Signing a prenup can save a couple hundreds of thousands of dollars down the line.
This could lead to a battle royal.
Signing a prenuptial agreement is an experience often riddled with a roller coaster of emotions, including anxiety, stress and sadness. Still, for many, enforcing a premarital agreement is a necessary act to ensure finances, investments, properties and other belongings remain separate, even after a couple joins together in the union of marriage.
So who benefits the most from a prenup? Celebrities and high net worth individuals most commonly enter prenuptial agreements, as do people who have been previously married. But Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are both celebrities as well as high net worth individuals, have reportedly opted out of filing for one. Certified family law specialist, Steve Mindel tells Moneyish, “My suspicion is that between their managers and handlers, there are some treaties that have been written that you and I would call a premarital agreement, that they’re calling something else.” With two people of such high caliber, there’s a good chance some sort of rules or laws are being put in place to help determine what distributions of money go where.
Traditionally, royals haven’t engaged in signing prenuptial agreements despite their astronomical net worths, which is why it makes sense that Kate Middleton and Prince William decided against one ahead of their 2011 wedding. Yet with Prince Harry’s net worth conservatively estimated to be about $25 million, not including his future inheritance from Queen Elizabeth, and Meghan Markle’s net worth rumored to be about $5 million — should the couple split, millions will be at stake.
According to the Centers for Disease Control National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends, more than 2 million marriages and 800,000 divorces occurred in the United States in 2016, while England and Wales saw approximately 239,000 marriages and about 107,000 divorces. David Glass, a Los Angeles-based family attorney and PhD in clinical psychology, tells Moneyish, “Premarital agreements are becoming more and more common. I explain to clients that they’re like going to the dentist or having your oil changed. And with people getting married later in life, they have more assets and income.”
Family law attorney Christopher Melcher tells Moneyish, “Typically, someone who has been married before and went through a bad divorce and doesn’t want to have a repeat makes their new spouse pay the sins of the old spouse by having some onerous agreement that there will be no shared property.”
For the royals, Melcher thinks not having a prenup is a smart move. “It’s smart for them as a couple who are in the public eye to be seen as [partners] who have deep love and respect for each other. The asking for a premarital agreement would detract from what is a great love story,” he says. Plus, in England, prenuptial agreements have only become enforceable since 2010 — and they are still not readily accepted in England, so even if Meghan Markle had signed a prenup, there’s a question of whether it would’ve been honored or upheld by the court.
Melcher also suggests that the person responsible for proposing a prenup often fails to consider the impact on the person in the new relationship, causing conflict to arise as a result. When children are involved from a prior relationship, Melcher says there are really sound reasons to have a premarital agreement. “The last thing we want is to have a fight between parents. The premarital agreement is a way of managing preexisting obligations,” says Melcher.
Celebs like Russell Brand and Katy Perry, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, as well as Madonna and Guy Ritchie also declined prenups and splitting finances during their divorces. This proved to be messy, with all of the brides having to shell out hefty sums to their former spouses. And although unconfirmed, many speculate that Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa entered into their marriage with a prenup to protect Trump’s estimated $150 million.
Harry’s parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, also famously declined a prenup, and upon their split after nearly 15 years of marriage, Princess Di received a lump sum of about $22.5 million. Other royals haven’t been as fortunate — after Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew divorced sans prenup in 1996, the Duchess of York is rumored to have received a lump sum of about $4.8 million.
Married people aren’t the only ones drafting documents to protect their assets. “People who have long term relationships, even with children, that never result in marriage will form a cohabitation agreement. Especially if they’re in the tech business, or if they’re anticipating future money or stock options, they’ll ask for some kind of protection against that,” says Melcher.
Louise Y., a teacher in Seattle, says not having a prenup during her divorce didn’t hurt her. “It was pretty inconsequential in the end; we just split everything fifty-fifty,” she says.
But for those who have no way around forming a legally binding agreement, because parents insist on protecting their child’s inheritance from a non-blood relative, or assets need to be otherwise sheltered, there’s an art to asking your significant other to sign on the dotted line.
Talk about it. Instead of demanding a prenup, suggest having a conversation about the pros and cons associated with a premarital agreement.
Be upfront. “If you have multiple business partners, you can say that you have to have this agreement to protect your business,” says Glass. Any income can be deemed community property, but the right to have a spouse involved in business interests can be protected.
Stay calm. There are ways to have a calm conversation about premarital agreements. Glass says, “Things aren’t predictable, 50% of marriages end in divorce. You can say, “I’m sure everything will work out, but if it doesn’t, here are some guidelines we can refer to.”’
Help your partner help you. Take into account your partner’s feelings and offer to let them seek counsel that can help them understand and feel more comfortable with what’s being asked of them.
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