Division of Marital Assets in Massachusetts
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Massachusetts is an equitable property state, which means that property division is determined in an equitable, although not necessarily equal, manner. A judge has a great deal of discretion in deciding this issue, but is guided by several factors set forth in the Massachusetts laws governing distribution of the marital estate, including but not limited to the length or duration of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the contributions of the parties to the marital estate either financially through work or otherwise or as a homemaker, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of the parties. The Assets subject to division include those in the marital estate, which generally involve those acquired during the marriage, including your home and other real estate, bank accounts, stocks, trusts, retirement assets such as 401ks, IRAs, 403bs, insurance policies, automobiles, boats, general home furnishings and other personal property.
Your divorce may also involve more complicated issues such as high net worth, inheritances or a family run or spouse owned or run business. In the case of an inheritance, whether or not the inheritance is part of the marital estate subject to equitable division can be quite complicated and involves a consideration of whether it has been realized, that is actually received during the marriage and if so, whether it was woven into the fabric of the marriage, i.e. how the asset affected the couple's lifestyle and what it was used for. Pertinent considerations involve whether the asset was left in a separate savings account untouched, or used to pay for vacations, a second home, or college tuition. Consideration is also given to the parties' needs, and whether there are other assets in the marital estate that can be used to satisfy the needs of the non-inheriting spouse. A related issue involves how a future inheritance, or "expectancy" interest, is treated in dividing the marital assets. If the individuals from whom the inheritance is anticipated are young and relatively healthy, how they set up their estate plan, unless in the form of an irrevocable trust, will likely have little impact upon the division of assets. If, on the other hand, they are wealthy and elderly or in poor health, it may be a factor that is considered. In the case of a family owned business, a determination will need to be made regarding the value of the business, which often involves retention of a business valuation expert. Attorney Leahy can assist you in retaining experts when necessary, and in helping you to understand complex financial circumstances involved in a high net worth divorce, a spouse or family owned or run business, and a divorce involving inheritances by one or both spouses by providing you with understandable and persuasive explanations. She will provide you with experienced representation designed to ensure that all marital property and debt are disclosed, that assets are properly valued and that the property division is fair and in your best interest.