Would a prenuptial agreement have prevented a costly settlement in a recent divorce where the heir to a well-established family enterprise put a large dent in the family's fortunes by agreeing to pay $23 million to his spouse, who was forced to relinquish her interests in the family concern?
No one can say, because Prince Charles and Princess Diana didn't have a prenuptial agreement. But chances are if any of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's children remarry, they will be urged to sign one.
Contentious divorces don't just upset empires; they can also topple long-established family businesses. That's why so many heads of family businesses want their adult children to sign prenuptial agreements.
This is a difficult subject to broach. "The spouse-to-be can see this as a proviso to full family acceptance, and it can chill relationships for years," says Tom Hubler, president of Hubler Family Business Consultants Inc. in Minneapolis. It also can harm the young couple's relationship.
"The [spouse-to-be] frequently perceives the [family's] son or daughter as more loyal to the family than to establishing a loving relationship," says Ross Nager, director of the Arthur Andersen Center for Family Business in Houston.
"Prenuptials are talked about more than they're implemented," adds Nager: People find it emotionally difficult to plan a divorce at the same time they plan a wedding.