Will Prince William and Kate Middleton Sign a Prenup?

April 4, 2011, 2:58 PM

April 4, 2011— -- Unromantic though it may be for a couple that has yet to marry, speculation mounts as to whether Prince William and Kate Middleton plan to sign a prenuptial agreement. Divorce can be a stressful, expensive ordeal, especially for public figures like William and Kate, and a prenuptial agreement could ensure security for the royal couple.

While prenuptial agreements are common in the United States, they are far less prevalent in the UK. Only in the last year have British courts agreed to recognize such deals.

But high-profile divorces in England, like William's own parents' ugly divorce in 1996, only reinforce the idea that the couple should consider signing on that dotted line. After 15 years of marriage, Prince Charles handed over his entire personal fortune — reported to be more than 17 million pounds ($27 million today) — to Princess Diana.

When Sarah Ferguson divorced Prince Andrew in 1996, without a prenup, after 10 years of marriage, Fergie complained that she received a meager settlement of only 800,000 pounds ($1.3 million today). Years later, she was reported to have hired Diana's attorney, in attempts to negotiate a much larger settlement.

So what exactly does William stand to lose in a divorce? As the second in line to the British throne, William received a portion of Diana's $34 million estate and will inherit part of the queen's fortune, which was recently estimated at about 290 million pounds ($467 million) by the Sunday Times 2010 "Rich List." Kate's own affluent family, and her personal fortune, though smaller than her fiance's, would also be protected by a prenup.

The royal couple has known each other for quite a long time, dating eight years before getting engaged, so theirs is not an impulsive decision. Perhaps the only dotted line Prince William and Kate Middleton will sign together is that of their marriage license on April 29th?