When a couple in West Virginia decides to create a prenuptial agreement before they marry, they are not necessarily planning for divorce.

Instead, they are taking steps to arrange the state of their finances in advance of the legally binding relationship they are about to embark on.

Defining property ownership

The West Virginia Code explains that the prenuptial agreement, also called an antenuptial agreement, involves defining the ownership of property before the spouses marry. After a couple marries, all of the property they acquire belongs to both of them unless they take steps to differentiate.

Protecting personal and business assets

When one or both individuals already have considerable financial interests, it is a good idea to note which of these will be kept separate from the marital property. This may be particularly important for someone who owns a business, as this is not just personal property, but also a source of income and a profession.

A future spouse may also want to retain sole ownership of trust fund accounts, inheritances, family heirlooms and other assets.

Designating assets for children

According to the West Virginia’s intestate laws, when one spouse dies, his or her assets typically become the property of the other spouse if the deceased had no children from another relationship. However, if the deceased spouse did have children from another relationship, the surviving spouse receives half of the estate, and the other half is divided between those children.

The prenuptial agreement allows spouses to define property rights upon their death, which can be an important addition to an estate plan.