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Why Not a Do It Yourself Prenup?

At Graham.Law we are big fans of people handling their own family law matters when possible, and even created a whole Do It Yourself Divorce Guide section of our Colorado Family Law Guide to help pro se litigants represent themselves. But when it comes to prenuptial agreements, you really need a Colorado prenuptial agreement attorney who knows what he is doing, not a fill-in-the-blank prenup template.

And trust me – this is painful to write, since I strive for our blog to be informative and to educate, not to come across as a sales pitch. It’s not my style to say “you need the most awesome prenuptial agreement lawyer in Colorado Springs, or else!” But I can safely say that an agreement from a reputable family law attorney which actually works is worth orders of magnitude more than what you paid.

Public Domain Prenup Not Use Colorado Law

As I was updating our prenuptial agreement article for the Family Law Guide, I looked for a public domain template I could link to for a Do It Yourself Prenup article, but there was none to be found. And then I realized I should not be surprised – frankly, there’s no way an “off the shelf” prenuptial agreement which is written for the U.S. at large can be expected to cover the nuances of Colorado’s Uniform Premarital & Marital Agreements Act (UPMAA), much less work for an individual client’s needs.

A do it yourself prenuptial agreement written for the majority of states which still use the older marital agreements act will not meet Colorado requirements in effect since 2014 – as we explain in our Defending and Attacking Prenuptial Agreements article, there are some significant differences between the two uniform acts, particularly on disclosure and access to counsel requirements.

Flexible Prenup Which Lasts for Decades

Moreover, a prenuptial agreement has to be artfully crafted to reflect that lives change. People buy and sell homes, incur new debt, change jobs, have kids, etc. Will the agreement you sign today still work 20 or more years from now when you really need it to work? Or after your death, when your heirs are counting on that do it yourself prenup to be “bulletproof”?

A well-drafted prenup is strong enough to withstand attack decades later, despite changes – something a fill-in-the-blank prenup template just cannot deliver. As I was then reviewing some of the prenuptial agreement “creator” websites which pop up when you search for prenups, I realized how ineffective most of them would be for the clients who really need a prenup.

Problems with Cut-Rate Lawyer Prenups

And, sad to say, even prenuptial agreements drafted by lawyers often are not the “ironclad” prenup you thought you were getting for the few hundred bucks you paid. In more than two decades of litigating divorces with prenuptial agreements, the Graham.Law attorneys more often than not see agreements which are not up to par. Some real-life horror stories include agreements which:

Man hitting forehead after making mistake.Man hitting forehead after making mistake.
  • Were drafted after 2014 but did not comply with the UPMAA – instead they complied with the prior UPAA, calling into question their enforceability.
  • Use incorrect terminology – for example, “community property” instead of “marital property”, which is Colorado’s term. This alone is likely not fatal, but if the lawyer merely lifted her own template off the internet which is from some other state, an error this obvious could be a sign of more subtle errors “under the hood.”
  • Are inflexible – they refer to a party’s current holdings, but do not define as separate property any assets which that party acquires by selling his current assets.
  • Have ambiguous provisions, or, worse, provisions which contradict each other. This is probably the best way to tell a prenuptial agreement cobbled together from various sources from one which was customized for a specific client.
  • Have inadequate disclosures – they don’t list the values of assets and debts, or omit a party’s income.
  • Purport to waive alimony no matter the length of the marriage, and no matter the disparity in income – such overreaching makes spousal maintenance open to attack, so it’s often better to offer something than insist on nothing.

At best, these problems will cause a spouse to spend thousands of dollars defending a do it yourself prenup, or other poorly-drafted prenup. And at worst, the spouse spends thousands on a futile effort to defend a clause which, as it turns out, will not effectively protect her property.

Ironclad Prenup from a Colorado Prenuptial Agreement Attorney

Many of the prenups our firm litigates came from lawyers, so the clients had the right to expect them to do their job. Note, however, I say “came from lawyers”, not “drafted by a prenuptial agreement attorney” – all-too-often lawyers themselves use off-the-shelf agreements for clients, with no customization beyond changing the names of the parties. And it shows.

A well-drafted agreement from a reputable prenuptial agreement attorney will cost significantly more than a few hundred dollars, because we’re not talking about a couple hours of work. Having a document which will stand the test of time and works for you, as opposed to working for the last guy who used the same template, will typically cost about $2000 – $3000, and is a weeks-long process which involves:

  • Really talking to you to understand your goals, and suggesting ways to accomplish them.
  • Gathering all relevant information, including exhaustive financial disclosures.
  • Drafting and revising the prenuptial agreement until it works for your specific circumstance.
  • A disclosure and negotiation process which complies with Colorado’s Uniform Premarital & Marital Agreements Act.

See our blog post to learn more about Graham.Law‘s process for drafting a premarital agreement.

The signed agreement at the end of the process will be as “iron-clad” as can be (and certainly compared to a do it yourself prenup), although we have to stress that while we minimize the chances of spousal maintenance being held unenforceable, a family law judge could still decide that the maintenance provisions were unconscionable and decline to enforce them.

If you only have $10,000 or $20,000 of premarital assets, and are not expecting major income or inheritance during the marriage, a prenup is probably not worth the costs. See our blog post Do You Really Need A Colorado Prenup for a primer on whether it’s really worth it. Or perhaps with little at stake, while it’s not worth paying a prenuptial agreement attorney, perhaps gambling with a do it yourself prenup would at least be better than nothing.

But if you have $100K or more of premarital assets, or are expecting a significant inheritance you wish to protect, then spending a few thousand dollars to make sure the agreement is done properly is a small price to pay.

Award-Winning Colorado Springs Prenuptial Agreement Attorney

Graham.Law TeamGraham.Law Team

U.S. News & World Report calls Graham.Law one of the Best Law Firms in America, and our managing partner is a Colorado Super Lawyer. Our family law attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate the Colorado legal system. We know Colorado divorce & family law inside and out, from complex multi-million dollar property or child custody cases to basic child support modifications.

For more information about our top-rated El Paso County family law firm, contact us by filling out our contact form, calling us at (719) 630-1123 to set up a free consult, or click on:

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