The Bezos and Gates Friendly Divorces: Is This The New Normal?
Ending a marriage can be really tough. It means decoupling finances, divvying up parenting time, and determining key issues like alimony and child support. While these matters are distressing enough in the standard, everyday divorce, they’re literally magnified a billion times over in extreme high-net-worth divorces. The sheer amount of assets that need to be divvied up is mind-boggling. This is one of the reasons that people are fascinated by the Gates and Bezos divorces, which leaves people wondering, is this the new normal?.
When Jeff Bezos and McKenzie Bezos filed for divorce in 2019 after 25 years of marriage, the sheer amount of assets to be split was almost unimaginable. What made this divorce even more fascinating is that the Bezoses never had a prenuptial agreement.
Even high-net-worth divorces are relatively straightforward when prenups are in place since assets are divided according to that previous agreement. Without a prenup, attorneys and their clients have to come up with settlements that both sides agree on, a process that could take a long time and bring more stress to an already stressful situation.
In spite of not having a prenup, the Bezos’ divorce, by all accounts, went smoothly. The couple reached a settlement four short months after their announcement, sharing loving and supportive words for each other and for their families once the settlement was announced..
In the divorce settlement, Jeff received 100% of the couple’s ownership in assets like The Washington Post and the space company Blue Origin. He also received 75 percent of the couple’s Amazon stock, an amount that represented 12% of the company’s total value.
Mackenzie received 25% of the couple’s Amazon stock, valued at about $36 billion dollars, once the divorce was final. It should be noted that this was only the part of the divorce settlement that was made public. Mackenzie may have received additional compensation that has not been disclosed.
Melinda Gates filed for divorce from Bill Gates on May 3, 2021, and Bill announced the split on Twitter. With a net worth estimated to be around $134.1 billion, the Gateses are also splitting an immense fortune and are also doing so without a prenup.
Their lack of a prenup came as a surprise to many divorce experts because Bill Gates was already extraordinarily wealthy when the two married 27 years earlier. This is in stark contrast to Jeff and McKenzie Bezos, who were married and essentially broke when Jeff launched Amazon.
Separation Agreement Already in Place
Another fact that makes their situation a bit different from the Bezos divorce is the fact that the Gateses already had a separation agreement in place when they filed for divorce, and they’ve asked the court to follow the terms of the separation agreement.
A separation agreement is a private document sometimes used in divorce filings that lists out exactly how the couple agrees to divide their property. In the Gates’ filing, the couple asked the court to “dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date in our separation contract.” Separation agreements are essentially another form of postnuptial agreements since they cover the same territories and are drawn up during the marriage vs. before the marriage.
Separation agreements in extremely high-net-worth divorces like these usually take up to a year to craft, leading many experts to believe that the Gates divorce had been in the planning stages for at least a year. Because both Melinda and Bill have signed the document, it’s expected that the divorce will be amicable.
Put Agreements in Place
The big takeaway from the Gates and Bezos divorces is that although they didn’t have prenups, the couples were able to have collaborative divorces that seem to have made all parties happy. The Gateses had a separation agreement that they agreed on and submitted to the court upon filing, and the Bezoses quickly came to an arrangement that made both parties happy.
These examples are usually the exception and not the rule, so having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is a good idea. Getting these agreements is not a sign of a lack of faith in a marriage. They’re a sign that both parties care about each other and want to avoid intensely stressful acrimony should their circumstances change in the future.
Answer your Divorce Questions
To learn more about prenuptial, postnuptial, or separation agreements or to get answers to your divorce questions, reach out to Miller Law Group for a consultation today, or call us at (914) 256-8997.