One of the first steps in any property settlement is to identify the assets that are available to be divided between the parties and the value of those assets. Parties are often able to agree on the value of an asset with the assistance of some research and/or consultation with industry professionals. For example, it is common practice for parties to refer to ‘redbook.com’ valuations when determining the value of motor vehicles.
If parties cannot agree on the value of a particular asset, it will be necessary to obtain a valuation report from an independent expert. Ideally, the expert should be appointed jointly by the parties to save disputes as to which expert should be relied upon. The two main assets that require valuation evidence are real estate and business interests.
Parties will generally obtain an appraisal from a real estate agent/s initially, to determine whether they can reach agreement on the value of their home or investment property. An appraisal is an estimate based on the recent sales knowledge of the agent. Typically, they are provided free of charge. Alternatively, parties can obtain a valuation from a qualified property valuer who will prepare a detailed report based on their specialised knowledge, experience and training. If the dispute is being litigated, the Court will generally require expert evidence to determine the value. The cost of a real estate valuation ranges between approximately $600 – $1,500 per property.
Businesses are generally valued by accountants. As an initial step, parties often rely on information from their own accountant to determine the value of the business. If an agreement cannot be reached, an independent expert (usually a forensic accountant) will be appointed to value the interests of the parties in the business/entity. Experts can apply a number of different valuation methodologies in order to ascertain the fair market value of the business which may include a valuation of the net assets of the business and/or a calculation of the future maintainable earnings of the business. Before embarking on a business valuation, it is important to consider the nature of the business you are wanting to value. Business valuations can be very expensive and it is important to ensure that the valuation process is relevant to the business in question. As a general guide, the costs most business valuations range between $10,000 – $30,000.
Often, the value of a motor vehicle can be agreed, or estimated by using services such as Redbook, which is a vehicle value guide. Exceptions are when a car is rare, unique or classic, and may be in the process of being restored. In those circumstances, and expert is usually required to provide an opinion on the value of the vehicle, and should be jointly instructed to provide a written report.
Most household items should be valued at garage sale value, and as one overall figure for the entirety of the possessions, not item by item. Occasionally, there are particular items of value such as antiques, heirlooms or collectibles. These should be valued by an expert, similarly to motor vehicle valuations.
Many superannuation funds are accumulation funds, and their value is the amount on the statement provided to the member. However, some superannuation funds are more complex, such as defined benefit interest funds or self managed superannuation funds. Defined benefit interest funds will usually need to be valued by a specialist superannuation valuer. The valuer will often require that the superannuation fund respond to a Superannuation Information Form, to provide all of the relevant details that are required to perform the calculation. Self managed superannuation funds may own assets such as real properties, or involve trusts and may require valuations of individual assets and entities before an overall valuation of the fund can be obtained.
There is a huge variety of assets that a couple might own. This can include interests in unit trusts, cryptocurrencies, racehorses, gold or silver bullion and many other more unusual assets. Without agreement, all assets need to be valued to finalise a family law claim, and there are specialist valuers for almost every circumstance.
A properly valued pool of assets is the first step in ensuring that a fair and equitable division of property can take place, so it is vitally important to have accurate and appropriate valuations where agreement cannot be reached.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?