How do we decide what our assets are worth?
Determining the value of the matrimonial assets is an essential step to resolving family law property matters. The value of certain assets can become contentious between parties to family law property negotiations and court proceeds.
Some categories of property for which the value is often contentious are:
- Real property;
- Self-managed super funds;
- Business interests;
- Motor vehicles; and
- Furniture & Jewellery.
What options are available to parties to resolve these conflicts and accurately determine the value of these items?
Real Property (Land/Houses and Buildings)
Quite often any real property owned by parties will be the ‘big ticket’ item/s of their property settlement. Due to the value generally tied up in these assets, it is important to make sure that you get the value right.
In some cases parties are able to agree to a value for real property through the use of appraisals obtained from real estate agents. While this can be a quick and inexpensive alternative, it has the danger of being imprecise.
The most common approach to determining the value of real property is through an independent valuation by an expert engaged jointly by the parties. While this comes at a cost (generally $800 – $1,400), the real value is in the precision of the report.
If the parties are before the Court, and there is a dispute over the value of real property, it will likely make an order for the property to be valued by an expert and in most cases both parties share this cost.
If one or both of the parties own a business this can also often constitute a significant portion of the value of their assets. The value of a business, especially sole traders, is often a highly contentious matter when an agreement as the value cannot be reached.
However, it can be dangerous to agree to a value (even where provided by the company accountant) without some guidance from an independent expert. One way to quickly see if a business is likely of any value is by reviewing three to fives years of their financial statements which will show, among other things, profit and loss.
To obtain a valuation for a business, parties again, jointly instruct an independent expert who is a specialist accountant. The specialist accountant will assess the nature of the business and determine the appropriate methodology to apply to determine value.
In some cases, the value of the business will simply be the value of its assets minus its liabilities.
Business valuations can be costly, depending on the nature and size of the business.
If there is a dispute about the value of a motor vehicle there are a number of websites such as ‘Redbook’ and ‘Carsales’ which can provide some guidance. These websites will generally provide a value range.
If the issue remains in dispute the parties can appoint a joint expert to obtain a valuation of the motor vehicle.
When placing a value upon items like jewellery and furniture, the family law courts tend to adopt a conservative approach. The value they adopt will be the second-hand sale value of the items, not the insured or replacement value.
If there is a dispute, parties may decide to retain independent experts to value furniture and jewellery at a cost. This may be the case where there is an extensive antique or jewellery collection.
You can read more here on what happens to jewellery possession after separation.