In a move that leaves some wondering if he is insane and leaves others tipping their hat, Mr. Bezos plans to split the family’s $137.1 billion fortune in half as part of an amicable divorce. The couple filed for divorce in Washington State, which like Texas adheres to community property law in the state. This means that all marital property is divided in half, putting MacKenzie Bezos’s settlement at $66 billion.
The announcement of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ divorce spread like wildfire across the internet. It was not long before even the President weighed in on the new notoriety of the Amazon CEO (and owner of the Washington Post). Less surprisingly, the National Inquirer quickly released a story about texts between Jeff and his most recent girlfriend, former television news anchor Lauren Sanchez.
Why no prenup?
The short answer is that Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos married in 1994, which was well before he earned his first million dollars in 1997. As such, nearly everything in the Bezos estate, which includes 16 percent of Amazon’s stock (80 million shares), the Post, Whole Foods, Zappos and other businesses as well as 400,000 acres of land is jointly-owned community property. It all adds up to an extremely complex assortment of assets which could take a long time to catalog, value and divide.
While a prenup was not an option, it leads one to wonder why the couple did not put together a postnuptial agreement, either as Amazon took off to become the online retail juggernaut or before the divorce was ever announced.
Amicable split is likely best
The divorce is far from over, and the general tone may change as discussions about custody of the four children and other details are negotiated. However, if the amicable split holds, it is perhaps because they both understand that the business interests are likely best left as is – particularly the CEO’s controlling interesting of Amazon.
What we can learn from the Bezos split
Not all divorces are amicable. It is best for a couple to at least have a conversation about financial expectations, particularly if there are plans to raise a family. Thus, unless a Texas couple makes alternative arrangements, the community property rule will govern how a couple’s estate is divided. Whether the marriage includes a large number of assets or not, it is always recommended to consult with an experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert who works in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, or elsewhere in Texas. Such an attorney can provide knowledgeable guidance to ensure that a client’s legal, marital and parental rights are protected under the law.