I Expect an Inheritance: Do I Really Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
If you don’t have a prenuptial agreement the California Family Code applies. You might as well familiarize yourself with California law and decide whether you want to opt out via a prenuptial agreement.
Your family likely worked hard for its wealth and would prefer for it to stay within your family. Make those hard-won earnings a non-issue in the event of a divorce. California is a no fault state so a spouse can get a divorce for any reason. It takes two people to get married, but only one to get divorced.
Even if an asset is considered your separate property, it can still be used to pay child support, spousal support, or even your ex’s attorneys’ fees.
You can simplify things with a prenuptial agreement, because in California, you can agree that the inheritance will never be considered in determining spousal support or attorneys’ fees. And spouses cannot contract for child custody or child support in California.
Commingling separate property is messy and expensive. If you want to prove an asset is your separate property, it will be your burden to trace the assets and show the court documentary proof that it is indeed separate property. You will need to retain an expert, a family law forensic accountant, to prove your separate property claims.
By eliminating your inheritance through a well-planned prenup, you do not need to worry about spending thousands of dollars, if not more, in discovery, court hearings, and trial to trace property to your family.
Marriage is a partnership and it is wise to set forth your financial and property intentions for any partnership. With a solid prenuptial agreement you can eliminate disputes at time of divorce and protect the inheritance your family worked so hard for.
Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Shareholder and chair of our Family Law Practice Group.