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World’s richest man did not have a prenup

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is and wife MacKenzie Bezos news when they announced that they are filing for divorce after 25 years of marriage. The two did this where they live in Washington State, which is a community property state where couples split marital assets in half. Having started Amazon after the marriage, this means that MacKenzie Bezos stands to get half of the couple’s estimated wealth of $137.1 billion dollars.

Some in the media are questioning the wisdom of not putting a prenuptial agreement in place, yet the couple met and married years before Jeff made his first million in 1997. Therefore, the question of a prenup, particularly back then, seemed more like a pie in the sky dream than a reality. Moreover, who really expects to become the richest person in the world? A postnuptial agreement could have been drafted, but the split is fortunately an amicable one. This is good news on several fronts.

It is not just about the money

A $60 billion loss to ones overall wealth is an unfathomable misstep to many. The loss of assets is certainly a hit, but the real question here is Bezos’ controlling stake in Amazon. To pay the settlement he would likely have to sell shares of the company, which he currently owns 16 percent of. The couple is also one of the largest landowners in the country with 400,000 acres of property, which is just another part of the incredibly complicated portfolio that includes Whole Foods, Zappos, The Washington Post and dozens of other companies.

The key here may be that MacKenzie understands that it makes more sense to keep much of the estate intact rather than dilute the control it has over its various companies, particularly Amazon.

The amicable split

A divorce may start out as amicable, but that can fall apart during the process of determining a parenting plan and custody, division of assets and other issues unique to the split. The fact that Jeff Bezos is not fighting the equal split sets a positive tone for the entire process. The couple’s four children will also no doubt benefit from this approach.

What we Coloradans can learn from this

Here in Colorado we have a fair and equitable division of marital property, which need not be half. Nevertheless, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can provide peace of mind for protecting business interests or simply ensuring that a financial settlement accurately reflect what each party contributed to the marriage. A family law attorney can work with clients to create pre- or postnuptial agreements as well as facilitate an amicable split that does not endanger the well-being of the family and its estate.

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