Every asset search investigation is unique in the way that it is conducted, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the search takes place, and in the results yielded. While the majority of clients commence an asset search with the intention of finding money in the form of cash, there are a number of unexpected discoveries that have been made while conducting these searches over the years. I’m going to share my top ten with you.
Every so often, our searches have led us to storage units. Many people will think that if they rent a storage unit, they can hide assets indefinitely from their spouse. But in addition to finding money, we have discovered original WWII uniforms, state of the art electronics, unregistered firearms, and even build-it-yourself all-terrain vehicles. Of course some people will hide cash, jewelry, etc., but it can be surprising to see some of the non-traditional items that spouses acquire and hide. We often find that many of the items were never disclosed to the other spouse at all, and may never have been found if not for the search.
Through the course of an asset search we discovered a small rental property in a rural area. A check of the property led to the discovery of a Cessna airplane. Our client was married for many years and never knew their spouse held a pilot’s licence, let alone a small airplane.
Cars, Trucks, and Bikes
We periodically locate vehicles that:
A) The client believed were sold or stolen
B) Were never reported as a purchase to the client
C) The client forgot about
Finding safety deposit boxes is not as simple as one might think. But we have come across more than a few of them. Often the client’s ex holds a safe at a different bank or branch. Just like storage units, we have found items ranging from cash to very sensitive documents to jewelry.
One of the things that is found most often during a comprehensive asset search is additional companies (new and old) in which the spouse has full or part ownership. In some cases, these companies have further revealed interests or assets which have impacted valuation and strategy.
Many people are aware of residential addresses and interests that their spouse may hold, but fewer tend to know what properties are owned by the businesses that are owned fully, or in part by their spouse. Even fewer people remember or know about plots of land that are owned by their partner without structures on them. There have been instances where we have located international properties, and of course that makes a big difference to an ongoing case.
Often we find that the spouse may hold investment interests in properties, businesses, products, etc., and/or has loaned money to other parties with the knowledge that these funds will return after a settlement has been reached. In many cases, a settlement could be impacted by the amounts that are expected to return.
Yes. Through the course of a large asset investigation, we have actually found that a person was leading a double life with additional assets and an additional spouse. Sometimes this occurs in multiple countries, but sometimes it happens within the same jurisdiction. This has an obvious impact on the strategy, but depending on jurisdiction or religious affiliations, it can be more common than we realize.
I am reminded of a case in which a couple was going through a divorce, and an extensive asset search was conducted. The client was aware that when the spouse’s father had passed away, a large farm was left to the kids. The spouse had indicated that despite the vastness of the estate, they were left with nothing. While previous searches had revealed that no money or physical properties were associated with the spouse, we found that the spouse had actually inherited more than 400 head of cattle. This led to a significant difference in the valuation of the divorce.
Jewelry, watches, trinkets, etc. are usually found during physical searches after warrants are executed, but sometimes, they are found through document reviews and/or efforts made by a spouse to liquidate or sell them prior to or during divorce. These items can add up very quickly. Collectors items like stamps or coins can be easily overlooked, or never even discussed by a spouse. In some cases, they have been passed down from parent to child a few times, and have always just sat in a box somewhere.
At the end of the day, you never really know what you will find until a competent investigator takes a look. In some cases, you may find surprising treasures, properties, or vehicles, and in other cases, you may only confirm that your spouse has properly disclosed their assets to you. Knowing the difference may be critical to your success in or out of court.