When Significant Assets are Involved, It’s Best to Consult with a Seattle High Asset Divorce Lawyer
There are a number of issues that are particularly important when a couple has significant assets. Your Seattle high asset divorce lawyer will work with you in more depth, but here is an overview.
Valuation of Assets in a Washington Divorce
When there are significant assets, such as when a couple divorces later in life, it is especially important that they be valued correctly. Houses, art work, businesses, and stock options can be some of the trickier valuation issues. Typically for these kinds of assets, it is a good idea to hire a professional appraiser.
Whatever the asset, one consideration is whether to hire your own expert, or for both of you to hire a joint expert. I tend to favor joint experts, as long as both sides can agree on someone they both trust. Usually Seattle divorce attorneys will know many of the same experts and can come up with some joint recommendations. The problem with having separate experts is that that builds in an additional conflict to work through, as inevitably the two experts will come up with somewhat different estimates, which just makes it that much harder to come to agreement. Make sure and discuss the best approach to take with your Seattle family lawyer.
Valuation of the Home
Houses are hard to value because usually every home is different. Even a very similar home in a different neighborhood may be worth much more or much less. Ultimately a house is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, and what that amount is, is always at best an educated guess. With houses, an alternative to hiring an appraiser is to have a real estate agent do a market analysis. However, a real estate agent may have some tendency to value the property higher as in their work they normally start at the top value and reduce the price over time.
Valuation of Art
Art value is even more subjective, but if there are high value pieces, finding the right expert is especially important. Hopefully this would be someone who is familiar with the market for that particular artist’s work. If there are a number of pieces from different artists, it may be more complicated and could even mean needing to consult with more than one expert.
Business Valuation in a Divorce
Business valuation is typically done by a business appraiser. This may be someone who works with buying and selling businesses, but more typically we like to use an expert who works in the more specialized area of valuing businesses in divorce. There are several different approaches to business valuation that can be taken, and the expert should be familiar with all of them and be able to discuss why a particular approach is most suitable for a specific business. With some types of businesses it may be appropriate to look at what it might sell for, but other types of businesses (say a medical practice) may not be very salable and are better valued based on the income they will continue to provide to the current owners. For professional practices, we may also need to look at whether owning the business provides more than income that doing the same job for a different employer would.
Valuing Stock Options
With stock options it is less a question of the value itself and more how much of that value is community property and how much is separate. One factor is whether the stock was granted as a reward for past service or as an incentive for future services. To the extent that it is a reward for past service, then it is more likely to be community property. However, to the extent it is an incentive for future services, we often have to look at the percentage of the time of the grant which is before separation vs the percentage that is after separation.
How a Seattle High Asset Divorce Lawyer Can Help with Appropriate and Fair Distribution of Assets
Often it is not enough to divide assets fairly (which might or might not be equally). It is also important to look at which assets are most appropriate for each person. Your Seattle family lawyer can help you look at what is going to be most important for your future.
For instance, a collector car is probably much better staying with the car collector who will get the most enjoyment out of it and know how to properly maintain it. The large house might be better with a parent who is going to be caring for the children more of the time. A business will generally stay with the person who has been managing the business.
If there is a large asset that for one reason or another is better kept by one party rather than liquidated, then we look for ways to balance that out another way. The options may include awarding another large asset to the other party, having the first party take on more of the community debt, or working out a plan for a buy out over time.
Assets vs. Cash Flow
Settling a high asset divorce is not just about dividing the assets. It is also about making sure that both parties will have good cash flow going forward. Taking on a large expensive house would not make sense if you were not going to have the funds to pay the mortgage and meet other normal expenses. To have a comfortable future, assets and cash flow need to be balanced to meet your needs. Choosing assets that are liquid or provide payouts over time (like investments or retirement plans) can provide some of this cash flow.
Alimony also plays a part in the cash flow picture. And you should be aware of the relationship between alimony and property division. A party might take a larger amount of alimony rather than more property, or a party might choose to take more property and less alimony. Again, this depends on what is more likely to meet their individual needs. Your Seattle high asset divorce attorney can help you connect with a divorce financial planner to assist with this planning.
Your Seattle High Asset Divorce Lawyer Will Help with Planning for Your Children
Many couples want to set aside some funds for their children in their divorce. This may be to pay for college, or to help them get started in adult life (like funds to help purchase a first home, just as early inheritance. These funds may be placed into an outside trust of some kind, or could be held by one parent in trust for the children, or even held in an account that continues to be managed by both parents. However, before agreeing to long term joint management, you need to be sure you are confident the two of you can continue to cooperate in that way or have a solid dispute resolution plan.
Can I Go Through the Collaborative Divorce Process if High Assets are Involved?
As a Seattle high asset divorce lawyer, I have found that many couples prefer not to get into a contentious litigated divorce. This may be because they are sophisticated enough to recognize how unproductive fighting can be, or it may be because they have been together a long time and respect each other. It may also be due to recognizing that their complex asset portfolio needs to be treated with care to preserve the most value for the future of both, and it may be that they have learned a great deal about cooperative dispute resolution in their business and professional lives.
At Seattle Divorce Services, our Seattle family lawyers have certainly found that Collaborative Divorce process can work well for high asset couples. They benefit from jointly consulting with experts, get the coaching they need to move through the process, and are able to engage in creative problem solving. This gives them the freedom to design outcomes much better suited to their individual needs and circumstances that any court could come up with. Additionally, it helps to preserve the relationships they still have as they move forward in their new lives.
Call Today to Schedule an Appointment with a Seattle High Asset Divorce Lawyer
When significant assets are involved, it is important that you work closely with an experienced attorney. To discuss your specific situation with a Seattle high asset divorce lawyer, you can schedule an appointment by calling 206-784-3049 today, or use the form on our website.