After Britney Spears announced her engagement to longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari on Instagram, the social media reaction included congratulatory comments — along with the suggestion that she should get a prenuptial agreement.
They included actress Octavia Spencer, who later apologized after receiving backlash, saying she just wanted to make the pop star and her new fiancé laugh.
“Thank you to everyone who is concerned about The prenup!” Ashgari said in an Instagram story. “Of course we’re getting [an] iron clad prenup to protect my jeep and shoe collection incase [sic] she dumps me one day,” he joked.
The pop star’s announcement comes amid her highly publicized battle to end a 13-year conservatorship, which put her father in control of her finances. While Spears has an estimated net worth of $60 million, divorce lawyers say prenups aren’t only for the rich.
“I always think it’s wise to be in control of your finances. And that’s the primary reason I recommend prenups,” said Kelly Chang Rickert, a Los Angeles divorce attorney and founder of an eponymous law firm.
Divorce lawyers said anecdotally, they’ve seen an increase in prenups throughout their careers. “Now, people are more self-supporting,” Rickert said. “It used to be that marriage is forever, so you pick a lifetime partner and that’s it.”
And Elizabeth Crowley, a Massachusetts-based divorce and family law attorney at the firm Burns & Levinson, said individuals — mindful of the high divorce rates across the country — are also becoming more savvy about their financial affairs.
A prenup is not a one-size-fits-all document, Rickert said, and the provisions you should consider including in your prenup may depend on where you live.
For example, California is one of nine community property states in the country, which means property acquired during the marriage by either spouse, along with debts incurred, is equally owned by both spouses. Other community property states include Louisiana, Nevada, Texas and Washington.
And in California, Rickert noted, if you’re marrying somebody who makes a lot less than you, you can count on paying alimony if you divorce.
Prenups aren’t just about protecting one’s assets; they can help you from incurring a partner’s debts, Rickerts added.
“A common scenario is that you divorced somebody, and then they turned out to have charged up $100,000 on their credit cards,” she said. “So now you’re responsible for half of everything they charged up during the marriage because California is a community property state.”
Crowley explained that there aren’t limits to the scope of financial resources you can protect under a prenuptial agreement, like assets and income that you haven’t received yet, gifts and inheritance, and specific categories like jewelry and vacation homes.
Some types of assets that people are increasingly protecting are cryptocurrency holdings or an individual’s interest in a startup, she said.
“The more specific you can be about categories of income and assets that you are seeking to protect and deal with in a prenuptial agreement, the better,” Crowley said.
Crowley said sometimes clients will ask whether they can include provisions with respect to children they may have or already have, including custody, parenting plans and financial support in the event of a divorce.
“And the short answer is no: You cannot predetermine the rights of either unborn or born children to the couple,” Crowley said.
Crowley said there are times when prenups may be challenged. Reasons might include when a person claims they were under duress when they agreed to a prenup or failed to fully and accurately disclose their assets.
However, she noted that ultimately, prenuptial agreements are highly effective tools to protect one’s wealth, and establish rights and obligations in the event of a divorce or a death.
As prenups become more talked about in the media, social circles and in professional environments, Crowley said more people are getting one.
“Or, at least, obtaining a consult with a skilled professional to see if their circumstances warrant consideration of a prenuptial agreement,” she added.