Massachusetts Legal Blog
Hidden Assets in High Net Worth Divorces
Divorces involving couples with significant net worth may be more complex, with diverse assets which may include investment accounts, properties, and business interests. Some spouses may attempt to move or conceal assets, which is why comprehensive strategies to identify, locate, and appraise them are necessary.
Process of Discovery
The discovery process involves each spouse creating a listing or inventory to be exchanged which fully discloses all assets that will be subject to equitable division. Some of the financial materials that will be disclosed include:
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Pay stubs
- Pensions, IRAs, and stocks
- Loan or mortgage applications if applicable
- Business income or assets
- Real estate holdings
- Debts such as loans or credit cards
- High-value collections (art, jewelry, etc.)
When there is suspicion that other assets exist it is necessary to further investigate. Employing technology-based searches and third-party investigators can reveal other assets, such as off-shore accounts. Witnesses may be subpoenaed and questioned under oath.
Common Ways Assets Are Concealed
Spouses may attempt various methods of hiding cash and assets, including:
- Opening accounts at undisclosed banks, or storing cash in safe deposit boxes.
- Conspiring with family and friends to transfer funds for fictitious personal or business services or expenses.
- Large IRS overpayments, which will be refunded after the divorce.
- Temporarily deferring income until after the divorce.
- Paying phony employees or vendors through a business.
- Establishing custodial accounts in another’s name.
Massachusetts law allows couples planning to wed to create a written contract which identifies assets that either one may have which would remain personal assets, if the marriage were to end in divorce. Those listed would not be considered marital assets subject to equitable division. These agreements, common among individuals with substantial pre-marital assets, may further contain other lawful terms addressing property and asset division in the event of a divorce.
Social Media and Electronic Communications
With ever-increasing adoption and broad acceptance of electronic communication and social media, it is possible that such information could become part of a comprehensive plan in asset discovery investigation. Perhaps a party is able to produce past email or text message communications referring to the existence of assets? Photos posted on social media may reveal evidence of spending habits or valuable possessions.
Have you decided to terminate your marriage? You choice in legal representation can have a significant impact on the outcomes and long-term consequences of the divorce. For over a decade, our legal team at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. has successfully advocated for clients in matters of divorce. Those in the greater areas of Boston, Burlington, and Methuen are encouraged to call (978) 327-5140 for a consultation.
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