What is the most effective way to plan ahead and shelter assets should a marriage fall apart?
Get the answer to that question and more in the new book “The Divorce Firewall Strategy” by Jeffrey G. Marsocci, The Plain English Attorney™.
The Book Launch
On Monday, July 31, 2023, my book launch of The Divorce Firewall Strategy will be out and available to the public. As a planning attorney, I have devoted decades to helping clients plan ahead through the effective use of trusts and other legal tools to give them and their loved ones the best chance possible of maintaining, growing, and passing on their wealth. I have come to see that one significant problem in our country today is losing everything in a divorce, and loss to a divorce court can be minimized with the right type of planning. This isn’t just about getting a prenup and calling it a day, but, like most things in life where you want success, it takes ongoing work and maintenance. That is what The Divorce Firewall Strategy is all about.
The book will officially drop at 6 p.m. on July 31, 2023, with an accompanying YouTube Live at https://youtube.com/live/8LiEKf6i_qc?feature=share
In the meantime, here is the Introduction to the book to give you a taste of what you’ll find in the book.
The stories emerge every day. A couple meets, dates, and he falls hard for her. He does all the romantic things he was always told to by bringing her flowers, taking her on expensive dates, and they move in together. Eventually, in 2008 he gets down on one knee in front of their family and friends, surrounded by rose petals at sunset on the beach, and he proposes in an Instagram-worthy fashion if Instagram would have been a thing back then.
This is the fictional story of Bill Peterson. Fifteen years later it is 2023, and Bill is now a 45-year-old financial advisor who lost big in a divorce with his wife Karen. Bill was raised by his single mom with a largely absent father, and he was always taught to revere women, put them on a pedestal, and become the Prince Charming that will one day find his princess. That princess was Karen. She was “The One” that his mother, grandmother, aunts, and other women in his life always told him to be on the lookout for. But how did Bill get here?
When he was growing up, Bill went about doing everything that the women in his life told him to do. He went to college, majored in economics, but then went on to get an M.B.A. and became a financial advisor. Bill always treated women with perfect respect, always deferring to what she wanted just like he did with the adult women in his life who raised him. He landed a good job with a medium-sized firm earning a good salary, and that’s when he met Karen. She was everything he ever wanted. He fawned over her, bought her expensive presents, and when she started hinting at marriage, he did the beachside proposal because that’s what men are expected to do. Of course, Bill sought his mother’s approval first, and she readily approved. Karen was his princess, and they would live happily ever after.
Or so he thought.
Bill and Karen were married when both were age 30, and there was no mention of those silly prenuptial agreements and protections in Bill’s world. They were in love, they were looking forward to their happily ever after and that was going to be enough. Over time, Bill and Karen had three children, and Karen stayed home with no thoughts of going back to work after giving birth to their firstborn, despite their agreement she would continue to work. Bill would never hint at asking Karen to do something she didn’t want to do, so he just worked extra hours to make up the financial difference while his career progressed. According to Karen, this decision was eventually vindicated when Bill became a partner with his law firm and the money started flowing in. Bill and Karen bought their dream house and dream cars, and sent their kids to private school. With money inherited from his grandfather, Bill and Karen bought their dream vacation home at the beach. Happily ever after was progressing nicely.
Unfortunately, 15 years after being married Karen became bored once the kids became independent enough to get themselves up and ready for school, and so Karen started having an affair with her youngest son’s soccer coach, Kyle. Bill put up with a lot from Karen, because, you know, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” But now poor Bill is divorced from Karen because the infidelity was a bridge too far, even though his own mother pleaded with him to forgive Karen. And his mother did so despite the fact that Karen was still screwing Kyle behind Bill’s back. “You just need to try harder to win her back, dear,” his mother told him.
In the divorce, here’s what Bill lost (even though Karen is the one who cheated on Bill because it was a no-fault divorce state):
- He lost the house in its entirety;
- He lost half the vacation home that was paid for with grandpa’s money because at the time he purchased it, he titled Karen’s name jointly on the deed with him;
- He lost half of the investments he owned;
- He lost half of his 401k;
- Karen got the more expensive of the two cars;
- Bill pays alimony and child support; and
- Karen doesn’t have to work until the youngest child turns 18, more than a decade away.
In less than a year, Karen went from being Bill’s princess to the evil witch bent on making his life miserable. She even had the nerve to move Kyle into the house Bill paid for. Meanwhile, Bill is now living in a one-bedroom apartment with loud neighbors keeping him up at night. He gets to see his kids every other weekend while hearing about all the horrible things that “Mommy said” about him and about all the great things Kyle did with them.
Welcome to modern America.
Unfortunately, this is something that happens all the time, and it’s not just happening to men these days. It’s happening to women who are the primary breadwinners in the family, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you want to be the type of person, the type of man, who’s going to end up securing themselves and their future for themselves and their kids, even at the expense of a wayward spouse who’s going to try to take advantage of you when things turn bad, then we need to learn from poor Bill’s mistakes and take a look at how things should be done instead. We need to know how to set up a divorce firewall between your future spouse and your hard-earned wealth.
Now here’s the story of Rob Paulson. Rob was raised by a single father whose mother was not in the picture. His single father Dan taught him all of the lessons that he learned after seeing what his mother did to his father in a divorce. Dan intentionally raised Rob to have an independent streak, ambitious habits, and a strong work ethic. Rob learned many lessons from his father on the way men interact with others, not just women. He was always skeptical, especially of women who batted their eyelashes at him. While he learned to appreciate the good things in life, he was never going to expect some princess to fall into his lap because she was “The One.”
“Relationships are hard work,” his father taught him. “People can change over time, and when they do, you may be the one losing out. So, appreciate those good times, but always protect yourself before any bad times come.”
Just like poor Bill Peterson from the first story, Rob attended college where he majored in economics, went on to graduate school to get his M.B.A., and then became a financial advisor. Rob was working on his career and life, and women were just an occasional distraction for him. He valued and respected women for who and what they were, but Rob would never put a woman on a pedestal, and he never tolerated disrespect. Rob landed a good job with a medium-sized firm earning a good salary early in his career, but eventually, he started his own firm once he learned how to really make money at the financial advising game.
Rob was already set up with a protective trust as well as a series of corporate entities owning his major assets, such as real estate and cars. That’s when Rob met Stacy. He was in his early-30s, and she was in her late 20s. Stacy was loyal, and agreeable, and always made Rob feel like he was the most important man in the world. After a year, Stacy and Rob signed a cohabitation agreement and moved into one of the properties Rob owned through an LLC titled in the name of his trust. They also both signed a month-to-month lease and equally paid rent. Within a year, Stacy started talking about marriage, and that’s when they had the talk about a premarital agreement.
After talking to her mother, Stacy said she wasn’t fond of the idea giving the usual arguments about what prenups were like expecting the marriage to fail. However, Rob flipped that argument on its head telling her that if the marriage was going to succeed anyway, then there would be no harm in creating and maintaining a premarital agreement… and if she didn’t like it, then they could simply not get married and continue on the way they were or call it quits. It was her choice. Stacy changed her tune, and they both went to their attorneys to hammer out the details.
Rob was married to his wife when he was 35 and she was 30. They had three children and, 15 years later, Stacy cheated on Rob with a coworker. (The situation is sounding a little familiar, isn’t it.) But fortunately for Rob, this story has a much better ending for him and for his kids. Here’s what happened to Rob in the divorce:
- Rob kept the house since it was purchased by his trust, Stacy wasn’t on the deed, and, in fact, Rob didn’t even own the house directly for it to be even considered in a divorce;
- Rob kept the vacation house that was purchased with inherited money, because he put the money into his trust, and his trustee purchased the vacation home through a newly created LLC, and it even generated some rental income from time to time for the trust;
- Rob kept all of his investments since the excess money from his paycheck and distributions from his law firm also went into the trust to purchase those investments;
- Rob kept all of his vehicles because all of them were owned through corporate entities in the trust;
- Rob kept his retirement and Stacy kept hers because that’s what was in the premarital agreement;
- Rob pays no alimony because that was also in the premarital agreement, and because Stacy agreed to not stop working (nor did she) and had her own income to support herself;
- Rob is paying some child support because he earns much more than his now ex-wife does, but he always knew that he would; and
- Rob and Stacy have equal joint custody because that is also what they agreed to in the premarital agreement, and the judge found no reason to alter that.
Rob is living a good life, he sees and raises his children half of the time, and the other half of the time he is working hard on his business or pursuing his own hobbies (with a few casual female friends on the side).
This can also be modern America. That is, if you’re smart enough to deny the fantasies of finding “The One” and simply finding someone who is suited to be your spouse. You can still take all of the right legal precautions to make sure you do not get devastated in the event of a divorce while working to make sure that your marriage is not on the wrong side of the statistics. You can have a firewall strategy just like Rob did.
Getting “divorce grape d” is a very common story among men. They hear it all the time from friends and family members, and they see the devastation that’s wrought on them. This is despite the fact that everyone is always encouraged to marry for love, and they maintain this fantasy until the fantasy comes crashing down. But if you can keep your head about you, then you can prepare appropriately. And as we are in the 2020s and will soon be in the 2030s, we are seeing a lot more equalization of education and salaries among men and women. We’re seeing a lot of women becoming the breadwinners in the family. More and more men are the ones giving up their jobs and staying at home to raise the children. And now when there’s a divorce, we’re starting to see the women being the ones paying alimony and child support. The women are losing half their house and half their investments. And they do not like this at all. Nor should they.
This isn’t a men versus women issue, nor a spouse versus spouse issue. It is an issue of protecting yourself as best you can in this world because no one else is going to do it for you.
If you’re going to get married, then you need to make sure you’re defending yourself appropriately in case things turn bad. This doesn’t mean you are “dooming the marriage before it starts” by getting your ducks in a row, preparing legal paperwork, and executing legal agreements.
That’s crazy. In divorce, you don’t end up losing someone else’s love and affection in a legal judgment. You don’t end up losing the feeling of a partner’s acceptance and love by virtue of a court order. You end up losing that anyway because the relationship is over. The court is all about finances and property, so if you want to legally protect yourself, your finances, and your property, then you need some legally protective documents and to employ the right techniques. Be a lot more like Rob or you’ll end up like Bill.
This book can show you how. Don’t miss the book launch.