Recently Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they are filing for divorce after twenty-seven years of marriage. Like another high-profile couple with substantial wealth, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the Gates’ did not have a prenuptial agreement directing the division of marital assets. The Gates’ divorce poses a unique challenge in the question of ownership of the Gates’ foundation. The Gates’ foundation has incredible influence, so its future affects many more people than just the divorcing couple. Bill and Melinda, understandably, did not enter marriage anticipating divorce, but if they had created a prenuptial plan, they could have greatly simplified their current situation.
Prenuptial agreements are commonly mislabeled as a red flag for an impending marriage and viewed as exhibiting distrust toward your future spouse. However, they could more accurately be understood as plans, much like an insurance. Having automobile insurance does not mean that someone will intentionally drive carelessly or get into an accident. Rather, insurance is a responsible act of protection in case of an unfortunate and unwanted occurrence. That is the actual purpose and effect of a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial agreements can be very positive for a variety of reasons. First, they encourage open and honest discussion about finances and the couple’s future. They also allow the couple to establish a fair plan while temperaments are more peaceful and feelings toward each other are more caring, compared to common attitudes during a divorce. In the event the prenuptial agreement is needed, it will facilitate a quicker resolution of the divorce and ultimately save both parties significant time and money. Depending on the stage of life, a prenuptial can also address and plan for distribution of assets to children from a previous marriage at the time of a spouse’s death. Finally, prenuptial agreements can ensure that both parties are entering into the marriage for authentic reasons.
There are multiple legal requirements for a prenuptial agreement to be valid. Both parties must be completely transparent about their assets, and the prenuptial agreement must be entered into voluntarily. In addition to the legal requirements, a prenuptial agreement is limited in what can be decided at the present time. Parties may decide how certain assets are divided, but they cannot pre-establish any child support plans in the prenuptial agreement.
If couples are considering the need for a prenuptial agreement, then they should contact an attorney. A legal professional can provide the advice and guidance to help couples negotiate agreements in a manner that advantages both parties. At Fidelis Law we are committed to assisting our clients in all matters involving family law and estate planning, including prenuptial agreement.