Some couples have few assets when they divorce, making it relatively easy to come to an agreement on how those assets should be distributed. In contrast, couples with a high net worth tend to have complex divorce cases because they have many valuable assets. These assets include commercial property, stock options, trusts, fine art, and precious metals. If you are currently going through a divorce and have a high net worth, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Hire a forensic accountant. Couples with a high net worth tend to have multiple banking and investment accounts, as opening multiple accounts helps cushion account holders against risk. Although this a valid financial strategy, it can also hurt you when you are going through a divorce. If your spouse has been planning to file for divorce for several months or even years, he or she may have opened additional accounts without your knowledge. If you do not find these accounts before your divorce settlement is finalized, you may lose out on the opportunity to claim your fair share of the money. Forensic accountants use their knowledge of accounting practices and fraud prevention to track down hidden assets in divorce cases. Hiring one of these accountants can help you find any hidden accounts that may affect your divorce.
2. Work with an appraiser. Wealthy couples often collect fine jewelry, original paintings, sculptures, and other expensive items. In some cases, these items increase in value, increasing your total net worth. Before you finalize your divorce settlement, it is important to know how much each item is worth. A professional appraiser has the knowledge and skills needed to determine the current value of each high-value item you own.
3. Find an experienced real-estate professional. If you and your spouse own a residential or commercial property together, you may have to sell the property and split the proceeds before your divorce is finalized. Determining the current value of the property is of utmost importance, especially if you have owned the property for many years, as real estate tends to increase in value. A trusted real-estate agent can recommend an experienced appraiser to determine the current value of the property. Your agent can also help you set a reasonable asking price and make suggestions to help you make a sale as fast as possible.
4. Hire a professional to determine the value of any retirement accounts. If your spouse has a retirement account, you may be entitled to some of the money in the account. Unfortunately, determining how much money you should receive is not as easy as looking at the most recent statement. The value of a retirement account fluctuates with the market, so it is important to have a financial professional determine the true value of the account. You should also work with your family attorney to establish a valuation date. This is the date that will be used to determine how much of the money you should receive in your divorce settlement. If your valuation date is June 1, you will receive a percentage of whatever the account value was on that date, protecting you from any reductions in value that occur after your valuation date is established.
Going through a divorce is a stressful time for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for couples with a high net worth. High-value assets make a divorce more complex, so be sure to work closely with your family lawyer to ensure you receive a fair settlement.
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