Nearly every divorce involves the divvying up of assets between soon-to-be
ex-spouses. Whether the final distribution is accomplished by agreement
of the parties, or ordered by a judge after a trial, the objective is
a fair distribution of marital assets.
An accurate understanding of the extent and the value of your marital property
is essential to achieving a truly fair division of assets between you
and your spouse.
Divvying Up Assets
The values of liquid assets - such as checking, savings, or money market
accounts - are obvious. You need only check the most recent statement
for the account to determine the current value. However, liquid assets
are usually just one part of a marital estate. Many couples will have
a variety of other assets and property interests to divide, and the value of those assets may not
be as easy to identify.
Common examples of assets that should be valued by a professional prior
to your divorce include the following:
Real Estate Assets
Divorcing homeowners should most certainly hire a qualified residential
real estate appraiser to value their home. The appraisal will provide
the spouses with a reasonable estimate of the home's current market
value, as well any costs that would be incurred to improve the home and
maximize its marketability. This information is relevant whether the parties plan to
sell or retain the home.
Any other real estate holdings that you may have will also require valuation.
Keep in mind that certain unique types of property will require a uniquely
qualified appraiser. Commercial or rental properties, farmland, and/or
undeveloped parcels, should all be appraised by an appraiser with experience
in valuing the specific type of property (and preferably the specific
type of property in the specific area where it is located).
Defined Benefit Plans Assets
Traditional pension plans (also called "Defined Benefit" plans)
guarantee an employee a certain monthly payment after retirement based
on a number of factors such as the employee's salary, years of service,
and age at retirement.
If the pension payments are not going to be equally divided between the
spouses when they become available to the employee, a present day value,
or a projection of the future value, must be obtained. Usually, this will
require the assistance of an actuary or forensic accountant.
Sole proprietorships, closely held businesses, and professional practices
all present unique valuation challenges in the context of a divorce. Whether
the spouses own a business together, or individually, it is important
that the business be appraised. Some businesses may not have significant
value aside from the income they generate for the owner.
The specific method by which a business should be valued is highly dependent
on the nature of the business. The appraiser that you consult should have
specialized experience in valuing the business at issue in your case.
Personal property is sometimes overlooked in valuing the community estate,
but this can be a big mistake. Artwork, jewelry, antique or vintage furniture,
coin and stamp collections, even clothing, can all have significant market
value. That's right; the obscure record or Star Wars memorabilia collection
that your spouse has been curating for the last ten years may in fact
be very valuable.
All of the above considerations can seem overwhelming, especially if you
are just starting the process of a divorce. An experienced family attorney
can not only help you identify your various property interests, he or
she can also put you in contact with the right professional for asset
For more information, contact a
divorce attorney at McKinley Irvin, or read more about Understanding the Division of Property
in a Divorce.