Patricia Annino Receives “Best in Wealth Management” Award

The Euromoney Legal Media Group chose Patricia Annino, Chair of Prince Lobel’s Estate Planning and Probate Practice Group, to receive the prestigious “Best in Wealth Management” award at the second annual Americas Women in Business Law Award ceremony held May 24, 2012, in New York City.

Selected from a short-list of eight well-known, highly-qualified nominees, Patricia’s award was based on extensive peer review research conducted by Euromoney’s research team, her professional accomplishments during the past 12 months, and her advocacy and influence in the field of wealth management.

Following the success of similar award ceremonies in Europe and Asia, the Americas Women in Business Law Awards was launched by Euromoney Legal Media Group to give law firms and professional services firms the recognition they deserve for their efforts in helping women advance in the legal profession.

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized expert on estate planning and taxation, with more than 25 years of experience serving the estate planning needs of families, individuals, and owners of closely held and family businesses. She speaks regularly on many issues of concern to family owned businesses, including succession planning, risk management, managing a business with multiple stakeholders, the risk of divorce, and more. Annino is a graduate of Smith College and Suffolk University School of Law.

Patricia is the author of two widely utilized professional texts: Estate Planning in Massachusetts, and Taxwise Planning for Aging, Ill, or Incapacitated Clients. Patricia’s recent books for consumers include, Cracking the $$ Code: What Successful Men Know and You Don’t (Yet), Women in Family Business: What Keeps You up at Night, and Women & Money, A Practical Guide to Estate Planning.

About Prince Lobel

Prince Lobel Tye LLP is a full-service law firm providing a wide range of services for Fortune 1000 companies, closely held businesses, and individuals. Prince Lobel’s attorneys are guided by the highest standards of legal excellence, professionalism, and service – whether they are addressing complex business issues or providing advice on personal legal matters. Practice areas and industries served encompass corporate law, data privacy and security, domestic relations, employment law, estate planning and probate, insurance and reinsurance, intellectual property and Internet law, litigation, media law, nanotechnology, real estate, telecommunications law, construction law, environmental law, renewable energy, health care, and education. For more information, visit Prince Lobel at

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Gifting Ownership of the Vacation House: A Gift or a Curse?

Ben Franklin once said that fish and houseguests smell after three days. But what if the houseguest co-owns the house? The perils of the vacation home, what to do with it, who should own it and what the rules are can be a source of family satisfaction and family conflict.

Under current law, the 2012 federal gift exemption is $5,120,000. Since many parents and grandparents are uncertain of their economic future, they may not want to gift assets that still earn income. Nor do they want to give away assets that have a low income tax basis that may be sold in the future. For these families, the vacation home is an attractive asset to consider gifting.

Gifting the vacation house to the next generation, or to a dynasty trust for the benefit of subsequent descendants, can remove that home (and any appreciation in its value) from the taxable estate. But before heading down that path, homeowners must carefully consider how that home will be owned post transfer.  We will explore three options: (i) outright ownership, (ii) an irrevocable trust (which could be a dynasty trust), and (iii) a family limited partnership or a limited liability company.

Outright Ownership

Often, the choice of making an outright gift of the vacation home is not appealing, whether the next generation owns the property as tenants in common, or as joint tenants with a right of survivorship. Many states have the right to compel a sale of that asset through a court proceeding, so the ownership of the home may be divisible in a divorce and subject to that family member’s creditors.

Also, family issues and resentments may develop with co-ownership. The child who lives out of state and never uses the home may resent sharing the expenses. Plus, with each generational transfer, the ownership becomes more fractionalized and the ownership of the asset is included in the taxable estate of each subsequent generation. There could also be conflict, such as who uses it the week of July 4th? Who pays for maintenance? Should rent be charged to cover expenses?

Irrevocable Trust (could be a dynasty trust)

A more appealing option for many families is transferring ownership of the home to an irrevocable trust. To complete the gift, the trust must be irrevocable, meaning that the donor cannot retain the ability to change, amend, or revoke its terms. The art of drafting an irrevocable trust is to remember that life is a movie not a snapshot, and that the document, while irrevocable, must also be flexible enough to contemplate the future.

The trust should address what happens to the child’s share at his or her death, whether or not the child’s spouse or stepchildren can continue to use the property in a divorce, or if the child predeceases his or her spouse. It should also address who is responsible for paying expenses, the line of succession of trustees, how the home should be furnished or updated, whether nonpaying guests may use the property, and who sets the rules for using the property.

Reasonable rules include who can use the property and when, the process for how that determination is made, whether use can be exclusive or must be open to all families all the time, payment of operating expenses, noise, cleanliness, pets, number of people, who pays for landscaping, parking, whether the property can be rented to nonfamily members, and other issues affecting the use and enjoyment of the property. The trust document can also address who has the right to determine the operating reserve and when income and/or principal may be distributed to the beneficiaries.

It may be also helpful for the donor to state intent – perhaps the use of the property is not intended to be equal, but based on relative degrees of interest in and ability to enjoy the property, and to take into account relative contributions (financial or otherwise) to its maintenance and improvement.

The document may also include a buyout provision by which one beneficiary (or beneficiary’s family) can sell his or her interest to other family members. Many families do not allow family members to cash out of their share in the home. An advantage to restricting what a family member can do to convert his or her share to liquid funds provides additional creditor protection and also helps keep that interest out of the taxable estate of subsequent descendants.

The trust should also address the mechanism by which a decision can be made to sell the home – should a decision that important be left only in the hands of the trustee? Should it include the trustees and all adults in the next generation? Should the vote be by majority or unanimous? The tension in that choice is that one family member who wants to use it more than others may block the sale for personal gain.

It is important to fund the trust with enough liquid assets to cover ongoing expenses and trustees. Future family discord might be avoided if family members who do not use the property are not expected to help cover its expenses. The funding can occur during the donor’s lifetime or at his or her death, through the donor’s estate plan. Once the property is transferred to the trust, the trustees should ensure that the property has sufficient property and casualty insurance coverage.

The trust document should also address the duration of the trust. It could end at a certain date, when the underlying asset is sold, when the trustees decide to end it, when the trustees and all adult beneficiaries agree to end it, when the Rule Against Perpetuities Period ends it, or if it is governed by a state that does not have any Rule Against Perpetuities, then it may never end.

Family Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Company.

A third choice is transferring the home to a family limited partnership or limited liability company, where the terms of the operating agreement control how the property is used. These entities are more businesslike than a trust, as they are members or partners. They offer the same benefits of the irrevocable trust, but may be more flexible. The operating agreement can provide a mechanism that allows it to be amended. If the entity is underfunded, the manager or general partner can make a capital call on the owners to contribute additional funds to the entity. As with the trust, the agreement will appoint a manager or management committee. The ownership structure can have two classes- voting and nonvoting. The transfer of ownership through sale or gift can be restricted.

Another benefit to gifting in this manner is that the valuation of the gift may have additional leverage and qualify for minority discounts or lack of marketability discounts. If the gift is not made all at once – but rather over several years – then all gifts are made off the record of the respective Registries of Deeds. In other words, the transfer to the entity is recorded initially, but ensuing gifts are transfers of the units or shares in the entity and are done within the entity itself, not in the Registry. This can save annual recording fees.  Additional benefits include income tax consequences in that each owner may have the benefit of the income and deductions flow through to his or her individual income tax returns.

Summary. Gifting the vacation house this year while the federal exemption is so high may be a very wise move. It is important for clients to think through their choice of entity and the considerations mentioned above before making this irrevocable decision.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Donor Education – Why Effective Donor Education Programs Are Important

One of the most effective ways to educate donors and help them achieve financial literacy is through sustained and focused donor education programs. The process of understanding the power of philanthropy and how it works best for a donor’s goals and objectives takes time. When donors learn together, share their ideas and understand what other donors have done and are doing, they become more comfortable with the process.

Donor education programs which focus on philanthropy and related topics, such as financial issues for women, can teach both men and women how to achieve the joy of giving while living. Your institution can incorporate into the donor education event faculty and student presentations which integrate messages into the mission of your institution. These programs can help differentiate/distinguish your institution and create deeper relationships with donors, alumnae, and alumni spouse (Women’s Philanthropy Institute 2009, 15). (8)

Effective donor education, combined with financial literacy, can also provide networking opportunities. Associating with women of similar financial standing increases their willingness to use their money to leave a legacy. This is especially relevant for women who are learning to be comfortable with their wealth. Many baby boomer women in this country will inherit twice—once from their parents and once from their spouse.  Nevertheless, donors will not give until they know that they can take care of themselves first. As an estate planning attorney, the most common question I hear from a new widow is, “Do I have enough money to live on?” (Of course that question should be asked many years before that moment in time.) Taking the time to systematically educate your women donors, to help them achieve financial literacy, to teach them that by gifting they can reap both current and future rewards will help empower them to act when they receive their “double inheritance.”

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Women In Family Business-The Importance of Clarity

By Patricia Annino, J.D., Thomas Davidow, Ed.D. & Cynthia Adams Harrison, Ed.D., LICSW

The Importance of Clarity

The more you and your husband agree to treat the business as a performance arena in which preparation is everything, the more productive your child will be. Similarly, the clearer you can be in terms of creating structures, the better off your child will be when he does enter the business. Being proactive about creating routines through governance structures or through accurate job descriptions is very helpful. If your child is already working in the business, you and your husband can discuss how to create sensible structures with appropriate boundaries. Everyone performs better when they know what’s expected and what the rules are.

Be Informed-Be Influential – Points to Remember

  • If your husband resists talking to you about the business or is upset about something at work and won’t share why, don’t take it personally and don’t give up.
  • Men and women really are different in how they think, behave, feel good about themselves and communicate.
  • When you set a limit for your husband, you are actually encouraging him: You are telling him that he is capable of achieving his goals as a businessman, husband and father.
  • It is possible to find the balance between creating objective criteria for your child’s performance in the business and maintaining family harmony.
  • There’s a difference between granting your child the automatic right to work in the business and giving him the opportunity to do so.
  • Things go best when there is consistent communication between you and your husband and between both of you and your child.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Donor Education and Financial Literacy – The Series

Educated donors who are financially literate understand why they are giving. Education leads to empowerment. Empowerment leads to action. Integrating an effective financial literacy and donor education program into your institution’s goals and objectives is a mandatory component of an overall philanthropic plan.


Why Financial Literacy Is Important

Financial literacy adds significant value to donor education because it helps donors make the most of their wealth through giving.  Financial literacy has been defined by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as  “the process by which financial consumers/investors improve their understanding of financial products, concepts and risks; and, through information, instruction and/or objective advice, develop the skills and confidence to become more aware of financial risks and opportunities, to make informed choices, to know where to go for help, and to take other effective actions to improve their financial well-being” (

Research suggests, however, that most Americans have extremely low levels of financial literacy, and that their lack of financial literacy has an impact on philanthropic giving.

Analyses show that, regardless of the actual financial resources held by donors, the size of their donations is negatively affected by feelings of retention (a careful approach to money) and inadequacy (worry about their financial situation).

It can be concluded that an understanding of money perceptions is an additional important factor in the understanding of charitable behavior. Since most people do not know how much they can afford to give based on their income, financial literacy can result in higher giving—once donors know the amount that they can afford to give based on their income, they can increase their giving. Given these findings, fundraising professionals should not only select potential donors based on their absolute financial capacities, but also take the potential donor’s own financial perceptions into account when asking for donations. (Wieping and Breeze, 2011, 1)

Next week: Why Effective Donor Education Programs Are Important!

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

New Risks to Wealth Management: To Gift or Not to Gift

Traditional risks related to the family’s wealth (including financial, intellectual and social assets) include the illness or death of the key family stakeholder, economic downturn and changes in the regulatory or legal environment. New risks are triggered by the dissipation of wealth due to generational mathematics—with each ensuing generation, the wealth is splintered—and the lack of creation of new wealth; this very turbulent economic time; the increased complexity of legal and tax matters; and the increased complexity of wealth management choices. These risks can be mitigated when the family coordinates its advisors and monitors the integration of all professional services.

The risks are further mitigated when the family embraces and encourages financial education and financial literacy across the generations. Mentoring, shadowing, exposure to the concepts and resources along the generation continuums reduces the chances for unintended consequences.

New Risk: The Bracket Game:  To Gift or Not to Gift…That Is The Question…..

On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the Act). The Act significantly changes the federal estate tax, which impacts estate planning for many and presents significant estate planning opportunities. The biggest surprise in the new law is the ability to give $5,000,000 of assets away now and remove those assets and any appreciation in their value from the donor’s taxable estate. In a marriage, this doubles the amount to $10,000,000. This law is in effect until December 31, 2012, and it is unclear what the state of the law will be from 2013 on.

This significant increase in the gift exemption adds to the donor’s ability to gift the annual exclusion of $13,000 each year and the donor’s ability to pay anyone’s tuition and medical expenses as long as payment is made to the provider.

The Act has prompted spirited discussions, “Well, now that I can really give that much, should I? What are the non tax risks to making those gifts?”

     Factors to consider when deciding whether to gift or not to gift:

1.     How much is enough?

This question is always worth discussing. Warren Buffet’s answer is, “Leave your children enough money so they can do anything, but not enough that they don’t have to do anything (although Buffet did not leave his children the bulk of his fortune, he did leave each of them a foundation of $1billion dollars to give to the charities of their choosing).  In my experience, the answer depends upon the individual, often changes over the lifetime of the donor and has to do with his/her children and the economic times.

2.     What strings do I want on the gift?

Whatever the amount, you must decide how much control there    is over the gift. Is it to be given outright? In trust? Who is the trustee? How long should the trust extend? What are the terms of distribution? Who are the permissible beneficiaries?

3.     Should I leverage the gift?

In addition to the strings that you want to impose on the gift, you should also address leverage. If you make a gift that is eligible for a minority or marketability discount, that increases the value of the gift by at least 20%. If you fund an irrevocable trust and anticipates that the trustee will use the funds to make annual life insurance premium payments, then significantly more may be added to the trust through leverage than if the gift were to be invested along more traditional methods.

4.     Am I willing to assume the risk that the gift, once given, is gone?

What if the donee becomes divorced or has creditor issues during the donor’s lifetime, and the gift is jeopardized? Can you live with that consequence? The cascading effects from a gift can have far reaching consequences. For example, if the donor parent gifts 20% of the stock in his closely held business to his children; and one of the children becomes divorced, it is not just that the child’s interest in the business may be vulnerable. Even if it is not vulnerable, the divorce court also has the right to order the valuation of the child’s interest in that business. To do that means valuing the business in its entirety;  and having that asset valued in a hostile environment—where the ex-in-law’s lawyer will try to value that as high as possible—will in all likelihood be in direct opposition to the donor parent’s valuation and appraisals for estate planning and transfer tax purposes. In addition, if the donee child is ordered to pay alimony or child support, then the income from the gifted asset will be taken into account when the court establishes the dollar amount. If the income is phantom income, which the child donee does not actually receive, that can present additional complications and litigation.

5.     Am I willing to give up the “fruit as well as the tree”?

In most cases, the fruit and the tree—meaning the income and the principal—go hand in hand. For example, are you ready to give away 20% of the underlying asset, knowing that the corresponding 20% of the income which is attributable to that asset will also no longer be available to you?

6.     Have I considered gift splitting?

Gift splitting—where one spouse makes the gift, and the other gives consents to that gift—is a very effective estate planning technique for the second marriage couple. Frequently, in that case, one spouse is wealthier than the other. If the less wealthy spouse does not have $5,000,000 of assets in his/her own right, then using the less wealthy spouse’s $5,000,000 exemption in full or gift splitting, with the wealthier spouse giving his/her assets to his/her own children can be a very creative technique. In effect, it doubles the amount that can be gifted. When considering this technique, especially if there is a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement in place, care should be taken to protect the estate of the less wealthy spouse who consented to this gift or allowed the use of his/her $5,000,000 exemption.  The possibility that the exemption could decrease later, resulting in additional estate taxes in his/her estate to his/her beneficiaries, should be thought through and discussed.

7.     Should I gift more than the $5,000,000/$10,000,000 exemption and incur the 35% gift  tax?

For many very wealthy individuals, this is a question to consider seriously. The gift/estate tax rate has not been this low in eight decades. The difference between a tax exclusive gift and a tax inclusive bequest is significant at the higher dollar levels, and exploring this (especially if the underlying assets have significant growth potential or discount opportunities) should be an option.

 Solution: Creation of a Family Risk Management Policy Statement:

A solid family risk management policy contains the purpose, principle and procedure for implementation. The purpose of a family risk management policy may be to reduce the risk for family members, both individually and as a whole. Adherence to the policy would go far to protect the family’s human and financial assets and minimize potential liability. The principle of the policy may be to make clear that the responsibility is to identify the areas of high risk and to do whatever possible to mitigate that risk. The procedure of the policy may make it clear that each family member is expected to:

  • Achieve financial literacy with regard to his or her own wealth as well as the wealth of the family enterprise.
  • Draft and have both parties sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
  • Contact their insurance providers annually to review their insurance coverage to ensure that they are current and adequate.
  • Have in place basic estate planning documents: will, revocable trust, health care proxy, power of attorney for financial assets.
  • Participate in the development of an investment policy that is aligned with the family’s shared values.
  • Protect the family’s reputation by learning how each individual’s behavior, both positive and negative, can impact the family’s reputation.

A family risk management policy statement is dynamic. It should be reviewed and adjusted as the risks that families face evolve and change.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

New Risks to Business Ownership

Whether the traditional family business ownership or assets such as real estate ventures owned jointly by family members in limited partnerships, corporate or LLC forms:

Traditional risks to business ownership and the economic sustainability of the family enterprise include the death or the divorce of a shareholder when proper planning is not put in place. The new risk to business ownership is the increasing attack by the courts on the family business when allocating assets in a divorce. In some states in this country, known as equitable division states, gifted and inherited assets are divisible in a divorce. This does not just include what the about-to-be divorcing family member owns when married; it also includes the expectancy of what that divorcing family member will receive in the future. Those expectancies are taken into account when determining the allocation of assets between the couple about to be divorced. As an example of the division of gifted/inherited assets in an equitable division case consider the 1981 Massachusetts court case, Vaughan v. Vaughan. In that case the parents of the son gave the son (who were both in their 30s without children) the annual exclusion gift of  $10,000 a year for a period of years. The daughter in law sued the son for divorce and her attorney subpoenaed his parents asking that as part of the divorce the parents turn over copies of their estate planning documents, the date they were last amended and an approximation of their net worth (plus or minus $500,000). The rationale for doing so was that the pattern of gift giving was inextricably interwoven into the lives of the son and daughter in law and it was “was what allowed the daughter in law not to work”. The expectancy of what the son will receive when his parents die is a factor that is taken into account in determining how the assets of the couple are to be divided in the divorce. The parents refused to do so, the Judge ordered them to do so and the parents appealed that order all the way up to the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts (the highest Court in Massachusetts). In a Single Justice decision the Court agreed with the daughter in law and ordered the parents to comply with the court order or face jail for contempt. The gifting of cash in annual exclusion amounts is easy to value – what if instead that gift had not been of cash but had been of an interest in a family owned business or an LLC or investment family limited partnership? Then not only would the asset be considered an expectancy but the valuation of that asset would be part of the son’s divorce proceeding. That adversary valuation may do serious damage to the estate plan of the older generation. Placing the assets in trust does not necessarily take them off the table – it may only affect the valuation of those assets in a divorce.

In addition to the allocation of assets, there is an increased risk for the allocation of alimony. Many family businesses or co-owned assets  have phantom income or Subchapter S income—income that is earned during the course of the marriage which shows up on the tax return and is plowed back into the family business. At issue is how that phantom income should be treated for alimony purposes. If it was earned during the marriage, is it marital income taken into account for alimony and child support purposes even though not actually received?  When thinking about these risks, it is important to remember that it is not the law or the court in the jurisdiction of the parent or grandparent that will control these decisions; it is the law and the court in the jurisdiction of the divorcing spouse that will control these decisions. These risks can be mitigated by a well negotiated pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements are not new.   The court records show that a James Young and a Susan Huffman entered into a premarital agreement in Page County, Virginia in 1844.  Prenuptials are also not just for celebrity couples like Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta- Jones, Madonna and Guy Ritchie and Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.  Increasing numbers of women today remarrying in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s consider these agreements an important part of secure financial planning.

That’s because a prenuptial agreement can safeguard assets, protect family members, keep a business in the family, and in certain circumstances even cover such specific details as how the mortgage and daily expenses are to be are to be paid if and when a marriage ends. They can be as broad or as limited as the parties decide.

Perhaps there is  concern about being saddled with a fiancée’s business debts.  Or with the demands of an ex-spouse? Or concern about how much you will have to contribute to the support of a spouse’s children?   A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can handle all of these issues.  If  the person is giving up a career or a lucrative job to get married, a prenuptial agreement can also set forth compensation for  sacrifice if the marriage fails. A main reason to ask your children and grandchildren to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement (or a post nuptial agreement) is to protect what you chose to give them during your lifetime or at death.

A pre-nuptial agreement can address the division of assets at various stages in the marriage.  Many prenuptial agreements specify that if the marriage lasts less than two years, the division may be minimal or nonexistent, but that the payout portion will increase as the length of the marriage increases.

A prenuptial can address the issue of alimony in the case of divorce, assuring the wealthier spouse that the financial impact of a divorce will be controlled, and at the same time assuring the less wealthy spouse that she or he will be provided for adequately.

Without a prenuptial agreement in place it is up to the laws of the state in which the divorcing person is domiciled (and, in certain cases, the states in which the divorcing person owns real estate) to determine what assets or income the spouse is entitled to keep in a divorce and which assets will pass to the spouse at death. In most states, without a prenuptial agreement, a surviving spouse has the right to inherit one-third to one-half of the decedent’s probate assets. It is important to remember if you are the parent or the grandparent that it is not the law in which you are domiciled that controls the division of the gifts/inheritances that the child/grandchild receives or is expects to receive – it is the law of the domicile of the child/grandchild when divorcing that controls.

A prenuptial agreement can override that and make sure that the property you owned prior to the marriage is given to your children from your prior marriage at your death. It can also specify that assets you do decide to leave to your spouse will not be left outright, but will remain in trust for the duration of the spouse’s lifetime, and then pass to the children when both of you die.

It is important to remember when having that vital conversation with the next generation that a pre-nuptial agreement is a shield – in a good marriage it can be overruled by transferring assets to the other party or into joint names or by an estate plan which leaves them to the spouse. The goal of a pre-nuptial agreement is to protect the assets if the spouse wants them and you don’t want to give them.

If you live in one of the nine community property states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin – without a prenuptial agreement the law says that property accumulated during the marriage will be equally divided. In all other “equitable distribution states,” assets are divided according to what a judge determines to be fair or equitable (which does not necessarily mean equal). In making that decision the judge takes into consideration factors such as the length of the marriage, whether or not there are children, and the couple’s age, health, and job skills. Alaska is different.  It is an equitable distribution state but allows the parties to enter into a community property agreement.

Typically a prenuptial agreement will address several categories of assets: those assets acquired and owned prior to the date of marriage, all income and appreciation on property owned and acquired prior to the marriage, all property earned and acquired by either spouse during the marriage, all appreciation in the value of assets acquired during the marriage, and all assets received by gift or inheritance during the marriage.

If each party has assets of comparable value, it may make sense to establish the what is mine is mine and what is your is yours type of agreement, specifying that the assets I bring to this marriage (and any appreciation during the course of the marriage on those assets) is mine, the assets you bring to the marriage (and any appreciation during the course of the marriage on those assets) is yours.  Any assets we acquire together during the marriage will be put in joint names and will pass to the surviving spouse at death – or be split equally between us if we divorce.

A mine is mine and yours is yours agreement may not be fair if one party entering in the marriage has very little net worth.   In that type of case a smart move may be to guarantee the less wealthy a specific amount of money, either when the contract is entered into or when the marriage ends. That helps make the agreement enforceable.

After re-marrying, you may decide to live together in your home, or in his home. You may both sell your homes and purchase a new one together. In second marriage situations the home is an asset with strong emotions… and who has the title is an important issue to address in a prenuptial agreement. In many states, ownership of a primary residence is based on survivorship:  If one spouse dies, the ownership passes by law to the surviving spouse. In a second marriage, that could mean that the children of the first spouse to die lose inheritance rights to the house they grew up in.

An alternative is for the re-marrying couple to hold the property as tenants in common, a form of joint ownership without a survivorship right. Each person’s percentage in the home would pass through his or her will (or trust if probate had been avoided) to those persons that the spouse has selected. In such situations it’s common to have the deceased spouse’s interest in the home held in trust for the duration of the surviving spouse’s life, then at the death of both of them the home would pass to the deceased spouse’s children. The surviving spouse could even be the sole trustee during his or her lifetime, which gives him or her flexibility to sell the home and reinvest the proceeds in a smaller condominium or a home in another state. It also guarantees that although the surviving spouse has that flexibility, at the death of both spouses whatever the assets have been invested in – the current home, proceeds of the sale of the home or a new home – will pass under the terms of the deceased spouse’s estate plan to his or her children.

There are certain issues that can not be legally agreed to in a prenuptial agreement. For example, parties cannot contract what child support would be if the marriage ends in divorce. Under the current law they also can’t contract for child related issues such as custody or visitation. Many parties will, however, include language which states their intent on those issues when the agreement is entered into. Parties also cannot stipulate that they will not be responsible for their new spouse’s medical care.  That is against public policy.

Prenuptial agreements can be challenged –at the time of divorce and at death. One of the key issues the court considers in reviewing the agreement’s validity is how honest the parties were in disclosing their finances.  After all, a party to an agreement can only knowingly waive rights to an asset if she has sufficient information about what the asset’s true value is. “Assets” include tangibles like heirlooms, houses, and finances and intangibles like intellectual properties, copyrights, royalties, medical licenses, and law degrees.

The court also considers whether both parties had competent legal counsel.  Director Steven Spielberg’s wife, Amy Irving, walked away with half their net worth because their prenuptial agreement was scribbled on a napkin, and she was not represented by an attorney.

The court will also consider whether or not the party was under duress when the agreement was signed, and “duress” can be something as simple as the fact that the prenuptial agreement was signed so close to the wedding date that a signing party did not have time to consider the consequences of the agreement. When Donald Trump filed for divorce from Marla Maples in 1997, three months after they separated, Maples fought the prenuptial agreement that allotted her $2,000,000 in the event of a divorce on the grounds that she had not read the prenuptial agreement before she signed it. They settled the case without a trial and her lawyer reported in the news that Trump promised to pay her more than what was stated in the contract.

The court may also determine if there was fraud involved during the negotiation and/or signing of the agreement.

Even though it is not required in many states the court may also usually consider whether or not each party had separate and independent counsel. If you choose to waive the right to counsel in signing a prenuptial, you might want to state that in the document – that the right to retain independent counsel was explained and understood but the party chose to proceed anyway.

Finally, in many states an agreement can be challenged on the grounds of its not being “fair and reasonable.” This can be a two pronged test: 1) whether the agreement was fair and reasonable when the marriage was entered into and 2) whether the agreement is fair and reasonable when the marriage terminates. In such cases the judge is asked to determine whether one spouse took advantage of the other.

Even though prenuptial agreements can be challenged, the trend in case law is to uphold the agreement. In California, for example, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the premarital contract between San Francisco baseball star Barry Bonds and his wife, Sun. The couple met in Montreal in 1987 when Bonds was a fledgling baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates and his wife was studying to be a beautician. They were both 23 years old. They courted for three months and became engaged.  The baseball player had the counsel of two attorneys and a financial advisor.  His wife, a Swedish immigrant, who had been told about the agreement a week before the wedding, had a friend from Sweden advising her.  She was told that day before the wedding that the wedding would be canceled if she did not sign the agreement. On the way to the Phoenix airport, where they were catching a plane for their wedding in Las Vegas, they stopped at Bonds’ lawyer’s office and signed an agreement she had seen for the first time only hours before. This agreement dramatically limited the amount of money she would receive upon divorce.

Why did the court declare this prenuptial agreement valid?  Because, the Judges said, Sun seemed happy, healthy and confident. The week before Bonds’ lawyer had suggested that she retain her own attorney and she chose not to do so. What is more, the wedding was so small and impromptu that Sun could have easily postponed it if she had decided to retain counsel to review the agreement. Other cases in various states have achieved similar results.

The lesson to be learned is that voluntarily entering into a prenuptial agreement as a consenting adult is entering into a contract you cannot easily walk away from later.

Today it is also common for the prenuptial agreement to be reviewed after you have been married for several years. Prenuptial agreements can be amended.  If, for example, you have children in the course of the marriage, or if one of you becomes seriously ill, or if a significant amount of time has passed, or if there is a change in the tax, estate, or marital laws — all of these are good reasons to amend your prenuptial agreement.

If you do choose to amend it, then all of the same formalities – separate lawyers, full financial disclosure – apply as much to the amendment as they do to the original agreement. Sometimes the agreement has a built in “sunset clause” which specifies that the contract expires if the parties have been married for a certain length of time, which is frequently 10 years.

It is important to remember that a prenuptial agreement is the base on which future planning can be built. In other words, it sets the stage for what each party agrees he or she is entitled to receive.

Sometimes a prenuptial agreement does not work in the family structure. There may be emotional reasons that make the topic difficult to discuss. The parties may not wish to reveal their financial information. Another technique to consider is the use of self-settled trusts to protect the family assets. Some jurisdictions such as Delaware (even if you are not domiciled there) allow an individual to establish a self-settled trust to protect assets from creditors (which include a spouse or a future spouse). A self-settled trust allows the person transferring the assets to remain a beneficiary of the trust.  To be valid a Delaware self settled trust must:

1)      be irrevocable;

2)      appoint a trustee with the discretion to administer the trust;

3)      must appoint a trustee, whether corporate or individual, that is a resident of the jurisdiction in which the trust is formed (so if a Delaware trust then there must be a Delaware trustee);

4)      Contain a spendthrift clause which restricts the beneficiary’s ability to transfer the trust property (whether voluntary or involuntary).

 Strategies to Protect the Ownership of Business or Joint Assets:

  • Make clear before anyone dates anyone that a pre-nuptial agreement that protects the ancestral assets and their valuation is mandatory.
  • Make clear before any gifting that a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that protects gifted/inherited assets is mandatory.
  • Be rational and consider compromise. A personal break-up does not have to signal the end of financial security. First and foremost, both involved parties need to separate discussions concerning the business from any private and personal property squabbles. Protecting the business- or the combined family investments — their worth and integrity — should be a top priority. What this means is removing emotional involvement from the situation (as much as possible) and trying to think and act objectively as possible. Don’t make the lawyers unnecessarily rich and reign in emotions.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,


The Peril of Collusion in Family Business

In the following family, once again, the father is performance oriented; and the mother is more focused  on the relationship between her children, but their problems are more complex and far harder to resolve:

After Alice and Harvey retired from their family real estate business, their older daughter, Susan, and her husband, Ed, continued to work in the business, as did their only son, Kenny. Ed was always highly effective but was also emotionally and psychologically overbearing towards Kenny, who was not much of a worker. Alice and Harvey had two other daughters, both younger than Kenny. One worked outside the business; the other was a stay at home mother.

Because Kenny was their son, Alice and Harvey were never able to come to terms with his weaknesses. They compensated him commensurately with Susan, a much harder worker. Although they didn’t accept Ed’s behavior towards Kenny, they liked that Ed generated a lot of money. Comfortable with their cash flow, they were never able or willing to resolve the tension or to make a decision about who would eventually end up with what stock.

Kenny is now in his fifties, and Susan and Ed are close to sixty. Recently, Harvey died and Ed became terminally ill. Alice, influenced by her two other sons-in-law, decided to split the stock among her four children. Unsurprisingly, Susan feels betrayed by Alice’s decision. She and Ed worked their entire adult lives for the family business and were never able to get any kind of footing. Not wanting to spend the next twenty years of their life making her brother and sisters rich, her only alternative is to sell the business.

The primary source of the family’s problem is that Kenny never wanted to work in the family business. He was forced into it by Harvey, who believed it was Kenny’s responsibility to work in it. After refusing to pay for Kenny’s college tuition, Harvey disapproved of Kenny’s poor performance in the business, not realizing that Kenny was acting out his anger at his father by not performing. For a man, independence is the root of self esteem. Kenny felt emasculated for years.

The parents’ failure to assess honestly Kenny’s talents, weaknesses, and desires, and to respond accordingly, underscores the importance of original placement. Alice colluded with Harvey. They both remained in denial about the consequences of forcing Kenny to work in the business. Worse, they let the conflict fester unresolved for thirty years. When they were ready to pass the business onto their children, the issue came back to haunt the whole family.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:

Women In Family Business-Separating Apples From Oranges

Frank and Sally, who are retired, built a chain of sporting goods stores. Their older son, Stephen, currently runs the business, makes all the major decisions and acts as the business’s visionary. Through good times and bad, Stephen makes sure that his parents and his younger brother, Michael, who also works in the business, have their income. Stephen owns sixty-five percent of stock. Michael manages one of the stores, earns a salary that is almost twice what it would be were he not a family member, but owns no stock. 

Sally is focused on family harmony, specifically, her sons’ relationship. She believes that Stephen is stepping on Michael, and that Michael is entitled to some of the remaining stock. Stephen already makes more money than Michael, who has also committed his life to the business and is an asset to the company.  She also believes that Stephen doesn’t give Michael enough credit. 

Frank, on the other hand, is focused on his sons’ performance, and is making judgments about what is fair based on that. He believes that Stephen is being very generous to Michael, since he’s overpaying him for his skill level; he could hire a twenty eight year old to fill Michael’s job, while Michael would not be able to find another job that would pay him anywhere near what he is making.

 How do Frank and Sally resolve their differing points of view? 

The first step is to understand that they are fighting for different things, with different priorities, but that they both have valid points of view and reachable goals. 

The second step is for Stephen and Michael to substantiate clearly and unemotionally what their respective roles are. Once they articulate how they each contribute to the business, they are more likely to respect and appreciate each other, which in turn will help them resolve issues of control and compensation. They can then talk about whether or not Michael is being overpaid and how he can share the responsibility of the risk more equitably.

 In terms of the stock question, it’s not unusual for the sibling who enters the business first, who has the more entrepreneurial spirit, i.e. makes the decisions and takes the risks, to get the bulk of the stock. But if Michael, who also lives and breathes the business, agrees to carry some burden of risk, he can make it easier for his father to give him some percentage of the remaining stock, which is what Sally is bucking for. Should Stephen wish to be the sole owner when he faces the question of succession, he can even buy Michael out. In sum, as long as the parents separate out business issues from family issues and the brothers communicate, Sally, Frank, Stephen and Michael can find a number of ways to solve their problems. 

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:

Women versus Men: Connection and Success

Women spend a significant amount of time focusing on the needs and wants of everyone else in their lives. This is a key strength, but it is also a key weakness. If you don’t make a conscious, disciplined effort to shift that focus back to yourself and think about the importance of protecting yourself when you are connecting with others, there is a great risk that you will undercut yourself.

All women need to remember what the flight attendant says at the beginning of each flight: “If you are traveling with a small child and the oxygen mask drops, put that mask over your own face first.  It is only when you are strong enough to take care of yourself that you will have the strength to take care of that child.”

Those instructions are valid for women in more situations than a crisis in the air.

They apply to a women’s role at home, at work and in the community.

Psychoanalyst Jean Baker Miller, the author of Toward a New Psychology of Women, and first director of the Stone Center at Wellesley College, developed the “Relational-Cultural Theory” with her colleagues. Their work suggests that all growth occurs in connection, that all people yearn for connection, and that growth-fostering relationships are created through mutual empathy and empowerment.

The other side of this is disconnection.

That is when relationship connection no longer works or has become uncomfortable. When this happens, if the less powerful person is able to express her feelings and the other person is able to respond empathetically, disconnection can actually lead to a strengthened relationship and a strengthened sense of relational competence. If however the injured or less powerful person is unable to express her feelings or receives a response of indifference, she will begin to keep aspects of herself out of the relationship in order to maintain the relationship.

This very complicated analysis is at the heart of the difference between men and women in the work force.

Because so much of what a woman values is the connection and the relationship with others, when that is not reciprocated or encouraged, it impedes a woman’s ability to succeed. Men, on the other hand, don’t have that problem. They measure their success on their individual ability to get ahead and are not as bogged down by how they are judged in relationships with others.

Men are not afraid of ruffling the feathers of those they work with to achieve success.

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit: