Mr. Hayes and Ms. Thomas typically focus their practice on matters involving large estates or complex financial issues. Clients benefit from their collective experience and knowledge, as well as their commitment to providing sound legal counsel for every client—no matter the size of the estate or complexity of the issues.
Cases involving large estates or complex financial issues will almost certainly involve the use of one or more financial experts for business valuations or forensic accounting. Mr. Hayes and Ms. Thomas have a wealth of experience utilizing such experts, analyzing their reports, and/or cross examining opposing financial experts.
Cases involving large estates or complex financial issues often generate unique arguments, such as, “Should the producer of extraordinary wealth receive the majority of the marital estate?” or “Should the income stream of a business be used to both value the business and calculate an alimony award to the non-owner spouse, also referred to as ‘double-dipping’?”
Some of the more common issues for which a financial expert(s) may be used include the following.
As a general rule, the larger the marital estate, the greater the variety of assets and investments that will comprise the estate, and the corresponding greater ability to “hide” or at least “camouflage” assets and investments within the estate. Such schemes include the use of general partnerships, limited partnerships, shell corporations, limited liability companies, offshore accounts, “off the books” investments, asset-protection trusts, questionable “estate planning,” and even outright fraud. The use of a forensic accountant can prove essential in uncovering these types of hidden investments.
One of the most complex and contentious issues in a divorce involves the valuation of a privately-held business interest. Unlike the stock of public companies, these interests in private companies are not publicly traded and therefore there is no simple method for placing a value on the interest. It is a common mistake among the inexperienced lawyer to simply rely on a company’s “Book Value”, the value carried on internal financial statements, tax returns or simply the value of the underlying assets owned by the company, even if valued by a certified appraiser. In general, these business interests should be valued by considering three separate approaches: an income approach, a market approach, and an asset approach. It is also appropriate in most circumstances to consider the use of discounts, such as minority and marketability discounts, which can have a tremendous impact on the overall value of a business and thus greatly impact the amount of money that must be transferred to the other spouse if one party intends to retain the business.
In addition, it is fairly common for business owners to commingle their personal assets with business funds, especially when a business is starting out or struggling financially. In fact, businesses are often highly leveraged with debt, and sometimes the debt is owed to the business owner himself, which can make it more difficult to determine the true value of these business interests. A privately held business is also fertile ground for a divorcing spouse to hide assets from their soon-to-be ex-spouse. It is not too complicated to “cook the books” to provide financial benefit to a business owner in ways that are not easily detected by examining normal accounting documents.
The members of Hayes Thomas PLC have analyzed and litigated the value of an endless number of privately-held businesses in the context of divorce, including the following: