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Using prenuptial agreements as a New Jersey estate planning tool

Prenuptial agreements are becoming an increasingly important aspect in the estate planning process for many people. It is a common ritual for couples in Hollywood, such as recently engaged Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, to sign a prenup in order to protect their individual wealth. Without such agreements, plans might be nullified or significantly altered by a divorce.

In New Jersey, prenuptial agreements may address a number of issues, including the modification or elimination of spousal support, the right to buy, sell or otherwise transfer assets, and the creation and modification of a will or trust.

In the event of a second marriage, one may use a prenuptial agreement to ensure that the individual's assets are passed onto their own children, rather than the children of the person's second spouse. Without such stipulations in place, most of one's assets and property could pass immediately to the spouse, who could then pass them to his or her children.

A valid prenuptial agreement must be read and agreed to by both parties in writing. Verbal agreements are not enforceable by law. Additionally, the agreement could be invalidated if both parties are not given sufficient time to read the entire document and fully understand its contents. All financial information in a prenuptial agreement must be truthful and accurate. If one party is later found to have lied regarding this information, the agreement could be invalidated.

While some states do not require spouses to seek independent legal counsel before signing a prenuptial agreement, doing so is generally recommended, as it ensures that the interests of both parties are protected.

Source: Elder Law Answers, "Prenuptial Agreements Can Be an Estate Planning Tool," 6 June 2011

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