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Real estate moguls file for high-asset divorce

Here in Minnesota and across the country, we are still feeling the aftereffects of the real estate bubble that collapsed near the end of the last decade. The economic downturn harmed many families, leading to strained budgets and strained relationships.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Kent and Elizabeth Swig, the famous real estate developers. Children of wealthy real estate developers, the two fell in love quickly, becoming engaged just 15 days after their first date. After their wedding, the couple began to make a name for themselves, building up incredible assets and moving in high-powered circles. Eventually, the Swig fortune would reach over $3 billion in assets.

Then the downturn began. As the economy crumbled, Mr. Kent began to take out loans to stay afloat. Eventually, he was stuck with a great number of properties and precious little money.

This coincided with a strain on the marital relationship. In 2009, Ms. Kent called 911 after her husband allegedly "motioned to strike her," allegations that Mr. Kent denies. The couple is now engaged in a high-asset divorce.

The divorce will be simplified in some ways by a post-nuptial agreement signed by the Kents. The agreement certifies that Mr. Kent will assume most of the debts associated with the family, while Mrs. Kent will keep both of the family's homes and over $24 million in artwork, jewelry and furnishings. The signing of the post-nuptial agreement coincided with a loan offered by Ms. Kent's family to Mr. Kent.

Post-nuptial agreements are often signed when a change in circumstances leads couples to reassess their options in a future divorce. If, for instance, a couple wishes to begin a new business venture, a post-nuptial agreement may be used to determine who will maintain control of the business venture in the event of a divorce.

High-asset divorces like the Kents' can be very complicated, as issues with real estate, debts, lawsuits and multiple financial holdings come into play. Those involved in such proceedings should seek out experienced legal assistance to successfully navigate the complex process.

Source: The New York Times, "With Fortune Falling, a 1 Percent Divorce" Julie Creswell, Feb. 01, 2014

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