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Property division challenges during a high-asset divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2019 | Firm News, Property Division

Some Massachusetts residents have probably heard something about the pending divorce involving Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his spouse of 25 years. The couple jointly announced the decision via social media shortly after 2019 began. Even though the pair appears to be headed toward an amicable split, there will likely be some challenges ahead when it comes to divvying up assets valued at nearly $140 billion.

One major difference with property division among the super-wealthy is the nature of joint assets. Affluent people tend to hold the bulk of their wealth in stocks, which means that Mr. Bezos’ soon-to-be-ex may be vying for some sizable stock options. It’s also not unusual for wealthy couples to have assets that can be difficult to attach a value to, such as rare collectibles or overseas bank accounts.

Property division is also determined by state laws and whether or not a couple had a prenuptial or post-marital agreement. In the case of the Bezoses, it’s been reported that the couple didn’t have a prenup. If this is true, state law would determine how assets are split. The Bezoses reside in a community property state, which means a 50/50 split. Also, since Amazon was founded after the marriage, the company’s assets would likely be community property as well. One possible solution for the couple could be to divide their Amazon stocks evenly. Another option is to transfer stocks into a single entity to allow both parties to retain joint control of the business.

Even if a 50/50 split is what ends up happening with this particular high-asset divorce, a lawyer could make an argument that the Amazon founder played a bigger role in the creation and growth of the business. Legal counsel would likely fight for what the client believes is a fair settlement.