Estate planning

Are prenuptial agreements necessary in Texas?


Q: I’m getting married soon, and a lawyer told me that a prenuptial agreement might not be necessary in Texas. Do I need one? Also, if I add my wife’s name to my house deed, can her daughter take my house after my death? My will divides the house equally between my children.

a: While a prenuptial agreement may not be mandatory according to Texas law, it can be a good idea to get one, especially if you have significant assets.

Here’s why: Without a prenuptial contract, all income earned during your marriage in Texas becomes community property, and is owned equally by both spouses. Additionally, even though you own the home, once you marry, your spouse will have the right to live in the home rent-free for the rest of her life if she dies before her. This is the rule even if you will leave the home to your children.

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There are a few prenuptial considerations worth noting. First, you and your fiancé will need to hire separate attorneys, and that can mean significant legal fees. If you are wealthy, the fees will be money well spent. Secondly, initiating the prenuptial process in advance is crucial; You should not rush just before the wedding. Finally, negotiating prenuptial terms can be difficult, and your marriage plans may suffer if the two of you are unable to come to an agreement.

Nowadays, you own the entire house to yourself. If you marry and leave the house to your wife upon your death, she will be free to do with it as she pleases, including giving it to her daughter. You can also leave the house to your children, and your wife will have the right to live there (assuming there is no prenuptial contract), but her daughter will not be able to claim the property.

Adding your wife’s name to the title deed complicates matters, because she will then own an undivided half interest in the house. In this case, it is possible for her daughter to have a claim, depending on who dies first and what you and your wife decide to do with your interests at your death. Of course, your wife can get part or all of the house if you divorce.

Q: I am 84 years old and I have a question regarding my credit card debt. I have one son and no other relatives. I own a home with a home improvement loan, and I have other significant credit card debt. Will my son be responsible for paying these debts?

a: Your son will not be responsible, but your property will be.

After your death, in order to pay off all debts, you will likely need to sell your home. Once the loan is paid off, your estate can use the net proceeds (plus any other money you may have at death) to pay off the credit card debt. Any remaining money will pass to your son.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not to provide legal advice. Ronald Lippman of the Houston law firm Lippman & Associates is board certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to:


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