Entering into a marriage without a premarital agreement can be analogized to dying without a will. When you die without a will, you agree to be bound by what North Carolina estate law provides related to dying without a will. Similarly, when you marry without a premarital agreement you agree to be bound by all the estate laws, marriage laws, and divorce laws that are in effect at the time you separate or at the time you die. For instance, if your income exceeds your spouse's income, you will likely be required to pay spousal support (alimony) for at least one-half the period of the marriage at the time you and your spouse separate. In addition, whatever property is acquired during the marriage may not be awarded on an equal basis to you and your spouse should there be a separation. Many brides and grooms do not consider the fact that the other spouse, under current law, will not be required to support the children of the marriage beyond age 18 or graduation from high school. In other words, if your children should want to go to college, your spouse will not be required to pay one cent to help pay for their college education unless you have a valid written premarital agreement that requires him or her to do so.
For those who want some input on what happens in the event of separation or death, a much better alternative is to execute a valid premarital agreement before you marry. Couples can then receive the moral, tax and other benefits of their marriage, yet not be subject to the estate, marriage, and divorce laws that can often be so harshly applied.
Contrary to popular myths, premarital agreements do not jinx a marriage. In fact, a well drafted premarital agreements is more likely to promote marital tranquility as both parties understand their financial and legal relationship should there be a separation, divorce, or death of a spouse. Where there is a premarital agreement, a spouse may be less likely to seek a divorce for purely financial reasons.
Parties to a premarital agreement may agree concerning the following: