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The discovery during a Kentucky divorce that one spouse has been hiding assets can come as a shock to the other spouse. In Texas, a divorcing billionaire couple are involved in a dispute over the fortune amassed since their marriage in 1989. The man filed for divorce in 2017, and the woman learned that he had moved most of their property into asset trusts in South Dakota.

The trusts are highly secretive and used by people throughout the world to protect assets from creditors, spouses and taxes. Trust privacy laws in the state mean the woman and her attorneys are struggling to even get any information about the trusts. She filed a lawsuit in 2018 alleging that the trusts had been created to deprive her of her share of the marital property. The hearing was scheduled for April and has been delayed because of COVID-19.

The couple’s assets included homes in Maine and London, a private Caribbean island, yachts and million-dollar tapestries. Allegedly, the man has placed even such personal items as tableware and a diamond necklace that was a gift to his wife in the trust. From a fortune worth around $2 billion, the woman may now only get half of the $12 million listed as assets. There may be little left once her legal bills, already in the millions, are paid.

Assets can be hidden in many other ways. A person might lie about bonuses received at work or might take money from a shared account. If this comes to light during the divorce, it could affect how a judge determines the property should be divided. In situations that are more amicable in which there is no suspicion of hidden assets, couples might be able to reach a divorce agreement through negotiation with the help of their respective attorneys.