What Is a Prenup? Prenuptial Agreement Meaning

Prenups can do much more than protect your assets during a marriage.
Dalia Ramirez
By Dalia Ramirez 
Edited by Tina Orem

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.

Prenup meaning

A prenup — short for prenuptial agreement — is a legal contract that two people create before they get married

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Prenuptial Agreement. Accessed Jul 12, 2023.
. Prenups list each person’s property and outline their rights during the marriage and after it ends, whether by divorce or death.

Prenups have a reputation for helping wealthy people protect their assets, but they can also protect one spouse from another’s debts, set up spousal support for a stay-at-home spouse, and protect an inheritance for children from previous marriages.

A prenup can be an important first step for a couple’s estate plan. States have different laws on prenups, so it can be helpful to consult an attorney to ensure your prenup is legally valid

American Bar Association. Till Prenup Do Us Part?. Accessed Jul 12, 2023.
. If you don’t have a prenup, your state’s laws on community property determine property ownership during marriage and in the event of divorce.


Get a custom financial plan and unlimited access to a Certified Financial Planner™

Custom financial plan tailored to your situation and goals
Access to a Certified Financial Planner™ via unlimited calls or messaging
Unbiased, expert financial advice for a low price.

NerdWallet Advisory LLC

Pros and cons of a prenup



Reduces conflict in case of divorce.

Can be uncomfortable for couples to consider the possibility of divorce.

May help prevent someone from losing their own assets or becoming responsible for the other person’s debts.

May be invalidated by a court if not set up properly according to state laws.

Starts a conversation about finances and estate planning in a marriage.

Can be expensive to set up, depending on the complexity of the assets and attorney fees.

Components of a prenup

The required elements of prenuptial agreements — also called premarital agreements — can vary by state. Depending on the needs of the couple, a prenup might include the following:

  • A list of assets each person owns, including property, inheritances and businesses. The couple will decide how they will divide these assets in the event of divorce and how they will divide any assets they acquire while married. There may be limitations if the couple lives in a community property state

  • A list of debts belonging to each person, including student and medical loans. The couple will decide whether to keep that debt separate and how to handle any debt they acquire jointly during the marriage.

  • Provisions for children from a previous marriage, which can include protecting their inheritance in the event of a divorce.

  • Financial rights during the marriage, including management of joint accounts and bills.

  • Tax implications, including an agreement to file jointly or separately, and responsibility for tax liabilities.

  • Provisions for divorce, such as giving up the right to alimony. his isn’t possible in some states and may be disputed in court if one of the parties didn’t obtain independent legal counsel before signing the agreement.

  • Provisions for death, including survivors or death benefits.

  • Additional clauses such as confidentiality, pet custody and marital residence rights.

It’s also important to note what a prenup doesn’t include. Prenups can’t have provisions for child custody or support, as your state court will evaluate those choices in the event of divorce. They also can’t make any requirements for nonfinancial household duties, such as which chores each spouse does

American Bar Association. Till Prenup .... Accessed Jul 12, 2023.

A court can overturn a prenup clause during divorce proceedings if it finds it to be unfair or unenforceable, signed under coercion, or if one party was unable to consult an attorney.

How to create a prenup

You can consult an attorney to draft a prenuptial agreement. You can also try to do it yourself by downloading a free state-specific form or using online legal software. In any case, creating a prenup generally has two steps:

  1. Both parties agree on the terms and discuss options. This can be done with or without legal representation.

  2. Both parties sign the contract. Be sure to find out if your state requires a witness signature and/or notarization.

Prenup vs. postnup

The main difference between a prenup and a postnup is when they are created. A prenuptial agreement is signed before two parties get married, and a postnuptial agreement is created after a couple is married.

Postnups can contain the same information and tend to comply with the same rules as prenups, but they’re often made in response to a life event after marriage. Such events can include the starting of a new business, an inheritance, a spouse ceasing employment or a desire to protect assets if a prenup was not done before the marriage.

Compare online will makers

Access to
attorney support
Learn more
Ease of use
Trust & Will - Will
Trust & Will - Will
Get started

on Trust & Will's website

Will: one-time fee of $199 per individual or $299 for couples. Trust: one-time fee of $499 per individual or $599 for couples. $19 annual membership fee.Yes
Get started

on Trust & Will's website

Digital Assets
Get started

on GoodTrust's website

$149 for estate plan bundle. Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $10.$39No
Get started

on GoodTrust's website

Comprehensive services
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker - WillMaker
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker - WillMaker
Get started

on Nolo's website

None$99 to $209 per year.No
Get started

on Nolo's website

State-specific legal advice
LegalZoom - Last Will
LegalZoom - Last Will
Get started

on LegalZoom's website

$89 for Basic will plan, $99 for Comprehensive will plan, $249 for Estate Plan Bundle.NoneYes
Get started

on LegalZoom's website

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.
Nerdwallet advisors logo

Get a custom financial plan and unlimited access to a Certified Financial Planner™ for just $49/month.

    NerdWallet Advisory LLC