Beyond Death Do Prenuptial Agreements Part the Assets
The law in Pennsylvania has long been favorable to carefully drafted prenuptial agreements, and particularly so when those agreements include full and complete disclosure of both parties’ assets. That position was reinforced in a recent case in which the Superior Court ruled that the definition and identification of “separate property” in a pre-nuptial agreement could not be stretched or expanded to include financial accounts that existed at the time the prenuptial agreement was written, but were not identified in that agreement.
In re Estate of Hornburg involved at least one of the decedent’s five children by his first marriage and an heir under his Will, trying to recover funds obtained by his widow/second wife from an offshore account held in the joint names of the decedent and the widow at the time he died. The daughter’s position was that the account existed prior to the marriage and that all of the money in it was her Father’s pre-marital money. While the court agreed with those facts, the determining facts were that the pre-nuptial agreement spelled-out and identified each party’s “separate assets” and that off-shore account was neither identified nor did it fit the definition of separate property. Accordingly, the account was marital and the money in it belongs to the widow, not the daughter or the other heirs of the estate.
Careful preparation and drafting of prenuptial agreements, and very careful preparation of the full disclosure of assets required by prenuptial agreements is critically important to the meaning, and more importantly to the eventual effect, of the agreement. As this case illustrates, the effect of a carefully drafted prenuptial agreement may reach beyond death.
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