For many of our divorce mediation or divorce financial analysis clients, we see the standard array of marital assets.
Houses, cars, bank accounts, 401(k)’s etc. are all a part of the standard discovery package we receive in advance of mediation or financial analysis work.
But other than the usual suspects, there are a number of other items that may be considered assets. Therefore when preparing for divorce or to work with a divorce financial analyst, you should also gather information on as many of these unusual divorce assets as possible.
Unusual Divorce Assets
Most anything that was acquired during the marriage may be considered marital property and thus a divorce asset. So when thinking about what’s in and what’s out in terms of equitable distribution, you may need to broaden your horizons!
And it’s not just limited to tangible goods either. Below you’ll find a list of items that we see clients often overlook when negotiating the terms of their divorce.
Feel free to use it as a handy checklist or as a way of expanding your view on what is and what isn’t a marital asset. Regret has a very long shelf life and I’d hate to see you overlook something now in the throes of divorce that you may regret not discussing later.
Tangible Divorce Assets Commonly Overlooked
Just because you can touch or see an asset, that doesn’t mean you may overlook it when it comes time to divide your divorce assets.
- Gifts given during the marriage – while many people think about the engagement ring and how it is NOT a martial assets, that doesn’t mean other significant gifts given to each other during the marriage can’t be factored into the mix.
- Pets or other animals – as a dog lover, I happen to think that pets are members of the family and should be treated as such. Parenting plan and all. But in some states the law may disagree and treat them as property. Other animals such a horses or livestock, especially if used for breeding, can have significant value even though you might not think of them that way.
- Collections – I used to collect Pez dispensers. You know those plastic candy holders where the heads pop up and reveal a sweet treat? They sat in multiple plastic bags in my basement as I thought they were simply toys. Little did I know I had a few rare little plastic friends in there until I got on Ebay!
- Photographs – call me old school but I still like film and printed pictures. Sure in today’s digital age, you can simply copy your photo collection from one hard drive to another but what about all those old pictures of friends and family? Hard to put a price tag on memories, especially if they’re irreplaceable. You may be able to get reproductions of them made and shared but that can be a costly endeavor so think about it before simply writing it off.
Intangible Divorce Assets Commonly Overlooked
On the flip side, there are those items that you may not even think to consider at all. These can be the trickiest to discuss and value as you can’t see or touch them but believe me when I tell you, they are real. And sometimes worth significant money.
- Frequent Flyer Miles – Sure it may seem that you didn’t have to do much other than go on vacation or a business trip to earn them, have you seen the cost of plane tickets these days? Why should your ex fly free to Hawaii when you have to pay $1,000 to sit in coach?
- Tax Losses / Carryovers – Here’s where having a good accountant can really come into play. As part of our discovery process we ask for up to 10 years of tax returns. Most people seem a bit bothered having to make all those copies but trust me when I tell you there is a reason. In some cases, you may have a write off that will carry over from tax year to tax year and it can result in a significant reduction in your income, thus reducing your tax burden. Why let that go as who wants to pay Uncle Sam more than they have to?
- Patents / Goodwill – America is a land built on innovation. So when it comes to divorce, ideas conceived during the marriage may be subject to equitable distribution. Patents are the most obvious example but goodwill from a business owned by one of the parties counts too. Don’t let someone who is a sole proprietorship tell you if they leave, the business will go away. Far from.
- MP3′s, Digital Downloads of Movies, etc. – Copyright laws forbid you from legally sharing music or movies you may have purchased in a digital format. If you’re like me and own thousands of albums, then there will be quite a cost to replace all that music you love. At $10 a download on Amazon, if you’ve got a thousand CD’s like I do, that’s $10,000 in replacement costs!
I Could Go On But…
Hopefully by now you get the point.
When thinking about what’s in and what’s out of your divorce assets, remember it’s not only the obvious stuff that counts. Be sure you work with a divorce firm that knows the laws and the numbers like Equitable Mediation.
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