No matter what kind of divorce you decide on, contested or not, it is essential to locate your total marital assets before being able to finalize any kind of fair settlement agreement. Legally, the marital estate is defined by the spouse’s particular state’s Equitable Apportionment Statute, or another statute along the same lines, as it may vary from state to state. However all states have such a statute to ensure that no partner in a divorce is left without their share of both marital assets and liabilities. Such laws and statures usually include everything financially related that has been accumulated during the marriage, both assets and debts alike. Of course there are some instances where this may not be the case, perhaps if only one spouse was working and incurred all debt in their name solely, but such exceptions would have to be reviewed with an attorney.
To begin this information acquiring process, one must begin to find all relevant information and documentation, no matter which spouse signed for it, nor whose name the asset is titled in. Since an “asset” is considered anything of value that you own, including your home, vehicles, or savings accounts, they are worth quite a bit if you collectively add everything together. Do not consider the debt on the assets right away because mortgages and car notes and the related debts will be disclosed on a different list. This list will ultimately be labeled your “net” marital estate.
The following is a short guide to assist you with this initial procedure. However, an attorney will ask for additional data so one should not be surprised when the time comes.
• All income tax returns for the past five years
• All retirement account statements.
• All estimated value of all real estate property purchased during the marriage
• All estimated value of the spouse’s home, if owned.
• All current statements from investment accounts
• All statements from college savings accounts for children
• Blue Book value of all vehicles
• All estimated value of artwork, jewelry, etc.
• Documentation of all trusts
• Documentation of all whole life insurance policies or annuities
• Documentation of all corporate papers
• All credit card statements
• All mortgage balances
• All vehicle loans
• All promissory notes
• All student loans
•All secured loans
•All unsecured debt
In order to deal with the complexities of valuing one’s marital estate, one might consider speaking with a financial consultant. In cases that have a simpler portfolio, an attorney can assist in calculating the net worth, either on a computer program or on paper. Another good source of information for accounting for all assets and accounts is the joint tax return. Ultimately, everything of value acquired or used during the time of the marriage must be accounted for, no matter what that the source of it is.
It is helpful to have all of this information in an orderly fashion which will make it easier for the attorney or financial consultant to analyze it. Since these professionals will be charging by the hour, the more structured the paperwork is, the less time is required to pay for.