I often think of “marriage” as the oldest business deal in human existence. Tina Turner’s recent wedding to Erwin Bach alerted me to the importance of … bringing an estate planner and tax advisor into the negotiations.
When Tina married Erwin, her partner of 25 years deep, I’m sure that love had something to do with it. But these two have been in a committed relationship for such a long time, even setting up house in Zurich for the last 15, I wondered what finally motivated her to take this step. Especially after reading decidedly anti-marriage comments (for herself) that she gave to Oprah in 2006:
‘People often ask me why don’t I marry,’ she said. ‘I have love. I have a good life. I don’t need to interfere with that. For some people, marriage means “You’re mine now.” That can be the beginning of the failure of a relationship.’
She added: ‘Psychologically, something happens when someone says, “You’re my husband or wife. You can’t do this or that.” It’s about ownership. That freedom that two people loving each other and wanting to be together – and being able to leave if anything is wrong – is gone.
‘Neither Erwin nor I feel the need to get married. We’ve been together for 18 years. What would marriage give me that I don’t already have? Marriage would be about pleasing the public. Why do I need to please the public if I’m already pleased?’ —
After reading that, I figured that Erwin and Tina either had a major turn in their thinking about the institution that was so useless to them just seven years ago. What changed their minds? Not to be overly cynical, but I’ve been reading a lot of estate planning, financial planning and tax planning articles lately, for family business of my own, and I’m tempted to think that Tina and Erwin realized that a Swiss marriage recognized in her native country conferred certain tax benefits and would make the transfer of property easier should one of them … leave us.
Maybe they had just wrapped up their annual or semi-annual appointment with their financial advisor — we should all do those annual check-ins — and discovered the tax and estate planning advantages of tying the knot.
In the U.S. for instance, spouses are the default beneficiaries on a host of financial contracts. For instance, you might be on your second marriage and have a will that clearly directs your current spouse or somebody else to receive your IRA benefits, but IRA beneficiary rules trump that. So unless you name that person in your IRA documents, and your ex’s name is on the IRA documents, guess who gets the money. Not your new boo. Did you know that?
Of course, none of this is any of my business; nor did I feel like digging through Swiss tax or estate planning rules to shore up my theories. But 10-plus years of financial journalism have absolutely ruined the way I look at celebrity news. None of those nosy accounts of short marriages, serial marriages, hookups, baby mamas and new boos hold my attention without some thought to the financial planning nightmare their accountants and lawyers have to deal with!
Well, I wish them all the happiness they and their lawyers can stand. It was certainly a lesson to me to straighten up my financial house.
No really. They’ve had a 25-year head start, so I hope the next 25 are bliss. And in any case, TIna Turner is an inspiration to women to need to leave horrible relationships, start afresh and find a new song for a new life!