Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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How many of your hard-earned dollars will you lose in divorce?

If you are in a high net worth marriage that is about to end, you might be concerned about the complex property division process that will likely make an uncontested divorce impossible. Your post-divorce financial situation may largely depend on whether you have a prenuptial agreement in place. Some high-profile celebrities have suffered significant financial losses due to the lack of such agreements.

When actor and director Mel Gibson divorced Robyn Moore, the court awarded her $425 million -- half his assets -- along with residuals from all his future earnings from movies. They did not have a prenuptial agreement. Other high asset divorce settlements include the $100 million Steven Spielberg had to pay Amy Irving, a similar settlement paid by Tiger Woods to Elin Nordegren and Michael Jordan's ex who received $168 million.

Protect your hard-earned dollars

To prevent being blindsided and left with regret, along with serious financial and emotional pain from a high net worth divorce, the most appropriate step to take might be to draft a prenuptial agreement. A prenup can cover the following various aspects:

· Details of marital and separate property -- Assets you acquired before the marriage will remain yours, as long as you keep it separate from marital property. If for instance, you comingled inherited funds with communal property, the inheritance will become subject to equitable division in a divorce.

· Inheritances for children -- You can protect the inheritance of a child you might have from a previous marriage or relationship.

· Family business, heirlooms and real estate -- A prenup can protect any of these assets from equitable distribution in the event of a divorce.

· Retirement benefits -- You can detail the distribution of 401(k)s, life insurance and investments in the agreement.

· Bank accounts -- The manner in which you and your spouse will handle bank accounts, household expenses and bills during the marriage can be included in a prenuptial agreement.

· Debt liability -- Even if only your spouse signed for debts incurred, creditors might lay claim to marital property in the absence of a prenuptial agreement that specifies debt liability.

Drafting a prenuptial agreement for a high net worth marriage in which one or both parties have considerable assets could be challenging. Fortunately, the services of an experienced New York divorce attorney is available. A skilled attorney can engage a team of experts, such as economists, tax advisors and other professionals who can value businesses and other assets. While dealing with the financial issues, a seasoned lawyer will make sure the importance of future relationships are not overlooked -- especially when children are involved.

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