Even in a state like California where it’s not unusual to find couples with sizable assets, it’s hard not to be impressed by the considerable wealth Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has accumulated over the years. Up until early 2019, he jointly shared that wealth with his wife of 25 years. But now that the couple has announced plans to split, the unique aspects of a divorce involving the super-wealthy are now in the spotlight.
The biggest difference with a divorce of his magnitude is the way assets are assessed and valued. Property division among affluent people can become complicated if the couple’s assets include highly lucrative stock options, rare collector’s items, or bank accounts maintained in remote island destinations for tax purposes. Asset division will also depend on a couple’s state of residence. In this case, they reside in a state that has community property laws – which typically means a 50/50 split, although the exact way assets are divvied up could depend on factors such as the role each spouse played in accumulating their joint fortune.
One possible scenario is that the company’s stock could be split equally among both parties. Another option is to transfer the stock into a new entity so that each former spouse could have joint control. The way assets are handled could change if a prenuptial agreement exists, but reports say this isn’t the case. There have also been rumors of an affair. However, this doesn’t usually affect asset division unless joint funds were use to pay for expenses related to extramarital activities.
The biggest challenge for attorneys handling a high-asset divorce is putting a price tag on assets, although they may enlist help from financial experts to handle this aspect. Super-wealthy couples also have a tendency to want to keep a divorce out of the courts. A lawyer may be able to help with such efforts by ironing out a settlement agreement that’s fair for both parties. Alimony is rarely an issue when each party already has massive wealth, but child custody could be a source of contention.