of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
William J. Wetering, Hedeen, Hughes & Wetering,
Worthington, Minnesota, for respondent.
Nord Hunt, Lommen Abdo, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
Minnesota Statutes § 519.11, subd. 1 (2016) offers a
procedural fairness "safe harbor" for provisions in
antenuptial agreements that address nonmarital property. If a
provision is not within the safe harbor, or if the provision
addresses marital property, the common-law, multi-factor test
for procedural fairness adopted in In re Estate of
Kinney, 733 N.W.2d 118 (Minn. 2007), applies.
Applying the Kinney factors, the antenuptial
agreement in this case was not procedurally fair because it
was not supported by adequate consideration and it was
procured by duress.
Robbie Michael Kremer appeals from a district court order
invalidating an antenuptial agreement he entered into with
his then-fiancée, respondent Michelle Beth
Kremer. The antenuptial agreement contained
provisions concerning the disposition of both marital and
nonmarital property upon dissolution or death. The district
court held that, under Minn. Stat. § 519.11 (2016), the
agreement was procedurally unfair because Michelle did not
have an adequate opportunity to consult with an attorney. The
court of appeals affirmed-holding that the agreement was
procedurally unfair-but applied the common-law test for
procedural fairness from In re Estate of Kinney, 733
N.W.2d 118 (Minn. 2007). Robbie petitioned for review,
arguing that section 519.11 applied to the agreement and that
the statute's procedural conditions were satisfied
because both parties engaged in full and fair financial
disclosure, and both parties had an opportunity to consult
with an attorney. We affirm the court of appeals.
almost three years, Robbie and Michelle lived together as a
couple on a farm in Fulda, Minnesota. Robbie owned and
operated a farming enterprise. Michelle had three children
from a previous marriage. Robbie told Michelle that he would
require an antenuptial agreement if they ever married.
Michelle was ambivalent about such an agreement, and the
parties did not discuss or negotiate any terms.
August 2000, Robbie and Michelle decided to marry. They
scheduled a destination wedding in the Cayman Islands for
wedding approached, and without telling Michelle, Robbie
contacted an attorney to prepare an antenuptial agreement.
Robbie had a minimum of six contacts with the attorney over
the course of at least a month. Without Michelle's
knowledge, he furnished the attorney with copies of her tax
February 26, 2001, at his attorney's office, Robbie
signed the antenuptial agreement ("the Agreement").
Later that day, he presented the Agreement to Michelle.
Robbie made clear that if Michelle did not sign the
Agreement, the wedding was off. The couple was scheduled to
leave for the Cayman Islands just three days later. Family
members had paid for their lodging and airfare to the
destination, and some were already en route.
being presented with the Agreement, Michelle attempted
unsuccessfully to meet with the attorney who represented her
in a previous divorce. On February 28, she met with a
different attorney with whom she had no experience. The
attorney explained the terms of the Agreement, her rights
under the law, and the potential impact of the Agreement upon
dissolution of the marriage or Robbie's death. After
receiving legal advice, Michelle signed the Agreement. The
next day, the couple left for the Cayman Islands to be
Agreement specified that, upon dissolution, "[e]ach
party shall retain his or her Property free of any right or
claim of the other." Under the Agreement, "[a]ny
assets acquired during the marriage . . . [would be] divided
between the parties in proportion to the monetary
consideration provided by each." Under the Agreement,
both parties surrendered their rights to "alimony or
maintenance." The parties certified that they had been
advised of their rights and of the nature and probable value
of each other's property.
and Michelle had one child together, born in 2008. Over the
course of the marriage, Michelle contributed to the farming
operation, the value of which increased significantly. She
did not herself earn much income.
marriage did not endure. In 2010, Michelle petitioned for
dissolution and moved to set aside the Agreement, arguing
that it was unfair. The district court agreed and invalidated
the Agreement. The court applied Minnesota Statutes §
519.11, which provides that antenuptial agreements
"shall be valid" if the parties satisfy two
conditions-"(a) there is a full and fair disclosure of
the earnings and property of each party, and (b) the parties
have had an opportunity to consult with legal counsel of
their own choice." Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd. 1.
The court concluded that the Agreement was procedurally
unfair because Michelle did not have an "adequate
opportunity to meet with legal counsel of her own
choice." The court found that Robbie intentionally
"used the wedding deadline to create an atmosphere of
pressure" under which Michelle was
"pressured/coerced" into signing the Agreement. The
court also concluded that the Agreement was substantively
unfair at the time it was made and executed, but it did not
conclude whether the Agreement was substantively unfair at
the time of its enforcement.
published opinion, the court of appeals affirmed the district
court's order invalidating the Agreement, but on
different grounds. Kremer v. Kremer, 889 N.W.2d 41
(Minn.App. 2017). The court of appeals concluded that,
"to the extent that the district court relied on
[section 519.11] for evaluating procedural fairness, the
district court erred." Id. at 50. The court of
appeals determined that agreements that purport to distribute
marital property, such as the Agreement between Robbie and
Michelle, must be evaluated under the common law, regardless
of whether they also address nonmarital property.
Id. at 50 n.4. Applying the multifactor common-law
test articulated in In re Estate of Kinney, 733
N.W.2d 118, to the findings of the district court, the court
of appeals determined that the Agreement was procedurally
unfair. Kremer, 889 N.W.2d at 50-52. Because "a
lack of procedural fairness is fatal to the validity" of
an antenuptial agreement, the court of appeals did not
address the issue of substantive fairness. Id. at
judge on the panel dissented in part, concluding that the
statutory framework applied by the district court was the
appropriate standard. Id. at 56 (Hooten, J.,
dissenting in part). But the dissent would have reversed the
district court's order invalidating the Agreement on the
theory that the statute's procedural conditions were
satisfied. Id. at 60.
granted Robbie's petition for review to address the
validity and enforceability of the Agreement under Minn.
Stat. § 519.11 and the common law.
agreements must be fair, both procedurally and substantively.
McKee-Johnson v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 259 (Minn.
1989). Two sources of Minnesota law govern the procedural
fairness of antenuptial agreements: section 519.11 and the
common law. This case requires us to determine which law
governs antenuptial agreements that address both marital and
nonmarital property. Robbie also asks us to determine that
the Agreement was procedurally and substantively fair, and
therefore valid and enforceable.
1979, the Legislature enacted Minn. Stat. § 519.11,
captioned "Antenuptial and Postnuptial Contracts."
Previously, antenuptial agreements executed in Minnesota were
exclusively governed by the common law, which required such
agreements to be both procedurally and substantively fair.
See Kinney, 733 N.W.2d at 122;
McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 265). The common-law
standard for procedural fairness is whether an agreement was
"equitably and fairly made." Kinney, 733
N.W.2d at 122. The common-law standard for substantive
fairness is whether an agreement's terms are
unconscionable or oppressive. Id.;
McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 267.
519.11 modified the common law of procedural fairness for
antenuptial agreements executed after August 1,
1979. See Minn. Stat. § 519.11,
subd. 6; McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 263.
Subdivision 1 of the statute states that antenuptial
agreements "shall be valid" if the parties satisfy
two conditions-"(a) there is a full and fair disclosure
of the earnings and property of each party, and (b) the
parties have had an opportunity to consult with legal counsel
of their own choice." Minn. Stat. § 519.11, subd.
1. The second sentence states that agreements "made in
conformity with this section may determine what rights each
party has in the nonmarital property."
Id. (emphasis added). The third sentence provides:
"This section shall not be construed to make invalid or
unenforceable any antenuptial agreement or settlement made
and executed in conformity with this section because the
agreement or settlement covers or includes marital property,
if the agreement or settlement would be valid and enforceable
without regard to this section." Id.
first addressed section 519.11 in our 1989 decision,
McKee-Johnson v. Johnson. The primary issue in that
case was whether the statute voided provisions of antenuptial
agreements purporting to distribute marital property.
McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 262. In determining
that section 519.11 did not void such provisions, we
thoroughly reviewed the statute's legislative history,
including statements made during committee discussions and
floor debates. McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 263-64.
We concluded that the statute's primary purpose was to
codify the procedural fairness requirements for, and make it
more difficult to challenge, agreements about
nonmarital property. Id. at 264. We
highlighted the fact that, during the legislative process, an
amendment to address marital property had been added but was
later removed. Id. As the bill's original
sponsor explained, the statute was "neutral" as to
marital property. Id.
provisions in agreements that addressed marital property, we
said that "we must look to our common law for
guidance." Id. at 265. We equated the
common-law standard for procedural fairness with the standard
(for nonmarital property) in the statute. Id.
(stating that the common-law factors for procedural fairness
were "substantially identical" to those in section
519.11, subdivision 1). Specifically, we said that "one
standard relative to the procedural fairness requirement is
met whenever the proponent has established that the parties
have voluntarily contracted only after full financial
disclosure, " and "implicit in the procedural
fairness analysis is the requirement that each party . . .
has unrestrained access to advice from independent
counsel." Id. at 265-66.
modified the McKee-Johnson common-law standard in
our 2007 decision, In re Estate of Kinney. Unlike in
McKee-Johnson, the agreement in Kinney was
executed before August 1, 1979, and thus was unquestionably
subject to the common law. Kinney, 733 N.W.2d at
122. After a comprehensive review of our case law regarding
procedural fairness, we articulated a multifactor common-law
balancing test different than the factors we applied in
McKee-Johnson. Id. at 124; see
McKee-Johnson, 444 N.W.2d at 265-66. And we disagreed
with McKee-Johnson to the extent that, for
procedural fairness, the common-law test required
the opportunity to consult with legal counsel.
Kinney, 733 N.W.2d at 125 (overruling
McKee-Johnson and In re Estate of Serbus,
324 N.W.2d 381 (Minn. 1982), in part).
McKee-Johnson and Kinney, we have not
considered the relationship between section 519.11 and the
common law as applied to antenuptial agreements that address
both marital and nonmarital property and were executed after
August 1, 1979. We consider that relationship now.
determine whether the procedural fairness of an agreement
addressing both marital and nonmarital property is governed
by statute or common law, we begin with the text of section
519.11. Statutory interpretation is a question of law that we
review de novo. Caldas v. Affordable Granite & Stone,
Inc., 820 N.W.2d 826, 836 (Minn. 2012). The goal of
statutory interpretation is to effectuate the intent of the
Legislature. Brayton v. Pawlenty, 781 N.W.2d 357,
363 (Minn. 2010). When the intent of the Legislature is clear
from the plain language of the statute, further statutory
construction is not necessary. Am. Tower, L.P. v. City of
Grant, 636 N.W.2d 309, 312 (Minn. 2001); see
also Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2016). A statute should
ordinarily be read as a whole to "harmonize all its
parts, and, whenever possible, no word, phrase or sentence
should be deemed superfluous, void or insignificant."
Owens v. Federated Mut. Implement & Hardware Ins.
Co., 328 N.W.2d 162, 164 (Minn. 1983).
presume that statutes are consistent with the common law, and
that the Legislature does not intend to abrogate or modify a
common-law rule unless it does so by express wording or
necessary implication of the statute. Do v. Am. Family
Mut. Ins. Co., 779 N.W.2d 853, 858 (Minn. 2010).
519.11 reads, in relevant part:
A man and woman of legal age may enter into an antenuptial
contract or settlement prior to solemnization of marriage
which shall be valid and enforceable if (a) there is a full
and fair disclosure of the earnings and property of each
party, and (b) the parties have had an opportunity to consult
with legal counsel of their own choice. An antenuptial
contract or settlement made in conformity with this section
may determine what rights each party has in the nonmarital
property, defined in section 518.003, subdivision 3b, upon
dissolution of marriage, legal separation or after its
termination by death and may bar each other of all rights in
the respective estates not so secured to them by their
agreement. This section shall not be construed to make
invalid or unenforceable any antenuptial agreement or
settlement made and ...