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Murdoch Divorce Highlights the Importance of Prenuptial Agreements

Business and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is making headlines after news recently broke that his marriage of fourteen years would come to an end. Speculation has already begun as to how his estate — estimated to be worth in excess of $12.1 billion — will be divided between his wife, Wendi (née Deng), and himself.

This is not the first time Mr. Murdoch has been in the news for a high-asset divorce:

  • When he and his previous wife, Anna Maria Torv, divorced in 1998, reports indicated that she ended up with $1.7 billion of his fortune. However, most of that went into a trust for his four children.
  • According to various news outlets, after having been married to Murdoch for 32 years, Torv (now Mann) would have been entitled to half of $3.9 billion, his net worth. Instead, she accepted about $110 million in cash, and allowed Mr. Murdoch’s children to inherit the rest through the trust.

With Rupert Murdoch’s net worth having more than tripled since his last marriage, Wendi Deng-Murdoch could stand to receive more than $6 billion — assuming that this is what the law of the jurisdiction where the divorce takes place provides, and assuming that some of his net worth wouldn’t be considered non-marital or pre-marital, making it one of the highest divorce settlements of all time. Of course, Mr. Murdoch is being represented by a top divorce lawyer. However, more important in determining the terms of their divorce will be their prenuptial agreement, the details of which have not yet been revealed.

Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts many couples enter into prior to marriage in order to protect each of their individual assets should divorce occur. Most state divorce laws follow either the equitable distribution or community property principles of asset division, which, without a prenup, can entitle a lesser- or non-earning spouse to half of the marital estate, regardless of his or her own net worth before marrying. Florida follows equitable distribution principles of asset and debt division. The starting point for equitable distribution in Florida is that a spouse will be presumed to be entitled to 50% of the value of the marital estate. Generally speaking (with only a few exceptions), the marital estate is made up of all assets acquired during the marriage, whether individually or jointly, and all debts accumulated during the marriage, whether individually or jointly. For this reason, it is absolutely crucial that high net worth individuals with assets or beneficiaries to protect, or persons who anticipate amassing assets or wealth in the future, insist on signing a prenuptial agreement.

This post was composed by Florida divorce attorney Deborah Greene, with contributions from attorney Shane Hebert. For more information on prenuptial agreements and high-asset divorces, consult a lawyer.

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