affects marital property the agreement must balance the four factors from the 2007 ruling. The prenup must:

  • Include full and fair disclosure of the assets and property
  • Be supported by consideration
  • Ensure both parties have knowledge of the particulars of the agreement and how they are affected in the absence of an agreement
  • Not be signed under undue pressure, influence or duress

The farmer’s prenup failed the balance test.

This brings us back to our premise: Love does not always last forever, and unless you hire a savvy lawyer, your prenuptial agreement might not last either.

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