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Post-Nuptial Agreements for Doctors

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Protecting Physician Business Assets

[By Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA]

Pre-nuptial agreements are becoming well known; but post-nuptial agreements are not so known.

Family Business Environment

Prenuptial agreements are increasingly common in family business environments. In some cases, the business owner or a shareholder’s agreement may require certain family members to enter into prenuptial agreements with their prospective spouses.

However, postnuptial agreements are becoming equally popular—and for the same reasons. They protect the family business if a family member divorces, becomes disabled, or dies.

State Laws Vary

Only a few states have laws governing the enforceability of postnuptial agreements.

For example, New York law makes no distinction between prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

In other states, postnuptial agreements are valid only under specified conditions, which vary by state. In some cases, a postnuptial agreement is valid only if each spouse has a certain net worth. 

Another provision requires that each spouse be represented by counsel, while in some states couples must be married for two years before they can prepare a legally valid postnuptial agreement. Some states, such as North Carolina, require a court proceeding and a judge’s approval.

Where state law is silent, it is unclear whether postnuptial agreements will be enforced. New Jersey recently held that a postnuptial agreement was not valid because it was signed under duress. The spouse had said, “Either sign a postnuptial agreement, or there will be a divorce.”

Full Disclosure Needed

In the absence of duress, if there is full disclosure of financial assets and separate representation by counsel, postnuptial agreements should be valid.

For example, Donald Trump executed a postnuptial agreement with his first wife. She challenged it, but the court granted her the amount stipulated in the document ($25 million).


Prenuptial agreements are a sensitive issue and can be difficult to propose; especially for physicians with other family business interests.

Postnuptial agreements can be equally problematic to discuss, but they too can offer some degree of protection for doctors with other family business interests.


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9 Responses

  1. Want to Avoid Divorce? Marry a Podiatrist

    This is the bottom line: If your spouse works at a casino, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them.

    A new study out of the University of Radford has broken down divorce by occupation. It’s chilling reading for those who work in the gaming industry. The job with the highest divorce rate? Dancers and choreographers, nearly half (43.05%) of whom have ended a marriage. Others who aren’t good at commitment: bartenders, massage therapists, “gaming cage workers,” “gaming service workers” and telephone operators.

    On the other end of the spectrum, podiatrists [Doctors of Podiatric Medicine] are among the professions with the lowest divorce rate (6.81%).

    Source: Cathal Kelly, Toronto Star [10/4/10]


  2. Debunking the Pre-nup Myths

    Pre-nuptial agreements are increasingly becoming an important part of estate planning. But, clients may be resistant to the idea of a pre-nup based on outdated notions and incorrect assumptions about these agreements.


    Here are five myths about pre-nups and what you can tell clients to debunk them.



  3. What does a Break-Up cost?

    Divorce is notoriously expensive (both financially and emotionally), but as more unmarried couples move in together, they may be surprised to discover the costs of breaking up an unmarried household.




  4. Divorce proof your marriage?

    According to a survey of mental health professionals conducted by YourTango.com, the No. 1 way to divorce-proof your marriage is to improve communication followed by making your spouse a priority — even over kids.


    Pity, poor old Rupert Murdoch.



  5. State of the Marital Financial Union

    Some FAs suggest married couples perform an annual “State of the Marital Financial Union” address to sit down with a spouse and review the following:

    • Financial statements and accounts.
    • Tax returns with CPA.
    • Investment performance of separate and martially created accounts.
    • Spending deficits or a surplus for the year?
    • Miscellaneous

    Surprises aren’t uncommon, so couples should discuss financials to remove ambiguity. Unfortunately, many busy medical professionals skip this update.



  6. The rise of the social media pre-nuptial agreements?

    More couples are drawing up contracts dictating online behavior.




  7. Here’s a quick quiz on money and marriage. Which of the following engaged couples needs a prenuptial agreement about finances?

    A. He’s a wealthy celebrity with several previous marriages; she’s decades younger with no wealth to speak of.
    B. Both are in their 50’s, with successful careers, substantial net worth, and adult children from previous marriages.
    C. They’re in their 20’s, just starting out, with jobs and college debt and high hopes for the future.

    The right answer? D: all of the above.

    Couple A, with a wide disparity in age and wealth, is the classic example of one of the circumstances we commonly associate with legally executed prenuptial agreements. Such prenups are often regarded as the province of the wealthy. They offer a way to provide for the non-wealthy spouse but protect the bulk of the wealthy spouse’s assets in case of a divorce.

    Certainly, not all couples need or want this form of legal protection. All couples, however, would be well served to sit down together before the wedding and make their own prenuptial agreement about finances.

    Here are some of the issues such a do-it-yourself (DIY) prenup might include:

    1. A mutual commitment to full disclosure. Ideally, this includes the past, the present, and the future.

    Past: What’s your money history? This might include financial mistakes, lessons learned, and childhood experiences that have shaped your beliefs around money.

    Present: What are your current earnings, debts, assets, and expectations? One way to share this information is to schedule a “reveal” appointment to share bank statements, tax returns, records of loans and other debts, lists of assets, and anything else that seems relevant to the couple’s current and future finances.

    Future: A crucial part of financial disclosure is an ongoing commitment to share all financial information and make major financial decisions as a couple.

    2. Agreement on financial priorities and goals. This might include a wide range of money and money-related concerns. A few examples: when or whether to buy a house, willingness to relocate for one another’s careers, funding retirement plans, or when to start a family.

    3. Agreement on a method of managing money. What that method looks like—joint or separate bank accounts, for example, or who pays the bills—doesn’t especially matter. What does matter is that partners take joint responsibility for their finances and work together to consciously create a system that works for them.

    4. A commitment to work together on tough money issues. This is especially important for couples with previous marriages and children or those bringing significant financial baggage (such as debt or bankruptcy) into the marriage. Ideally, a couple will agree on how to handle specific matters like paying off premarital debt or funding kids’ education in a blended family. If that’s too big a step, the prenuptial agreement might include full disclosure of potential problem areas and a promise to resolve them together.

    5. A mutual commitment to financial fidelity. Sharing the truth about your earnings, assets, and debts is one aspect of financial fidelity. Ongoing financial openness (such as no secret borrowing or lending, no lying about spending, no large purchases without your partner’s knowledge) is another. But being true to each other around money goes even deeper. Financial fidelity is a commitment to act with integrity, work together as a couple, and build habits of financial health that support the well-being of everyone in the family.

    Taking the time to talk about money before marriage is a wise move. Making written commitments to each other about finances, in the form of a DIY prenup, can make that money talk even more valuable.

    Rick Kahler MS CFP


  8. Female Doctors and Pre-Nup Agreements

    They may not be romantic, but you’re at risk without one, says this physician.


    Dr. Grace


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