According to the Minn. Stat. §519.11, a valid antenuptial agreement has the following requirements:
- Parties must be of legal age
- Agreement must be entered into before date of marriage
- There must be a full and fair disclosure of earnings of both parties
- Each party must have had an opportunity to consult with their own counsel
- The agreement must be in writing and witnessed by 2 people and acknowledged before a notary public. The notary public may be one of the witnesses.
If an antenuptial is properly executed, it functions as prima facie proof of the matter contained in it and the burden of proof rests on the party challenging the agreement.
Antenputial agreements are favored under Minnesota law. If the parties stand in a confidential relationship and the trial court finds that the agreement is supported by adequate consideration, then the burden is on the party challenging the agreement. The consideration in the case would be the mutual waiver of interest in the other’s pre-marital property.
Procedural and Substantive Fairness
The Minnesota Supreme Court held that antenuptial agreements allocating marital property between the parties are not prohibited by the statute and that the validity of such agreements depends upon common law requirements of procedural and substantive fairness. See McKee-Johnson v. Johnson, 444 N.W. 2d 259 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989).
The common law procedural fairness requirements are essentially the same as the statutory requirements for a proper execution of an antenuptial agreement. Each party must fully and fairly disclose their earnings and property to the other party and each party must have been afforded an opportunity to meet with counsel prior to the inception of the agreement. Id. While it is prudent to make the disclosures in writing and to attach to the agreement a statement from each party regarding their assets, income and liabilities, it is not required. Id.
Under common law, when a confidential or fiduciary relationship exists, courts should determine whether the agreement was “equitably and fairly made by considering:
(1) Whether there was fair and full disclosure of the parties’ assets. There are statements in the agreement that indicate that affair and full disclosure was made, and Charles attached a partial list of his nonmarital assets to the document. You may want to explore this issue with Elizabeth, but it appears that this requirement has been met.
(2) Whether the agreement was supported by adequate consideration. Likely there was sufficient consideration in this case.
(3) Whether the parties had knowledge of the material particulars of the agreement and of how those provisions impacted the parties’ rights in the absence of the agreement. Both parties were represented by counsel, so this requirement was met.
(4) Whether the agreement was procured by an abuse of fiduciary relations, undue influence or duress. You would want to check with Elizabeth, but there is nothing in the document to indicate that it was not fairly procured.
In re Estate of Kinney, 733 N.W.2d 118 (Minn. 2007).
The common law substantive fairness requirements mean that a trial court must review the document both at the time of inception of the agreement and at the time of enforcement to ensure that enforcement of its terms is fair. See McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 259. In order to avoid overreaching by one party, the Court inquires into the facts bearing on the reasonable expectations of each signatory as to the scope and effect of the agreement in the event of a dissolution. Id. The Court is required to review and make findings about:
(1) Whether the births of children have resulted in significantly changed circumstances which would warrant further substantive review; and
(2) Whether there have been any significant change in circumstances which make enforcement of the agreement “oppressive” and/or “unconscionable.”
There are no precise guidelines regarding what makes an agreement substantively unfair, but rather the Court have held that it hinges on specific facts in each case. An agreement that alters a party’s statutory rights is not substantively unfair if the result is foreseeable. Pollock-Halvarson v. McGuire, 576 N.W. 2d 451 (Minn. Ct. App. 1998).