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06 May 2021

‘Astonishing’ if Bill Gates did not have a prenup

It is ‘astonishing’ if, as reported in some parts of the media, Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not have a prenuptial agreement in place prior to his marriage to Melinda, private wealth law firm Boodle Hatfield has said.

Mr. Gates announced on Monday 3 May 2021 that he and his wife of 27 years, Melinda, are to divorce. Family lawyers at Boodle Hatfield say that given Mr. Gates was already America’s richest person when he got married in 1994, he is only likely to have proceeded to marry without a pre-nup against the advice of his lawyers.

Harriet Errington, a partner at Boodle Hatfield, said that doing so “would be an astonishing leap of faith.”

“It is now almost routine in England and Wales for anyone who brings significant assets into a marriage to have a pre-nup drawn up”, Ms. Errington explained.

“In the United States, this has been the case for even longer. It is hard to imagine that he would not have been advised very strongly by his lawyers and other professional advisors to have a pre-nup in place before he got married.”

“If Mr Gates had been living in England and Wales he would also have been advised to consider a post-nup at some point during the course of the marriage, in the absence of a pre-nup. While these are less common and can be more awkward to agree, like pre-nuptial agreements they are likely to carry significant weight in the courts*.”

“The initial statement by Bill Gates seemed to suggest that the divorce might be relatively amicable, as he and Melinda will continue to work together on their foundation. Without a pre-nup or a post-nup in place, their divorce could quickly become very expensive if they are not able to reach an agreement in relation to the division of their extensive assets.”

This article first appeared in eprivateclient on 4 May 2021.