First, we had word that Paul McCartney isn't signing a prenuptial agreement with third-wife-to-be Nancy Shevell. Now, we've heard speculation over Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's marital arrangement after Kutcher's alleged cheating. A divorce fight there could put a combined $290 million on the table to be argued over if there isn't a prenup in place.
The Moore-Kutcher mess is all wild guessing at this point, but McCartney's shelving of a premarital contract has been widely reported since the Daily Mail wrote about it back in May. Steven W. Goldfeder, a matrimonial lawyer at Blank Rome LLP, which has represented Donald Trump and Howard Stern in their divorces, can only scratch his head. McCartney's second wife, Heather Mills, rode his ticket to a $50 million divorce settlement in 2008.
"To leave hundreds of millions of dollars vulnerable does not seem like a wise choice," said Goldfeder, who does not represent McCartney.
Still, the attorney said he admired the ex-Beatle for still believing, as the Fab Four's song lyrics declared, that "all you need is love." And Goldfeder acknowledged that getting your intended to sign on the dotted line can be awkward, even if you're one of the most famous people on the planet.
McCartney will be financially sound no matter what he pays out in the event the marriage ends. Still, from a lawyer's standpoint, "It's not a choice I would advise a client to make," he said.
Trump and investor Ron Perelman are examples of mega-rich types who have protected themselves with prenups, Goldfeder said (although Perelman has surrendered an estimated $158 million to four exes, according to New York Magazine).
The Price of Fame would like to walk you down the aisle of those who didn't sign prenups and coughed up mountains of moolah: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch paid $1.7 billion to part ways with his wife of 32 years, Anna Murdoch. Granted, nobody was really considering prenups in the 1970s. But among recent cases where the parties should have known better: Tiger Woods shelled out a reported $110 million to Elin Nordegren; Michael Jordan lost $168 million to Juanita Jordan, Neil Diamond dropped $150 million to Marcia Murphey (and he's marrying again without a prenup!), and Madonna ponied up as much as $92 million to Guy Ritchie. In the latter case, Ritchie had $45 million of his own, but he was still entitled to a chunk of the Material Girl's material wealth.
Protection for Those With Much to Protect
That's one of the troubling aspects of the 68-year-old McCartney's commitment. Shevell, a 51-year-old trucking heiress and board member of a major transportation service, has her own fortune, but it's certainly not a Beatles-level fortune. She could lay claim to a third of McCartney's assets if they take up residence in New York state, unless a contract specifically eliminates the possibility, Goldfeder said.
If you fit into any of those categories, you and your beloved should hammer out a prenup with lawyers representing you separately, Goldfeder advised. You don't want the so-called "non-monied" spouse crying that he or she hadn't read the contract or was coerced into signing. Or even worse, you could handle it like Steven Spielberg, who thought that penning a prenup on a cocktail napkin with Amy Irving would do the trick. It took a $100 million settlement -- an extraterrestrial sum in 1989 -- to prove him wrong.
McCartney's only protection, published sources have said, is a piece of paper that ensures the trusts of his children stay intact. But we have to wonder if Sir Paul is including other clauses without the media's knowledge. Celebrities of his monumental status should have confidentiality guarantees that prevent an ex from blabbing, Goldfeder explained.
In the case of Moore and Kutcher, the hand-wringing has begun over how California's split-it-down-the-middle divorce law would affect their fortunes. But whatever was done legally before they got hitched six years ago is done. There's no undoing it.
Sir Paul can still protect himself. A valid prenup doesn't necessarily kill the romance between two mature adults with previous marital experience. Often an agreement with a sliding scale does the trick, Goldfeder said. It works like this: A pact could read that if a couple is married for five years or less, the non-monied spouse would get, say, a million for each year
hitched. (In McCartney's case it would be a lot more.) "That way, if and when a divorce comes, you know the check you have to write and there's nothing left to fight about," Goldfeder said.
Perhaps a prenup is what McCartney and fiancee truly need to be "all together now."