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Are verbal promises enough to designate separate property?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2020 | property division

When you start out in your marriage, you and your spouse might consider that the union will not last and that you will have to split your property in a divorce. The two of you may promise each other that certain property is and will remain separate property even when it comes time to divorce. However, unless you have established a written legal agreement like a prenuptial agreement to divide your property, verbal promises will likely not mean anything. 

USA Today explains the various problems that come without having a written agreement. Even if relations between you and your spouse are fine at the moment, there is no guarantee that a divorce will not make things ugly. Also, since spouses generally give up some assets or income revenue in a divorce, some spouses feel that they must go for anything they can get, which can include going back on earlier verbal promises or understandings. 

A written legal agreement is also much more enforceable than spoken promises. North Carolina laws dictate how to divide up the assets of a divorcing couple, and sometimes those laws will overrule the stated wishes of one of the spouses. However, judges are much more likely to honor a prenuptial agreement. With a prenup, a couple can describe clearly which assets are separate property, removing a lot of the ambiguity that comes with verbal agreements. 

Some couples neglect to sign a prenuptial agreement, but this does not mean they have no way to work out a written arrangement to divide their assets. Married couples can still fill out a postnuptial agreement to designate property as separate property. While a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial one will still receive scrutiny by a court to determine its overall fairness toward the spouses, it can benefit couples by clearly spelling out their property division wishes.