Divorce can be challenging, stressful and hostile at the best of times, but when there’s a great deal of wealth involved – such as the case of billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates – it can get even uglier. When high-net-worth couples split and head to the divorce court, proceedings can be long, arduous and full of emotional and financial pain as large assets are divided up and handed over.
It makes sense to protect your assets during any relationship, as the sad reality is that many don’t last and break down, and all the more so when there’s substantial wealth involved. These are some steps you can take to ensure your assets and finances are protected as much as possible should things go south and you and your spouse end up before a judge.
Reappraise your prenup
If you have a prenuptial agreement, setting out who gets what if you split, have your lawyer regularly review it. This is important because big assets like companies expand and become more valuable, and investments and savings also grow over time. Businesses can also go bust, and wealth can decline, and if that sadly happens, it needs to be reflected in the prenup. Don’t have one? Talk to your lawyer – and your partner – about drafting a postnuptial agreement, as it’s never too late to set out the division of assets and finances in writing, should you divorce.
Don’t hide assets
It’s tempting for wealthy individuals to try and squirrel away large sums of cash and assets by opening secret bank accounts and transferring assets to a third party who will, by agreement, hold them in name only. However, it’s highly inadvisable to do so and could end up costing you. During a high-net-worth divorce, lawyers will dig deep to find hidden assets, and if they do, a judge is likely to think you attempted to deceive the court and may make financial awards against you.
Open separate bank accounts
If you and your spouse have a joint bank account, you may want to open separate ones, too. It’s not a case of funnelling cash into a private account that only you have access to. Rather, it’s about ensuring you have enough funds should your marriage fail. It can often happen that one partner drains a joint account when they’re thinking about divorce, leaving the other with no funds until proceedings are completed, and that’s a process that can take years. Discuss this with your partner – suggest retaining a joint account for household and other expenses and opening separate accounts for you both for your personal spending.
Hire the best lawyers in town
Divorces involving wealthy couples are usually far more complicated than those involving people with ordinary assets like a modest house and some savings. And that’s why you need the best divorce lawyers in London or elsewhere to handle matters for you so that you get the best possible outcome. Leaving your divorce up to a run-of-the-mill lawyer who’s not experienced in the intricate nature of high-net-worth divorces could end up in financial disaster for you. So get yourself lawyered-up with the best legal brains in town, expert lawyers who will help ensure you keep as much of your assets as possible.
Let’s not forget that in any divorce, calm heads are better than angry ones, and if you can stay on good terms with the spouse you’re splitting from, you’re much more likely to reach an amicable agreement and a fair division of assets – no matter how much money is involved.