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The ins and outs of very high-asset divorces

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2019 | Divorce

Not many people in New Jersey, or the rest of the United States for that matter, have the kind of assets that the founder of Amazon has. However, it is interesting to take a look at what steps may be taken to protect assets of this nature during a divorce given the news that Amazon’s founder is splitting from his wife after 25 years of marriage. The couple will be dividing assets estimated to be valuated at nearly $140 billion.

While it’s not unusual for any couple getting a divorce to have joint assets to split, extremely wealthy couples tend to have their assets in stocks that are sometimes difficult to assess. High-asset divorces may also present challenges if martial property includes more unique things like rare collectibles or bank accounts in remote island nations. If infidelity is a factor in the divorce, this usually doesn’t affect property division unless joint funds were used to pay for the affair.

Location is another factor that will determine how a high-asset divorce plays out. The Amazon founder and his wife reside in a community property state, which means that the court splits assets equally among spouses. If a business was started during the marriage, as is the case here, all earnings from that business may become community property as well. There are two potential scenarios with regards to how business assets may be handled in a case like this. First, each party could get a very large stock option. Another possibility is that a single entity could be created so that the two former spouses still have joint control over business-related assets.

Couples with substantial assets and a high profile often like to wrap up a divorce out of court, if possible, to maintain their privacy. An attorney may attempt to honor this request by working with both parties to prepare a mutually acceptable divorce agreement. Having a prenuptial agreement is another way that couples with sizable assets may be able to avoid ongoing legal battles. It’s been reported that the Amazon founder and his soon-to-be-ex did not have such an agreement.