Are Online Prenups Legal?
A successful prenuptial agreement is founded on thoughtful financial planning, goal setting, and constructive conversations. Once you’ve done this necessary due diligence, your next step is to get a legal and enforceable prenup drafted in your state.
While most look to an attorney to firm up their agreement, some couples are considering online prenuptial agreements as viable options. Let’s review what you must consider before electing to use an online service to draft your prenup and whether or not it is legal to do so in California.
Why Choose an Online Prenup?
Online prenup services typically tout low cost and quick turnaround on delivering the agreement. Of course, these factors may influence your decision, but it’s essential to keep in mind important considerations along the way.
1. They’re Affordable
Online prenup services often cost less than having a lawyer draft your prenuptial agreement. While lawyers range in price, typically between $3,500 and $7,500 in California, online prenups often charge less than $1,000. As a result, they can be a good resource if you’re on a tight budget but still want to opt out of your state’s hidden prenup.
Paying less may seem like a win, but you must first vet out the service and product. At such a low cost, you usually get what you pay for. Make sure to watch out for sites that churn out low-quality and possibly unenforceable products — especially the free online options. There’s no point in paying even a dollar for an agreement that isn’t legally binding in your state.
Confirm that there are actual lawyers behind the legal aspects of the platform and who developed the agreement specific to each state’s laws. Research who created the website and how much time they’ve put into building the platform. Verify that all necessary terms and provisions are included in the agreement, so it’s enforceable. Bottom line: If there isn’t a face associated with the product, it’s probably not a service you should use.
A noteworthy and promising option is Hello Prenup, an online prenup platform founded by an attorney and advised by attorneys who help develop the agreements. They’re even backed by two sharks from Shark Tank. It’s a promising and exciting progression in the online prenup space.
Finally, remember that a prenuptial agreement needs to work for you and your partner to build an important foundation for your marriage. More importantly, it will need to hold up in court in the future, if necessary. Suppose there are any mistakes or omitted provisions in the agreement; it could ultimately lead to incredibly expensive revisions by an attorney or, in the event of a divorce, costly court battles and payouts.
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2. The Need for Speed
With an online prenup, you can fill out the service’s questionnaires at your own time and pace. If you need an agreement drafted quickly, the prenup could be ready in a few business days or less (given that you’ve already had the critical money talks with your partner). This could be beneficial if you and your partner are looking to get the agreement done quickly (even though you really should be taking your time with this critical process).
If you need more time and multiple sessions, most online prenups allow you to save your work as you go, which can be a great feature.
Even if you needed the prenup yesterday, don’t ever rush through answering questions, especially about how you want the law to reflect the structure of your marital finances.
You have to be detail-oriented and meticulously correct for the prenup to adequately protect you when you need it, as well as rewriting the laws of your marriage the way you and your partner intended. If you hastily complete this process (especially without an attorney), you may end up with an agreement that doesn’t do what you want it to do.
Regarding speed, there’s something else to consider. If you’re in California, you have to abide by the 7-day rule, dictating that the prenup must be presented in its final form at least (7) calendar days before signing. So if you’re getting married this weekend, even an online prenup won’t help you here.
Additionally, California (and many other states) require full financial disclosures before entering into a prenup. This requirement is intended to ensure you have all of the information you need to enter into the prenuptial agreement knowingly. Therefore, it’s vital for you and your partner to remember to always fully disclose your financial information — even if the website doesn’t require it.
3. Do It Yourself
In some U.S. states, and under certain circumstances, you may not be required to have a lawyer review the agreement before making it legal. In these instances, using an online prenup service allows you to self-serve and create an agreement without ever needing to work with an attorney.
Consideration 1: Legality
Don’t undervalue the importance of a prenup in its role in shaping your marital future. It’s always a practical choice for you to have a lawyer review the online prenup to verify that it is legally binding.
Additionally, under California law, both you and your partner are required to retain a reviewing attorney to advise you individually if your online prenup contains any spousal support provisions (i.e., limitations and/or waivers of spousal support).
You can still download the online draft, but your agreement must state that you each retained independent counsel, and were advised of the terms of the agreement. In some states, your attorneys will even need to prepare and sign a declaration that they have advised you of the terms of the agreement and that you fully understand the ramifications of signing it.
Consideration 2: Personalization
A prenuptial agreement is most effective when it is highly personal and specific. In some cases, by using an online service designed to suit the needs of the masses, you’re giving up the chance to customize your prenup to your specific needs and define your marriage guidelines.
No two marriages are the same, so make sure to identify your marital needs and goals before filling out information online and answering the questions. This way, you can spot gaps in your delivered agreement and revise it (hopefully with an attorney) before getting blind-sided with a mistake down the road.
Working with an attorney helps you understand the marital laws of your state and achieve peace of mind knowing that a living, breathing professional (and not just a program) is working to ensure your success.
Consideration 3: Additional Support
Some online platforms offer the services of legal consultants who can answer your inquiries and review your contract. However, often there’s no guarantee that the legal professional you initially consulted with will be who you communicate with the next time you reach out.
If you are referred to different consultants each time you request support, they may not always give the same advice and suggest conflicting recommendations regarding your online prenup.
The Legality of Online Prenups
So, the answer to the question “Are online prenups legal?” is “Yes.” However, it’s vital to carefully consider the information above before signing off on that agreement and getting married. An online prenup is a viable option only if you’ve done the proper planning, learned about the marital laws you are choosing to opt out of, put in the conversational work, and have the enforceable terms and provisions that it will hold up in court. Therefore, I always recommend having an attorney review the online prenup and give you the necessary legal advice, no matter what state you live in.
If you’re in California, feel free to reach out with any questions or if you want to ensure that your online prenup is legally binding.