In Estate of Eagle v. Eagle, a husband and wife made a valid premarital agreement before their wedding day. Before the agreement was made, the husband had savings certificates in his name, which were designated as separate property in the premarital agreement. After the wedding, the husband added his wife’s name to the savings certificates. When the couple divorced, the wife sued for her share of the savings certificates, despite the language of the premarital agreement specifically designating all of the savings certificates to the husband in the event of divorce.
Despite the premarital agreement stating that the savings certificates belonged solely to the husband in the event of a divorce, the court found that by adding his wife's name to the certificates after their marriage, he effectively made them joint marital property. The premarital only protected the Husband from having to split his separate property in a divorce, not the couple’s joint marital property. Since the husband made the savings certificates joint marital property during their marriage, after the premarital agreement was made, the court ruled that the wife was entitled to her share of the savings certificates.
This case highlights the importance of careful planning and legal diligence both when creating a premarital agreement before a wedding and protecting the premarital agreement during a marriage. Despite the clear language of the premarital agreement designating the savings certificates as the husband’s separate property, the court found that the husband’s decision to add his wife’s name to the savings certificates after the marriage effectively made them joint marital property – superseding the premarital agreement. In fact, Virginia courts routinely apply this principle to most property that a premarital agreement attempts to protect in the event of a divorce – if one spouse adds the other spouse’s name to a piece of property subject to the premarital agreement, the property becomes joint property, and the premarital agreement does little to protect it in the event of a divorce.
At Smith Strong, we understand the nuances of premarital agreements and can help you create an agreement that protects your assets and interests throughout your marriage. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal services that meet the unique needs of our clients. If you would like assistance drafting your premarital agreement and protecting your assets in the long-term, please call one of our offices at 804- 325-1245 (Richmond) or 757-941-4298 (Williamsburg) to discuss youroptions.
Special Thanks to Brayden Meadows for his assistance with this article.