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Three lessons from the Bezos divorce

The unprecedented wealth divided between the couple in the Bezos divorce has led those in the legal community to refer to the split as “the Godzilla of all divorces.” Information made public by the couple shows the divorce of the multi-billionaire Amazon founder will likely result in the transfer of an almost $40 billion stake in the massive online retail company.

Could the couple have kept the transfer from the public?

Although the couple has kept many details of the divorce from the public, it is unlikely the share of Amazon impacted by the divorce would remain private. This has little to do with family law, and more to do with federal securities law.

In this case, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rules that require the disclosure of certain holdings. Holdings that would include those impacted during this divorce. As such, it is very unlikely the transfer could remain private.

Why did the divorce impact Amazon?

As discussed in a previous post, available here, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, did not have a prenuptial agreement to guide the distribution of his assets in the event of a divorce. As a result, the court considers his shares in the company as marital property subject to division during the divorce.

What can other couples learn from this divorce?

This divorce provides some valuable lessons for any couple, whether looking at splitting millions or billions in assets. These lessons include:

  • Importance of a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can guide the division of assets in the event of a divorce. It can protect business interests, limit one partner from the other’s debts and help ensure an inheritance remains separate form marital property.
  • Consider a postnuptial agreement. Those who either did not get a prenuptial agreement or begin their business during a marriage can still protect their assets. A postnuptial agreement provides similar protections. The primary difference is whether the couple signs the agreement before or after nuptials.  
  • Get legal counsel. Both parties in this divorce had separate legal counsel to better ensure their interests were represented. The presence of legal counsel better ensures each party to gets a fair split of assets and that all assets are addressed during the divorce.

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