Case Study: Inherited Trusts

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Client was asked to sign a prenuptial agreement prior to her marriage to her fiancé. At the time that she was asked, she and her fiancé were living in his apartment, and she was earning very little but actively building her business and expected to earn more money the next year. On the other hand, her fiancé was earning a good income and was the beneficiary of several well-funded trusts established by his father. The Client knew very little about trusts or her rights to any support if there were to be a divorce. The fiancé’s family was very reluctant to share information about these trusts with the fiancé and the client, who really knew very little about what he was entitled to.

We took a two pronged approach to educating the client about her rights. The top priority was to educate the client about trusts and the apartment so she could ask her fiancé the right questions and gain further insight into her fiancé’s financial circumstances prior to signing the prenuptial agreement. Once she felt educated, she realized that she considered the fiancé’s apartment to be her home, and that she wanted to own it with him. The second prong was for us to have smart but respectful conversations with the fiancé’s lawyers so that they understood that the Client was not trying to get anything from the fiancé’s trusts, but just wanted her rights to the apartment realized. This was in accordance with the legal status of a trust, which would be considered separate property in the event of a divorce anyway. The ultimate prenuptial agreement gave her rights to the apartment she shared with her fiancé forever, and clarified how they would deal with their incomes if there were a divorce, identifying the fiancé’s income from the trusts as available for the Client’s support if need be.

The Client felt her needs and concerns were secured in the prenuptial agreement she signed prior to the marriage. She also felt secure in the knowledge that her home, the apartment, was a marital asset and that she had a better understanding of her soon to be husband’s financial circumstances. Most importantly, the guidance she received from the firm allowed her and her fiancé to begin talking about their finances as a married couple. The Client’s reaction was one of thanks, acknowledging the hard work we did, stating “You were great to work with and I appreciate the time and patience you gave me. This was definitely not easy, but you made me feel better than I could have hoped for.”

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