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Hidden assets: Find them all with a forensic accountant

As you begin to think about getting a divorce, one of the things you might decide to do is to start putting away assets into places where your spouse can't get to them. That's usually acceptable as long as you can tell the court where the assets are, but if you plan to hide assets, you should know that you're violating the law.

Even if you don't plan on hiding assets yourself, it's a good idea to begin looking into your spouse's assets and to begin taking count of the assets you expect to have to divide between each other. Illinois is an equitable distribution state, so any marital assets are divided fairly between you. For that reason, finding all assets is necessary.

Hiding assets is illegal

The first thing to know is that hiding assets is illegal. However, you need to know about assets before you can call out your spouse for hiding them. How do you do that?

Hire a forensic accountant. A forensic accountant is someone who is well-versed in discovering missing accounts, noticing discrepancies in bookkeeping and other oddities that may suggest that accounts are hidden. With their help, many people find that their spouses have assets hidden away that they didn't know about or didn't know how to access. In other cases, the forensic accountant is able to find assets neither of you knew about or remembered, so that it can be used in the divorce.

The reality is that today's couples often have complex financial portfolios. You might have income from multiple sources, savings accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, stocks, bonds and other assets that are in digital form. Tracking down all these assets can be difficult, but it isn't impossible.

Why is finding all your assets important?

It's necessary to find all your assets, because you have to establish the kind of life you lived during your marriage. Once that's known, you'll be giving the court a better idea of whether or not things such as spousal support are necessary in your situation. If they are, then the court will look at the lifestyle you have and determine the awards based on the information brought to it.

It's important to protect your right to live a lifestyle similar to the one you live now, even after divorce. You'll have a better chance of doing this if you find and divide your assets as fairly as possible.

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