Ante-nuptial agreements also know as pre-nuptial agreements are enforceable in Michigan. The case that supports this statement is Rinvelt v Rinvelt, 190 Mich App 372, 475 NW2d 478 (1991). The court supported the theory that couples should think through the financial aspects of their marriage beforehand ant that this would foster strength and permanency in that relationship..
The Rinvelt court held that the following factors be considered in determining the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement:
- Was the agreement obtained through fraud, duress, mistake, or misrepresentation or nondisclosure of material fact?
- Was the agreement unconscionable when executed?
- Have the facts and circumstances changed since the agreement was executed, to make it’s enforcement unfair and unreasonable?
The Rinvelt court expressly adopted holdings from prior Michigan cases related to antenuptial agreements. The ante-nuptial agreement must be entered into voluntarily by the parties, with each understanding his or her rights and the extent of waiver of such rights. “Antenuptial agreements give rise to a special duty of disclosure not required in ordinary contract relationships so that the parties will be fully informed before entering into such agreements.” Estate of Benker, 416 Mich at 689.
It is imperative that the attorney makes sure that all the requirements of a valid antenuptial agreement are in place and it is very important to have an attorney review the document if your future spouse is asking you to sign.
Should the issue of enforceability of the prenuptial agreement arise, “the party challenging a prenuptial agreement … ‘bears the burden of proof and persuasion.’ ” Reed v Reed, 265 Mich App 131, 147–148, 693 NW2d 825 (2005) (quoting Rinvelt, 190 Mich App at 382).
The Reed case is very interesting in that the parties executed the agreement when they were much younger and the document was attempted to be enforced many years later. Had there been no agreement the property settlement would have been drastically different. On could argue that enforcement of the agreement was unfair in that there was the distinct possibility that if one of the signers could have seen into the future that she never would have signed the agreement. Even though the result seemed unfair the court upheld the agreement and enforced it’s terms.
As an attorney I think that it is absolutely imperative that there be an antenuptial agreement in place when older people marry who have had children from prior relationships. All to often property that should have gone in part to the children end up with a second or third wife who quite often doesn’t deserve the windfall. People make major mistakes when they do not plan for the future. Assume that Sam has a house worth $200,000, bank accounts worth $50,000, and stocks worth $300,000. Sam than gets married to Fiona who is 10 years younger. Sam has three children and has a will that leaves everything to his children. He then signs the house over to him and Fiona by deed. Two months later Sam has a massive heart attack and dies. When Sam died he thought Fiona would get the house and the children everything else. Little did he know that when the will was probated that Fiona as a surviving spouse had rights which gave her the lion’s share of the money even though she knew that Sam wanted his kid’s to have the money and even though the will said otherwise. Sometimes the surviving spouse does the right thing but all too often the new spouse is a gold digger who takes all she or he can get. Had Sam had a antenuptial agreement his wishes would have been granted. This is why it is imperative that you get your affairs in order if you are considering marriage when you have children from a prior spouse.
If you ever have questions regarding antenuptial or pre-nuptial agreements call me at the office or on my cell 248.672.6112. I do alot of family law work in Wayne, Oakland, and Livingston County and many of my clients reside in Novi, Farmington Hills, Southfield, Milford, South Lyon, Commerce, Walled Lake, Highland, Wixom, Plymouth, Northville, Livonia, Westland, Brighton, Howell, Fowlerville, Pinckney, Whitmore Lake, and Gregory.