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“I don’t want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do, I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.” - J.P. Morgan

Assets not always easy to divide in high-asset divorce

Divorcing couples throughout the greater New York area are learning that it is important to account for all assets in a divorce. In many case, this means looking at retirement accounts, the primary home, any vacation properties and savings accounts. In high-net-worth divorces, however, finding and valuing assets can be more challenging.

One of the largest challenges couples face is the partnership interest in any businesses that the couple owns. Determining the current value of the business may not be enough because both parties may want to share in the future profits. One solution is to have the person who retains ownership send regular payments to the former spouse. However, this type of arrangement does not account for growth of the business or future losses.

Another unique challenge arises when couples have invested in venture capital funds or hedge funds. In these cases, the current value may be very low while the future potential is very lucrative. One possible solution in this case is to have both parties named on the asset so that all documents and future information must be presented to both partners. This allows each partner to benefit from the future earnings and forces them to share any losses.

These problems can arise even in an uncontested divorce where both parties are trying to stay civil and keep the proceedings amicable. Another possibility is that one partner may work with family members to transfer assets out of his or her name or purchase new assets in someone else's name. Working with professional forensic accountants and private investigators can help people determine if their spouse is engaging in this type of behavior. If a person has already gone through a divorce and encounters problems later in regards to changing values or hidden assets, it may be possible to obtain post-divorce modifications. A family law attorney may be able to help investigate such issues and guide their client toward a resolution.

Source: Financial Planning , "Finding Hidden Assets: Digging Deep in HNW Divorce", Andrew Pavia , March 24, 2014

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