Locked out of your $88 million Manhattan condo? The rich are different when it comes to equitable distribution. As the Wall Street Journal reports, how ultrawealthy couples divorce is becoming much harder as financial portfolios become more complex. There’s also good news on the coronavirus.
Enter the Badlands
Many ultrawealthy people in a divorce are having trouble finding assets, like the front door keys to their $22 million Hawaii home. A big reason for the complexity is the widespread use of trusts. Trusts can play a big role in divorce depending on your circumstances.
Setting up a trust may allow you to safely transfer ownership of your non-marital property into a separate trust. If you divorce, a trust like this may make the entire property, and its appreciation, out of equitable distribution.
South Dakota is becoming a hotspot for trusts, holding almost a trillion dollars in trust assets because state laws have made South Dakota more favorable for trusts. Generally, trust assets are managed by a Trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries.
A trust can be drafted with a variety of different provisions in order to accomplish a variety of different goals. In every trust, the Trustee must account to the beneficiaries about its actions, and it must be fair and prudent in dealing with the trust and beneficiaries.
So, what happens if one spouse is named as the beneficiary of a trust, and that spouse benefits from the trust during the marriage? The answer to questions like this is not always straightforward in every state.
Florida Equitable Distribution
I have written about Florida equitable distribution during divorce before. In Florida, the legislature has created a statutory scheme to guide family courts in the equitable distribution of assets upon dissolution of a marriage.
Under Florida’s equitable distribution statute, marital assets include assets acquired during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them. Nonmarital assets include assets acquired by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets.
The equitable distribution statute also creates a rebuttable presumption that assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are presumed to be marital assets: “All assets acquired … by either spouse subsequent to the date of the marriage and not specifically established as nonmarital assets … are presumed to be marital assets …. Such presumption is overcome by a showing that the assets … are nonmarital assets ….”
That’s where trusts come in. Although your home became a marital asset when you purchased the home and jointly titled it in you and your spouse’s names, the home can cease in character to be a marital asset upon its transfer into a trust.
At that point, the home can become part of the assets of the Trust, an entity distinct from either a Husband and Wife. Transferring a home into a Trust has the possibility to place the home beyond a family court’s reach for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce.
In South Dakota We Trust?
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Texas financier Wilbur Bosarge and his wife of 22 years, Marie Bosarge, conducted business affairs through various trusts. For instance, they used a trust to buy a $45 million dollar flat in London’s “Billionaire Square.”
After Marie flew back and forth between Texas and London decorating and hand selecting furnishings for the new London flat, she never got to see it finished.
By the time it was complete, her husband left her for a 20-something Russian mistress who moved into the flat instead.
Owning the flat through a complex network of trusts and limited liability companies, the husband is using the ownership structure to eliminate her stake in the property. The wife may be stuck, because a family court may not be able to decide property rights of a nonparty to a divorce, like a trust or limited liability company.
Good News on Coronavirus
Let’s face it, the media has a tendency to give extra coverage to bad news, because readers find negative stories more eye-catching.
But, from lower toxic fumes to more time spent with family, there is always good news to report during the high point of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- First, there are tentative signs of infection curves flattening. Concentrate on statistics about the tendency of curve flattening – not the rising death rates – as an early harbinger of the turning point.
- Second, a major model has lowered its prediction for the death toll in the United States. The model predicts that some states will start to see fewer deaths from COVID-19 each day and some states may have even passed their peak.
- Third, pharmaceutical firm Abbott Labs said it was launching a test for the SARS-COV-2 virus that could take as little as five minutes and “be run on a portable machine the size of a toaster”. German technology company Bosch says it has done the same. Johnson & Johnson said it had identified a vaccine candidate and the US government was investing $1 billion in its development.
- Fourth, other groups are investigating ways to start human trials for vaccine candidates early, and are using brave and willing volunteers, who haven’t been at all hard to find.
The Wall Street Journal article is here.