Hidden assets include property and other holdings that someone might have a legitimate claim to but have been concealed from their access or knowledge to avoid payments or settlement, or to conceal wealth and interests. Once assets have been hidden, it’s difficult to prove their existence, let alone get access to them.
Hiring a private investigator to find hidden assets (or even a lack of someone’s claimed wealth) can help you get the money you are owed after a legal settlement from divorce or some other proceeding, or to find out what someone’s true intent and interests are before going into business with them.
What is a Hidden Asset Investigation?
The purpose of a hidden asset search is to locate and identify assets (money, stocks, property, etc.) that have been concealed by one party from another. Common circumstances in which a hidden asset search may be appropriate include:
- Divorce: Spouses often attempt to hide assets in order to influence property splits or the amounts paid in monthly alimony or child support ahead of divorce proceedings.
- Spousal and Child Support Proceedings: A former spouse may attempt to hide assets in order to avoid paying higher support payments or receiving lower support payments.
- Business Partnerships: A business partner, similar to a spouse, may be interested in hiding certain assets in contemplation of a future split, in case the business goes south, or to hide misappropriated funds. A hidden asset search may also be sought prior to entering a business partnership (to determine the credibility and character of a potential partner) or during the life of the business.
- Contested Estate Proceedings: If heirs of an estate are in conflict with one another, or with the executor of the will, a hidden asset search can reveal the true extent of an estate beyond doubt.
- Civil Litigation: It is not unusual for one party in a civil lawsuit to win a judgment in court only to have the losing party claim they are unable to pay. A hidden asset search can locate assets concealed by the losing party, and help force them to pay up.
Who Initiates a Hidden Asset Search?
The most common client in a hidden asset search is a divorcing or divorced spouse. Other clients include business partners and associates, parties to a lawsuit, and potential heirs to an estate. Additionally, insurance companies, lenders, mortgage writers, and other institutions often request a hidden asset search.
Starting a Hidden Asset Search
Starting an investigation with Trustify is quick and easy. The hidden asset search process consists of four basic steps:
1. Request a Consultation: Submit your case online or by phone to schedule your consultation. We'll ask for the details we need to get your case matched with an investigator and provide cost estimates.
2. Consultation with a Private Investigator: A licensed private investigator will contact you to talk to you about the purpose and goals of the investigation, and to collect any relevant information about your case. They’ll ask you a number of important questions, including:
- Do you have a specific reason for searching for assets?
- What is your relationship to the person or persons you believe are responsible for hiding the assets in question?
- Are you currently involved in a lawsuit or other legal proceeding in which evidence from this hidden asset search may be admitted?
- What are your expectations and goals for the hidden asset search?
3. Investigation in Progress: Once approved by you, your investigator will begin your hidden asset search which will include a review of all relevant legally accessible sources, including:
- Business-related annual reports, statements, etc.
- Registered businesses and interests
- Public records searches, including reviews of state and local level records (criminal and civil courts, property, property tax, liens, judgments, etc.)
- Vehicle ownership records
- Public filings and declarations (FEC filings, etc)
It’s often possible to find evidence of hidden assets, or even the assets themselves, using the above information. From there, subpoenas can allow an investigator to access more detailed information like:
- Stock and money market fund records
- Credit card receipts and statements
- Insurance policies and policy statements
- Bank account statements (deposits, withdrawals, etc.)
- Off-shore accounts
- Loan applications and supporting documents
- Income tax returns
Your investigator may recommend additional tactics if necessary, such as physical surveillance.
4. Case Updates and Final Report: Your investigator will keep you informed of all important developments during the course of your hidden asset search and provide you with a final report summarizing all findings once the search is completed. In addition, your private investigator may be available to testify on your behalf in court, if necessary and agreed-upon before the start of the investigation.
What Investigators Will Not Do
The private investigators in the Trustify network are bound to follow the law and ethics standards at all times. For example, an investigator will never attempt to access information contained in legally restricted documents, such as specifically protected banking, financial, and phone records without a subpoena. However, investigators will pursue all legal avenues in the course of a hidden asset search.