By Attorney Nathan Begley
In October 1991, a wealthy 86-year-old man walked into a gentleman’s club in Houston, Texas. He was looking for a new wife, a replacement for the last exotic dancer he had married. A beautiful blonde dancer caught his eye, reminding him of starlet Jayne Mansfield. He struck up a conversation with the young lady and set into motion a series of events that would echo beyond their graves and reach all the way to the Supreme Court.
She was born Vickie Lynn Hogan, but you likely know her better as Anna Nicole Smith, model, centerfold, purported gold-digger, and now a cautionary tale. Did she really love the geriatric oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, or was she after his fortune? Who is to say? These intersections of love and money are
some of the most difficult to navigate as hopes and dreams get mingled with expectations and misunderstandings.
Mr. Marshall did leave a will when he died which made no provision for Anna Nicole. Anna Nicole sued his estate, purporting that she had been offered half of Mr. Marshall’s property in exchange for her hand in marriage. With hundreds of millions at stake, a war was waged across multiple state and federal courts with millions wasted in legal fees. Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8th, 2007, from an accidental overdose, and her claim is still unresolved.
All of this could have been avoided with a prenuptial agreement that clearly laid out the term
of the relationship. Some people find the idea of a prenuptial agreement to be “unromantic,” but what could be a better foundation for a relationship than the assurance that the person you are committing to loves you for who you are, not what you are worth? A well-designed prenuptial agreement creates certainty, addresses issues unique to each relationship, and incentivizes couples to work together to build a future. One clause I like to include where appropriate is the “Romantic Sunset clause” which causes the prenuptial agreement to fade out over a period of years allowing the spouse to share in a larger percentage of the estate as you build a life together.
If you are considering marriage, talk to an attorney today to protect your “now and forever.”