Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements (known as Marital Property Agreements in Wisconsin) allow spouses to opt out of Wisconsin’s marital property rules. They most commonly are drafted in the event of divorce, but have uses in estate planning as well. In a nutshell, each spouse in Wisconsin owns a one-half interest in all marital property. However, what is considered “marital property” during a marriage differs greatly at divorce. The definition for divorce is far broader, even covering property titled to only one spouse, or property owned before the marriage. Spouses who wish to protect their assets from equal division at divorce should draft a marital property agreement. This is particularly true for spouses marrying late in life, or who own far more valuable assets. A marital property agreement can also help set expectations for each spouse’s financial obligations during the marriage. The MPA should be drafted well in advance of the wedding. Both spouses should be aware of each other’s assets, and the MPA’s effect on their rights to those assets. The MPA should address issues of property, income, appreciation, debt, and potential mixing of marital and individual property. A poorly-drafted MPA has a greater chance of being declared invalid. Even if it is upheld, the document’s goal may be frustrated by poor drafting. The standards to uphold a marital property agreement are rather strict, so it is important to consult with an experienced lawyer to ensure that your goals are accomplished.
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