Big Bang Theory Star’s “Ironclad” Prenup Challenged: How Does Yours Compare?

The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco is one of the highest paid actresses on television. She earns one million dollars per episode and has a net worth of $44 million. Before she married tennis star Ryan Sweeting in 2013, Cuoco asked him to sign a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”).

After less than two years of marriage, Cuoco filed for divorce. She assumed the prenup would be valid. However, Sweeting alleges that the prenup shouldn’t be enforced and he wants spousal support. So, is The Big Bang Theory star’s prenup ironclad? A better question might be – is any?

Cuoco Was Smart, But…

Cuoco was certainly smart to have Sweeting sign a prenuptial agreement as his net worth was only about two million dollars versus her 44 million. However, while a well-written prenup generally addresses asset division and support issues, they are not always ironclad.

In this case, Sweeting alleges that his circumstances have substantially changed due to numerous sports injuries and an addiction to pain killers which have prevented him from earning a living as a tennis player. So, while he didn’t need support when the prenup was signed, he does now.

3 Ways to Invalidate a Prenup

There are generally three ways to invalidate a prenup, by proving:

  1. This is a legal term of art meaning that, under the circumstances, it would be grossly unfair to enforce the document. To overcome it, Cuoco would likely have to prove that Sweeting was represented by an independent attorney who advised him of the consequences before signing.
  2. Legal contracts can be deemed void when one party was coerced into signing it. In its harshest terms, that equates to being forced to sign something at gunpoint. In this case, it means that either Sweeting wasn’t given enough time to read it or didn’t voluntarily sign it.
  3. Sweeting could also allege that Cuoco lied about her net worth and that, based on her fraudulent activity, the prenup shouldn’t be enforced.

If Cuoco’s attorney did his or her job correctly, which seems to be the case, it’s most likely that she’ll prevail.

Don’t Risk Your Wealth!

Prenuptial agreements, part of a strong estate plan, should always be prepared by experienced attorneys (a different one for each party) who know how to comply with the laws of that particular state and take into account what changes in the relationship might affect the validity of the prenup.

Today, 50% of all first marriages end in divorce; more than 70% of all second marriages do so. It makes sense to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Certainly, don’t risk your wealth and future by failing to have as ironclad a prenup (or “postnup” – an agreement made after marriage) as possible. It’s easier to accomplish than you would think and we can provide you with the tools you need to do just that. If you are contemplating marriage, please call our office immediately to make sure you’re protected. Contact our office today at 832.408.0505



Kelly Clarkson Starts Blended Family: What She Needs to Consider

Starting a new family is always exciting and even a tad scary. This natural apprehension can be enhanced when a couple creates a blended family. Bringing children from different parents together presents challenges – and those challenges are multiplied when the couple have new children of their own.

Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently added a new baby to her family. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, have been married a little over three years. Kelly and Brandon already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children to four.

The big risk of conflict for Kelly, Brandon and their children is that if Brandon dies before Kelly and specific and clear provisions are not made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage, significant conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that is totally avoidable with advance planning now.

Merging two families into one presents financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple does not deal with them early on.

Three significant issues include: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. While these are not insurmountable problems, dealing with them upfront can prevent grief and hard feelings later.

A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can prevent later misunderstandings. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenuptial agreement shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. In truth, however, a prenuptial agreement actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues while there is significant love in the field.

This is particularly important in blended families, where the partners may have different expectations of how assets will be split if the marriage ends or when one of the partners dies. With skilled counsel (who actually knows how to counsel not just lawyer), the prenuptial agreement conversation can actually create more closeness.

Newly married couples may also have differences of opinion about budgets and financial goals. These issues are generally magnified in blended family situations. One or both partners may have accumulated assets or debts before their marriage, so it is critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.

It is especially important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a Personal Family Lawyer specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there is not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor of the partnership after the death of the first to die.

Solid estate planning is always important, but it is even more so in blended families.  If you have a blended family or are in the process of merging two families, we can help you build a foundation for success.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer,®  who develops trusting relationships with families for life.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ where we can explain financial management techniques and help identify the best strategies for you and your family. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.


How to Divorce-Proof Your Business

Whether it is due to the high unemployment rates that hit several years ago or the entrepreneurial itch Baby Boomers are now scratching instead of retiring, many married people have started their own businesses. Moreover, these businesses could be put in jeopardy if the owners divorce.

If you own a business, it is probably your largest single financial asset.  If you divorce, your ex may be entitled to half of your business.  If you started the business during the marriage, it could be considered marital property that is fair game in a divorce.

Here are some ways you can divorce-proof your business:

Prenuptial agreement – One of the best ways to protect your business from divorce is to start before the marriage takes place.  In executing a prenuptial agreement, you and your soon-to-be-spouse should be represented by separate attorneys.  Then you both decide what property should be treated as separate, what property will qualify as marital property and how the marital property will be divided in case of divorce.

Buy-sell agreement – Married couples who jointly own a business can execute a buy-sell agreement that outlines what happens to the business should a divorce or death of one spouse occur.  A well-crafted buy-sell agreement will determine how ownership interests are to be transferred, a way to determine the price for the sale or ownership transfer and a way to pay for the purchase of an ex’s ownership interests (i.e., life insurance, cash, loan, etc.).

Trust – There are several trust instruments available to shield a company from the potential adverse effects of a divorce.  If you wish to protect your business interests from a potential divorce and pass those along to your children, you can have your business established right from the beginning in an irrevocable trust that shields your business assets from your divorce as well as your children’s potential future divorce.  Since the business assets are placed in a trust governed by a trustee, they are no longer considered yours — and therefore protected from an ex-spouse or any other creditor.

If you are interested in learning more about legal protection strategies for your business and how we work with you as a partner in protecting your company, call us today to schedule your LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.

5 Steps to Protect Your Business From a Divorce

With the U.S. divorce rate at around 50% for first marriages and even higher for second marriages, a divorce’s impact on the fate of your business should be cause for concern.  The best thing that business owners can do is take preventive measures to ensure their companies will not suffer from a divorce – either your own or a business partner’s marriage breakdown.  Here are 5 preventive strategies:

Prenuptial agreement – prenups are becoming more popular as baby boomers divorce and remarry late in life, after significant assets have already been accumulated.  You can designate your business as separate property in a prenup if it existed prior to your marriage.  You must have independent counsel to make a prenuptial agreement valid, so don’t try to use one lawyer for both parties.

Postnuptial agreement – these are similar to prenups, but occur after a marriage has already occurred.  The earlier you are able to implement a postnuptial agreement, the better the chances it will hold up in a divorce action.

Trusts – using a domestic or foreign asset protection trust to protect business assets is a common strategy.  Since the business is placed in the irrevocable trust and managed by a trustee, it is considered separate property since you no longer technically own it.

Buy-sell agreement – a buy-sell agreement will specify what happens to a business in the event of an owner’s status change, including divorce.  The agreement can be used to prevent spouses from obtaining ownership or voting rights or specify a pre-determined price to buy out any ownership rights awarded to a spouse in a divorce.

Insurance – you can purchase a life insurance policy that can be cashed in to buy out an ex-spouse’s business shares.

If you are interested in learning more about business asset protection strategies, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.


Rupert Murdoch Divorce: Wake-Up Call for Business Owners?

Rupert Murdoch, the 82-year-old media mogul worth over $11 billion, has filed for divorce from his third wife, Wendi Deng, in New York.  Legal experts say that he has chosen the venue for his filing wisely, as New York courts are more likely to uphold a prenuptial agreement than those in his native Australia or the U.K.

If you are married and own a business, you need to know how that business could be affected in case of a divorce and how to protect business assets from a split. recently outlined the steps to take if you are:

Getting married and own a business – whether or not you live in one of the nine community property states, a prenuptial agreement is a must for business owners who are getting ready to walk down the aisle.  Experts advise getting a prenup at least six months prior to the wedding date to nullify any potential claims of duress.

If you live in an equitable distribution state, the prenup should outline the division of business assets based on how involved each spouse is in the business.  In community property states, a prenup should detail who gets what in the event of a divorce otherwise, it’s half and half, no matter what involvement each spouse has.

The key with a prenuptial agreement is that in order for it to work, both spouses MUST have independent legal counsel. This means a self-drafted prenuptial agreement simply will not work. Contact us if you are thinking about marriage.

Already married and starting a business – get a post-nuptial agreement, which acts the same as a prenuptial agreement but is executed after the marriage.

Married without a prenuptial agreement – consider getting a post-nuptial agreement, even though it means you will need to disclose all your business financial information, including details you may not have already shared with your spouse.

Finally, you may want to consider Trust planning to protect your business assets. By planning with a Trust you may not need a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement at all.  Using trusts for marital asset protection planning is advanced planning, so be sure to use a lawyer who truly understands all the ramifications.

If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.


How to Protect Your Assets from a Child’s Divorce

A child’s wedding day is one of the happiest occasions in life for most parents, especially when they approve wholeheartedly of that child’s choice of mate.  Sometimes, however, the choice is not always welcomed and parents become concerned about how to protect assets they plan to leave their children in case of a divorce.

Fortunately, there are several estate planning devices that allow parents to shield assets from those who marry – and may divorce – their children:

Irrevocable trust – one of the most common ways to pass assets to children, an irrevocable trust provides asset protection as long as it is not mixed with marital funds.

Preservation trust – this type of trust can be used to protect assets from a divorce by having your child place his or her assets into the trust and naming a beneficiary that is someone other than a spouse.

Post-marital agreement – many parents are unsuccessful in negotiating a prenuptial agreement before the wedding, and find it easier for children to accept the drafting of a post-nuptial agreement later on to protect family assets.

If you’d like to learn more about Trusts, Pre- and Post-Marital Agreements and other aspects of estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and identify the best strategies for you and your family.