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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Asset Searches for Debt Collection

by Joe Hoover

Asset Searches

People hide assets for a variety of reasons that range from personal to business in nature, but essentially they have property or money that they do not want discovered. Hiding of assets is not always a sign of criminal intent, but just as often it shows a moral or ethical failing in a subject’s character in that they feel there is a reason to hide all or a portion of their wealth from scrutiny. This article delves into the concept of hidden assets and details a methodology for uncovering such property or wealth.

 WHY CONDUCT AN ASSETS SEARCH?

 There are clearly situations of a business or personal nature in which it is essential to check for the possibility of hidden assets. Knowledge of such assets can make a big difference in the establishment of grounds for particular types of interpersonal actions or the furthering of certain business relationships. And of course the law enforcement community needs to monitor underworld activities, a part of which is watching for laundered or hidden assets, especially those that might end up being removed to offshore accounts. Thus, an asset search is vital to full disclosure of resources in a variety of matters both civil and criminal. The primary reasons for an asset search in the private or family sector are evaluated below:

Entering into a New Business Venture – If one is considering investing in a new business, bringing a new investor into an existing company or contemplating a merger between companies, it is essential to conduct a thorough background check on the individual or corporation. Such a check also includes a comprehensive assets search.

Prior to Entering into a Lawsuit – It is important to conduct an assets search prior to filing suit against an individual or company to determine what assets or regular income is present in the event a judgment is ordered by the court (see below). It is not worth the cost of legal fees to file a suit against a person or company that will be unable to pay any court-ordered sum. It is also important to determine what assets or property could be attached on an uncontested basis once a judgment is issued, assuming victory in the suit. If the entity to be sued has nothing of value that can be taken, there is no point in entering into a suit.

Collecting on a Judgment – When the court order a sum of money to be paid as part of a civil action, a judgment is issued, this is simply a court order for the payment of funds. It is rare for the defendant to simply pay the amount ordered on the spot. The judicial system only orders payment, but collection is the responsibility of the plaintiff. A judgment will stand for ten years, but can be extended to become permanent. However, this requires that the defendant, who is now considered to be the debtor, be questioned in a deposition or hearing under oath regarding their financial status. If the debtor is going to surrender an item of property such as an automobile or boat, be certain to do an asset search before taking possession. If there are any liens against the property, taking possession may also bring with it liability for the lien.

Divorce – The finances involved in a divorce can often become rather complicated. It is not uncommon for a spouse to hide assets that would be open to dispute. An asset search of the party being divorced is very important to be certain that all assets are accounted for.

Child Support/Alimony – Public child support enforcement agencies are ill- equipped to locate parents who evade their child support obligations. Quite often the errant parent will attempt to hide assets, thus pleading an inability to meet child support or alimony payments. In child support cases, once the parent is located, information regarding their wages or any hidden assets should be given to the proper child support enforcement agency that can then facilitate collection.

Contestant of a Will – Quite often personal assets may be hidden and not disclosed in a will. Potential beneficiaries or those entitled to a claim against the estate should search for the possibility of hidden assets.

Read the complete "Searching or Assets," article.

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