Prenuptial Agreements in Texas
- Are prenuptial agreements enforceable in Texas?
- How does a prenuptial agreement work?
- What should you include?
- What should you exclude?
- How much does a prenup cost in Texas?
- Things to know before signing
- Are there alternatives to a prenup in Texas?
A prenuptial agreement (commonly called a prenup) is a legal contract created between two parties who intend to get married. The document contains rules to help you split your estate equitably if your marriage ends.
A prenup in Texas is smart if one partner enters the marriage with significant assets or debts. Without a prenup, funds from those assets could become community property that is split 50/50 during your divorce.
Since prenups are legal documents, rules and regulations govern their creation. If you break Texas guidelines, your prenup could be unenforceable in Texas courts.
Here’s what you need to know before you draft a prenup.
Are prenuptial agreements enforceable in Texas?
A prenuptial agreement drafted in accordance with Texas law is fully enforceable. If you create a document and sign it at least 30 days before your marriage, and it meets some important guidelines, it's a legal document.
Texas participates in the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, governing how prenuptials are created and enforced. In general, a prenup complies if it meets the following rules:
- The agreement is in a written (not oral) format.
- It's written and signed at least 30 days before the marriage.
- Both parties signed the document voluntarily.
- The terms within the prenup are relatively fair and don't create a hardship for one party if the marriage ends.
- It discloses all financial data on both sides, and no deception occurred.
Your prenup is modifiable, so you can change the terms if both parties agree. And some contain so-called sunset clauses, meaning they end if the marriage lasts beyond a specific point. For example, a prenuptial agreement may have certain clauses that no longer apply after 10 years of marriage.
Read your prenup carefully to determine how long it lasts and how you can change it. If it hasn’t been sunset or changed, it’s enforceable as written.
How does a Texas prenuptial agreement work?
Texas is a community property state, meaning that assets and debts accrued during a marriage become the equal property of both parties. Without a prenuptial agreement, those assets are split 50-50 during a divorce.
A prenup is made to protect what a person brings to a marriage, including the following:
To draft a prenuptial agreement, both parties submit an honest accounting of what they have and owe. Then, they determine what happens to these assets upon the end of a marriage.
For example, you might enter a marriage with drilling rights on a property you’ve purchased. You could use your Texas prenuptial agreement to ensure that any oil profits stemming from that land are yours and yours alone. If your marriage ends, those oil profits don’t become community property, and you leave with 100% of them in the divorce.
What should you include in a Texas prenup?
In theory, you could use a prenuptial agreement to protect everything you bring to the marriage. But typically, people use them for very limited and specific purposes.
Your Texas prenup could include the following items:
- Owned properties
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Bank accounts
You could also include clauses to help you settle disagreements regarding the following:
- Wills or trusts
- What state laws you’ll follow if you disagree about the prenuptial agreement
- Who can buy, sell, use, or transfer property rights
- Who is responsible for paying expenses
- How an extramarital relationship impacts your property divisions in the divorce
What should you exclude from a Texas prenup?
While a prenup can cover many topics pertaining to your finances, some clauses are prohibited in Texas.
You can't include rules about child support or custody in your prenuptial agreement. Texas courts must consider a child's best interests at the time of the divorce, and that could be impossible before you're married.
You also can't include clauses about illegal activities. For example, you can't exclude assets from a spouse in the case of bigamy. Since having multiple spouses is illegal in Texas, this clause isn't enforceable.
Finally, ensure that your prenup is relatively fair. If your clauses benefit your side exclusively and leave your former spouse with nothing in the divorce, a judge could toss it out. Don't use your prenup as a weapon to keep your spouse in line. Write it in the spirit of fairness.
How much does a prenup cost in Texas?
On average, people pay about $600 for a prenuptial agreement in Texas. But if you create other legal documents simultaneously (like a healthcare power of attorney or a will), your costs will go up.
Need help with your prenuptial agreement?
Things to know before signing a prenuptial agreement in Texas
Crafting a prenuptial agreement doesn't mean you're planning for a divorce. Think of it as a method you'll use to ensure your estate is handled properly at every stage. It can be a way to ease any worries about finances before you get married, and oftentimes, it’s something that both parties can feel good about.
Follow these guidelines before you sign the final document.
- Collaborate as you write. Both parties should disclose all of their assets and debts as they work on the prenuptial agreement. Don’t hold anything back. Deception could render the document invalid.
- Research your finances. Make sure you’ve accounted for all of your assets in your prenup. Are you named as a beneficiary in a loved one’s will? Do you own stocks you’ve forgotten about?
- Watch the calendar. Your documents must be signed at least 30 days before your wedding.
- Sign and forget. Your prenuptial agreement is enforceable if your marriage ends. Don’t let it loom over your relationship.
Are there alternatives to a prenup in Texas?
Some couples don't need prenuptial agreements. If you enter the marriage with few assets and debts, you may not need the protection this legal document can deliver.
A trust is an alternative to a prenuptial agreement, as this can keep assets out of your joined estate. These tools are valid per Texas law, but they can be very complex and hard to create. A prenup is simpler to draft and maintain.
Talk with your partner about what's right for your assets, debts, and marriage.
ReferencesFamily Code, Chapter 4, Subchapter A: Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. (January 2000). State of Texas.
Early Decision: When Is It Smart to Have a Prenup? State Bar of Texas.
Property Code, Chapter 112, Subchapter A: Creation. (September 2019). State of Texas.