Dividing assets upon the dissolution of a marriage is a complicated process, especially when two parties have a number of shared investments. Whether a couple shares a home, vacation properties, a business, retirement funds, or other investments, it will be necessary to divide those assets equitably unless they qualify as separate property. Although it is up to the parties or the court to determine what constitutes a fair division of a couple’s property, this determination is based almost exclusively on the value of the assets involved.
Ensuring that all assets are accounted for and appraised correctly is critical to the property division process. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify and appraise all of a couple’s assets, especially if one party is intent on hiding those assets. When it comes to ensuring that a spouse is being truthful about marital property, consulting with a forensic accountant and an experienced complex property division attorney in Prospect Heights can make all the difference in the fairness of the final property settlement agreement.
What is Forensic Accounting?
The divorce process involves four main financial components – income, assets, expenses, and debts. Forensic accountants are specialists that can help the parties in each of these areas by:
- Creating a marital balance sheet that lists all of a couple’s marital assets and debts;
- Determining whether an asset qualifies as separate or marital property;
- Assessing income tax statements, loan applications, and cash transactions to calculate a couple’s income;
- Reviewing financial records to determine a couple’s spending habits in the past;
- Estimating a couple’s projected earnings from future employment and passive earnings from investments;
- Identifying any questionable transactions to help prevent wasteful spending or the hiding of assets; and
- Determining the tax basis for a particular property based on capital gains.
Forensic accountants are only able to complete these tasks properly if they have access to a wide range of documentation, including tax returns, property deeds, credit card, and bank account statements, and investment-related paperwork. Assessing this type of documentation allows forensic accountants to identify specific assets and then have them appraised, as well as to identify missing or inaccurate information.
Types of Financial Experts
There is actually a wide range of individuals besides forensic accountants who can be part of a financial analysis team and whose advice can be invaluable during the property division process, including:
- Business valuation experts;
- Residential and commercial real estate appraisers;
- Appraisers who can assess the value of personal property, such as artwork, jewelry, and antiques;
- Certified Public Accountants (CPAs);
- Certified Financial Planners (CFPs); and
- Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFAs).
All of these experts, including forensic accountants, can help ensure that a spouse is not hiding or wasting assets in an effort to avoid a fair division of marital property.
Contact Us Today for Legal Assistance
Please contact the SAM LAW OFFICE LLC at 847-255-9925 to learn more about coming up with a property settlement that is fair for both you and your spouse. You can also reach a member of our Prospect Heights complex property division legal team by filling out one of our brief online contact forms.