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Estate Planning – Before and After

Estate planning is not what usually occupies the minds of those about to enter into a marriage, but planning out financial matters ahead of time can have a major impact on a marriage. Pre and post marital agreements can designate which assets are separate property belonging to one spouse only and which are "community" property. While marital community property is only a legal category in nine states, California is among those nine.

It is also important to understand the difference between "jointly owning" property and "half owning" property. Each spouse owns 50 percent of all community property and 100 percent of their separate property. Assets acquired after the prenuptial agreement is signed are dealt with in different ways. All income is community property, but gifts and inheritances are separate property. There is not requirement that one leave his or her half of the community property nor his or her separate property to the other spouse in a will. Premarital agreements also speed up and simplify dealings with the IRS after the death of one spouse or a divorce. By clarifying who owns what, delays in distribution of trust property can be avoided.

The difference between pre and post nuptial agreements is not one of purpose or, necessarily, of structure. It is simply that prenuptials are agreed to before marriage, while postnuptials are signed after marriage. Either way, it is typically required that they be in writing, be signed by both parties, and be duly notarized. Full disclosure of all assets is also a requirement. Finally, any attempt to threaten, force, or deceive the other spouse into signing such an agreement would destroy its legal validity.

Especially in cases of second marriages and "blended" families, it is common to get a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement to sort out how assets will be disposed of. The desire to ensure children from another marriage are included is often a major concern. For assistance with pre and post nuptial agreements and other aspects of

estate planning in Orange County, California, contact Mortensen and Reinheimer today by calling 714-384-6053 or filling out the online form.