Wealthy Michigan couples who are considering a divorce often want to know how their assets will be divided. Certain questions are common: Who will get the house? Will the vacation home be divided? What about my collection of rare antiques? Other questions may not be as obvious. We worked all of our married life to build a successful business; who will receive ownership? Michigan is what is called an “equitable division” state when it comes to dividing the marital assets. The court must divide the assets in a manner that is equitable and will treat both parties fairly. How does a professional appraiser fit into this picture?

Before any asset can be divided or allocated to one party or the other, the value of the asset must be determined. The most common example is the family home. Before the court can allocate all or apportion of an interest in the house, the fair value must be determined. Professional appraisers can inform the court about a fair value or can help the couple understand what the house may be worth. Real estate is usually divided in one of two ways: either the asset is sold and the proceeds are divided, or one party gets the house while the other party is awarded assets of equal net value.

Appraisers come in many shapes and sizes, but virtually all credible appraisers subscribe to the Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice, or “USPAP” as it is commonly known.  USPAP is a set of standards governing appraisal methodology that is promulgated and maintained by the Appraisal Standards Board.

Appraisers can be most helpful where couples own assets that have significantly appreciated during the marriage. A qualified appraiser can determine the value of such an asset when it was acquired, whether one spouse made a greater contribution to the increase in value, and the value on the date of final valuation (usually the effect date of the divorce). The ability of a divorce to understand appraisal methodology and to work with a competent appraiser should be an important criteria in selecting a lawyer for a divorce.