When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife announced that they were ending their 25-year marriage back in January, it stirred up a media frenzy. Many wondered what this would do to Bezos’ $137 million fortune that he’d amassed over the years. It led to an increased spotlight being placed on high-asset divorces.
It’s rare that anyone in the public ever hears about negotiations in wealthy couples’ divorces. Settlements are seldom heard about because they’re often negotiated by their attorneys or in mediation behind closed doors.
Couples of means often have diversified assets. It’s common for a significant amount of their wealth to be held in stocks. Many of the shares they hold are in growing startup companies that become more profitable every day. Assigning a value to stocks so that they can be divided up between divorcing spouses isn’t as easy as dividing up retirement or savings accounts, cars or houses.
Spouses who are compensated from the dividends of their highly lucrative stock option accounts often have their lawyers broker deals for them. These negotiations may result in them funneling these assets into a single entity that both parties can jointly manage. In situations like this, if divorced spouses have difficulty agreeing about how to cast a vote, then an appointed adviser steps in and makes such decisions for them.
Many couples who have significant assets sign prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. It doesn’t appear that Bezos nor his wife ever signed one though.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. It’s here that a judge would step in and decide how couples like the Bezos should split up their assets if they couldn’t do so themselves.
A good rule of thumb is that the longer a marriage is, the more likely it is that each spouse will approximate a 50-50 split of assets. The shorter it is, the more lopsided the distribution is likely to be. There are factors that may be introduced that may sway a judge’s determination though.
High-net worth spouses may hide their assets in offshore accounts or downplay their job role. They may do this to keep their loss of assets and alimony awards down. Husbands and wives of means in Fort Myers can benefit from discussing their concerns over property matters with an attorney. By doing so, they can learn what steps they can take to protect their financial interests.