Nick Viall is going all in.
Yes, love is a gamble, but for the contestants on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor, love is also a game show. This season, 30 women are vying for Viall’s heart on The Bachelor. Many fans are tuning in with a sense of schadenfreude, but if Viall meets his wife, he’ll have plenty of financial worries to add to his fears of heartbreak.
We’ve got the solution. Advisor to Client asked two Canadian experts to talk about the planning Viall should do before he ties the knot.
Subject: Nick Viall, The Bachelor
- Building a marriage contract
- Planning for residuals and appearance fees
Watch: Mondays at 8 pm ET on OMNI
Scenario: Only five of the more than 30 bachelors and bachelorettes in the show’s history have gotten married. Meanwhile, 16 couples from the show got engaged and then called it off. Still others have broken off lesser commitments after the cameras went dark. While none of the married couples have divorced – so far – the near-misses show the importance of writing a pre-nuptial agreement (otherwise known as a marriage contract).
Assumption: For this series, we use Canadian laws and planning strategies.
This year’s contestant on The Bachelor, Nick Viall, has appeared on The Bachelorette twice (and Bachelor in Paradise once) and was a runner-up both times—meaning he proposed to two women and was shot down both times. With 30 women to choose from this time around, Viall’s luck may shift.
Before he ties the knot, however, there are considerations. Since he will have known his betrothed for a relatively short period before getting engaged, Leigh Davis, founder of Halifax-based Davis Reierson Family Law, says Viall and his partner would be wise to first sign a cohabitation agreement and then a marriage contract.
These contracts are “generally recommended in most cohabiting or marriage situations,” says Davis, “because it will allow you to define the financial arrangements in advance so everybody knows what the rule book will be.”
A cohabitation agreement is akin to a marriage contract for unmarried partners who live together, she explains. “Especially if there are assets you want to protect or if there’s concern the relationship may not last, those things become more relevant in your decision whether to have a marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement.”
If Viall and his partner do get married, the cohabitation agreement could evolve into a marriage contract, Davis says.
“Depending on what’s happening and how long a period it is between when you wrote the original cohab agreement and when you do the marriage contract, you may or may not want to do a new one, or just live with the one you have so long as the agreement supports crossing a line into marriage.”
Davis says that Canadian laws generally require spouses to split the value of combined assets equally on divorce. If Viall protects his assets in the contract, it could supersede those asset division laws in court.
Viall and his partner could say, “We’re going to define the property by whatever terms we put in the contract, and so what you might do is say, ‘Whatever I own in my name continues to be mine, even if we separate later,’ which is a departure from what the legislation would say,” Davis explains. That can come in handy “if you didn’t know, for example, if you were going to have a certain level of income year to year.”
The marriage contract could also deal with spousal support and, most relevant to The Bachelor, gifts. The contract would need to state “who owns what, and you want to make that clear when it’s coming in the door. For example, the engagement ring. You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars — at least for the engagement rings they give out on shows like that — and [those funds are] coming from the show itself to one or both of the parties.”
Viall would need to outline in the cohabitation or marriage agreement that, upon divorce, whether that ring would return to the production company, or whether it’s a gift to Nick or the spouse. “You’re going to want rules on that, because you’re not talking about a $5,000 engagement ring,” warns Davis. “You’re talking about maybe $100,000 for an engagement ring and what’s going to happen to that.”
Davis’s most important piece of advice for Viall is to create the pre-nuptial agreement well in advance of marriage. “One of the reasons that the court would set aside or not enforce a marriage contract is when it’s done on the church steps, for example. The closer it is to the marriage, the more pressure is involved in getting it signed.”
Residuals and appearance fees
Warren McCann is a founding partner and accountant at Kudlow McCann, and deals with many clients in the entertainment industry. He says in Canada, TV and film productions are governed by a union called the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), which is like the Screen Actors Guild in the United States.
If Viall and his future spouse were part of ACTRA and signed a union contract, they would be entitled to residuals (payments for each time a performance is aired) and appearance fees after the show concludes. However, Viall and his partner “might be getting different amounts because the main person, the bachelor, would be paid as a lead, and the other contestants would probably be paid much less,” McCann says.
Those residuals and appearance fees would technically become part of family income and would go into the shared pot that Davis explained would be divided equally upon divorce, according to Canadian family law. However, Davis says it could be outlined in a marriage contract that those fees not be shared.
In terms of long-term financial planning, McCann says Viall and his partner shouldn’t rely on residuals, appearance fees or his modelling career as stable income. “Anybody in the entertainment industry needs to have more savings than the regular employee or professional because the fluctuations in income are so dramatic. I always try to tell them to live as if they were a starving actor.”
This is especially pertinent for Viall, since his partner could have access to 50% of his assets. “I guess you prepare for the worst if you’re getting married in that show,” says McCann.