We all suffer from ignorance. It is impossible not to. No one can know everything all the time. Ignorance is just a normal part of life and the only thing any of us can do about it is choose to educate ourselves as best we can with whatever knowledge is relevant in our lives.
OK, here is the part where I am less accepting of ignorance...
If you are a professional and I am paying you for a service then I expect that your knowledge base for said service will be fairly complete. At a minimum, I should not have to educate you in order for you to do your job adequately.
The rest of this blog is going to talk about marriage law, community property, premarital agreements and Nevada specific laws. If you happened to be married in the state of Nevada, the following might be relevant. If that doesn't sound interesting to you then I thank you for getting this far.
I'll try not to get long winded here.
So I bought a house in Las Vegas a few years back. My girlfriend lived there with me, but was not associated with the house in any legal terms. She did pay me rent, and was essentially a tenant (tenant with benefits? lol).
A couple years later we got engaged. Shortly after that I changed jobs and we decided to move so that I would be closer to my new job. Her commute was about the same either way. We decided to buy a house together and I would keep my old house as a rental/investment property. Prior to getting married we signed a premarital (aka prenuptial) agreement that basically says everything that is mine stays mine, and same with her (with stipulations to rewrite the agreement if we have life changing events like kids or serious injury or whatever). We are talking assets, debt and everything between staying with sole ownership. The only "joint" assets/debt we had were the house we bought together, the associated mortgage loan and a joint checking account that we both put an identical monthly allotment into to pay joint expenses (ranging from going out to dinner to paying utilities). Otherwise we keep our entire financial lives separate. We don't share cars, savings, income, retirement accounts or really anything else. Our premarital agreement basically outlines this whole thing.
Now it is a couple years after that and I am selling my rental property and the title company INSISTS that my wife MUST sign forms such that I can sell that home because Nevada is a community property state. They are correct on that last part, Nevada IS a community property state, but that sentence seems to encompass the depth of their knowledge on the matter.
I guess its reasonable that if a random person knows the previous statement to be true and nothing else, then they would assume she has a right to half of all my property, and as such would need to sign paperwork along with myself for the sale of such property, but allow me to remind you that we are not dealing with a random person off the street here. This interaction is taking place with a reputable title company. This is their entire business practice.
Now back to selling my house...
Via my realtor I am being informed that the title company is requiring my wife to sign (and have notarized) forms to sell my house. I immediately think to myself that if this is truly required, then whats the point of all that money we spent on a lawyer (each) and premarital agreement to keep everything separate? So I call my lawyer and he basically tells me that they are wrong, and that they just rubber stamp they whole process instead of actually following the law. He tells me I should get a new title company. Maybe he was right, but I didn't.
I explained the entire situation to my realtor, and she started an email chain with the title company representative. At the end of the day they still insisted on my wife's signatures. In all actuality, having my wife sign stuff really isn't a big deal logistically. She and I don't have secrets, and even though we keep money separate she is fully aware of my financial status (she does my taxes). It's mildly annoying that it needs to be notarized because it might mean she has to take time off work to get it done, or we would have to make a Saturday appointment (I have to work some Saturdays). The real problem is that it would set a precedence that she need to be involved in order for me to conduct my separate business, which is not how we want to live our lives.
I decided to call the title company directly. I am happy to say that the person handling my transaction was very pleasant and heard me out completely. She seemed to understand my concerns and said that she would ask her title team again for clarification, but by the time we got off the phone I felt like the answer was going to remain the same. I told her I could arrange a conversation between my lawyer and their team, but she declined. After the chat I decided to start doing my own homework instead of just relying on the word of my lawyer.
I mean my lawyer could be wrong, I didn't know. I don't have a law degree, and I just assumed that his credentials gave him credibility. It was entirely possible that NV state law dictated that everything was 50/50 regardless of premarital contracts or anything else. If this was the case, then perhaps our two lawyers just basically scammed us out of about $4,000 to generate a contract with no legal standing.
As it turns out my lawyer was correct. Below is a copy of the email I sent the title company shortly after our phone chat (with names excluded for privacy).
Unfortunately I don't believe I can apply the highlights here on Steemit.
Hi (Title Rep).
After we got off the phone I did some leg work on the NV law website (https://www.leg.state.nv.us). I believe the law proves to not require my wife's involvement in any fashion. I've copied and pasted the relevant statutes, highlighted the most applicable parts and provided the link to the entire title/chapter if you would need further review.
The following is from "CHAPTER 123 - RIGHTS OF HUSBAND AND WIFE"
NRS 123.010 Property rights of husband and wife governed by chapter; exceptions; rights vested before March 10, 1873, not affected.
1. The property rights of husband and wife are governed by this chapter, unless there is:
(a) A premarital agreement which is enforceable pursuant to chapter 123A of NRS; or (b) A marriage contract or settlement,
Ê containing stipulations contrary thereto.
NRS 123.050 Husband or wife not liable for debts of other incurred before marriage. Neither the separate property of a spouse nor the spouse’s share of the community property is liable for the debts of the other spouse contracted before the marriage.
NRS 123.060 No interests in property of other. Except as mentioned in NRS 123.070, neither husband nor wife has any interest in the property of the other.
NRS 123.070 Husband and wife may make contracts. Either husband or wife may enter into any contract, engagement or transaction with the other, or with any other person respecting property, which either might enter into if unmarried, subject in any contract, engagement or transaction between themselves, to the general rules which control the actions of persons occupying relations of confidence and trust toward each other.
NRS 123.130 Separate property of wife; separate property of husband.
1. All property of the wife owned by her before marriage, and that acquired by her afterwards by gift, bequest, devise, descent or by an award for personal injury damages, with the rents, issues and profits thereof, is her separate property. 2. All property of the husband owned by him before marriage, and that acquired by him afterwards by gift, bequest, devise, descent or by an award for personal injury damages, with the rents, issues and profits thereof, is his separate property.
NRS 123.170 Each spouse controls own separate property. Either spouse may, without the consent of the other spouse, convey, charge, encumber or otherwise in any manner dispose of his or her separate property.
Community property defined. All property, other than that stated in NRS 123.130, acquired after marriage by either husband or wife, or both, is community property unless otherwise provided by:
1. An agreement in writing between the spouses. 2. A decree of separate maintenance issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. 3. NRS 123.190. 4. A decree issued or agreement in writing entered pursuant to NRS 123.259.
The following is from the above referenced CHAPTER 123A - PREMARITAL AGREEMENTS (UNIFORM ACT)
NRS 123A.050 Content.
1. Parties to a premarital agreement may contract with respect to: (a) The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located; (b) The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property; (c) The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event; (d) The modification or elimination of alimony or support or maintenance of a spouse; (e) The making of a will, trust or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement; (f) The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy; (g) The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and (h) Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty. 2. The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement.
The way I read this law, even without a premarital agreement, my wife has no claim to the property I am selling because it was acquired prior to the marriage. And even if it had been acquired after the marriage, then there is still no claim because of the contract she and I have regarding said property.
Please feel free to email or call me if we need to further discus this, or if your title team needs to speak with me. Thank you for you efforts regarding this matter. I have CC'd (my realtor) and (my wife) for simplification of communication instead of playing the telephone game. You have my consent (if its needed) to include them on any further communications regarding this matter. Thank you.
I am still waiting on a response, but I feel pretty good about being sure that I know the right answer now. I'll let you guys know if this goes sideways.