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How do you know if your spouse is hiding business assets?

It is a sad fact that most people are not completely honest during their divorces. If you believe that your spouse might be hiding assets, common wisdom suggests that it might not all be in your head.

It is difficult enough to discover personal assets during divorce. If your spouse runs a business — especially if you do not have input into the financial side of it — you might have your work cut out for you determining its fair valuation.

The problem with business value

Businesses are among the easiest places to hide assets because of the complexity and supposed transparency of professional accounting practices. As explained in Forbes, it is certainly not impossible to misrepresent business value. One way to start looking is by examining assets of the business, such as:

  • Real estate holdings, especially older ones
  • Off-sheet investments
  • Ownership of other businesses, intellectual property and so on

The valuation of these assets could be difficult for you to pin down just by looking at company documents. You might have to do extensive research, in some cases, to correlate line items to their current market value — or to notice holdings in the first place.

The value of investigation

Finding hidden assets is not usually a pleasant surprise, but it does give you a better picture of what you truly deserve during divorce. This is why, like many other high-net-worth individuals, you might find that a professional investigation by an accountant, tax lawyer or even a multi-disciplinary team could be worth the investment.

If they are correct, suspicions about hidden assets could have persisted throughout your marriage. If you have the first mover’s advantage — that is, if you are considering divorce and your spouse does not know — it could be in your best interest to look into this matter privately before you discuss it openly. The best way forward depends on your unique situation, however — naive investigations could make things more difficult down the road.