Valuation of an Interest in a Business or Professional Practice in a Divorce

Businesses and professional practices can and should be appraised by a skilled, experienced forensic accountant. The goal of this appraisal is to determine the most accurate valuation for that medical or professional practice or business ownership interest. Mr. Whipps works with his clients to bring the right team of experts together to protect their rights, while securing the most accurate assessment of the value for the related practice, company or business involved. In some cases, both parties will have their own independent appraisals done, and in those cases it is important work with the parties involved to discuss areas of difference and determine a resolution.

The challenge can be getting accurate and complete information to the experts in the first place. In closely held companies it is a challenge to determine what portion of a business’ value represents the spouse’s interest. If the forensic accountant is not getting the information needed, appropriate steps must be pursued in court to compel the release of that information. Mr. Whipps has the experience to recognize the right time to work cooperatively, and the right time to take action, within the constraints of the court, to get access to the information his clients require.

If a divorce is imminent there are often ways to structure the practice/business to protect it from the impacts of a divorce. For example, consideration should be given to the placement of the interests of the party into a trust governed by an independent trustee. This can preserve the smooth operation of a business, and prevents the family from facing a forced sale. It may also prevent an ex-spouse from having access to or influence upon family matters.

The standard for an Appraisal in a divorce is different than it is for the imminent sale of a business/practice. In a divorce, the business isn’t actually being sold; the professional isn’t changing the nature of the business relationship with their customers/patients. One must establish the value of the “good will” and the impact of its value upon the practice/business’s value. “Good will” is essentially the added value that results from the reputation and experience of the given professional whose practice is being evaluated (or business office/professional) involved. The professional involved wishes to make sure that nothing at the end of the day will have an adverse effect upon the practice or his/her ability to continue in that profession.

Mr. Whipps will apply his more than 30 years of experience to help to develop options which will effectively offset the value of that practice with some other unrelated assets, or to pay some established amount of money (sometimes over months/years) to compensate for that value. Structuring that solution requires careful consideration of tax consequences, professional liabilities, and developing a strategy that provides the greatest economic impact at the lowest possible actual cost. The spouse of the professional is usually concerned with gaining an accurate and fair appraisal of what the practice/business is worth. Once this is completed, Mr. Whipps will consider the tax situation and use his experience and the expertise of his experts to develop the best possible outcome for his clients. This use of creativity and effective application of the tax codes to benefit both parties can and usually does achieve a better result for Mr. Whipps’ clients than what might come about through the completion of a court trial, as well as the likelihood of what the court might do to achieve a fair legal result. The court’s options are usually more limited by the constraints of law, and they must be followed.