Written by Jonathan Breeden
With stock options, vacation homes, multiple vehicles, and other valuable assets, high-asset divorces can be complex. However, understanding what to expect and doing due diligence beforehand could help you protect these assets and prepare for life after divorce.
When you have significant assets ranging in value, getting an accurate evaluation on each is vital to ensure a fair distribution. Further, assets acquired at the beginning of your marriage might be worth a lot more today. For example, if you owned and operated a business at the beginning of your marriage, you should have an expert assign your company a current value.
You should also hire a professional to evaluate all your stock options and other valuable assets before your divorce. This ensures that both spouses receive their fair share of marital property. Seek help from financial advisors and accountants to properly evaluate your high-value assets.
It’s common for couples in high-asset divorces to hide assets, mainly when one spouse handles most financial decisions during the marriage. The financially dependent spouse might not know all the financial assets they own. This is widespread in cases involving a high amount of digital assets.
That’s because cryptocurrencies and other digital assets can be easily hidden from the less tech-savvy spouse. Concealing assets in a divorce is against the law and will only hurt you in the long run if you’re caught. Cooperating with your spouse is the best way to reach an agreement that benefits everyone.
Establish the assets considered marital and separate property. Assets acquired or ones that appreciate during marriage are considered marital property. Assets acquired before or after the marriage are considered separate property. These items are not considered for division.
Once the marital property is identified, you should take inventory of all the assets subject to North Carolina’s equitable distribution laws. High-asset divorces involve more assets than the cash in a joint bank account.
Consider stock options, investments, digital assets, the house, your car, and more. Besides your assets, you should also keep track of the debt you owe, including credit cards, student loans, and car payments.
Cooperation is critical in any divorce, especially one involving high-value assets. Greed, bitterness, and other negative emotions can make for a highly contentious, time-consuming divorce that ultimately leaves you both worse off financially.
Mediation is an excellent option for couples looking to keep the peace during divorce and ensure the process goes smoothly. A mediator is an unbiased, specially trained third party that helps you and your spouse decide on all aspects of your divorce, including property division. With the assistance of your attorney, a successful mediation could result in a separation agreement benefiting both parties.
A high-asset divorce will most likely result in significant changes to end-of-life documents in your estate plan, such as wills, trusts, life insurance policies, and more. You might have designated high-value assets in your spouse’s name or labeled them a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. If you’re planning a divorce, you should update these documents according to your last wishes.
You might still have several open lines of credit during your divorce. Although you might trust that your spouse won’t spend irresponsibly before your divorce, you should close any joint credit accounts, just to be safe. This prevents you from accumulating debt that could be your responsibility after your divorce.
In addition to protecting your credit, you should also do your due diligence to maintain your current assets. This could include separating your joint bank accounts and opening accounts in your own name. This ensures a smoother property division process and prevents your spouse from making unauthorized withdrawals.
You need an experienced advocate looking out for your best interest during a high-asset divorce. Attorney Jonathan Breeden will help you take inventory of your assets and explain your rights throughout the divorce process. He can also assist you through mediation if you and your spouse wish to avoid a contentious court battle. Schedule your consultation today at (919) 661-4970.