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Secret asset trusts the focus in billionaire divorce dispute

On Behalf of | May 27, 2020 | Firm News

Some people in Massachusetts who get a divorce may find that a spouse has been hiding assets. This was the case for a Texas woman who thought she would get half of the marital property, estimated to be worth around $2 billion, in her divorce. However, her husband had moved all but $12 million into asset trusts in South Dakota. According to him and his attorney, the assets are not his but the property of the trusts.

The couple’s assets included homes in London, Maine and Aspen, a private Caribbean island and clothing and other personal effects that had belonged to Marilyn Monroe. Even the couple’s tableware and a diamond necklace the man gave the woman as a gift were placed in the trusts. She filed a lawsuit against him claiming that he had moved the assets into the trusts as a way to prevent her from claiming property that was rightfully hers in the divorce.

The case has brought more attention to South Dakota’s asset trusts, which have become popular in the last few years with people from around the world who use them to protect their assets from taxes and divorce. Privacy laws around the trust are so strict that the woman and her attorney are struggling to get information about them.

People who are going through a divorce may find that a spouse has been hiding assets. This does not necessarily have to be done with secret trusts. A person could hide a work bonus, clean out a bank account or change the financial records for a small business. While many couples are able to negotiate an agreement for property division without going to court, a situation like this one is more likely to end in litigation.