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Prenuptial Agreement Is Valid Despite Wife’s Failure To Read

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Prenuptial agreements, though not particularly romantic, are often important to couples about to be married. Particularly in second marriage situations, a prenuptial agreement can reduce anxiety between the new spouses as well as among family members of each spouse. There are some clear rules that must be followed to make such agreements effective, however.

In Arizona, for instance, a prenuptial agreement (sometimes also called a premarital agreement) will be enforced in a later dissolution proceeding or upon the death of one spouse, but only if each prospective spouse gives financial information to the other. An agreement must not be unconscionable, and both parties must have signed voluntarily. Other state rules, though they differ in particulars, will usually be similar.

Frances and Eugene Ingmand were actually residents of Iowa, but they were staying at Mr. Ingmand’s winter home in Sun City, Arizona, when they decided they would get married. On March 11, 1986, three days before their marriage, Mr. Ingmand told his wife-to-be that they needed to go get a marriage license, and got her into his car. Instead, he drove to his attorney’s office, where she was presented with a prenuptial agreement and told that she would not be getting married unless she signed.

Mr. Ingmand’s lawyer explained to Frances that he represented only her prospective husband, and that she was free to take the agreement to someone else to review. She was uncomfortable and embarrassed, but she declined to either read the document carefully or take it for independent review. She signed in the lawyer’s office that day, and the couple was married on schedule.

When Mr. Ingmand died in Iowa a decade later, his widow filed a claim in probate court for her share of his estate. His heirs, pointing to the prenuptial agreement, denied her claim; the probate court sided with the estate and against Mrs. Ingmand, and she appealed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the probate court’s determination. While Mr. Ingmand’s “actions may be fairly characterized as surprise pressure tactics,” ruled the Court, “they did not negate the knowing and voluntary nature of the execution.” Mrs. Ingmand had an opportunity to review the document, or could have delayed signing until she had taken a copy home or to her own lawyer. In the Matter of the Estate of Ingmand, July 31, 2001.

Although Mr. and Mrs. Ingmand’s prenuptial agreement was executed in Arizona, it was reviewed under Iowa law because that was their residence and the place of Mr. Ingmand’s death. If the review had taken place in Arizona courts, however, it most likely would have led to the same result. Iowa and Arizona laws governing prenuptial agreements are very similar.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.