Massive Estate? Here’s How to Handle a High Asset Divorce

A divorce is an emotionally taxing experience, regardless of the size of the estate. However, high asset divorce settlements can be an especially complex process, involving more financial assets and complications that require experienced legal support. 

With a massive estate, there is so much more at stake. It’s not uncommon for these more significant estate divorce settlements to be a messy affair. However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. A dedicated family law attorney with experience in high asset divorce settlements can help mitigate issues and alleviate some stress. A trusted attorney can protect your interests and secure your future, keeping your informed about your rights and advocating for you every step of the way. 

Get Your Finances in Order 

One of the most complex areas of a high asset divorce is the financial web that needs to be sorted out. Locating all of the essential financial documents before the divorce begins can give you a head start. These documents need to be protected because they can provide substantial proof of what is considered marital vs. non-marital property. 

Once a divorce is underway, the emotional toll can be difficult to navigate. Also, belongings get shifted around, and documents may be accidentally (or in some cases, purposely) divided, which means crucial financial documents may be hard to find. Getting your finances in order before the divorce process begins can be a huge lifesaver. 

Also, having all of your finances and financial documentation in one secure location can paint a picture of what type of financial situation you may be dealing with. High asset divorce settlements deal with a lot of assets, and some may be forgotten until it’s too late. If you don’t want any surprises popping up during the property division stages, it’s smart to locate and secure these financial documents early. 

What to Expect During a High Asset Divorce 

One of the best tools at a spouse’s disposal during a high asset divorce is information. Knowledge about what to expect and which factors may affect one’s future is essential in any divorce but is especially important during a high asset divorce with a large estate. 

Some key elements of a high asset divorce include division of marital property and spousal maintenance (also known as alimony). If there are children involved, there will certainly be child custody, visitation, and child support considerations that will need to be managed with care and attention. 

A Deeper Look at Finances 

Assets have various statuses during a divorce, and understanding which falls under a specific category is important when handling a high asset divorce. Marital assets (also known as community assets) are those that have been earned, acquired, or obtained during the marriage and are subject to division. Prenuptial agreements may change these stipulations up slightly, but typically, these marital assets are divided according to equitable distribution. 

Equitable distribution means that the courts look at a wide variety of factors that contribute to the state of the marriage and then divide marital property equally between the spouses. 

Separate assets, or those that are considered non-marital, will not be split between the spouses upon a divorce. These assets can include:

  • Property owned before the marriage 
  • Inheritance 
  • Gifts 
  • Property that has been purchased under a single spouse’s name, purchased to keep separate, or separated in writing

There are are a lot of assets that fall into a grey area, especially in massive estate situations. Non-marital assets end up combined with marital ones, and the complexities only seem to get larger and larger. An experienced divorce attorney can help trace non-marital assets that may have been commingled marital assets, which is another reason why locating documentation early on is so important. 

Out of state or international assets are also fairly common during high asset divorce. Foreign assets or those that are located out-of-state will need experts brought in to deal with. Sound legal counsel and early intervention with these assets are crucial. 

Likelihood of a Contested Divorce 

Depending on the state of the marriage, cause of the eventual divorce, and the relationship between the two spouses — the probability of a contested divorce is much higher with larger estates. 

This is primarily because spouses are in a much better financial position to spend the money to contest. Also, the money spent contesting certain assets may pale in comparison to the reward of winning a certain set of assets. So, if the asset rewards are higher than the price of the divorce, you can expect to see a contested divorce. 

Valuation appraisers will likely be brought in to determine the value of the assets being split up, especially in larger estates where expensive assets are everywhere. Each spouse will have their own independent valuation expert that will determine an asset’s worth, along with helping identify assets that may be overlooked or forgotten. 

During a contested divorce, the most costly asset is time. These proceedings can be drawn out for an unnecessary length of time, especially when financial paperwork isn’t located early on — or is hidden from the other spouse. Not only does this cost both parties more than they need to spend during the divorce, but it can also have consequences in court. 

Spousal Maintenance 

It’s not unlikely that spousal maintenance may be part of the equation during a high asset divorce. However, it can be far more complicated than a smaller estate. Uncovering the financial complexities of a massive estate can breed contention amongst the parties and also be difficult to do. 

As we mentioned, parties may hide financial documentation from their spouses before or during a divorce. They may also hide bank accounts, assets, or even property from their significant other. During a divorce, these assets may be uncovered and may drastically impact spousal maintenance proceedings. 

Find an Attorney You Can Trust 

High asset divorces are a difficult endeavor and require veteran divorce attorneys that can advocate for and support your interests. The messy nature of high asset divorce cases means that you need an attorney that you can trust and who understands the financial complexities of a massive estate divorce. 

Do your research and make sure that your attorney has a longstanding history of success in family law cases, especially with complicated estate divorce settlements.