Accurate property value estimates are essential in a divorce

| Jul 11, 2018 | Firm News

Perhaps you bought a piece of antique furniture or a piece of modern art 20 years ago and you haven’t a clue what it’s worth today. Perhaps the beach cottage you and your husband enjoyed as a weekend retreat increased in value tremendously since purchasing it 10 years ago. If you and your spouse own a lot of different high-value assets together, it’s essential that you obtain accurate property estimates to ensure that you receive fair treatment during the asset division process of your divorce.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about various assets during your property division process:

Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities

Many couples who have been married for some time have managed to save extensive assets in a retirement portfolio. These assets could include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and more. Your financial statements will list the current value of these assets.

Separate and joint retirement accounts and retirement pensions

If you and your spouse benefit from a retirement pension, it’s likely that you’ll both have the ability to claim a share of the pension — especially if you have been married for a long time. The shorter the period of marriage, the less one spouse can claim from the other spouse’s pension. Separate and joint retirement accounts that hold assets accumulated during the marriage will also be divisible during the asset division process.

Art investments, antiques and collectibles

Art investments, antiques and collectibles purchased during marriage will be a part of the marital estate. If the items were owned by one or the other spouse before marriage — but they have increased considerably in value, then the spouses will likely share the amount of the value increase during the asset division process.

Concealed income and hidden assets

It’s hard to believe that spouses could do this, but it’s not unheard of for one spouse to hide income and assets from the other. If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets from you during your divorce, you may want to utilize a forensic accountant who is skilled at finding hidden assets during divorce proceedings.

Tax liabilities

For all the above assets, it’s important for spouses to remember tax liabilities. If an asset increased in value, for example, it will trigger capital gains taxes when a spouse sells it. If an asset did not increase in value, it will not trigger capital gains taxes. The paper value of an item, therefore, may not reflect the after-tax value. When divvying up assets, spouses must remember to account for tax liabilities to ensure a fair split of property.

If you’re trying to navigate the property division process in your divorce, make sure you fully understand your marital property division rights under Washington state family law.