It is ‘astonishing’ if, as reported in the media, Bill Gates did not have a prenuptial agreement in place prior to his marriage to Melinda, says Boodle Hatfield, the leading private wealth law firm.

Gates announced yesterday that he and his wife of 27 years, Melinda, are to divorce. Family lawyers at Boodle Hatfield say that given Gates was already America’s richest person when he got married in 1994, he is only likely to have proceeded to marry without a pre-nup against the advice of his lawyers.

Harriet Errington, Partner at Boodle Hatfield, comments: “For one of the world’s richest people to have got married without a pre-nup would be an astonishing leap of faith.”

“It is now almost routine in England and Wales for anyone who brings significant assets into a marriage to have a pre-nup drawn up. In the United States, this has been the case for even longer. It is hard to imagine that he would not have been advised very strongly by his lawyers and other professional advisors to have a pre-nup in place before he got married.”

“If Mr Gates had been living in England and Wales he would also have been advised to consider a post-nup at some point during the course of the marriage, in the absence of a pre-nup. While these are less common and can be more awkward to agree, like pre-nuptial agreements they are likely to carry significant weight in the courts*.”

“The initial statement by Bill Gates seemed to suggest that the divorce might be relatively amicable, as he and Melinda will continue to work together on their foundation. Without a pre-nup or a post-nup in place, their divorce could quickly become very expensive if they are not able to reach an agreement in relation to the division of their extensive assets.”

Provided they have been entered into freely, with full disclosure and independent legal advice and make fair provision for the financially weaker party