Professionals, Business Owners, High-Profile Individuals and Divorce
Professionals and business owners rarely think of themselves as “high profile” to the general public, but they are high profile in their own discrete business niches and networks.
Whether you are a celebrity who is under constant scrutiny, or fall into the category of ‘Professionals, Business Owners and High Net Worth,’ individuals, you want to keep your private live and finances private. Such individuals and couples may co-own a prosperous business, or one or both spouses are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, architects, or involved in a prosperous endeavor that impacts the lives of their important employees and customers. This high net worth demographic is just as passionate to keep their personal lives and finances private from curious employees, customers, partners, investors and the hungry financial media trolling for stories.
San Diego divorce attorney Sarah T. Schaffer, CFLS, LL.M counsels and represents high-profile clients including professionals, business owners, celebrities and high net worth individuals in matters pertaining to high net worth divorce including:
• One or both parties are business owners or professionals
• Business valuation & division of business assets
• Real estate matters
• Pension and retirement valuations
• Division of pension and retirement accounts
• Division of stock options, restricted stock units, deferred compensation
• Discovering hidden assets
• Uncovering intentionally inflated liabilities
• Exploring and presenting tax consequences & tax saving options
• Prenuptial agreements
If Considering Divorce and Your Situation Includes Any of the Following:
• A self-employed business owner spouse making significant income
• Stock options or executive pay packages for professionals
• Multiple homes or real estate holdings
• A significant inheritance at some time by one or both spouses
• Assets such as art, coin / stamp collections, race cars, collectibles, memorabilia, etc.
• A prenuptial agreement
IF YES TO ANY – You should consider contacting an experienced high net worth divorce attorney.
Professionals and business owners have a lot at stake should their divorce settlement be sloppily drafted. Immediate and future tax obligations and unanticipated tax consequences of a poorly thought-out property division component of a divorce settlement agreement can pay for attorney fees from the savings of annual income tax, property tax, and capital gains tax. Poorly drafted property division decisions can significantly diminish a couple’s combined worth do to taxes thus diminishing each party’s share post-divorce.
No “Do Overs” – It is virtually impossible to get the Family Law Courts, the State of California and the IRS to provide you an opportunity for a settlement agreement “do over”! Get it right the first time…
Sarah’s LL.M. in Taxation Often Benefit Her Professional and high-net-worth Clients
Ms. Schaffer’s clients are the beneficiaries of Sarah’s LL.M. in taxation as every financial aspect that is considered is carefully weighed for its current and long-term tax consequences. In fact, the tax consequences (tax savings) can be structured to benefit the spouse with the greater income and simultaneously benefit the other spouse as well — such that both parties end up with an exceptional agreement that addresses the unique needs of each party going forward. Sadly, many divorce settlements fail to take advantage of more sophisticated solutions and opportunities.
Problems with the Division of Marital Assets
Situations often arise wherein the actual value of an asset or the amount of assets is unknown. The business owners and operators of businesses can divert money away from the business into private personal accounts, to friends, relatives or to use business funds to purchase high value items that can be liquidated later for cash. Professionals and executives often receive or have an agreement to receive future compensation, assets, or perks that are not evidenced on their past or current W-2 forms.
At Schaffer Family Law Group, APC, we work with discrete investigators including Forensic Certified Public Accountants, Forensic Analysts, Appraisers, Business Valuation Experts, and Licensed Investigators to get an accurate picture of the assets of the couple to ensure that our client receives a fair and equitable division of the marital property.
High Net Worth Divorce Solutions
Property division involving high net worth marital estates are ripe with challenges in matters of property division, business ownership, and asset/liability division as a divorce settlement is hammered out. Certified Family Law Specialist, Sarah T. Schaffer, CFLS, LL.M has extensive experience in working with complex property division, hidden asset discovery, and asset protection techniques that her clients appreciate. Ms. Schaffer’s clients include high income professionals, corporate executives, business owners, business managers, and stay-at-home parents.
DO YOU NEED PRIVACY?
Consider Mediation or Collaboration
Keep Your Private Details & Finances Private – Depending on your unique circumstances, our law firm may be able help you resolve complex issues of property division, spousal support, and child support without involving the court — where your lives become part of the searchable public record. We can take advantage of mediation or collaboration where, if both spouses are willing to come to certain agreements in a private setting, the intimate details of your lives, activities, accusations and finances can REMAIN private. This does not preclude litigating specific isolated issues in court if the parties are absolutely deadlocked.
Privacy of Intimate Personal Details & Confidential Financial Issues
Sarah T. Schaffer, CFLS, LL.M, can promote and negotiate one or all of the various property division issues that will come together as a single overall settlement agreement that will be necessary to complete a lawful divorce. Many of the intimate personal details and confidential financial issues can be kept out of court (and the public record) if both parties are agreeable except for any singular issues that, because of impasse or deadlock, might be litigated in a court setting.
Must Our Property Division be Exactly 50:50 of Each Asset?
High net worth marital estates generally involve complex financial assets that must be divided. But… must each asset be divided exactly in half? In the spirit of California law, yes, but in practicality, no. That’s where having a sophisticate law practice makes all the difference in our client (and spouse) will end up with a better settlement that checks off more boxes than you might possibly envision.
In most cases, where there are significant assets, the various properties and assets that make up the entirety of the marital estate can be divided subjectively based on the desires of each spouse; divided in a manner that is “accepted and agreed” by each spouse to be a fair split taking into consideration each parties’ personal desires and circumstances.
Simple Example – The spouse who has been running the family business wants to continue doing so and wants the business operation to be his or her separate interest post-divorce, while the other spouse is agreeable about the business because he or she is rewarded by taking, in exchange, sole possession of the primary marital residence and vacation home as equitable division of those specific assets.
The actual process of dividing complex and diverse assets requires properly evaluating each spouses’ assets (determining whether the property is marital or non-marital), all common assets, all liabilities, any spouses’ employee benefit and retirement plans, and uncovering any hidden assets or inflated liabilities (should one party be attempting to place his or her thumb on the scales of fairness) before drafting a workable settlement agreement that can be a win-win for each spouse.
Actual Agreements Are More Complex to Take Advantage of Significant Tax Savings
When dividing assets, unlike the simple example above, your settlement agreement will likely be structured to address the tax consequences that can make a significant monthly and annual difference resulting in a better, more abundant, financial picture for both spouses. Tax consequences might mean that the spouse earning the most money going forward will be allowed to take advantage of mortgage interest or avoid punitive capital gains. Similarly, while the lesser earning spouse, who will likely be receiving some spousal support, will have options they can choose in the design of the structure of the settlement agreement to take advantage of tax law for their circumstance and new life.
Negotiation or Litigation?
Whenever possible, the Schaffer Family Law Group, APC and its attorneys prefer to negotiate a fair and acceptable divorce settlement. Negotiating instead of litigating will better preserve the assets that are to be divided and awarded to each party. We encourage our clients to “pick their battles” if battles must be pursued at all. Litigating small, inconsequential issues can unnecessarily dilute the estate harming both parties. That said, we are experienced and skilled litigators who will stand up in court to protect our clients’ interests when necessary.
At the Schaffer Family Law Group, APC, we provide our clients expert legal services tailored to your individual needs. Call Schaffer Family Law Group, APC at (858) 509-7907 to schedule a strategy session today.