Real estate transfers are a crucial component in many divorces, and they often play an even bigger role in high-asset divorces. High-asset couples often own multiple pieces of property, with some serving as family or vacation homes and others serving as income streams. For this reason, it’s common for the division of assets to be a time-consuming and intense part of the divorce process.
Learn more about what to expect during real estate transfers and how to get what you need out of your split. For more personalized advice as you work through divorce, call Hardy Pence at 304-345-7250.
Proper Valuation and Assessment of the Property
Proper valuation of every piece of real estate is crucial when you’re going through a divorce. This is especially true in today’s market, which seems to change dramatically on a near-weekly basis. The market has driven home prices upward, which may influence both parties’ decisions regarding selling or keeping the property.
Investing in a qualified real estate appraiser is crucial, particularly in high-asset divorces that may involve valuable real estate. If both parties cannot agree on an appraiser, you may want to ask your attorney for recommendations or consider getting insight from two appraisers.
This step also involves considering the debts tied to each piece of property. Unless you own each piece of real estate outright, it’s important to consider the amount of debt tied to each property and how much equity is in each property. Again, the current market makes this even more important. If you bought one or more homes when interest rates were low, requiring one party to refinance into their name alone could lead to an unpleasant surprise.
Understanding Equitable Distribution Laws
Once you know what you’re working with in terms of debt, equity, and home value, you’ll have to talk to your attorney about how West Virginia’s equitable distribution laws may affect how the homes are split. West Virginia, like many other states, is an equitable distribution state. This means that assets should be split in a way that is fair, not necessarily in a way that is equal. Rather than both sides getting 50%, the courts consider a range of factors while deciding how each asset should be split up.
It’s important to identify which pieces of real estate are separate property and which are marital property. Even if a property is considered separate, it could still affect how assets are divided. If one party owns five homes on their own and the other spouse owns nothing on their own, the court would likely find it unfair to give each spouse half of the marital home.
One of the most important factors used in equitable distribution is both parties’ financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage and property. This is especially important in marriages involving one high-earner and one spouse who works as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent. It’s common to think about the working spouse’s financial contributions, but the non-financial contributions are also crucial and carry significant weight.
Negotiating the Division
Before you and your attorney begin negotiating with your ex, you should fully understand what is at stake and which outcomes are possible. If you don’t care about the real estate, you can use that to gain some leverage and fight for a greater share of other assets in exchange for giving up your share of the real estate. If you want the family home but are uninterested in the investment properties, that may also guide your negotiations. Perhaps you want to keep one investment property as a passive stream of income but do not want the baggage associated with the marital home. It all depends on your priorities.
The good news is that property transfers between spouses during divorce are usually non-taxable. However, owning property does come with some tax benefits, so keep that in mind if you plan on signing away your rights to the family real estate. Additionally, if you get one or more pieces of real estate in the divorce and sell them later on, you could be hit with a capital gains tax.
Facing Divorce? Choose Hardy Pence for Your Legal Needs
We know that divorce leaves you with more questions than answers, and that’s why we’re here to support you every step of the way. Let us help you navigate your divorce and prepare for a new chapter in life. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 304-345-7250 or contacting us online.