We want to preface this article with a quick disclaimer: prenups are NOT just for the wealthy; anyone can benefit from a prenup. Yes, prenups benefit the wealthy, but they also benefit “regular” people, too. With that said, many people are still curious about what a millionaire might put into their prenup. This article will explore what goes into the 1%’s prenup and why it is important for those with significant assets to consider.
Background on prenups
As a quick refresher, let’s talk about what a prenup actually is and does. A prenuptial agreement, or prenup for short, is a contract that outlines how a couple’s assets will be divided in case of a divorce, among other topics. While prenups were once considered taboo, they are becoming increasingly common across all socioeconomic statuses.
What do millionaires put into their prenups?
Okay, let’s just dive right in. What are the wealthiest people in the world putting into their prenup?
One of the primary components of a prenup is financial disclosure. Every state requires some level of financial disclosure in order for a prenup to be considered valid. Financial disclosure is when you share financial information with your spouse. This includes any assets (real estate, bank accounts, investment funds, etc.), debt, and future inheritances. Suppose you have a secret Monet art collection that you REALLY want to keep a secret; think again. Hiding anything from your partner in financial disclosure may be grounds to get your prenup thrown out.
Why is financial disclosure necessary? Well, all states require it on some level because it helps give both parties a solid understanding of what they are giving up in their prenup. For example, if your partner is a millionaire, but you had no idea, it wouldn’t really be fair for you to unknowingly waive your right to certain property or alimony.
The bottom line is that millionaires and non-millionaires alike must disclose ALL of their assets, debts, and future inheritances. There is no skimping on this part (otherwise, you risk getting your prenup thrown out).
It is highly, highly likely that a millionaire will include some level of property division in their prenup. This means “who gets what property” in the event of a divorce. Usually, this is done by stating what is considered separate property and what is considered marital/community property. For example, if a millionaire has a trust fund or a future inheritance that is worth a lot of money, they probably want to keep it separate from their spouse in the event of a divorce. If so, they would make sure to list their trust fund and/or future inheritance as separate property in their prenup.
There is also a way to share property in a prenup. Millionaires may want to keep certain properties separate but be okay with sharing other types of property in the event of a divorce. For example, maybe they’re totally fine with sharing any income they earn during the marriage. If so, they would make sure this is addressed as “marital” or “community” property in their prenup.
Alimony (i.e., maintenance or spousal support)
Alimony, also called maintenance or spousal support, depending on what state you’re in, is the financial support from the wealthier spouse to the other spouse in the event of a divorce. A millionaire may want to limit the amount of alimony that is allowed or waive it altogether. Of course, their partner will have to agree to this. If both partners can agree, then there are several ways to address alimony in a prenup. It could include (but is not limited to) restricting the amount and duration of alimony, limiting the source of income alimony is calculated from, or waiving it all together.
Some states have strict guidelines around alimony clauses in prenups. For example, in New Mexico, you are not allowed to even touch alimony at all in your prenup. In other words, you cannot stipulate to alimony in any way at all in a New Mexico prenup. In California, if you alter spousal support, you must be represented by a lawyer when doing so (California legislature wants to make sure you FULLY understand what you’re giving up when you do this).
At the end of the day, a millionaire may be super interested in cutting down on alimony in some way because they want to maintain predictability in a divorce (i.e., knowing exactly how much they will owe) and also protect their assets.
Many millionaires have businesses or some type of business interest in their asset portfolio. A prenup can be especially important for this type of millionaire. A prenup can outline how the business interests will be divided in the event of a divorce. Generally, this will include making sure business interests are completely separate or shared. If they’re shared, they will be divided according to your prenup’s terms.
Inheritances and gifts
Many millionaires are not self-made. They come from money, which means they will likely receive money in the future in the form of inheritances or even gifts. A millionaire prenup likely addresses what happens to any future gifts or inheritances. (Are they separate or shared?).
For example, let’s say millionaire Mike has a future inheritance from his Grandfather, who invented toaster strudels. He makes sure to list the estimated amount of the inheritance on his financial disclosure and then also lists any and all inheritances as separate property. Mike also has a wealthy aunt who loves to send him luxurious gifts for his b-day. This may include a Lambo or a yacht. So, Mike makes sure to keep all gifts from third parties separate in the prenup, as well.
Lump sum/equalization payments
Unless a millionaire is marrying another millionaire, the less-wealthy partner may also have requests. For example, let’s say millionaire Miles is getting married to Melinda, who has no significant assets. Melinda may want to include an equalization clause (sometimes called a lump sum clause) into her prenup. What is an equalization clause, you ask? Well, it’s a payment made from one spouse to the other upon divorce. It’s NOT alimony, and it’s NOT property division, per se; it’s a separate payment. The two spouses must agree on the amount, but it could look something like this: “Upon divorce, Miles shall pay Melinda a lump sum of $1,000,000.”
Confidentiality and social media image protection
More money, more problems, as Biggie Smalls once said. When you’re a millionaire, you likely have more sensitive information (businesses, financial info, family wealth, etc.) to protect. Same goes for your online reputation. This is where confidentiality clauses and social media image clauses may come into play.
For example, let’s say you are a millionaire with a tech startup, and you have a lot of confidential business financial information that you do not want to be shared with the public. On top of that, you have a large social media presence. So, you include a confidentiality clause to protect your sensitive information (such as the financial info for your tech startup). The clause states that your partner cannot share your confidential info while married or even post-divorce. You also include a social media image clause that prohibits your partner from posting harmful or damaging images or content of you online. If they do post anything disparaging, they have to pay you a set amount of money that you two agree on.
Death clause (i.e., estate planning)
Many people with lots of money will want to address what happens to their millions in their death. A death clause (depending on what it specifically says) typically points to the deceased spouse’s estate plans upon death, and the surviving spouse waives their right to their deceased spouse’s separate property. In other words, let’s say millionaire Melissa wants to make sure her separate assets go through her will, where her brother is the main beneficiary. She wants to make sure to take care of her brother in the event of her death, not her spouse. A death clause in a prenup can help facilitate these wishes (along with a properly executed will).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about millionaire prenups
Q: Is a prenup necessary for all couples or just millionaires?
A: A prenup can benefit any couple who wants to protect their assets (even if they don’t have any now but will in the future). Prenups can also protect more than just money; prenups can protect confidentiality, reputation, pets, and more.
Q: Do millionaire prenups cost more?
A: It depends on the complexity of the assets and the needs of the parties. If there are extremely complex finances to sift through and extremely customized clauses requested, it may take a lawyer longer to make (which means it will cost more money). With using HelloPrenup, there is no distinction in price between millionaires and non-millionaires.
Q: Does getting a prenup mean you’re greedy?
A: Not necessarily! A prenup can be seen as a way to have an honest and transparent conversation about finances and how each person’s assets and interests should be protected. On top of that, would you consider yourself a bad driver for purchasing car insurance? Of course not; it’s simply a way to protect yourself in case of the “what-ifs.”
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a millionaire or a regular Joe, having a prenup can be beneficial. For a millionaire prenup, people may want to consider adding clauses about property division, alimony, confidentiality, and more. But remember, these types of clauses can also be beneficial for any socioeconomic level–millionaire or not!
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]