It is a sad fact that family disputes are becoming increasingly more commonplace. With divorce rates on the rise and disagreements regularly occurring between family members surrounding wills, probates and trusts, people are regularly turning to forensic accountants for assistance in resolving their problems.
While enlisting the services of a forensic accountant may seem excessive, however they can prove instrumental in ensuring equitable distribution of assets such as property and cash. With this in mind, we explain how forensic accounting can help with family dispute resolution.
What is a Family Dispute?
Before we look into how forensic accounting can help with family dispute resolution, we will first of all examine what a family dispute actually entails.
The term ‘family dispute’ refers to active opposition between family members. Because of the nature of family relationships, it can take a wide range of forms, such as:
- Couple relationship issues
- Grandparents rights
- Elder care
- Family business and partnerships
- Estranged family members
Conflicts can involve different combinations of family members, such as within a couple, between parents and children, and between siblings.
There are several elements of family disputes that forensic accounting can assist with. In this blog, we will look over the two most common ones, which are probates and trusts, and divorce and matrimonial disputes.
Probates and Trusts
Probate court matters will generally involve Wills, Estates, Guardianships, Trusts and Powers of Attorney. In many of these cases, there exists a legal relationship of trust with individuals who exercise considerable control over what could turn out to be significant assets.
With this level of control also comes a fiduciary duty to exercise care and an obligation to act in good faith and the best interests of beneficiaries. Forensic accounting can come into play when beneficiaries suspect that the assets of a Trust are being mismanaged or misappropriated.
When beneficiaries believe that such actions have taken place, a forensic accountant can analyse the management and/or the administration of the Trust or estate, and to account for the assets or uncover potential suspicious transactions. They will do this by using various processes and techniques, such as reviewing documentation, conducting witness interviews and even carrying out surveillance operations in more extreme cases.
Not only can a forensic accountant prove to be instrumental in ensuring that any assets are being distributed fairly, they can also help settle a family dispute before any litigation takes place.
The Role of a Forensic Accountant During Litigation
In cases where an amicable resolution could not take place, a forensic accountant is also able to assist during litigation proceedings. An example of this is providing discovery assistance, which includes assessing the quality of documentation to determine whether they are relevant to the matter at hand.
A forensic accountant will also accumulate data and perform the necessary analytical work to either support or refute the legal theories provided. In addition, they will develop a detailed report that communicates their findings and conclusions. If requested, the forensic accountant can also critique an opposing expert’s report.
The final thing a forensic accountant can help with is by appearing as an expert witness in court and taking part in cross-examination questioning.
Divorce and Matrimonial Disputes
The final main area of family dispute resolution that forensic accounting can help with is in divorce and matrimonial issues. Depending on the case, they can act on behalf of both parties (as a Single Joint Expert) or as the representative of just one side of the dispute.
Forensic accounting can be incredibly useful during divorce proceedings, as it used to not only review the assets that are already available, but also find out if anything is being withheld. A forensic accountant’s objective is to ensure there is no understatement of assets or income, and uncover any attempts by either party to conceal what they own.
There are many different roles a forensic accountant can have during a matrimonial dispute, such as:
- Tax issues
- Valuation of business assets
- Providing expert witness
- Tracing assets
A forensic accountant can be instructed at any point during proceedings, such as before either party has sought formal legal assistance. They can also be called into action after a final settlement has been agreed. This is in cases where one party is not believed to have acted in accordance with the financial order.
For more information about how a forensic accountant can help with divorce and matrimonial disputes, check out our blog.
Why Use a Forensic Accountant?
As we touched upon earlier, there are a number of reasons why you should seek the help of a forensic accountant when trying to resolve a family dispute. Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that a forensic accountant can help you bring the issue to a satisfactory conclusion without having to go through the litigation process – thereby potentially saving you a lot of time and money.
Having an expert forensic accountant in your corner can give you a strategic advantage that offers the best possible chance of success. They can also help lighten the load at what must be an incredibly stressful time, leaving you free to concentrate on other matters.
How Inquesta can Help
If you are in the middle of a family dispute and need a forensic accountant, you can rely on Inquesta to help. We have amassed decades of experience in family dispute resolution, leaving us perfectly placed to assist.
We know that no two cases are the same, which is why we will take the time to understand your individual circumstances. This takes the form of a preliminary review, where we offer detailed advice on the work we can do, whether we believe it is worth doing, and the information we require. We will then provide you with a fixed-fee quote for each phase of the process.
Our specialist forensic accountants are dedicated to providing the best possible outcome for our clients. We always endeavour to put the needs of our clients above all else, so you can be sure you are working with someone who has your best interests at heart.
For more information about how Inquesta can help you, contact a member of our team today or book a free consultation.