Millennial Millionaires and Their Prenups -- What They Need to Be Thinking About
Bringing up the 'P' word before you marry may be awkward. But you can always tell your intended, 'My lawyer made me do it.'
There are those who say prenups (prenuptial agreements) kill the romance. But would you still think the same if you had a lot to lose should your marriage end in divorce?
Over the past 20 years, the use of prenups has increased by a factor of five for millennials, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers ( which defines millennials as those ages 18 to 34). From celebs like Kylie Jenner and Justin Bieber -- who just signed premarital agreements with their partners -- to Travis Scott, and Hailey Baldwin, and the many, many young marrieds active in the startup world, premarital agreements are trending, and for all the right reasons.
That's the view of Bay Area celebrity divorce lawyers Anne Cochran Freeman and Monica Mazzei, who practice family law at Sideman & Bancroft LLP. The two lawyers say they believe that with prenups, today's entrepreneurs can best protect what they have worked so hard for.
“What we are seeing today is an influx of up-and-coming millennials and entrepreneurs," Mazzei told me. "These people are waiting longer to say, ‘I do,’ which means they typically have more assets, accumulated wealth from a 401(k) and stock options and possibly real-estate ventures.
"They could potentially have a lot to lose if a prenup is not put in place. Who is to know that their assets could increase tenfold?"
What many people don’t realize is that they also need to protect their intellectual property, not just their tangible assets. After all, people can launch several businesses during the course of a marriage. And, to some founders, a business is something they believe should be solely theirs no matter what.
In that case, the very idea of a business has to be protected. “One of our clients simply had a business concept, a company that had not come into fruition. Her fiancé agreed to any future property or assets from said company being hers. The company is now worth $300 million,” Freeman said.
In the case of Kylie Jenner and her makeup line, Kylie Cosmetics, the reality star opted to protect what assets she has now and those she will accumulate throughout her marriage, ensuring that her business will not be communal property. Because there are no exceptions to this clause, Jenner is 100 percent protected.
How your startup comes into the mix
Companies today are also opting more and more for agreements where the board comes to an arrangement to protect assets among the partners in case divorces among them occur. “Stock options are a company’s property until an employee leaves the firm or [the company goes] public," Freeman said. "But what if this employee gets a divorce before leaving, or what if they IPO? Adopting another partner to split stock options is never ideal."
Think of it this way: Every married couple is granted a prenup. This means either an agreement that the partners decide together, or that your state decides for you. Sure, you can always create a postnuptial agreement, but that option tends to become a bit messy should things ever go south.
“Its best to arrange for a prenup while you still like one another,” said Mazzei. With millennials' love of customization, it should be a no-brainer to opt for formulating a prenup with their partners.
“A marriage is a two-person team; therefore, a couple needs to carve out some partnership in their marriage,” said Freeman. "This is commonly the family home or the greater salary, while investment properties are best left undivided, but the decision is yours. That’s the beauty of it."
How to bring up the "P" word
Convinced, but not sure how to bring up the topic? The "P" word can be daunting. “Love is in the air and the subject can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of our clients blame their parents or their estate planner. It’s better this than to say it’s something you want to have,” said Freeman.
Should you decide a prenup is a wise choice for you and your soon-to-be spouse, here are the guidelines to take note of:
Make sure you attorney has business knowledge. "They must be business savvy and understand how to best plan for future contingencies," said Freeman."Both parties also need to have their own separate attorney for a prenup to be valid."
Plan ahead with a prenup. “It is advised to not start arranging for a prenup less than one month before your marriage," Mazzei said. "You should get the ball rolling at least three to four months out, especially if you have a lot of property and assets. Our longest prenuptial agreement took a year and a half to finalize because of corporate counsel, working with people outside of the country, an estate-planning attorney, a tax attorney and family business.
Pay attention to the details. Does your partner have offshore accounts? Where will you be living? These questions may require tax attorneys and estate attorneys to partner up on what will happen with your valuable assets. “Many of our clients are techies who are originally from China or India, and who now live in the Bay Area: Their agreements involve international attorneys, which increases the amount of time to draft an agreement,” Freeman said.
Recognize that no two prenups are alike, because no two couples are alike. “Clients come to see us with examples of a friend’s ironclad contract, but agreements are not one size fits all," Mazzei said. "There are many variables to consider, and they are unique to each relationship. Are there children involved, or will there ever be? How do children affect financial decisions? There are psychological aspects, and where you plan to live matters, too."
Prepare for the future. "Imagine," said Freeman, "being divorced from your spouse, who took care of the children and home, and not having a nanny to come to the rescue. After a divorce, many of our Silicon Valley clients who once had their partner handle dinner arrangements, vacation planning and child-rearing while they were at the office, are left with the question, 'Now, what?'"
Experiencing a divorce is a trying time no matter how much or how little money you have, and a breakup causes a ripple effect. You can’t call your ex-wife or secretary, so you turn to someone you trust: your lawyer. If this professional is both a oncierge-level specialist and a personal counsel to you in all the meaning of that word, you just may get back to living your best life -- in one piece.
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