Hidden assets how do I find them?
It is not unusual for one spouse to be in charge of the family’s finances or business and the other spouse to be uninvolved. Unfortunately, this arrangement may allow an unscrupulous spouse to hide assets or income during a divorce, and if your spouse has hidden assets they may be able to avoid forfeiting certain cash or property during the divorce, leading to the inequitable distribution of marital assets.
Evaluating the costs of finding hidden assets
The process of finding hidden assets can be quite difficult and costly. Before proceeding with an investigation it’s important to carefully consider whether the costs are worth the benefits.
Certain investigative techniques may be available through common legal means such as interrogatories, subpoenas, depositions, and motions to compel information. Finding other assets which have been transferred to other persons or entities to conceal their whereabouts, however, may be more difficult and more costly.
Bottom line: If your spouse has actively hidden assets it may difficult to locate them, despite all of your best efforts.
Most common hidden assets
Assets can be hidden in a variety of ways. One spouse may convert cash into property such as jewelry, antiques, cars, or art. Cash may as also be used to purchase mutual funds, stocks, municipal bonds, and insurance policies. These assets can easily be transferred to friends, lovers or family members. They also can be stored in the safety deposit boxes of other friends or family members.
In some cases, one spouse may hide assets by colluding with an employer or a family friend, or they may involve others unwillingly (i.e. by establishing accounts under a child’s social security number). Spouses who own their own companies may also be able to conceal assets within the business by paying the salary for employees who do not exist or skimming cash from the business.
Finding hidden assets
If you have decided to hire an investigator to locate hidden assets you must ensure they have all the information they need to do their job. This can include the full legal name of your spouse, known aliases, recent addresses, and Social Security number. The investigator will also need similar information about all of his family members and information about your spouse’s personal activities, traveling history, purchasing history, tax returns, and business ownership.
Investigators should review previous income tax returns, sources of income, stock sales, income sources, W2 details, interest and dividends, interest from tax free bonds, taxable refunds, retirement plan distributions, savings accounts, money market funds, checking account statements, cancelled checks, credit card receipts, credit reports, insurance policies, ATM withdrawals, off shore accounts, public records, quit claim deeds, loan applications, and net worth statements from the banks.
If your spouse is attempting to obscure or conceal assets it’s time to get professional help. It is impossible for the court or attorneys to complete an equitable division of marital assets if one spouse has used illegal or fraudulent means to hide assets. The good news is there are individuals with the right skills to find unreported income and hidden assets, and they can help ensure that the final property settlement for your divorce is fair.