Property division is complicated, just ask Robert De Niro

Property division is complicated, just ask Robert De Niro

After decades of marriage and a years-long divorce, it looks like the marriage between film-legend, Robert De Niro, and his estranged-wife, Grace Hightower, is finally coming to an end. And, much to the chagrin of Ms. Hightower, she is not getting anything from Mr. De Niro’s $500 million fortune.

Wait, what?

It is likely surprising that a family court judge would find that a wife of nearly 25 years is not entitled to any of her husband’s accumulated fortune, but that was the exact holding of the Manhattan Supreme Court Judge, Matthew Cooper. This means she does not get a piece of his film wealth, or any stake in his popular restaurant empire that includes world famous, Nobu and TriBeca Bar and Grill, along with a New York City boutique hotel, The Greenwich Hotel.

So, she gets nothing?

Of course, no. She was awarded $6 million for a new home. In addition, she is entitled to a yearly alimony of $1 million. She is entitled to this alimony until she remarries or either one of them passes away.

How is this possible?

In a word, a “prenup.” Prior to marriage, the couple entered into a prenuptial agreement in 2004. In that prenup, it stated that, “The husband’s income earned during the marriage and other business assets acquired during that time are his separate property.” This means, all of Mr. De Niro’s $500 million estate is his own. The prenup was upheld in February of this year.

Why is this important?

For our Monroe, North Carolina, readers, it may not seem like we can learn anything from this, but that is simply not true. For one, divorce is complicated, especially for high-income earners and business owners. But, two, and more importantly, a prenuptial agreement can be a life saver. It may not be romantic, but should the worse happen, it can save a lifetime of work.