San Diego Complex Property Division Lawyers
Complex Property Division in California
Surprisingly few people know how much they are worth. With real estate values, pensions of various kinds, maybe a vacation cottage, a car or three, a few investments, some odds and ends—it doesn’t take much to get to a final total of several millions. This is especially true in California, home to many wealthy individuals and families. The Boyd Law San Diego complex property division lawyers have extensive successful experience handling complex property division cases across California. Then comes the divorce, and most couples pretty quickly start thinking about property. The initial pleasant surprise at how much property they own quickly gives way to the feeling that there’s not nearly enough to split between two people. And given the lifestyle to which they’ve grown accustomed, they may well be right. But fights over that property only make matters worse: the legal bills add up, the cost of appraisers adds up, uncertainty begins to take its toll as time stretches out. And when the property is of the kind that makes for the classic “complex property division,” the divorce proceeding can quickly come to resemble a nightmare.
What Makes the Division Complex?
A complex division of property is on in which the assets are inherently difficult to value and to divide and asset protection is more difficult. Examples of complex property:
- Intellectual property rights
- Interests in family-owned businesses, especially uncommon ones like farms, ranches, resorts, and similar enterprises
- Royalties, especially related to oil, gas, and similar resources
- Pension rights
- Unexercised options
Pensions and QDROs
Both spouses may have one or more pensions and retirement accounts. Information needed to value or assess the plan includes basic information available from the administrator of the pension or the institution holding the fund. Information relevant to the property division includes vesting terms, the amount and source of contributions to the funds, the current value, and the earliest date when payments may commence. For pensions, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will need to be part of the divorce settlement agreement. That document specifies what portion of the pension belongs to each spouse. This will require the services of an attorney assisted by appropriate financial experts.
Valuation is Key
The value assigned to each marital asset is key to a complex property division. It is also, unfortunately, tricky and potentially expensive. Valuation is always subjective, and many types of property have to be valued by experts, including most of the complicated assets listed above. It doesn’t take long for that to add up. And to add up even higher if there is a dispute between the spouses about the accuracy of the value. In friendly divorce cases, the valuation expense can be minimized by having the spouses agree on a single appraiser for each item of property. In unfriendly divorces, the spouses often want their own separate appraisers. That doubles the cost and doubles the likelihood that there will be a dispute about which appraisal is more accurate.
Many assets fluctuate in value over time, and it can be quite a long time between when the spouses decide on a divorce and the issuance of the final decree. So what date should be used for assigning a value to each asset? It’s not an easy question and the court will likely get involved in the determination. In picking a date, a major consideration is how much influence a spouse has over the value. For property that a spouse can cause to fluctuate—a solely-owned business, for example—it’s best to value the asset as of the date the spouses became aware that they were no longer going to be a team. For assets not subject to manipulation, it’s best to get a valuation as close as possible to the final decree. A forensic accountant will usually be called upon by your San Diego divorce attorney to perform an asset valuation.
It takes experience to draft a good QDRO; it takes an attorney who has the necessary access to appraisal and valuation professionals of all types. If you are headed for divorce and have the kind of marital property that will make things complicated, call our team of family lawyers at San Diego’s Boyd Law Firm. Many of our new clients were recommended by our old clients because we were able to successfully see them successfully through the trauma of these difficult cases. The initial meeting with one of our experienced attorneys is always free. Contact us today for your appointment to learn what Boyd Law can do to guide you through a complex and difficult divorce process.