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TX divorce lawyerHigh asset divorces in Texas are different from other types of divorces. These divorces often involve complex property division and complicated valuations of community property. Since all community property is divisible under Texas law, it is essential that high-value assets be appraised accurately. Beyond complex property division matters, high asset divorces can also be much more complicated in terms of spousal maintenance issues, as well as matters pertaining to child support and even child custody. Given that high asset divorces are so complicated, it is easy to make mistakes if you do not work with an experienced attorney. Those mistakes can cause problems in your divorce case and can, in some situations, be irreparable.

An aggressive Texas high asset divorce lawyer at Powers and Kerr, PLLC can begin working on your case today. In the meantime, the following is a list of common mistakes you should avoid in an Austin high net worth divorce.

Failing to Work with an Expert Appraiser

In a high asset divorce, it is essential to work with an appraiser who can provide an accurate and fair valuation of your valuable property. If you fail to work with an expert appraiser, the court may value property in ways that do not take into account the unique aspects of the property, or your spouse’s valuation may be the sole evidence that the court uses to place a value on the property. You should work with your lawyer to hire an appraiser who has experience providing market and insurance valuations of the particular kinds of property that will be classified as community property in your divorce.

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TX high asset divorce lawyerThe first step you should take when you know divorce is imminent is to hire an experienced Austin high asset divorce lawyer. Once you have a dedicated high net worth divorce attorney on your side, it will be important to talk with your lawyer about working with financial experts on various aspects of your case. From forensic accountants to art appraisers, there are a variety of financial experts who may be able to provide necessary knowledge in your divorce case. The following are the top reasons you should consider working with financial experts in your Texas high asset divorce case.

1. Locate Hidden Assets

Locating hidden assets is one of the most important reasons to work with a financial expert in your high net worth divorce. While Texas law requires parties to provide full and complete lists of all property to be classified as community or separate property, one of the parties may attempt to hide assets by unlawfully transferring them through a gift (or otherwise) to another party or moving money between community property and separate property accounts.

Unlike some other accountants, forensic accountants have experience providing evidence for the courtroom and conducting investigations. Forensic accountants are specially trained to identify fraud and hidden assets, and to provide expert testimony about those matters.

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TX high asset divorcePlanning for a divorce is complex no matter what kind of property you own with your spouse. To be sure, even when a couple owns relatively few assets and has a limited amount of debt that will be classified as community property under Texas law, accurately identifying and valuing property can still be complicated. Yet these processes are significantly more difficult and complex in a high asset divorce. And it is not just increased complexity surrounding the division of community property that can make a high asset divorce different. In addition to the division of community property, maintenance or alimony can also have significant implications for your taxes.

Our Texas high asset divorce lawyers want to help. The following are a few key ways that a high net worth divorce is different from other divorces.

More Money Means the Stakes Are Higher

While there is no set monetary figure to define a high asset or high net worth divorce, we typically use this term to talk about divorces in which the couple has $1 million or more in assets. Austin is a city where married couples have family roots for generations while also being a place where musicians and artists have decided to live. Accordingly, there are many married couples in and around the Austin area who might qualify for a high asset divorce. When a divorce involves millions of dollars, the stakes are simply higher.

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TX divorce lawyerHandling real estate can be an extremely complicated process, especially when you own a mix of residential properties and commercial properties with your spouse. As you may know, under Texas law, most property acquired after the date of marriage is “community property” and will get divided between the spouses upon divorce. If you are anticipating a high net worth divorce in Austin and own significant real estate, it is important to work with a divorce attorney who has experience handling complex property in a high net worth divorce.

While the division of community property is often complicated under any circumstances, real estate or real property can pose particular issues. The following are some tips from our Texas high net worth divorce attorneys for handling real estate in an Austin high asset divorce case.

Classifying Real Estate: Know Whether It is Community Property or Separate Property

For most married couples in Texas, the family home will be classified as community property and will be subject to division. In addition, any property that you acquired—whether it is a vacation property, a rental property, or a commercial property—after the date of your marriage can also be classified as community property. Moreover, even if you purchased one of these properties prior to the date of marriage, if you made payments on any of them or invested in updates during the marriage, those increases in value may constitute community property.

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TX divorce lawyerWhile very few of us ever get married with the intention of later filing for divorce, Texas residents file for divorce more often than you might expect. Making plans in the event of divorce are important for Austin residents of all income levels, but planning is particularly important for wealthy Texans and high earners. We want to discuss some tips for preparing for a high net worth divorce in Austin at multiple points in time—from the time of your marriage to the moments shortly after filing for divorce. If you need assistance with your divorce, an experienced Austin high asset divorce lawyer can help.

1. Sign a Prenuptial Agreement

Under the Texas Family Code, two people who are planning to get married can enter into a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement. While prenuptial agreements are helpful for people at all income levels, they are particularly necessary for individuals who are high earners or would anticipate a high asset divorce in the event the marriage does not last. In a prenuptial agreement, the parties can reach an agreement about how certain assets will be divided or distributed in the event of divorce.

2. Avoid Commingling Separate and Community Property

Avoid commingling separate property and community property wherever possible. In other words, any property you acquired before the marriage, or any property acquired through gift or inheritance during the marriage, should be kept separate. Do not use those assets to contribute to community property, such as investing separate property into a community property account or by using separate assets to improve the marital home.

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TX divorce lawyerWhen you are planning for a high asset divorce in Austin, Texas and know that your retirement accounts will be classified as community property and subject to division under Texas law, you will need to have a plan in place to divide those retirement benefits. For wealthy couples anticipating a high asset divorce, the amount of money in retirement accounts can be substantial. Using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to transfer retirement benefits as part of your divorce could end up saving tens of thousands of dollars (or even more depending upon the amount of money in your retirement accounts and the amount that needs to be distributed to your spouse).

We want to tell you more about QDROs and how they work, and to provide you with examples that demonstrate the importance of having a QDRO in a high net worth divorce. An Austin high asset divorce lawyer is here to assist you.

What Is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order in a High Asset Divorce?

What is a QDRO? The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) explains that a QDRO is a legal order subsequent to a divorce or legal separation that splits and changes ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse his or her share of the assets. In order to qualify for a QDRO, the ERS’ General Counsel must receive a certified copy of the divorce decree, and the ERS’ General Counsel must review and approve the QDRO.

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TX high asset divorce lawyerPaying alimony or maintenance after a Texas high asset divorce can cost tens of thousands of dollars for high earners. Yet there may be options available to parties in a high net worth divorce to limit the amount of taxes paid on alimony. Once you know that your spouse is entitled to receive maintenance under Texas law, you will likely be wondering whether there are ways to limit the amount of taxes that you will pay on those alimony payments. Indeed, since the payor spouse is responsible for taxes on the maintenance payments, those taxes can be significant.

While a court order for maintenance does not provide options for minimizing maintenance taxes in a high net worth divorce in Texas, entering into a marital settlement agreement with your spouse in which you provide an alternate form of compensation in lieu of maintenance payments could allow you to minimize taxes substantially. There are certain methods for reducing or minimizing alimony taxes for the wealthy, discussed below.

Minimizing Taxes on Maintenance in Austin, TX

Texas law caps maintenance payments at $5,000 per month, Yet even taxes on payments of $5,000 are probably more than you would like to pay. As we said above, there may be options to reduce the total amount of taxes you will pay. Options that may be available include but are not limited to the following:

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TX divorce lawyerHigh asset divorces in Austin, TX are complicated for numerous reasons, from matters of property division to alimony. One of the more complex and contentious issues that can arise in a high net worth divorce is the matter of hidden assets. Particularly in high asset divorces where one of the spouses was the primary earner during the marriage, the other spouse may have concerns about hidden or concealed assets. When the non-primary earner does not control the finances of the marriage and does not regularly manage business issues or jointly owned accounts, it can be difficult to know exactly what the assets from the marriage look like in sum. Yet discovering hidden assets can be extremely important given that Texas is a community property state.

Under Texas law, couples who get divorced in Texas should know that community property is owned equally by the spouses. Accordingly, courts divide the property recognizing that both spouses have an equal interest in it while also taking into account what kind of division would be fair to both parties. If there are substantial hidden assets, one of the spouses could end up losing out on property to which she or he is entitled. While assets can be hidden in any divorce—regardless of the extent of the property owned by the married couple—hidden assets in a high net worth divorce can total tens of thousands of dollars. As such, it is essential to ensure that neither spouse is hiding assets in the divorce.

Know Where to Look for Hidden Assets

Even if you do not immediately suspect your spouse of hiding assets, it is important to know where to look for “red flags.” For example, itemized deductions in Schedule A in past tax returns could reveal property that you did not know existed. Or, for instance, details about assets that have generated interest and dividends (located in Schedule B) could reveal that your spouse has more money than she or he has listed. Tax returns can also provide information about business profits and losses (Schedule C), as well as capital gains and losses (Schedule D). Information about capital gains and losses can provide information about certain securities in which your spouse has invested, as well as stocks or real estate.

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