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The challenges of a high-asset divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2021 | Divorce

One of the most contentious areas of any divorce is property division. Spouses sometimes fight tooth and nail in order to get what they deem a fair share of marital assets. Having many high-value assets present can magnify these “battles.”

In a standard divorce, there will be some basic property to divide, including the family home, bank accounts, and vehicles. These things are relatively easily valued and divided according to the factors set forth in New York’s equitable distribution laws.

Complications for the rich

For more wealthy families, there are not only additional assets in terms of wealth, but they are sometimes more abstract in value and thus more difficult to apportion. Such assets might include:

  • Retirement/pension funds
  • Foreign bank accounts or real estate
  • Stock portfolios and other investments
  • Family-owned businesses or professional practices
  • High-value collectibles (including art, antiques, vintage vehicles, and movie memorabilia)
  • Domestic real estate (in particular, second homes or vacation properties)
  • Yachts or private planes

If these assets are present, an independent valuation will be necessary.

What if there’s a prenuptial agreement?

If the couples signed a prenup before marriage, then property division can be less complicated. When a premarital agreement is present, then there are usually terms related to splitting assets and debts. Judges are apt to follow the terms of a prenup unless there’s demonstrable evidence of duress, a violation of public policy, or it includes otherwise unenforceable clauses.

Determining value

When high-value, abstract assets are involved, the parties – and their attorneys – may need to work with specialists in order to properly determine their worth. There are appraisers, for example, who are experts with a particular type of property, be it art, antiques, real estate, etc. These specialists can provide a market value for the assets, allowing for a more equitable division. Forensic accountants may also be needed to sift through tax records and bank statements to locate hidden assets.