Normally when working out a California divorce settlement, valuing community property is part of the process of dividing up the marital property (assets and debts). In other words, you establish a dollar value for the various items having a positive or negative value. Obtaining a valuation for separate (non-marital) property is usually not necessary. This is because these items are not divided but rather are simply confirmed as belonging to one spouse or the other.
If a court is dividing up the assets and debts, it will normally try to value them as of the date of the trial. An exception is that a small business run by one of the spouses will often be valued as of the date of separation. When you work out your own settlement, perhaps with the assistance of a divorce mediator, you can use whatever date(s) of valuation you can agree on.
For those assets that could be sold, a fair market value is usually used. This includes houses and other real property, vehicles of all types and personal property that is relatively valuable. Usually spouses don’t try to value individual furniture, appliances and personal property items but rather just find some agreeable way to divide them up.
Valuing Community Property – Types
Different types of property are valued in different ways. Sometimes the spouses simply agree upon a figure. Here are some common ways of valuing community property:
- Real property: competitive market analysis from realtor(s) or an appraisal from an appraiser.
- Cars, trucks and other vehicles: Kelly Blue Book or a similar source.
- A business: a business appraiser familiar with the type of business.
- A pension: an actuary who can calculate the present value of the future monthly pay-outs.
- Nearly all types of financial accounts: current statements.
- Life insurance policies: surrender value (if any).
- Art, coin collections and the like: an appraiser familiar with the type of item.
- Valuable furniture, appliances and personal property: ebay or some other online marketplace.
- Loans and other debts: current statements and other documents detailing the debt.
Sometimes there are items which are a mixture of both community and separate property. For these an effort is often made to calculate the value belonging to each.