This is the fourth post in my “Divorce & Your Money” series.
A divorcing couple must identify and evaluate their financial assets and liabilities. Division and responsibility for each will be part of their divorce settlement.
Make a List
Start by making a list of your assets. The list should include:
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Children’s bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Investment or Brokerage accounts
- Real estate
- Contents of safety deposit box
- Incentive programs – examples could be stock options, business perks, frequent flyer programs or points.
Determine the Value
Once a list is made, acquire a recent statement or estimate of value for each. Couples may also agree on a specific date for determining value: either the date of separation, or end of calendar year or quarter.
Valuation of a bank account is a simple matter, but the couple may have a difference of opinion regarding real estate or the value of a business. The best thing to do is hire a third-party appraiser in either case.
Career assets, such as the value of a professional degree acquired during the marriage, could be assigned a value some cases. Speak with your attorney.
Confirm the List is Complete
A common concern is that if one spouse handles all the finances, the other could be missing something. One spouse may suspect the other is hiding assets, being unhelpful, or just disorganized. Where should they start?
The best place to start may be your tax returns. Look at the last five years to be really thorough.
Tax returns provide a wealth of information, including:
- Income from all sources
- Property taxes
- Interest & dividends
- Profit or loss from a business
- Capital gains & losses
- Partnership income
Another useful resource may be the mortgage closing paperwork. Recent mortgage closing would require disclosure of assets, liabilities, sources of income and tax returns.
Developing a list of assets and their value may be a simple or extremely difficult task, depending on the complexity involved, and the couple’s financial management process. However, it must be completed to proceed.
Changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have substantial impact upon each person’s situation. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.
Please visit PowerOverDivorce to learn more about Divorce Financial Planning Services.