When news of a high-profile divorce breaks, it often highlights to individuals in similar circumstances what could happen if they find themselves in that position.
Only a few days into the new year, it was announced that the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos and his wife are to divorce after 25 years of marriage. For many business owners, the question of what will happen to his wealth, estimated to be in the region of $137billion, will be of interest.
Jeff set up Amazon one year into his marriage and it has been widely reported that his wife, MacKenzie, played a contributory role in the company when it was starting out. Because Amazon was set up during the marriage, Jeff’s shares in the company are likely to be considered ‘matrimonial assets’ which could be divided in the divorce settlement. Depending on the outcome, MacKenzie could potentially become the richest woman in the world should she receive half of this fortune.
The couple made a joint announcement of their decision to split and it appears they intend to remain friends. Whether this can be achieved will probably depend on whether they agree on how the wealth should be divided. In the event they are not in agreement, it is likely that they could find themselves embroiled in one of the most expensive divorce cases of all time.
In situations like these, the existence of a post-nuptial agreement, which they could have entered into after the launch of the company, would be beneficial. It may seem unromantic when you are happily married, but it can significantly reduce the risk of a couple having to engage in highly contentious court proceedings. This means that couples like the Bezo’s, who separate on amicable terms, are in with a fighting chance of retaining the friendship they want to hold on to rather than losing it in bitter, contested and drawn out divorce proceedings.
In the 21st century when 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce, should it not just become a part of our financial planning to have an agreement in place to deal with the division of assets in the event that your marriage breaks down?