How to protect your money when marrying someone who's in legal or financial trouble

GettyElizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, reportedly married hotel heir Billy Evans recently.
  • If you are considering marrying someone who is in legal or financial trouble, there is a lot of legal planning you should do before walking down the aisle.
  • Below are the best types of protections spouses can take when they marry someone who’s in legal or financial trouble.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the disgraced blood-testing startup Theranos, reportedly married her fiancéBilly Evans in a secret wedding ceremony recently.

Not much is known about the relationship between Holmes and Evans, a 27-year-old heir to the California hospitality group Evans Hotels.

But speculation immediately arose as to why they got married, including a theory from Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton that Holmes needed access to Evans’ money to pay her legal bills. The entrepreneur is facing numerous federal charges of fraud related to Theranos, which was once valued at $US9 billion before reports revealed it was based on faulty science. Following the reports, Holmes’ net worth plummeted from $US4.5 billion to zero, according to Forbes.

Could marriage be the answer to her legal and financial woes? That depends on what kind of legal planning – if any – went on before the pair walked down the aisle.

We asked experts what kind of protections spouses can take when they marry someone who’s in legal or financial trouble.

Here’s their best advice for people in that situation.


Make sure you have a full understanding of the legal and financial issues

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To start, have an open conversation with your soon-to-be spouse about the nature of their financial or legal issues, what led to them, and how they intend to address them. Also, have an understanding of what the consequences will be for your spouse and potentially for you.

“You should then consider reviewing all legal documents relating to the troubles and obtain your own counsel to see what the troubles may mean for you,”Kelly Frawley, a lawyer focused on matrimonial and family law, told Business Insider.


Consider exchanging recent credit reports

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Consider exchanging recent credit reports with your partner.

“This will help you see firsthand whether he or she has a history of financial irresponsibility that might have led to the current troubles or whether it’s the result of aberrational behaviour,” Frawley said.


Consult with matrimonial counsel about what impact the trouble may have on the marriage

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This consultation should not only cover financial issues, but possible custodial issues as well.

“During the same consultation, you should also ask in what ways a prenuptial agreement can protect you – or not – in the event of a divorce,” Frawley said. “As soon as you know you intend to marry, you should become educated about what can be achieved by having a prenuptial agreement.

“If you decide you will only marry if a prenuptial agreement is executed by you and your partner, then you should find out right away whether your partner will agree to sign one with terms protecting you from his or her troubles.”


Speak with attorneys who exclusively practice matrimonial and family law

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Frawley said that beyond looking for a lawyer specializing in matrimonial and family law, it’s important to find one who works in the area where you live or where you intend to live when you’re first married.

“It’s not uncommon for trust and estate practitioners to draft prenuptial agreements, but you would be better served by consulting with an attorney who regularly drafts them as well as litigates divorces, because he or she will have experience with how legal and/or financial trouble can play out in a divorce,” Frawley said.

Laws also vary state by state.

“If your spouse gets sued and a judgment is issued against them, any joint assets such as your primary residence could be in danger,” Glen B. Levine, cofounder and senior partner at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine, told Business Insider. “But this all will depend on whether your state is community property, tenancy by the entireties, or a common law state.”

“Depending on the state, the lien could attach to the entire property, only your spouse’s interest in the property, or not at all.”

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