Hidden assets are financial assets such as stocks, bonds, or bank accounts that are not properly disclosed in normal accounting situations. Generally, assets are hidden as a means of providing the owner with some sort of financial security that is not readily apparent to those who do have access to the other assets of the owner. Once of the most common reasons for the creation of hidden assets is the attempt of one or both parties in a divorce action to funnel money and other resources into hidden accounts, effectively keeping those assets from being considered when the couple’s holdings are divided in the divorce settlement.
Uncovering hidden assets can sometimes be very difficult. People with expertise in following small but significant clues can often track down assets that have been secreted in offshore accounts or other locations. This can be especially important in situations where a marriage or some type of business partnership is being dissolved, since both parties may actually have a claim on those assets.
There are several ways to go about locating and retrieving hidden assets. One basic approach is to look for clues found on old tax returns. If assets appear in the documentation, but seem to have simply vanished, there is a good chance those assets have been funneled into some sort of account that is not documented in current financial records. In the United States, it is possible to request copies of older tax returns, in exchange for a fee. Keep in mind that it can take up to sixty days for the copies to be received, which may or may not be enough time to identify hidden assets and take action to have them revealed.
Another approach to finding hidden assets involves poring through old financial statements. By looking at the detail included on a savings account statement, a credit card statement, or even the statements that detail investment activity, it may be possible to identify instances where transfers that look suspicious were made. By investigating the nature of those transfers, it is possible to determine if those assets appear elsewhere in the available financial records, or if the assets were transferred into a hidden account.
Close attention to ATM activity documented on checking account statements is another possible means of identifying hidden assets. If there is a sudden increase in activity, or activity that looks somewhat out of character, there is a chance that cash is being withdrawn and placed in a hidden account. In some cases, the withdrawn funds may be used in part to secure the services of someone to help hide assets such as jewelry, artwork, or other investments.
One final resource that may be helpful in identifying the existence of hidden assets is a credit report. Entries on the report may indicate the existence of credit or other financial accounts that have not been revealed to the spouse or business partner. Depending on the nature of these accounts, they may contain hidden assets that should be divided among both parties as part of the marriage or business partnership dissolution.