By Sharla Stevens
When trying to finalise property matters after separating the topic of obtaining a valuation of the assets might arise. Sometimes the values of certain assets might be agreed upon between the parties but if you cannot agree then it may be appropriate to obtain a valuation from an expert in that area (whether it be a property expert, accountant or a rare coin specialist).
Matters involving businesses, companies and trusts can often be hard to place a value on. This is particularly so where one of the parties operates the business or trust and has control over that entity, leaving the other party in the dark. It may be appropriate to obtain an independent valuation if:
- You are unsure of the value of a particular asset or entity;
- You know that the business or trust owns assets that may have value;
- If one party, usually the one who operates the entity, states they don’t know the value of the entity or they think it only has “nominal” value.
In these circumstances it is very important that you get the asset or entity valued before signing off on any consent orders. If you don’t and later find out that the asset or entity did have a higher value then you initially thought or was told by the other party, then you may not be able to get those consent orders set aside by the court.
There was a recent case where the husband had put in the application for consent orders that the value of a family trust was “unknown”. It turned out that shortly after that the husband signed some bank documents in which he said his interest in the Trust was $1,807,000 and it was believed that at the time of signing the orders his interest in the trust was about $980,000. The wife argued that as the husband signed bank documents with this value he would have known that at the time of signing the consent orders and that he suppressed evidence. On appeal in the Full Court of the Family Court it was determined that the husband did suppress evidence but that they were still going to dismiss the wife’s application. This was on the basis that the wife knew of the existence of the trust and the husband’s role in it and she knew that the trust had at least one asset of significant value. Despite this knowledge the wife still signed off on the consent orders which stated the value of the trust as “unknown”, therefore acquiescing to excluding the value of the trust from their agreement.
This highlights the importance of obtaining valuations prior to signing off on any consent orders as there may not be any remedies later on.
If you need legal advice in relation to a property settlement matter or whether it’s appropriate to obtain a valuation please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our solicitors Sharla Stevens or Angela Li on (02) 6223 2400.