Regardless of the type of divorce process you choose to use, it is important to identify your marital estate. The marital estate is defined by the South Carolina Equitable Apportionment Statute and generally comprises all assets and debts acquired by either party during the marriage, regardless of title. As you can guess, there are numerous exceptions to this rule, so discuss this issue carefully with your attorney. For starters, however, you should begin to gather the following information, regardless of how it was obtained or who obtained it, as long as it was obtained during the marriage. Gather information on an asset used during the marriage, regardless of when it was obtained.
An example of an “asset” would be your residence, a car, a boat, a valuable piece of artwork, a retirement account, or an investment account. An asset is anything that is worth money! Don’t worry about loans on the assets (such as your mortgage or a car loan), because you will be listing all of these debts separately. The result will be your “net” marital estate.
Here is a brief checklist to help guide you with this process. It is by no means a comprehensive list, so anticipate that your attorney will need more information, but it is a good starting place.
• Income tax returns for the previous five years
• Retirement account statements; one from the date of marriage, one current.
• Estimated valuation of all real estate acquired during the marriage
• Estimated value of the marital residence, if owned
• Statements from current investment accounts
• Statements from college savings accounts for minor children
• Estimated (Blue Book) value of all automobiles
• Itemization of all valuable artwork, jewelry, etc. with estimate of values
• Copies of all trusts
• Copies of all whole life insurance policies or annuities
• Recent statements from whole life and annuity policies
• Copies of all corporate papers; Sub S Corp’s, LLC’s etc.
• Current credit card statements
• Current mortgage balances (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc….)
• Automobile loans
• Promissory notes
• Student loans
• Secured loans
• Other debts and obligations (unsecured)
In complicated cases, a financial professional is helpful to assist in establishing the value of the marital estate. In the more straightforward cases, you and your lawyer can establish the values using and Excell or Numbers spreadsheet, or just a pencil and paper!
The bottom line is that you want to identify everything that was obtained during the marriage, or used as marital property during the marriage regardless of how it was obtained.
HOT TIP: You will also want to have this information very well organized for your attorney or financial professional. You pay these people by the hour, so the less time they need to spend organizing your financial matters, the less money you will pay for this service!
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