It’s time to roll up your sleeves and take inventory!
Yippee! I get to do an inventory of my entire house and garage!
Right? Oh, I see. You’re like everybody else who dreads this part of the divorce process.
When a married couple gets divorced, they have a LOT of stuff they have accumulated over the years. Sometimes decades of stuff.
Dissolving a marriage requires the unraveling the ownership of all the items you own.
Sometimes the items are precious to you, and sometimes you could care less about them. If you don’t care about them, maybe your spouse does. Or maybe neither of you do, and it needs to be sold or disposed of. What about all the gear and toys for the kids? Who will keep that? And how much is it worth. Either way, each item needs to be identified and assigned a value.
Do I really need to go through all that trouble of taking inventory and assigning a value to it all? No, not if one of you doesn’t care.
I have a client, Amy, whose husband left her for another woman, and he was willing to agree to most anything in the divorce negotiations in order to get divorced as quickly and quietly as possible. So, she didn’t need to put a value on anything in the house. Amy simply kept all the furniture, kitchenware, kids’ stuff, patio gear, lawnmower, her clothes, and her car. He just packed up his clothes and comic books and drove away in his car. He didn’t care about who got what or how money it was worth. He just wanted out. Amy never had to take inventory or assign a value. Amy’s divorce was still hard emotionally, but financially it was easy.
But my other client, Joanie, had the opposite experience. She filed for a divorce because her husband had a drinking problem, and it was hurting the kids. He was mad and wanted to get even with her. And that almost always requires one to take inventory of the marital assets. She had to spend days walking through her house, garage, storage unit, and rental property, writing down everything they owned. And then more time on top of that to research what value to assign to each item. Even down to their dog. He was mad enough to insist on taking the dog in the divorce. So, she had to inventory their Goldendoodle and research what his value would be if they were to sell him.
It’s a messy, unpleasant task. But nobody else can get this job done. You’re up to bat. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and take inventory.
I’ll take you on an imaginary tour of the main floor of my house, to describe to you how I would take inventory of it if I were to get divorced.
Welcome to my kitchen. There are exotic, high-end bird’s eye maple cabinets. Modern design with black granite countertops and German appliances. We can ignore all that. That will be included in the value of the house, not the inventory list. We are just focusing on the loose items that you can pick up or list for sale individually. It’s highly unlikely that you will actually list any of this stuff for sale, but we are just establishing what’s all here and how much it is worth so we can split it up fairly if needed.
I open the first drawer: a rusty cast iron skillet and cookie sheets. The second drawer: Pyrex glass storage containers with lids. On the counter above that: a yellow Kitchen aid mixer. Get your pen and paper out: write down “kitchenware” or “cooking utensils”. I am not a cooking enthusiast, so I would probably just lump together all my cooking utensils, pots pans and kitchen accessories as “kitchenware”. I would list the yellow kitchen aid mixer separately because that has a little more value.
If you are a foodie and into cooking, you will want to be a lot more detailed here, because you probably have a lot more invested in your cookware. You can also list your stemware and dinnerware out separately if you feel like it has value. Or if you want to be absolutely certain that you get it in the divorce, list it out here. That way it is in writing in the final divorce decree. For example, I had some crystal serving ware that my Grandma had given me before she died. I don’t think it is worth much, but I made sure to list it on the inventory sheet because otherwise it wouldn’t have been listed in the final divorce decree. I used our divorce decree to remind my ex-husband what I was still missing, and could you kindly remember to deliver that to me? That’s it for the kitchen.
On to the dining room. I have an 8’ high-end wood table with built-in extender. I don’t know what kind of wood it is. There is a wood bead chandelier above the table. And 8 nice quality orange/brown leather chairs. I don’t write down the chandelier (because that can be included in the value of the house), but I write down the table and chairs. I also snap a photo of it, in case I need to reference it as I am researching its value later.
Next is the living room. I have a black matte baby grand piano. It’s a 10 years old Kawai. Next to it is a Pottery Barn brown leather Chesterfield sofa. With a Pendleton blanket folded on its back, with Anthropology throw pillows. Above it hangs a massive painting my mom did for me. And I I finish out living room, writing down each piece of furniture, painting, and stereo equipment.
All that is left on the main floor is a coat closet and a powder room. Nothing to write down there.
Now I have to assign a value to each of those items I wrote down.
I am going to assign a generic value to all my kitchen stuff, simply because I don’t care too much about it. I ask myself if I went to TJMaxx or Macy’s and had to restock my kitchen with all this stuff, how much would I spend. I would spend at least $1000 to refill the drawers and shelves with all the tools, pots, pans, dinnerware and stemware. Roughly half of that would be an acceptable price for used items, so I assign $500 to my kitchenware. I also keep my Grandma’s crystal dishes with a value of $1, just because I want to be sure that it appears in my column in the paperwork. Hopefully, my ex will be nice enough to hand over those nostalgic items rather than handing you $1 in its place.
In the dining room, I have to do a little more research, because I don’t know how much the table and chairs are worth. I know they were expensive when we bought them, so I don’t want to overlook it. I look at our local online rummage Facebook page and scroll down to look at what people are selling tables and chair sets for. I also check out Craigslist and eBay. I check out a high-end furniture site (for me high-end something like Restoration Hardware) and look at their prices. I want to take about half of what Restoration Hardware dining room set sells for, but I balance it with what people are actually selling used dining room sets locally (based on the online rummage site and Craigslist).
I do the same for the living room. The piano and sofa aren’t too hard to price. My mom’s painting means a lot to me personally, but not to my ex, so I set it at a price of $1.
If your divorce goes to court, the inventory list becomes very important. You want to list a price that is fair. For example, I had this 16×20 white wool rug that was beautiful and very expensive. I think we originally paid over $10,000 for it. But I didn’t want to list the value at $5,000 (half the retail price) because if the judge gave me the rug, then it would mean that I lost out on $5,000 that I could have gained in other assets which were much more important to me than a rug. I needed cash to pay for rent, not a fancy rug. So, I ended up listing the rug at $800, instead of $5,000.
You probably won’t have to put this much thought into the inventory, running the worst-case scenario in your head. But just in case your divorce is a doozy like mine was, take careful inventory. And keep your chin up, because YOU are an OVERCOMER.