Managing marital property: What certain celebrities did right

Managing marital property: What certain celebrities did right

2020 has been a challenging year for Washington state family law courts, divorcing couples figuring out parenting plans at a fraught time, and Mary Kate Olsen. There’s no guarantee that 2021 will be much better, but it pays to be hopeful. If you’re planning to sort out marital property issues in the coming year, limited business in family courts might still present a challenge.

Want to know if you should file for a dissolution of marriage at this time? Read our article, “Should you file for divorce in Washington state amid a pandemic?

If you’re planning to get married in 2021, you and your fiancé should discuss matters regarding combining properties. And because we honor the prenuptial agreement between ourselves and our readers, we still refrain from giving legal advice here in this blog.

But here’s a piece of advice we never thought we’d give: follow the examples of these celebrities who did some things right regarding the management of their marital properties.

Cushioning the financial blow of divorce: a well-drafted prenuptial agreement

Your feelings for your spouse before you get married, i.e., during the honeymoon phase, will undoubtedly be different from your feelings for them when you’re about to divorce. This is why having a prenup is beneficial.

Here’s a simple fact: a couple who are about to divorce may not be looking out for their soon-to-become-ex’s best interests when dividing properties. Contrast this with the time before they tied the knot when they were still happy and in love. During the honeymoon phase, decisions around splitting marital properties are unlikely to be affected by ill feelings toward the other. This is where having a prenup, a legally binding contract that includes stipulations on which properties are not to be divided upon divorce or death, could be a life-saver.

Hugh Hefner, the most famous Playboy the world has ever known, knew that a prenuptial agreement could preserve his most precious assets. That is why he made sure to enter into a prenup before marrying his third and last wife, former Playboy bunny Crystal Harris. A cynical person would think the prenup was to prevent Ms. Crystal from running off with his millions. After all, she was a tall, voluptuous, and desirable blonde 60 years his junior. But this is Hef’s third marriage, so he was well within his rights to protect his empire the best way he knew how.

And a prenup did what it was supposed to do. Upon Mr. Hefner’s passing, Ms. Harris did not acquire ownership of the Playboy Mansion estate and was not allowed to continue living in the iconic mansion. Furthermore, she did not inherit millions of his vast fortune. However, it’s safe to assume that there was something in the prenup that made sure Ms. Harris lived comfortably after Mr. Hefner had passed. In any case, that’s how we choose to remember the Hef.

His and hers: Establishing which properties are shared and which ones are separate

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are still married. But like any couple who’ve been married for ages (38 years to be exact), their marriage hasn’t always been a walk in the park. In fact, they almost divorced — they separated in 2016 but eventually reconciled. At the time, there was talk about how their assets would be split since they had many intangible and intellectual properties between them.

If they had divorced, it would have been a huge help for both to have complete and detailed records of their properties. It would be particularly helpful if such records clearly indicated which of their respective properties were kept independent of their marital estate. It would benefit Ozzy to state that, for instance, an ex-spouse won’t have a share in future royalties from his numerous songs and albums. The same goes for Sharon who had her own creative endeavors (such as several books published) throughout the marriage.

We’re guessing the royalties from their wild and briefly entertaining reality TV show The Osbournes would be shared between the two of them.

Out of sight, out of the general public’s mind: Quietly settling out of court

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore got married without signing a prenup, which is a pretty bold move for high-net-worth individuals like them. It also put Ms. Moore’s estate at risk since she was the bigger star when they got married. Mr. Kutcher’s claim to fame then was starring in a little-seen show about a celebrity who pranked fellow (bigger) celebrities. Having written that last sentence, it doesn’t seem outrageous to believe that perhaps he punk’d Ms. Moore into marrying him.

As for celebrities not getting a prenup, we can’t say we’re surprised. Some couples do fall in love hard and fast and forego signing a prenup in the name of romance. The former Mr. and Mrs. Kutcher may have committed the mistake of not signing a prenup. However, they did one thing right when they divorced: they quietly settled out of court to avoid the fate of the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who both just can’t seem to agree. Brangelina may be filthy rich, but because they refuse to settle, their respective legal representatives are becoming richer as well.

Considering Ashton and Demi’s widely reported contentious asset split, agreeing to a settlement that was fair to both of them was wise. Otherwise, it would have counted among the most protracted divorces in Hollywood history.

The mother of all questions regarding prenuptial agreement is whether to sign one. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are family law attorneys with years of experience handling dissolutions of marriage in Washington state. We’ll help you answer this question and more. Find our offices in Renton or give us a call — 425-382-7381.