Marital Property Balance Form
It’s hard for a court (and lawyers) to divide property without an inventory. To work with your lawyer effectively and efficiently, you should have an inventory of all of your marital and non-marital property. Your attorney needs to know all of the assets that make up your “marital estate.”
More importantly, nearly every case encounters two potentially aggravating problems. The first is “spousal pilfering.” In many cases, sooner or later, one spouse takes the law into his or her own hands and begins to appropriate personal property. It is not unusual for one spouse to rent a storage locker or borrow a friends basement or garage “just to set aside a few things.” At first, it may be just a few old cups and saucers, but then the cuckoo clock goes missing, and then the golf clubs, and before long the rooms are empty and the walls are bare. The second type of property problem is the “I wish I remembered...” syndrome. Often times a case will be virtually resolved – only waiting for the ink to dry – when one spouse will say “Oh yeah, I just remembered, I want that one set of candle holders we received as an anniversary gift...“ Trying to acquire that one item from the other party will set off a tit-for-tat trading session and, without a detailed inventory, you will be at a substantial disadvantage.
These problems are compounded when the parties separate. Often, the moving party will use the move as an opportunity to plunder the martial home and make off with all sorts of personal property. On the other hand, the spouse remaining in the home may try to pre-empt the plundering spouse, by hiding as much valuable property as possible.
Whether it’s a slow trickle of a few items a week, or an all-out pillaging, there are a few very effective strategies that can minimize the frustration and maximize your settlement. First, get a few disposable cameras, stand in each room of your home and take a picture facing in each direct. You will want to be able to put together a panorama of your home. The photos won’t replace a solid inventory, but they will jog your memory in a pinch. They may even be used as evidence if your case goes to trial. Take an hour, get some cameras, and take some pictures.
Second, fill out our inventory form, below. It will help you and your lawyer make sure that you get a fair shake in court. When recording the value, use the fair market value; that is, what could you sell it for, today? Identify the owner of the property. Cars are usually titled in one person’s name. Some assets are held for children.