People often ask when it comes to searching for assets, “Where do you even begin to look?” This sometimes comes after we give them the grown-up news that there is no magic computer terminal that will accept a Social Security Number and churn out bank account information.
Looking for assets is like solving a puzzle, and when you solve a puzzle you usually look at as much of the picture as you can before plunging in.
Our picture is a questionnaire that we ask every spouse for whom we work to fill out. We don’t like their lawyers to do it. It’s best done by the person who knows the subject best, and that is nearly always the spouse.
Asset searching is not usually a deductive process, by which we take two facts and logically deduce that the assets are in Location X. Instead, it is an abductive process that uses some known facts that guide us to make a series of educated guesses.
We know from Wife’s questionnaire that Husband grew up in Texas and goes there from California every year to hunt in the same place he grew up hunting with his grandfather. That does not logically prove that he secretly bought his own house in that part of Texas, but our hunch is strong enough that we would certainly check the public records in the relevant county to see if Husband (or a limited liability company set up by Husband) may have bought something there.
The only way we have to know we should be looking in Texas is the Wife’s questionnaire. Databases will usually fail to link land owned by an LLC controlled by the husband with the husband’s home address in California. Making that link is what alert professionals are paid to do.
If databases are not good at making such links, how would we even find the LLC that owns the secret property? One way is to guess what name the husband may have used for his company. People often use the same name on a new company in a new state as they’ve used on an old company in their home state. It’s not the sneakiest way to operate but not everyone is good at being sneaky.
People also name companies after pets, the name of the street they grew up on, and other intensely personal criteria their spouses would know about – but about which databases are clueless.
That is why we ask on our questionnaire about all addresses a person has ever had, where they went to school, where they vacation, names of pets, and anything else that could give us an edge.
To be in the business of educated guesswork, you have to be educated. When we get our questionnaire, that’s when we go to school on the person who may be concealing assets.
To see a free copy of our questionnaire, please use the contact form on our website. For more of our writing about asset searching, see here.