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Court weighs if billionaire’s fortune was hard work or luck

Divorce can be problematic for people at any income bracket. There are couples in Illinois who have to determine how to divide money and property, which can be sensitive topics. A high-end divorce, however, can become even more complex when there are businesses, offshore accounts or other items with large price tags. As recent proceedings for one oil tycoon demonstrates, valuing property can become a technical process.

A court must decide if the man accumulated his wealth due to hard work or pure luck. He is one of the world’s 50 richest people, having founded his oil company in 1967 before he wed his wife of 25 years. Recently, the business’ value skyrocketed to $17 billion, putting a large sum at stake for the couple, who do not have a prenuptial agreement.

An attorney explained that it is common for marital assets to be classified as either active or passive. The wife, who moved out of her husband’s home years ago, claims that the business’ success was a result of the man’s hard work, which would make it an active appreciation and therefore subject to division. The man, who spent 40 years looking for oil, claims that it was all luck, which would make the fortune personal property and not a marital asset.

According to a study from the University of Nebraska, successful people allegedly do not believe in luck. The courts will now decide how the fortune will be allocated. People who are entering a divorce should consult an attorney in order to protect their property and ensure an equitable division.

Source: NBC News, “Priciest Divorce Ever? How Oilman Harold Hamm Could Lose $17 Billion,” Tony Dokoupil, Aug. 24, 2014 

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