Are Premarital Agreements Enforceable at Death Against the Estate?

April 4th, 2017

Yes. The Ohio Supreme Court allows premarital (antenuptial) agreements to be enforced even if those agreements limit the exercise of rights by a spouse upon death. Hook v. Hook, 69 Ohio St.2d 234, 431 N.E.2d 667 (1982). In other words, even though a surviving spouse has certain rights protected by Ohio statutes, that spouse may be deemed to have waived those rights when the decedent spouse passes away.

The bottom line is that if a couple signed a premarital agreement before entering the marriage, a close review of that agreement must be made upon the death of one spouse. It is entirely possible that the decedent spouse changed his or her mind to give the surviving spouse all assets and protections; however, agreements are sometimes made and forgotten over time.

Circumstances also change, such as the birth or death of children. The failure to amend that agreement may impact what the surviving spouse actually takes as inheritance upon death. It is very important to immediately consult with one of our attorneys upon the death of a spouse, to advise and possibly avoid some of the unknown pitfalls.