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Limited Tax Deductions May Make Keeping Home CostlierThe elimination of the alimony tax deduction has rightfully received the most attention amongst the recent changes to the federal tax laws. Not being able to deduct your spousal maintenance payments from your federal taxes is changing how divorcees negotiate their maintenance. However, changes to tax deductions related to real estate could affect whether you want to keep a home or other real property after a divorce. People in high-asset divorces may have fewer tax deductions available to them.

Tax Deductions

One of the goals of the federal tax reform law passed in 2017 was to simplify the tax code. The standard deduction for a single filer increased from $6,000 to $12,000, but many other deductions were reduced or eliminated, including:

  • Capping deductions for state and local income and property taxes at $10,000 when filing as a single person or a married couple filing jointly, or at $5,000 for a married person filing separately;
  • Eliminating deductions for home equity loan interest unless the loan was used to pay for improvements towards a primary or secondary home;
  • Reducing the mortgage interest tax deduction from $1 million to $750,000 if the mortgage was obtained after Dec. 15, 2017; and
  • Eliminating deductions for foreign real estate taxes.

Some of the people who stand to lose the most from the tax deduction changes are those who own multiple real properties and those who live in areas with high local income and property taxes. Even though the standard deduction has doubled, people in a high-asset divorce may have been able to save more money on taxes with the previous deductions intact.

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How to Tell If You Are in a High Asset DivorceA high asset divorce means high stakes for both sides during the division of property. The properties in a high asset divorce are both valuable and numerous, making the property assessment process more difficult. How do you identify whether you will be going through a high asset divorce? Besides the incomes of yourself and your spouse, there are several types of properties that are typical in a high asset divorce:

  1. Multiple Real Estate Properties: Your home is often the most valuable property in your marriage. In a high asset divorce, you may own several real estate properties, such as a seasonal home, undeveloped land, or a building which you allow other people to rent.
  2. Multiple Vehicles: Each spouse has his or her own vehicle in a typical divorce. In a high asset divorce, you may have additional vehicles that you use for recreational purposes or keep as collector’s items. Common examples include vintage cars, motorcycles, and boats.
  3. Business Ownership: Owning a business can be more lucrative than being an employee. If your spouse is a business owner, he or she has likely invested substantial money into it and has many valuable assets tied to it. A business valuation can determine the current and potential value of the business, which may be a marital property.
  4. Investments: Money in the stock market or business interests may be paying dividends now or promising payouts in the future. You need to carefully evaluate these assets during your divorce. Some investments have a low current value but have the potential to increase in value. However, it is risky to overvalue the potential of investments in case they do not increase in value as expected.
  5. Benefits and Insurance: People in high asset divorces have often been saving towards their retirement for years. You are entitled to a fair share of the retirement benefits that your spouse has accumulated during your marriage. Your spouse may also have a life insurance policy with cash value that you can divide.
  6. Collectibles and Luxury Items: People use their disposable income to purchase items that interest them. In a high asset divorce, those items may be valuable, such as art, jewelry, and memorabilia. The value of these items is part of the division of property because marital income was used to buy them.

Property in a High Asset Divorce

You should not assume that you know the actual value of your marital assets during your divorce. You need a professional assessor to identify valuable properties from your marriage and determine their worth. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., has experience working with clients in high asset divorces. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Five Mistakes to Avoid in High Asset DivorceDivorcees with high-value assets follow the same laws as everyone else getting a divorce. The difference is that wealthy individuals have more at stake in terms of finances. The process of dividing up their assets is often more complicated because the assets are numerous and diverse. Whether because of miscalculation or emotion, making a mistake can cost thousands or millions of dollars. Individuals in a high asset divorce must take care to avoid these mistakes when dividing up their marital properties:

  1. Hiding Assets: With the prospect of losing several valuable marital properties, a divorcee may try to protect them by purposely hiding them or failing to disclose them. Common tactics include creating hidden accounts or temporarily transferring properties to a friend. A divorce court may penalize a party who has been caught trying to deceive a spouse. The guilty party may be forced to compensate the other spouse by giving up marital assets or money.
  2. Incomplete Investigation: A spouse can be held accountable for hiding assets only if the other spouse catches him or her. Failing to thoroughly search for marital assets puts a spouse at a disadvantage. The identified properties may be divided equitably, but having hidden properties means one spouse is receiving an inequitable share. If a spouse learns about the hidden assets after the divorce is completed, he or she is responsible for providing evidence of the deception.
  3. Undervaluing Assets: Once spouses identify all of their marital assets, they must put an accurate value to each asset. Complex properties, such as businesses or investments, are common in high asset divorces and difficult to assess. One spouse will likely maintain complete control of the business, while the other receives equitable compensation. When assessing a business, assessors must determine both its current and future value.
  4. Forgetting Tax Obligations: Not all marital properties are treated equally in terms of taxes. Some properties, such as real estate, are subject to additional taxes. After taxes are taken out, a once-equitable division of property may seem more uneven.
  5. Giving in to Emotions: Rich or poor, couples are likely to feel some bitterness towards each other during a divorce. This may cause parties to make decisions based on spite, rather than what will benefit themselves. With high asset divorces, there are more opportunities to try to punish a spouse by obstructing his or her efforts to receive an equitable share of properties. Vindictive actions do not help negotiations and needlessly prolong the process.

Settling a High Asset Divorce

A divorce that includes several valuable assets requires an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney. A DuPage County divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, PC, can properly identify and assess your marital properties. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Reducing Capital Gains Tax When Selling Marital HomeThe marital home – or more specifically, the value of the marital home – can be a hotly debated subject when dividing properties in a divorce. Only one spouse can keep the home, and the other spouse will need fair compensation in money or assets. Some spouses instead choose to sell their marital home and split the revenue from the sale. Each spouse can receive a substantial payout from the sale to go towards his or her post-divorce life. However, lucrative sales will incur the capital gains tax. The timing in which divorcing spouses sell their marital home can reduce their tax obligation.

Reasons to Sell

A home is often the most valuable property in a marriage, in both monetary and personal terms. Spouses may have an emotional attachment to the home, especially if they have children. However, selling the home is the most practical option in some divorces:

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Spouse may hide their assets during a divorceAs part of the divorce process in Illinois, the marital property of the two spouses is split in a way that is deemed to be equitable. Each side must identify and value its assets to determine the marital property that must be split. Diverse and high value assets can make this process complicated, and some spouses may try to take advantage of that by hiding some of their assets or the value of those assets. Besides being illegal, hiding assets during a divorce can result in an inequitable division of property, as one of the spouses has more financial resources than is legally disclosed. It can be hard to tell if your spouse is hiding assets, but there are common methods he or she may use.

  • Physical Assets: If you know your spouse has a collection of valuable items, such as cars or antiques, make sure those items do not get overlooked. If they suddenly disappear, your spouse may have hidden them with a friend or family member.
  • Bank Accounts: Your spouse may try to hide how much money he or she has in a bank account. Money may be withdrawn to be put in a safety deposit box or another account under someone else’s name.
  • Real Estate: Keep track of any properties your spouse owns. He or she may try to transfer that property to someone else for the duration of the divorce proceedings.
  • Work Compensation: Your spouse may underreport his or her work wages by deferring paychecks or falsely claiming a demotion. There is a greater possibility of deception if your spouse is self-employed or runs his or her own business.
  • Taxes: Your spouse may try to misreport his or her income when filing a tax return or overpay the IRS, knowing that he or she can receive a tax refund after the divorce.
  • Debt: Your spouse may collude with someone else to create a fake debt that he or she owes.

Consequences

If it is determined your spouse was hiding assets, the court may award you with a greater share of assets in the division of property or make your spouse financially compensate you. Depending on the severity of your spouse’s deception, your spouse may be found in contempt of court or face criminal charges.

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