There are so many hidden asset scenarios when it comes to parties who are going through a divorce. Often times one spouse believes the other has been divorce planning, or one spouse was historically in control of the parties’ finances and the other knows little to nothing about their assets or liabilities. Cases like these lead to concerns about hidden assets. When preparing the marital balance sheet, it is imperative that appropriate documents be requested, and reviewed with a keen eye and attention to detail in order to find possible hidden assets (and debts for that matter!) which have not otherwise been disclosed.
Below are some of the most common places where hidden assets can be found:
1. Personal and Business Income Tax Returns, Estate, Gift, and Inheritance Tax Returns (at least last 3 years).
What to Look For:
Schedule A—Itemized Deductions. Property taxes and mortgage interest paid for real estate.
Schedule B—Interest and Ordinary Dividends. Bank and investment account interest and dividends, interest generated from ownership in business (reflected on a K-1 statement).
Schedule C—Profit or Loss from Business. Businesses in which one or both of the parties’ children have an interest.
Schedule D—Capital Gains and Losses. Gains and losses from the sale of stocks, bonds, and real estate.
Schedule E—Supplemental Income and Loss. Income from rental properties, royalties, partnerships, and S-corporations (which may show real property, business interests or royalties the client didn’t even know existed).
2. Paycheck Stubs.
Retirement accounts, insurance assets, HSA/flex accounts, profit sharing plans, stock plans and stock options.
3. Safes and Safety Deposit Boxes.
The parties may keep substantial amounts of cash and other assets in a safety deposit box or home safe. Be sure to obtain a copy of the safety deposit box records showing activity in and out of the box and listing of current contents.
4. Checking Account Statements and Canceled Checks.
All checking account statements, whether personal, joint, held with a third party, held in the name of another person, business, and trust, along with canceled checks. Look for transfers made into or out of the accounts from unknown accounts, deposits being made from unknown sources, checks written to unknown payees, and gift card purchases.
5. Savings and Money Market Account Statements.
Don’t forget accounts set up for a “special purpose” such as Christmas, clubs, vacations, or annual/semiannual expenses, and accounts required by banks in tandem with a mortgage or loan.
6. Children’s Accounts.
These commonly include bank accounts, UTMA accounts, 529 accounts, trust accounts, and life insurance.
7. Employment Agreements and Employee Benefit Booklets.
Look for employer-funded incentive programs, such as stock-option grants, deferred salary increases, deferred compensation, and earned but uncollected bonuses and commissions.
8. Personal and Business Financial Statements.
Often times an asset or liability listed on a personal or business financial statement has not been disclosed in the divorce proceeding.
9. Loan Applications.
Loan applications provide a plethora of information regarding assets including account type (checking, savings, money market, CD, mutual fund, stocks, stock options, bonds, retirement, cash value life insurance policies, trust accounts, real estate, etc.), account numbers, and asset values.
10. Credit Card Statements.
Look for down payments, purchases, and the like for assets (furniture, electronics, guns, jewelry, etc.), payments toward expenses related to non-disclosed real estate (utilities, real estate taxes, furniture, etc.), reward point balances, and assets obtained from redeemed points.
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Presenting credible evidence to support a client’s budget or discredit a spouse’s budgetary claims can ultimately save clients thousands of dollars or more per year.
Credible evidence includes a reliable analysis of the parties’ historical spending to show the marital standard of living. In addition, to be credible, a projected living expense budget must be reasonable based on the marital standard of living as well as current expenses. Below are some mistakes to avoid when preparing a marital standard of living budget or projected living expense budget, or when analyzing a spouse’s claimed budget:
1. Annual Or Quarterly Amounts Listed In A Monthly Budget
Examples: association dues, life insurance, AAA membership
2. Double-Counting Of Expenses
Examples: homestead, insurance, real estate taxes
3. Expenses for Others
Examples: grandchildren, parents, significant others, friends
4. Expenses for Children Who Are Now Emancipated
Examples: college expenses, travel expenses, cell phone
5. One-Time Expenses Treated As Ongoing Expenses
Examples: basement finish, boat purchase, car purchase for child
6. Failure To Include Expenses Not In Bank Or Credit Card Statements
Examples: deducted from paychecks, paid in cash
7. Failure To Use Current Expenses (Which Have Changed Over Time)
Examples: utilities, real estate taxes, gym membership
To Retain A Credible Budget Expert, Contact Essential Litigation Partners
Click here to learn more about us.
Contact us today.