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Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Topic 8: Intangible Personal Property

Posted in Divorce Process

Hi there, 

Intangible Personal Property can be very technical to divide. 

Pensions, IRAs and other retirement assets, deferred compensation, and stock options all need to be carefully handled.

Tax issues are of course apparent – there is only one right way to divide each type of retirement asset and if you do it wrong the tax consequences to the person initially owning the pension can be severe. 

There are many precise aspects to handling stock options and deferred compensation as well. Agreements should be carefully done, as inadvertent results like in the Wooters case, can occur.  In that case the agreement did not specify how future stock options would be treated, because the husband was not in a job that had options at the time of divorce.  The definition of ‘”earned income” in the agreement, tracked the tax code which treats options as income when they are exercised.  As a result, when he changed employment and received options they were treated as part of his income for support.  

Deferred compensation comes in varied forms.  Your attorney will need to be very familiar with the individual business plans that cover the particular compensation in question.

Business interests and professional practices require valuation and may well require the services of a forensic accountant if there is an issue of hidden income.

You should be mindful of the basis and potential capital gains with securities and mutual funds.

Other intangible property may include royalties, receivables, bank accounts, intellectual property, tax loss carry forwards, frequent flier miles, etc etc…….

And then there are inheritances, future inheritances and trust interests.  The existence of significant assets in any of these categories is important to consider.

You should also ask if there is any “stuff” of significant value, ie. art, jewelry, oriental rugs, antiques, collections, etc that should be appraised.  Are there items in particular that you want?

And finally, don’t forget about pets and livestock.

Best,

Nancy