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Uncovering Hidden Assets - Pulitzer Family Law
Uncovering Hidden Assets
PFL Blog

Uncovering Hidden Assets

If you are going through a divorce or contemplating it, you may be concerned about your spouse being forthcoming about their assets. It is vital to have a complete financial picture to ensure that you reach a fair and equitable settlement. You may feel conflicted about digging into your spouse’s finances, but the truth is that all money and property acquired during your marriage is shared property; it belongs to you as much as it belongs to your spouse. In short, if your spouse is hiding assets, they are stealing from you. A thorough investigation into marital finances is a matter of standard practice and due diligence, even in cases where trust is not at issue.

Warning Signs

When it comes to hiding assets (read this great article in Forbes), prevention is far more effective than recovery. If you suspect your spouse may be hiding or disposing of assets, now is the time to act by contacting an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. Some warning signs include:

  • Valuables have gone missing.
  • You have stopped receiving statements from any joint accounts; your name may have been removed.
  • Your spouse has given valuables or money to friends or family or has sold it at suspiciously below-market value.
  • You find large quantities of cash, which may mean they are clearing out accounts or under-reporting income.
  • Your spouse claims to have a large debt or unclear expense that they need to pay.
  • You notice large, frequent, or abnormal withdrawals from joint accounts.

Even if these warning signs do not apply to your situation, if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, it is important to pay attention to your instincts. Checking for hidden assets is a part of most high-asset divorce proceedings, so you are just getting a head start. There is no harm in contacting a divorce attorney for a consult.

Prenuptial Agreements

 People often assume that a prenuptial agreement covers assets received before the marriage and presume the contract extends into the future.  There are two cautions:  the first is to be sure your attorney examines all documents before signing to prevent the possibility of an invalid prenuptial. In the event you need to divorce, it is again essential to review the validity and applicability of your prenuptial agreement with your attorney to evaluate your current situation and the assets gained during your marriage.

Uncovering Assets

Attempting to uncover hidden assets on your own can be incredibly frustrating and unproductive. Not knowing where or how to start your search means unfruitful results.  An attorney trained to track down hidden assets is essential to guide you through the entire process. Difficult to track assets may require the utilization of a forensic accountant to analyze your finances thoroughly and provide a complete and unbiased overview. Your attorney’s relationship with a credible forensic accountant will help you analyze your financial records on a much deeper level.  They will help look for irregularities that most people would miss, such as excessive depreciation, the intermingling of personal and business funds, transfers, inconsistent tax write-offs, retirement assets, and over or under-reporting of asset value.

Taking Action

While this might sound daunting, you can act right now by gathering and reviewing as many of your joint financial documents as possible. You might begin reviewing W-2s for inconsistencies. For instance, if your spouse’s income is the same, but they paid significantly more taxes this year, they may be doing it as a means of temporarily displacing money, so that they can seek a refund for the excess after the divorce. If your spouse receives an annual bonus that they claim not to have been given this year, that may also be an indicator that they are hiding assets. It is wise to inventory all valuables and assets to ensure that nothing goes missing. This information will also be necessary during the divorce proceedings.

Next Steps

Please schedule a consultation with me today if you suspect your spouse may be concealing assets or is using a prenuptial agreement to wield influence over the impending divorce. My experience representing clients with large value assets, along with my professional contacts, will guide you in taking crucial steps to defend what is yours.

Gary Pulitzer