The end of a marriage requires couples to divide their property, but the divorce drama of one wealthy couple now centers around a secretive trust allegedly used to block a spouse from assets. The wife of a man who earned billions as the founder of a high-speed trading firm discovered after he filed for divorce that most of their considerable assets had been placed in a trust set up in a Midwestern state with laws that support highly secretive trust operations.
The couple had been married since 1989, before they became wealthy, but the man filed for divorce in 2017 after starting a relationship with a Russian woman. At that time, the wife learned that nearly all of the couple’s property had been transferred to a special trust, including multiple homes, Marilyn Monroe collectibles, jewelry and tableware. Overall, the vast majority of the couple’s $2 billion fortune was apparently moved outside of the marital estate.
At first, the wife had been the beneficiary of the trust, but her husband removed her as a beneficiary before the divorce without her knowledge. The laws in the state where the trust is located did not require him to inform her about the change. They require strict confidentially, which has prevented her attorneys from getting basic information about the trust.
High-earning couples who pursue a divorce often have complex assets that could include business interests, real estate, artwork or valuable personal property. Guidance from a family law attorney may prepare an individual to disclose finances accurately and determine which assets were marital or nonmarital. An attorney might protect a person’s rights during settlement negotiations through strong, fact-based advocacy. If the parties cannot resolve all issues privately, then litigation might be necessary.