Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tied the knot with longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan earlier this month. Zuckerberg hasn’t confirmed whether his wife and he signed a prenuptial agreement before the wedding. However, the timing of the wedding is also being seen as a strategic move by Zuckerberg to protect his assets.
The wedding took place just one day after Facebook’s IPO offering. On Friday, Zuckerberg’s net worth jumped to $20 billion with the IPO sale, and the next day, he married Chan in a private ceremony.
The wedding took place in California, which, like Washington, is a community property state. That means that all assets that are accumulated by the couple after the marriage, are regarded as the joint property of both spouses. In a divorce, these assets must be divided equally between the spouses.
In the Zuckerberg -Chan marriage, all assets and debts are owned jointly by the couple. However, because the IPO offering took place one day before the nuptials, it counts as Zuckerberg’s separate property, and not joint property which he brings into the marriage.
That could make all the difference. However, Zuckerberg also owns about 60 million worth of stock options. He only exercised about half of his 120 million stock options in conjunction with the IPO. This means that should he choose to exercise those stock options in the future, it will increase the couple’s joint assets, exposing this wealth to division in the event of a divorce.
These are the reasons why any Seattle divorce attorney would have absolutely recommended a prenuptial agreement for a person like Zuckerberg. It’s hard to believe that his lawyers did not advise him similarly, or that he did not sign a prenup.