When people in New Jersey get a divorce, they are supposed to divide any marital property. However, there may be situations in which people try to hide assets from a spouse. One woman in Texas thought that the billions she and her husband shared would be divided when he filed for divorce in 2017, but she learned that he had moved most of these assets into a trust in South Dakota.
South Dakota’s asset trusts are used by people from around the world to shield assets from taxes or to protect them in case of divorce. In this case, the man had moved nearly all the couple’s assets into the trust, leaving only about $12 million in the marital estate. The woman’s legal bills are already in the millions, and if she is unable to claim any of the assets in the trust, she may be left with little once the divorce is paid for.
In 2018, she filed a lawsuit claiming that the assets were placed in the trust as an attempt to deny her a rightful share of property. Although the case was scheduled to be heard in April, COVID-19 has delayed it. There are a number of obstacles to challenging South Dakota’s trust laws, including the fact that the privacy protections are so strict that it is difficult to get information about them.
A person who believes a spouse is hiding assets might want to talk to an attorney about how to proceed. While it is possible in some cases for couples to negotiate a divorce settlement, hiding assets or other actions that erode trust may mean that going to court is the only option. An attorney may be able to assist a person with negotiation or help prepare for litigation. If the case goes to court, a judge will attempt to work out an equitable division of property.