If you and your spouse are considering divorce or you are in the beginning stages of your separation process, then it’s time to start collecting your financial information. Wherever possible, work with your spouse to complete your financial picture. Be honest and forthright. You gain nothing by hiding information or assets from one another.
Look at all the bills and invoices coming into your house and make a list of the sender and return addresses. Collect the contact information of stockbrokers, insurance companies, credit companies, banks, and revenue properties. Make copies of everything, including your property assessment, previous years’ tax returns, Notices of Assessment, pension plan documentation, insurance information, wills and trusts.
Once your divorce is underway, it’s time for you each to start re-directing your mail. This is a precaution to ensure that mail ends up in the right hands. When I was leaving my second husband, he was really ticked at me, and tossed my tax refund cheques into the garbage. It took me a year to discover it was missing. A post office box or the home of a close friend or relative will work. File a change of address notice with the post office.
If you have a family safe deposit box, visit it and list the contents including cash and jewelry. Take pictures. Since separation can mean an immediate financial crunch, sock away some cash so you have money at the ready.
Are you familiar with your spouse’s business interests? Become involved and be aware of financial information regarding the business by getting full information on the business, including bank documents, loan applications, corporate tax returns and financial statements.
Create a complete list of all your family debts including credit cards, notes, mortgages, lines of credit, car loans, etc.
Identify when each debt was incurred, by whom and for what reason, along with who has been making payments, and the monthly or annual amounts. If you’re on the hook for your spouse’s debts – if you’ve jointly signed on his boat loan, her business loan, whatever – it’s time to get your name off the documentation. Cancel credit cards to prevent large purchases by your spouse. Make copies of all loan documents, mortgage applications, and financial statements.
Finally, it’s time to list your assets. Include whether an asset is held individually (by whom) or jointly and the source of the assets, whether it was inherited or gifted to you, and when (prior to or during the marriage).
It is vital that you create an accurate picture of your existing financial situation in order to ensure a smoother separation process, to protect your interests, and to begin creating your own individual financial identities.
Based on Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s article “Collect Your Financial Info” from Splitsville