Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, April 30, 2012

Electronic Discovery Enables Spouses to More Easily Detect Hidden Assets

Images-1Troubled couples may be hiding money or other secrets, but they should be warned that electronic discovery is making it easier to uncover these secretive activities.

Spouses can dig into web-surfing history or install software on home computers that record secrets. Attorneys have easier access to digital bank statements, credit-card bills and other files. Smartpones are also a helpful tool in discovering hidden assets. Spouses can enable “find my phone” software on her family’s smartphones and learn where another spouse is stopping when they’re away from home. GPS in a spouse’s vehicle works much the same.

It may not be legal for spouses to use some of these methods to discover another spouse’s secrets, so they would not be able to use them in trial, but they can usually use them for leverage in a negotiation. Lawyers advise clients not to use illegal activity, but spouses often disregard that advice and seek the information that they want to know.

31% of U.S. adults have admitted to being deceptive about money, and 58% of these adults hid cash from their partner or spouse, and 58% of those adults have hidden cash from their partner or spouse. One of the reasons that electronic discovery is so big right now is because more people are using technology to hide the assets – whether they hide them through text messages, social networks, or create cash hoards online. Many of these spouses forget the traces that their electronic activity leaves behind – even after they have erased an email or a facebook post. The best way to avoid all of this scandal is for spouses to maintain more open and honest communication.

See Veronica Dagher, Why Hiding Money From Your Spouse Has Gotten a Lot Harder, The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 30, 2012.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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