The compiling and subsequent distribution of property can become one of the most time consuming and contentious issues of a divorce proceeding. This can be further exasperated by property held overseas. Marital property that is held outside of the United States can become complicated due to the fact that such property is subject to the laws of the country it sits in. Therefore, it might be subject to foreign taxes, be valued in a different manner, or be easier to hide. It is important to note the property that is held overseas and bring this to the attention of your divorce attorney. They will use their expertise and knowledge to ensure this property is properly valued and distributed during the divorce process.
The most common form of foreign property sits in offshore accounts. These accounts can be held in both legal and unsavory purposes. These accounts are common for spouses, as they are easy to open and do provide certain monetary and personal benefits. Therefore, it is important to properly value such assets and distinguish as marital or separate property. If deemed as marital property, it will be subject to distribution between the parties, while separate property will be awarded to the sole owning spouse. Qualifying such assets is crucial and complicated. With the help of a knowledgeable attorney, can prove the account is personal or marital property.
Marital property may include, if you or your spouse has been putting funds acquired during the time of your marriage into this account it will likely be considered marital property subject to equitable distribution. In contrast, if the account was opened prior to the marriage by a spouse, with no subsequent attachment of the other spouse’s name, the funds may be separate. However, if the account has appreciated in value during the marriage that appreciation will be subject to distribution. Some spouses open these accounts with money received from a beneficiary designation and have since kept all marital funds separate from this account. This would be classified as separate funds. However, there are many different reasons for these offshore accounts that may help distinguish them as marital or separate property. Discuss with your attorney the category such an account may fall into in your case. There are many cases where separate property has turned marital due to a comingling of funds or appreciation in value after the date of marriage.
With these accounts, it is important to gather as much information as possible regarding the opening date and balance, as well as any subsequent deposits made and appreciation in value associated with the account. However, with offshore accounts there may be foreign laws that will need to be adhered to. If your spouse opened this account without you, obtaining this information may be difficult, especially if there are no governing laws or relations between the United States and the country where the account is located. In many cases, it may be necessary to hire a forensic accountant to scan your spouse’s financial records in order to determine the value of such accounts. Although an extra expense, it could pay off, as many of these accounts hold large amounts and a forensic accountant is professionally trained to find such assets and discrepancies in financial documents.
If you are considering a divorce in Florida and have an offshore account that you believe should be considered personal property, or if your spouse has an account that you believe should qualify as marital assets- contact an experienced attorney who can help you to obtain the necessary documentation to prove your case. Your lawyer can evaluate your accounts to ensure that they are following the necessary laws to protect your assets.
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