Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, which means that assets acquired by the spouses during marriage are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. For many divorcing couples, this distribution is a straightforward and predictable process. But high-asset divorce means higher stakes across the board, involving lucrative property, business interests and financial portfolios. Getting capable legal representation early on can make all the difference in devising a workable distribution plan. At Grant & Sain, PLLC in Jackson, Tennessee, we are adept at taking all necessary steps to ensure that our high net worth clients’ interests are protected.
One of the most important phases of equitable distribution is asset discovery. While some assets are easily found and quantified, such as the family home, motor vehicles and joint bank accounts, others can be harder to pin down, such as retirement plans, stock options, club memberships, business investments, real estate interests and other income sources. Discovery becomes even more difficult if parties attempt to hide assets, such as in offshore accounts. A skilled divorce advocate will use all resources available to track down property that may be subject to equitable distribution.
Once all assets are discovered, an equally important task is assigning them values. A spouse’s business interests can be especially challenging in this regard, since a proper business valuation must account for the brand, goodwill and history of investment, among other factors. Retirement accounts, company stock options and other compensation plans must be assessed both as to their present and projected values. Luxury items, including cars, boats, art collections and jewelry, must be accurately appraised.
Asset discovery and valuation in high net worth cases also impact spousal support obligations. Support can be a massive, life-long responsibility for the higher-earning spouse, and in a high net worth case, the support obligation is likely to be substantial. Courts will account for the lesser-earning spouse’s sacrifices to further the other spouse’s career, time spent to keep home and raise children, other contributions to the higher earner’s career and inability to earn an income that will keep him or her in the lifestyle to which the parties have become accustomed. Generally, property settlement agreements in high net worth cases will provide for continuing support of the lesser-earning spouse, either in a lump sum or in periodic payments. The decisions made on how to pay out these funds depend in part on tax consequences. Notably, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that took effect in 2019 cancelled the tax deduction for spousal support payments. However, the TCJA does not apply to payments made under a property settlement agreement, which remain deductible.
Our family law attorneys are keenly aware of the tax implications structuring property settlements, especially in high-asset cases. Whichever spouse we represent, we strive to craft agreements that are favorable to our client.
Grant & Sain, PLLC is ready for the detective work that is essential to equitable distribution in high-asset divorce cases. We leave no stone unturned in the search for assets and we use valuation experts to get fair and accurate gauges of each asset’s worth. We also creatively structure property settlement arrangements that everyone can live with. When necessary, we’re ready to aggressively fight for your interests in court. To schedule a consultation at our Jackson office, call 731-256-7477 or contact us online.