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[Opinion] Marriage Contracts

Posted July. 04, 2006 03:38,   


Democratic Senator John Kerry, who lost to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and his wife, Teresa Heinz are all wealthy. His wife’s ex-husband was a Senator and an heir to Heinz Food Company, famous for Heinz ketchup. She lost her ex-husband to a plane crash and inherited a huge fortune. Her property estimates range from 750 million dollars to 3.2 billion dollars, according to the times. John Kerry also inherited as much money from his mother.

Ms. Heinz made a property contract when she remarried so that Senator Kerry could not lay his hands on her pre-marriage fortunes. The Republican Party mentioned this in the presidential election and made a sarcastic remark that how they can let a man who is not trusted by his own wife rule the country. Hollywood stars that easily get married and divorced commonly make a property contract between a couple. A couple property contract should not necessarily be seen as an act of lack of trust. Legal property statements could prevent unnecessary feuds.

According to the revised civil law established by the Ministry of Justice, the spouse’s portion of succession has changed from 1.5 times that of children to 50% of the total inheritance. A spouse’s succession portion will increase in a family with more than two children. Widowers who fear that their second wife might take half of their fortune could delay their remarriage. Also, more children who worry about their succession portions are likely to oppose their parents’ remarriage. However, the couple property contract system could address such issues.

Helpmates who contributed to building fortunes have been granted the right to receive 30-40% of property when getting divorced even if they were homemakers. If a spouse’s succession portion becomes 50%, the homemakers are likely to receive 50% of the property. It is pretty common for couples to have money unknown to their spouse. If married couples who vowed to love each other till death do them part keep their fortunes separately, someday they might even go Dutch when eating out.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com