Valuing Marital Assets
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that divorcing couples must divide all of their marital assets equitably upon the dissolution of their marriage. Ensuring that assets are properly categorized and appraised is crucial when it comes to making sure that divorce-related property settlement agreements are fair and equitable, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and have questions about how your marital property will be divided, please contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale property division attorney who can advise you on your next steps.
Identifying and classifying assets is critical to the property division process, as Florida’s equitable division law only applies to marital assets, or assets that were acquired by either spouse during their marriage (with the exception of inheritances and gifts). Any other property that was brought into the marriage, on the other hand, qualifies as separate property and so will remain in the hands of the original owner. The only exception to this rule is when separate property has been commingled with marital assets to such a degree that it has essentially become marital in nature. In these cases, the separate property will need to be equitably divided with the rest of a couple’s marital assets.
Ensuring that all marital assets are properly valued is critical to ensuring that property settlement agreements are fair and equitable. In most cases, the value of marital assets is determined based on fair market value, or the price that a buyer would be willing to pay on the open market in exchange for an asset. It is also important to subtract any outstanding debt amounts from this total, which would give the parties an estimate of the net value of the marital property in question. In some cases, courts even assign negative values to assets if they are worth less than the outstanding debt. New vehicles often fall into this category.
Courts can only assess value if divorcing couples provide evidence of that value through appraisals, receipts, invoices, and expert testimony. However, having an asset appraised by an expert is one of the best ways to gain an accurate understanding of an asset’s worth. Usually these individuals are well-versed in a specific type of asset, such as jewelry, antiques, or real estate, so it is not uncommon for divorcing couples to require the assistance of multiple appraisers. Other assets that may need to be valued by professionals include:
- Ownership interests in businesses;
- Stock options and investment accounts;
- Retirement accounts;
- Artwork and other collectibles;
- Life insurance policies; and
- The family home and any vacation properties.
Fortunately, the value of some of these assets can be obtained by the parties themselves. For instance, the value of a vehicle can easily be determined through the use of Kelley Blue Book, while the value of whole life insurance policies is instead based on the cash-surrender-value of the policy, which the holder can easily obtain. Similarly, the value of publicly traded shares can be determined by using the stock market index on any given day, unless the shares are part of a larger investment portfolio, in which case, a Certified Public Accountant will probably need to assist in obtaining an accurate appraisal.
Contact an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Property Division Attorney
To ensure that your own marital property is properly appraised and divided, please call dedicated Florida property division lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 or send us an online message today.