Premarital agreements (also called “ante-nuptial” agreements) are legally-binding contracts entered into by an engaged couple prior to marriage. Prenuptial agreements accomplish the twin goals of asset protection and guaranteeing inheritance by children of a prior marriage. They can be vital estate-planning and wealth-preservation tools.

These agreements give each party the same rights and treat both identically. The purpose of a premarital agreement is to modify or waive these marital rights before they accrue.

Marriage confers certain rights on the parties, including the right to claim one-third of the spouse’s estate at death (regardless of the terms of the deceased spouse’s Will) and certain rights in the other’s real estate. As a result, the party owning the real estate cannot sell or mortgage it without both spouses’ signatures on the deed or loan documents.

Iowa law requires that each party be separately represented by an attorney at the time a premarital agreement is drafted and signed. As a result, the agreement is generally unassailable after marriage. Iowa courts have looked unfavorably on a spouse who claims that he or she was “coerced” into signing a premarital agreement. The contract will be binding.

Previously thought of as a legal vehicle for only the wealthy, premarital agreements have become a popular and effective vehicle for people looking to protect their assets. These agreements are becoming more commonplace as people attempt to protect the potential inheritance of their children. Such an agreement, when properly prepared, can accomplish this and allow the wishes of your Will to be followed.


The attorneys at Abendroth Russell Barnett Law Firm can answer questions to see if a premarital agreement is right for you.