Premarital or prenuptial agreements in Rhode Island and Massachusetts: What You Need to Know

A premarital or prenuptial agreement is a written and binding agreement or contract between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage. To learn more about the basics of premarital or prenuptial agreements, please read my prior article, “Premarital, Prenuptial or Antenuptial Agreement: The Basics.”

Rhode Island Premarital or Prenuptial Agreements

  • Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. Currently, 28 states including Rhode Island have adopted the uniform premarital agreement act (the “Act”).  In Rhode Island, the Act has been codified at R.I.G.L. § 15-17-1 et seq.  The Act sets forth, in pertinent part, what a prenup needs to contain, when it is effective, and how it is enforced.  As such, it is imperative when drafting and executing a prenup governed by the laws of Rhode Island that it strictly adheres to the requirements set forth in the Act.
  • Rhode Island premarital agreements are extremely difficult to have declared void or unenforceable. Rhode Island statutes and caselaw make it extremely difficult for a party to break a properly drafted and executed premarital agreement. To be declared unenforceable, the party challenging a Rhode Island prenup must show, by clear and convincing evidence, both (1) they did not execute the agreement voluntarily and (2) the agreement was unconscionable when executed because they did not receive a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or finances of the other party, did not waive any such disclosure and could not have reasonably got such information.  First, because the burden of proof in these cases is “clear and convincing,” you must prove that your contention is substantially more likely than not that it is true.  Second, because of the legislature’s use of the word “and” The Rhode Island Supreme Court has enforced premarital agreements that have been found to be unconscionable. See Marsocci v. Marsocci, 911 A.2d 690 (R.I. 2006).

Massachusetts Premarital or Prenuptial Agreements

  • Massachusetts premarital or prenuptial agreements must be fair and reasonable when executed and enforced. Unlike Rhode Island, Massachusetts is one of 22 states that has not adopted the uniform premarital agreement act. Instead, Massachusetts premarital or prenuptial agreements must be fair and reasonable at the time of execution as well as at the time the parties seek to enforce the agreement. In other words, even if an agreement was valid when it was entered, the court will take a “second look” to ensure the agreement remains fair and equitable at the time of enforcement.
  • What are the benefits of a Rhode Island or Massachusetts prenuptial agreement? There are many benefits of entering into a Rhode Island or Massachusetts premarital or prenuptial agreement.  First, the agreement provides spouses with certainty and clarity regarding what property and assets they will receive in the event their marriage ends by death or divorce.  Second, the parties will significantly reduce their legal fees in connection with their divorce be drastically narrowing the issues to be addressed at a divorce, leaving more money for both of the parties. When used in conjunction with proper estate planning, (link to a state) parties can use prenups to protect their assets and secure financial security and peace of mind.

Is a Rhode Island or Massachusetts premarital agreement right for me?

Whether or not you should enter into a Rhode Island or Massachusetts premarital or prenuptial agreement is based on a variety of factors. You need to consider your age, health, where are you live, your income level and employment status, the nature and value of your property and assets, whether you have children or are planning to have children, your future plans and much, much more. In order to determine whether a Rhode Island or Massachusetts premarital or prenuptial agreement is right for you, please contact Gregory N. Hoffman at ghoffman@bglaw.com or by phone at 401.273.7171.