Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature
by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA
When a business or professional practice is involved in a divorce, there is often considerable difficulty and expense in determining a settlement value acceptable to both parties. This frequently is a major impediment to reaching settlement.
The fees to value a business or professional practice – and time required – can be significant, especially if two – or three – valuation experts are involved.
The following presents two methods to facilitate resolution of the valuation issue on a cost-effective, expeditious basis.
Abbreviated valuation analysis for mediation and/or settlement negotiations is often effective at providing a reliable value without “going the whole 9 yards” on the valuation process.
Essentially the business valuation expert performs a sufficient level of analysis to enable him/her to provide a reliable estimate of value–or range of values–for settlement purposes. The expert will provide well-footnoted valuation schedules and a summary report if requested.
The expert will generally be available for mediation to explain the valuation analysis.
The expert could be a “neutral” working on behalf of both parties; or, each party may hire an expert to perform an abbreviated valuation analysis. If the case is not resolved at mediation, the expert(s) can perform a more comprehensive analysis and report letter for trial or arbitration – generally with no duplication of effort.
Not all businesses are suitable for this approach. Some have too much uncertainty about the future such that an in depth analysis is required. However, based on the author’s experience, the abbreviated valuation approach applies to the vast majority of companies and professional practices.
If effective, this approach saves time and fees. The cost is generally about half the fee for a comprehensive valuation analysis and report.
Use of a neutral appraiser working on behalf of both parties is often an effective method for resolving the valuation issue on an expeditious, cost-effective manner.
It is common for each party to retain a business valuation expert. But, it is not uncommon that the values calculated by such experts are meaningfully different. If they cannot resolve the disparity in values, often a third expert is engaged to opine on value–causing considerable delay and additional fees.
However, if the parties can agree on one business appraiser at the outset, they can avoid the possible “battle of experts”. They can also save time, fees and emotion. Experienced family law practitioners know and can usually agree on a business appraiser with a reputation for competence and integrity.
When using a neutral, it is often advisable to reserve the right to have his/her valuation analysis reviewed for reasonableness by another expert. This offers some protection against a valuation analysis performed erroneously by the neutral. But, to preserve the benefits of using a neutral, the review should be limited to a “reasonableness check,” not a full-blown valuation analysis.
(see PDF below for example details)
Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section (subscription required)