Lawyer and Client Talking About Asset DivisionWashington state’s community property laws require equitable distribution of assets between spouses during the divorce process. Ensuring a fair division of property requires placing an accurate value on all marital assets. Without a thorough property valuation, one spouse could accidentally be awarded less than their fair share of compensation from the marriage.

Which Assets Should Be Valued?

All assets identified as community or marital property and separate property should be assessed for their current and future value. Typical marital assets include:

  • Real property. Real property includes houses and real estate, such as the family home, summer houses, land lots, and income-producing properties. 
  • Tangible property. Tangible property is physical property such as appliances, furniture, jewelry, clothes, and vehicles. It also includes bank accounts, stocks, and retirement accounts.
  • Intangible property. Intangible property is the most difficult to accurately value, as it includes intellectual property such as trademarks and copyrights, patents, business reputation, and professional certifications and degrees.

How Do I Estimate the Value of Marital Property?

There are several methods to determine the value of marital property. The property may be valued at its replacement cost, at the market price of similar items, or by estimating the revenue it could provide in the future. In many cases, a combination of approaches is used to determine the precise value of each item of property.

For example, different appraisal methods are used for:

  • Houses and real estate. Real estate agents may estimate your home’s value by comparing similar house listings and sale prices in the same neighborhood (Comparative Market Analysis). For larger homes or investment properties, an independent home appraiser may be needed to examine the interior and exterior of the property, and value any improvements made during the marriage.
  • Personal property. Personal goods such as artwork, jewelry, and furniture are all subject to division, but they are usually not appraised unless worth a significant amount of money. An expert in the field should evaluate any high-value furnishings, heirlooms, or antiques.
  • Vehicles. Most cars can be valued using the Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealer Association listings, but collectible or high-value vehicles should be independently appraised. Similarly, boats, tractors, motorcycles, snowmobiles, or historical vehicles are most accurately assessed by a professional.
  • Businesses. A family business can generate significant income for both spouses and is often one of the most valuable assets a married couple owns. A forensic accountant may be needed to value a business using its assets, debts, and profits and the increase in value it has experienced during the marriage. Once assessed, spouses will need to determine if the business should be sold, one spouse should buy the other out, or if the spouses should continue to hold their business interests.
  • Investments. Some investments can be divided using the account balances of any marital accounts, but separating unvested stocks, cryptocurrencies, and collections may require clear guidelines.
  • Intellectual property. Intellectual property should only be divided by an experienced divorce and asset division attorney. You will need experts who can place an accurate value on patents and royalties—especially if one spouse wants to keep the entirety of the intellectual property royalties.

It’s Vital to Get an Accurate Value of Your property Before Divorce

While precise appraisals are essential in all divorces, they are critical when dividing property in a high asset divorce. They can help you and your spouse resolve conflicts and separate your assets without intervention from the court. Your lawyer can ensure that all property has been accounted for and all debts have been considered before you accept your settlement.

At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we devise creative solutions to split shared assets, giving you the financial stability you deserve after marriage. Call our offices today at (425) 460-0550 to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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