We can’t tell you how often we’ve been at a party or event and someone is talking about a pending legal matter. At some point during the conversation, someone will often say that the person should work with us; more often than not, we are either already their attorney or we have connected them with their attorney. We cannot confirm or deny whether we work with someone unless they volunteer the information. That said, we will disclose with some reasonable comfort that we are not working with Bill & Melinda Gates on their divorce but we do potentially know something about their situation.
Rumor has it that the Gates’ do not have a Prenuptial Agreement. Knowing nothing about the validity of that statement or the law in the State of Washington, we wonder if they didn’t sign a Prenuptial figuring that it would be deemed unreasonable at the time of divorce anyways. In Massachusetts, Prenuptial Agreements are scrutinized in two steps:
1. Was the Agreement reasonable at the time that it was signed by the parties?
The court will determine if the terms were reasonable at the time that the Agreement was made. If the terms of the Agreement are objectively unfair and without reason, any specific term could be overturned.
2. Are the terms of the Agreement still reasonable and fair at the time of the divorce?
Even if the terms of the Agreement were fair at the time of signing, they may still be objectively unfair at the time of divorce. For instance, if one party had agreed to provide health insurance to the family but the other has been providing it for most of the marriage OR alimony was agreed to by the parties but is no longer needed, it may not be reasonable or fair to uphold a term of the Agreement . To the contrary, one party may have become ill during the marriage and has a greater financial need than expected, making alimony necessary where it was waived prior.
If the State of Washington applies same two step analysis, the Gates’ may have figured that any terms that they signed 20+ years ago may not be reasonable now given the expectation that Microsoft would continue to skyrocket in value.* At the time of the marriage, Bill Gates had approximately ten billion dollars. Imagine that the parties had agreed that Belinda Gates would get four billion dollars at the time of a potential divorce. Was that fair then? Sure. Would that be fair now? Probably not (keeping in mind that four billion dollars is still a LOT of money) because his current estimated net worth is 130 billion dollars. While these numbers are insane to think about for the average person, it is their reality and the same rule would apply to the more typical family also.
As always, please let us know if we can help you in any way.
John & Faye
* They could have also agreed to terms that accounted for massive growth, whether in dollar value or percentage.
We spend a lot of time helping people plan for their future. The ‘future’ can mean so many things to people. Buying a new home? We’re here for you. Adopting a child, getting married or divorced? We can help you with those transitions too. Thinking about what happens if you were to become cognitively impaired or pass away? We are happy to discuss if we can help with those life events.
One of the things that we don’t typically address during estate planning consultations is what happens with your social media accounts after you die. We often will suggest to people that they update a list accounts and passwords regularly so that their Personal Representative, Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney will have access to important records; however, we don’t know if people think to give passwords to their social media accounts or just the more traditional accounts, like savings, checking and investments.
With so many people documenting their lives on social media, these platforms have become personal documentaries. What happens when you are no longer alive? Unfortunately, your account can be locked and memories are instantly gone.
We of know a lovely widow who way spent too much time after tragically losing her husband fighting to have access to and preserve his social media page. Without it, she would lose so many memories, stories and photos. This should be the last thing that anyone should have to worry about after losing someone, but those memories become all that more important when the person is gone.
By contrast, we have a friend who passed away approximately 10 years ago. Her account is seemingly being maintained by her husband.
Every year, on her anniversary, her friends and family can post photos of their ice cream tribute to her. It’s a nice way for everyone to connect, also letting her husband and children know that she is remembered (and they are thought of also). It may seem silly to see so many ice creams,
but for anyone who has lost a loved one it’s actually quite meaningful to know that they are all thought of on an otherwise typical day on the calendar.
Did you know that you can protect your accounts in less than five (5) minutes? Most social media platforms offer a legacy or memorialization option. It takes moments of playing around with the settings area on the site or app but creates an opportunity for someone to manage your account.
For everyone who knows us, you know that one of us has a shoe obsession*. There is a massive love of high heels but also a strong affection for sandals, wedges, loafers, flip flops, ballet shoes and even cozy slippers. Given this obsession, you may be surprised that this is the first newsletter that we have ever written about shoes.
The great thing about about shoes is that there is a pair of shoes to fit your personality, mood and lifestyle. The same can be said about child custody agreements; there is an agreement to fit every “pair” of parents..
Although the specifics terms of the plans can be as different as stilettos and flip flops, custody can generally be defined several ways under M.G.L. c. 208:
1. Sole legal custody: One parent has the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about matters that have a significant impact on the life of their child(ren), such as education, medical care and religious upbringing. Sole legal custody is more rare than you might expect. We see sole custody most
often if one parent has a history of drug use, physical abuse, untreated mental health issues or if there is a restraining order currently in place;
2. Shared legal custody: Both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about matters that have a significant impact on the life of their child(ren), such as education, medical care and religious upbringing. This is the default unless there is something significant happening within the family as suggested above;
3. Sole physical custody: The child(ren) resides only with and supervised by only parent but may have visitation with the other parent unless visitation would not be in the best interest of the child(ren). We occasionally see parents who live in different states who will have shared legal custody but only one parent has physical custody;
4. Joint physical custody: The child(ren) reside in the homes of and supervised by both parents on a regular basis. What this model looks like can vary greatly from family to family. While some parents have the child(ren) rotate homes every couple of days, others stick to the classic one dinner during the week and parenting time every other weekend. Sometimes, parents with joint physical custody will choose a “primary” parent for the child(ren) in order to determine school choice. There is no “correct” schedule for co-parenting.
As always, please let us know if you have questions regarding a family law or other matters.
Faye and John
* We will let you decide which one of us loves shoes!
2020 has been the most “2020” year ever. We have had all sorts of odd surprises, like an earthquake in Bristol County and the death of Eddie Van Halen; to the contrary, we are not really surprised by the litigation of the Presidential election results.
We will take no position on the allegations, merits or likelihood of success regarding the challenges to the election results; however, we are certainly interested in the legal argument and precedent that might be created.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. Election law is it’s own specialty and one that we don’t have any experience with firsthand;
2. Election laws vary from state to state at this point; and
3. There is some pretty solid case law already established which may determine what happens next.
If you are interested in learning more about some of the established law in specific states, follow this link for more information: