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Prenups have long history in America

New York residents contemplating marriage may be interested in learning that one of the richest businessmen in America in the 19th century, Andrew Carnegie, signed, along with his wife, one of the very first prenuptial agreements in the United States.

Carnegie had a unique view of wealth compared to those of his contemporaries, the industrialist Rockefellers and the Morgans who ran the banks. His biographer said in a recent interview that Carnegie intended his wife and daughter to live comfortable lives and provided for them after his death in 1919.

But in keeping with a treatise he wrote in 1889 entitled, "The Gospel of Wealth, which contained this sentence explaining his views, "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced," he left the bulk of his enormous wealth to endowments and foundations. They included the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 200 libraries and what was then known as the Carnegie Institute of Technology but become the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University.

It's unknown whether Carnegie's wife shared her husband's views and generosity for the public good, but she willingly signed the prenup before they married. Without a document detailing his intentions, she and her daughter would have lived out their lives in opulent luxury as their contemporaries did and whose descendants today still enjoy.

Carnegie's story illustrates the need for prenuptial agreements to set the terms for both parties entering a marriage so that neither are deceived about the financial conditions to occur at a later date. For some New Yorkers, a prenup can weed out so-called gold-diggers. For others, it can make sure that children from prior unions are protected and that charitable donations are honored and not later contested.

Source: Forbes, "The Gilded Age Family That Gave It All Away: The Carnegies" Chloe Sorvino, Jul. 08, 2014

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