Balance Sheet Items
The five basic sources you'll need to establish for your balance sheet are as follows:
• Marital estate disclosures. These are the various value standards that will be utilized for your divorce filing. In other words, it's a list of all the property.
• Loan applications. Any lending entity that you are doing business with on a loan will want you to apply the "fair market value" to that loan as it pertains to the estate.
• Personal financial statements. Your divorce attorney will utilize a "fair market value" for any representation of your personal financial statements.
• Business financial statements. With regard to your business financial statements, your divorce lawyer will apply the “book value” of an item.
• Business tax returns. "Book value" is additionally applied as a standard with tax returns on a marital estate balance sheet.
Dividing the Marital Estate
Ensuring that the marital estate is divided fairly is a critical part of a divorce, and balance sheets are necessary in this process. A careful review of a couple’s balance sheet is vital to the valuation of the marital estate. The balance sheet is one of the documents that many jurisdictions require as part of disclosure. This compilation, which reflects all of the couple’s assets, debts and so on, can reveal the existence of hidden assets that should be included.
Financial disclosures, whether preliminary or final, are usually presented in the format normally associated with a balance sheet. Assets are shown in one column with the liabilities in another. There are, however, some places in which a paragraph layout or other written format is preferred. Net worth is calculated by subtracting the liabilities from the assets. This yields the amount to be split between the two parties.
The First Step
Your attorney begins disclosure of the marital estate with a comparison of each spouse’s balance sheet to the other’s. Discrepancies between the totals can show that there are assets or liabilities not previously listed. The balance sheets will also be compared to such other accounts as may exist and any discrepancies noted and dealt with.
Understanding Financial Statements
Even if you run your own business, you'll still need the help preparing your marital estate balance sheets. When it comes to personal financial statements, your might have already used these to secure a loan from a bank. Your attorney will know how to use this information to the best defense for your divorce filings.
Valuation issues are addressed once any discrepancies in the couple’s balance sheets have been resolved. Standards of value in marital estate disclosures may vary widely from one account to another and each asset must be evaluated according to fair market value.
Your attorney may recommend that an expert be called in to appraise the value of such assets as business and/or residential properties and such big-ticket items as antiques, jewels, firearms, collections of coins, stamps or art, and the like. The value of vehicles such as trucks, cars or motorcycles can be established by referring to resource sites on the Internet. If customized vehicles are involved, an expert appraisal may be appropriate.
Ordinary items normally found in a household rarely hold value of sufficient significance to warrant evaluation by an appraiser.
Purpose of Fair Market Value Adjustment
There is a definite purpose in establishing fair market value. By making this adjustment, funds or assets previously undiscovered can be brought forward and included in the estate. While one spouse might show the worth of his/her company at $350,000 as it is listed in the books, an appraiser may factor in the company’s earnings and value the business at a higher figure. Disclosure thus reveals the company’s book value, but the fair market value established by the appraiser may be the standard used by the court.