Don’t be like Bezos, get a prenup

Marriage is meant to last forever, but sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned.

That’s why a prenuptial agreement – also known as a prenup – is always a good idea. Just ask Amazon founder and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos. He’s getting a divorce without a prenup.

When you are married, all your items purchased, salary earned and bonuses accrued become community property between you and your spouse to be split after the divorce. What you bring in to the marriage, however, can stay with you after the divorce if you have proper documentation. That’s what a prenup provides – proper documentation.

The basics of a prenup

New York courts will typically enforce a prenup if it is:

  • Fair
  • Contains full financial disclosure
  • Entered into with independent legal counsel
  • Signed without threat or coercion
  • Witnessed by a third party

This means that if you have a prenup that state, for example, that one spouse gets everything and the other northing, a judge will likely call that unfair.

If one spouse hid assets or one spouse didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the agreement with independent, qualified legal counsel, a judge will likely invalidate the prenup.

If one spouse felt threatened or coerced into signing the prenup, it would likely be invalid.

And like any contract, if it’s not properly signed and witnessed, it likely won’t be enforced.

Who needs a prenup?

Here’s one person who got married without a prenup: Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. He and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, announced their split in early January. Since they don’t have a prenup and the source of Bezos’ wealth, Amazon, was founded one year after they married, MacKenzie stands to receive half his $137 billion real-time worth.

Experts say that MacKenzie will likely not demand Bezos sell a large chunk of the 16-percent he owns of Amazon to fund the divorce, opting instead to allow the fortune to continue to grow. The couple has four teen-age children.

Bezos also owns the Washington Post and Blue Sky, a space aeronautics company. The couple owns mansions in Medina, Washington, and Beverly Hills, California, a ranch in Van Horn, Texas, a condo in New York City and a 27,000-square-foot former museum they converted into a home in Washington D.C.

If MacKenzie Bezos were to take her half of the fortune, her $68 billion would make her the richest woman in the world, while Bezos would become the sixth-richest man.

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