I prepare prenuptial agreements for clients who are getting married and I prepare cohabitation agreements for clients who are planning to live with a partner but not get married. Since my office is located in Cumberland County, I primarily serve clients from central Pennsylvania, including Hershey, Harrisburg, York, Carlisle and surrounding areas. However, since prenuptial and cohabitation agreements do not involve the court process associated with specific counties, I also serve clients outside the central Pennsylvania area.

There are similarities between prenuptial and cohabitation agreements, but they are not identical and they warrant separate descriptions.

Prenuptial Agreements

I help my clients plan for marriage with prenuptial agreements designed to address the necessary financial issues in advance of their marriage, so the couple can concentrate on enjoying their lives together. Prenuptial agreements can address how you will handle financial issues during your marriage, what will happen if you separate or divorce and how you will handle your estates. Spouses can make their own rules in a prenuptial agreement, changing what would ordinarily happen under the Pennsylvania Divorce Code and the Pennsylvania Estates and Fiduciary Code. They can exclude certain assets and liabilities from any future divorce and division of property, specify spousal support and alimony provisions and generally state in advance what both spouses agree is a fair outcome. Prenuptial agreements can be as broad or as narrow as the spouses want.

Before you get married, you should consider whether a prenuptial agreement makes sense for you. You should discuss your specific situation with an attorney (preferably me) so you can make an informed decision. If your future spouse suggests having a prenuptial agreement, you should discuss the situation with an attorney (preferably me). Take these steps well in advance of your wedding date so you are not adding this step to your last minute wedding preparations.

After couples are married, I can help clarify any legal issues and resolve family conflicts through a midnuptial agreement, by which married couples document their agreed-upon financial arrangements and expectations. Many of the same provisions contained in prenuptial agreements can be included in midnuptial agreements.

Cohabitation Agreements

I also address the unique legal needs of unmarried couples. Our legal system treats unmarried couples (opposite sex and same sex) for most purposes as business partners instead of intimate partners. By entering into cohabitation agreements, unmarried couples establish their agreed-upon guidelines for how their relationship will work, including financial arrangements, and provide for how to make decisions if their relationship or cohabitation ends. With clear expectations established in a well-drafted cohabitation agreement, fewer conflicts should arise during your relationship and the conflicts that do arise should be easier to resolve.

It is also imperative for unmarried couples to provide for their estate planning needs. Married couples have a default in the law for estate planning purposes, which is based on the idea that spouses should inherit from each other and make financial and healthcare decisions for each other if necessary. Unmarried couples have no such default. When an unmarried individual dies without a will, his or her estate is distributed with no regard for any life partner. When an unmarried individual is unable to make healthcare or financial decisions, his or her partner is not the legally designated default person to make those decisions.