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Inventorying assets in the event of divorce, part 1: the basics

"Show me the money" is a common English expression. It is also far easier said than done. 

After all, life is not like a game of Monopoly where there is utter transparency about who has which assets. When a couple gets divorced, there are often many different types of property to be divided in the divorce settlement.

This isn't only the case for high-asset divorces, either. In our wealthy society, many people have retirement accounts, stock holdings, deferred compensation and other assets whose value -- or even existence -- does not immediately meet the eye.

That is why, in a two-part post this week, we will discuss some of the steps that a divorcing party can take to inventory the available assets and make sure they are accounted for properly.

Of course, it makes sense to start with basics, such as your house. And it's also important to have a basic grasp of your checking and savings accounts -- even if your spouse handled the banking.

Retirement or pension accounts from a current employer are also pretty straightforward. They should obviously be included when you're making a list, regardless of which spouse accumulated them.

But it isn't only accounts from current employers that should be considered. If a spouse has deferred compensation, a 401(k) or some other holdings from a previous job, those holdings should be considered when conducting an inventory of assets that could be considered marital assets.

After all, the general rule is that assets acquired during marriage are normally subject to equitable property division in the event of divorce. If all or part of the previous employment that produced deferred comp or some other asset was during the marriage relationship, these are assets that need to be on the table for negotiations about property division.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: Don't Forget These Marital Assets," Jeff Landers, Oct. 16, 2013

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