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Can prenuptial agreement help save Madoff widow's millions?

Prenuptial agreements have a wide range of uses for Florida residents, including protection of marital property and non-marital property during a divorce. As the prenuptial agreement become more popular, the potential legal uses of the contracts can be pushed to their limits. Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts, and as such they can be drafted to the party's specifications.

The widow of Mark Madoff, son of Bernard Madoff, the man behind one of the nation's largest Ponzi schemes, is seeking to protect millions through the use of a prenuptial agreement between her and her deceased husband. The court-appointed trustee from Bernard's Ponzi scheme is fighting to have the millions turned over.

On the second anniversary of his father's arrest, Mark hung himself in one of his homes. He and his wife jointly held two properties that were allegedly purchased using a loan from Madoff investor funds and a personal loan from Bernard, but the trustee missed the deadline to sue for those assets. Also at issue is a provision in their prenuptial agreement which awarded the widow a lump sum payment upon the death of her husband.

Mark's widow is asserting the claim that since her prenuptial agreement predated the disclosure of the fraud, it must be honored. The trustee is fighting the claim because by the time her husband passed away, the widow had full knowledge of the fraud and the source of the money she was to collect from the agreement. The result is still up for a judge to decide as the case moves forward through the bankruptcy court.

The more prenuptials are used, the more often unique situations will appear before the court. While each state writes their own laws regarding divorce and marriage, a federal bankruptcy decision may affect how Florida handles a possible expansion of the power of prenuptial agreements.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Court Fight Over Madoff Suicide," Michael Rothfeld, Nov. 14, 2012

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Attorney Curtis R. Cowan

Attorney Curtis R. Cowan

I am a Board Certified Marital and Family Lawyer and certified mediator with more than 25 years of experience in this field. As a solo practitioner, I am accessible to the clients I serve in Palm Beach County and Broward County. Contact my Ft. Lauderdale office at (954) 769-0670, or click here to send us an email.

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