Beyond Death Do Prenuptial Agreements Part the Assets

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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About the author

About Lawrence Welsh

Lawrence C. (Larry) Welsh joined the firm in 2003 after five years of practice with the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office. Native to Lansdowne in Delaware County where he attended public schools, Larry graduated from St. Joseph’s College (in its pre-University days) and taught school briefly before entering the hospitality industry and working his way through hotels, restaurants and resorts in four states and the District of Columbia. As a graduate of Villanova University School of Law, Larry now focuses primarily on the firm’s family law practice along with other areas of the Law. Larry handles a full range of domestic relations matters throughout the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area and looks forward to expanding the firm’s practice, especially in the family-law field, into New Jersey where he is one of three members of the firm (along with Gregory P. LaMonaca and Christopher R. Mattox) admitted to practice.