By Julie Garrison
If you are contemplating filing for divorce, you are no doubt concerned about keeping ownership and control of important marital assets. You may be worried that your newly estranged wife could withdraw all of the funds from your joint bank accounts or even sell jewelry and other valuables that belong to both of you.
Here are some steps that you can take to protect your assets and ensure that you are able to keep property that is rightfully yours.
In most joint bank accounts, either party can close the account without the signature of the other. In assessing your specific situation, first talk with your bank manager to determine that particular bank’s policy on closing out bank accounts.
He or she may advise you to withdraw half the funds and set up a new account in your name only, or you may be advised to close out the account entirely. In the event of a complete bank account closure, your spouse will be entitled to half of those funds.
Make a list of items of value that were acquired or inherited prior to marriage. Likewise, make sure to do the same with the valuables you acquired during the marriage. Valuables that were yours prior to marriage are still legally yours. Make sure to secure them prior to separation.
Collect receipts, wills and other documentation for valuables that you believe are your separate property. Photograph joint property that you do not plan to take with you if you are going to move out of your joint residence. Attach these photos to your inventory. In most states, you are entitled to one half of all community property whether you remove it or not.
Unless your estranged wife has a stay-away order against you, you are allowed to go back to the residence and remove some property.
The Case for Hiring an Appraiser
If you and your wife have property or valuable marital assets, you would do well to hire an appraiser to go over your holdings and valuables. This includes joint businesses, investment property, real estate, retirement plans, stocks and other high-valuable items.
You might also want to consider hiring a forensic accountant if you have your own business. He or she will be able to interpret records from your business and assign correct values.
Make copies of your last three years of income tax returns, your pension plan, business records, savings and investment account statements and your retirement plan. If you have a business with your spouse, it is legal for you to enter her office to obtain business records. If your wife is resistant to this, your divorce attorney will be able to assist you in the collection of business records.
Be Transparent in Business Dealings
Remember, if you own a business with your wife, you must be transparent in your dealings within the company. The last thing you need during a divorce is for your soon-to-be ex to allege that you are hiding company funds.