4 truths about prenuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements in the Philippines operate differently from those in other countries. These are the things that you need to know about that document that might just improve your married life:

1. Prenuptial agreements do not stop a spouse from inheriting from the other.

If you happen to watch a show where the mother of the groom would force or intimidate the bride into signing a prenuptial so that the woman will not be able to inherit the family business or properties through the man, you can tell yourself and anyone with you that it is complete b*llsh*t.

Prenuptial agreements cannot do that. Any stipulation prohibiting a spouse from being a compulsory heir of the other, is void. The Civil Code expressly provides that a surviving spouse is a compulsory heir of the decedent. Hence, any stipulation that prohibits a surviving spouse from being a compulsory heir is contrary to law and thus void under the principle of autonomy in contracts.

However, read No. 2.

2. Prenuptial agreements can be the basis for renouncing or repudiating an inheritance.

Any heir is allowed to renounce or repudiate an inheritance through a public or authentic document (see Article 1051, Civil Code).

A prenuptial agreement once notarized is a public document. Thus, going back to our example, it is possible for the bride to renounce any inheritance from the groom via a notarized prenuptial agreement.

Take note, however, that renunciation will not entitle the concerned spouse to choose who will receive the inheritance. The act of choosing who will be the recipient is an assignment, which is the exercise of disposing one’s property. Remember, the said spouse was never the owner in the first place due to the renunciation; hence, he/she can exercise any rights of an owner. Instead, the portion renounced will go back to the estate and will be divided among the remaining heirs.

3. Prenuptial agreements can separate the legal personalities and assets/properties of each spouse.

A prenuptial agreement can come in many forms, from limited separation of assets/properties to complete separation. However, one thing is for sure: there legal personalities are separate.

If there is no prenuptial agreement, the default property regime of absolute community of property (ACP) will apply. In an ACP, the previous two legal personalities of the groom and bride becomes one. Hence, the sign “Sps.” indicated prior to the names of the couple in case of legal documents. As one person, a lawsuit against one is also a case against the other. Going further, the debt or liability of one is also the debt of the other. Their ACP will answer for these liabilities.

On the other hand, with a prenuptial agreement, the legal personalities of each spouses are maintained along with their separate assets/properties. Hence, a lawsuit against one does not necessarily mean a case against the other. The same goes for debts or liabilities. It is only the concerned spouse and his/her assets/properties that will answer for any personal liability.

4. Prenuptial agreements can set the terms of the marriage.

Contrary to popular belief, prenuptial agreements are not limited to separation of properties. The agreement may also contain the terms of the marriage, such as division of the rent and bills, use of cars, visiting in-laws, parenting, and even cleaning of the house. You can even stipulate on what will happen in case the marriage is dissolved, such as who gets the house, who will have custody over the children, and so on. (Note that there is still currently no divorce law and thus alimony is not applicable. However, there is no stopping a generous spouse from giving an allowance to the other.)

In business terms, the prenuptial agreement is the operations manual. The contents will reflect how this marriage is going to operate and function.