Dear Carolyn:

My son is getting married in the summer, and my daughter is getting married in the fall. While all the parties, dresses and events are so very exciting, I am worried about the inheritances they received from my mother. Do each of my children need a premarital agreement? The inheritances are over a million dollars each. The divorce rate is so very high.


Carolyn Answers:

You ask the question I have heard most frequently this spring. Premarital agreements can protect and describe guidelines for keeping property separate from an equitable distribution in divorce. The North Carolina legislature adopted the Uniform Premarital Act years ago, so if that act is followed, the divorce and death outcome for those with premarital agreements is predictable. Basically, the agreement needs to be in writing and signed by both spouses with separate counsel and disclosures (or waiver of further disclosures).

Premarital Agreements can dictate financial outcomes in divorce for both property division and spousal support. Property division (equitable distribution) and spousal support (alimony and post-separation support) can both be waived or altered from the statutory framework. Likewise, the statutory consequences upon death for spouses can be overridden and modified. Premarital agreement cannot deal with issues of child custody and child support.

However, the most significant protection is never to commingle inherited money with a spouse by title.


Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn…”  “Ask Carolyn…” will be a regular column, but not necessarily weekly.