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Chandra E. Miller

A Northern California Family Law Firm

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Forensic accountants may uncover hidden marital assets

| Oct 1, 2015 | High Asset Divorce

California couples with many assets who are divorcing may need to hire forensic accountants. Although a forensic accountant might be necessary if a spouse is attempting to conceal assets, they can also be useful when this is not the case. Wealthy couples tend to have complex estates in which valuation should be done by professionals.

Some complications include determining the value of life insurance and retirement plans as well as that of trusts and partnerships in other jurisdictions. The job becomes even more complex if one spouse is making an effort to hide marital assets. Shell corporations, income that is off the books, creating fake debt and payroll padding are all techniques forensic accountants look for in trying to determine whether one spouse has concealed assets.

Assets may also be held in the form of business ownership, collectible items and stock. It may be necessary to look at documents like tax returns and investment portfolios in order to determine the true value of many assets. A forensic accountant may be one of a number of professionals that divorcing individuals hire in addition to a lawyer to ensure that the divorce proceeds smoothly and fairly.

Once the assets have been clearly identified, couples can work with their respective attorneys to divide them. California is a community property state, but that does not mean that all these assets will be split in half. Other considerations come into play in determining what counts as marital assets including prenuptial agreements or whether the asset was inherited and then commingled with the family income or kept separate. Couples may opt for a mediated divorce and make exchanges of roughly equal value, but if they cannot agree, it may be necessary to go to litigation and have a judge decide how the assets will be distributed.