Love is complicated. And although you can plan for the future, you can’t always predict how it will turn out. If you are separating or going through a divorce, you may be concerned about how to divide your assets and investments with your former partner. This can be a complex and emotional process, especially if you have been together for a long time or have accumulated a significant amount of wealth together.
Assets can have strong sentimental value and financial discussions can be more than uncomfortable. But knowing what steps to take and pitfalls to avoid will help you to navigate the separation process as fairly and effectively as possible.
Identify Your Assets & Liabilities
The first step is to know what you own and what you owe. When going through a separation, you’ll want to make a list of all your assets, investments, and liabilities, including their current value, date of acquisition and ownership status as classified under the law.
Generally speaking, there are two types of assets:
Marital assets are those that you acquired during the marriage. Regardless of whose name they are under, these assets are considered marital property and are subject to division.
Separate assets are those that belong to you alone and are not subject to division. They were either owned before the marriage, inherited, or received as a gift from someone other than your spouse. Separate assets may also include personal injury awards, business interests, or retirement accounts.
Determine the Value of Your Investments
Next, you’ll want to figure out the value of all your assets and investments as of your date of separation. This may require you to hire an appraiser, a financial advisor, or an accountant to determine the fair market value of your property, such as real estate, vehicles, jewelry, art, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
Don’t forget, different types of investments may have different tax implications! Be sure to do your research and understand the consequences that could arise when your assets are sold or transferred. For example, selling stocks or mutual funds may trigger capital gains taxes, while transferring retirement accounts may incur penalties or fees.
When deciding which investments to keep or trade, you should not only look at their current value, but also at their potential for growth and risk. For example, a stock that has appreciated significantly may seem more attractive than a bond that pays a steady interest, but it may also be more volatile and prone to market fluctuations.
Think about your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial plans, then consider how your investments align with you and your goals.
Negotiate Wisely and Fairly
Divorce is not a win-lose situation, but rather a compromise that requires cooperation and communication. It is important to be realistic and flexible about your expectations and demands, as well as to negotiate in good faith and avoid hiding or squandering any assets out of anger or spite. You may do well to hire a mediator, lawyer, or financial planner to facilitate the process and help you to reach an agreement that is beneficial for both parties.
To ensure fair and equal distribution of your divided assets, you may need to consider a variety of factors, including the:
- Length of the marriage
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition and maintenance of the assets
- Income and earning potential of each spouse
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Needs of any children involved
You and your former partner know your relationship history and financial situation best, so be aware of these and other contextual factors that could arise and shift the balance of the scales.
Options for Splitting Up Your Investments
Again, cooperation is key when it comes to finding an amicable way to divide your assets after a separation. There are a variety of options available with both pros and cons, it just depends on what works for you.
Selling the assets and dividing the proceeds
Simplifies the process and avoids future conflicts over the assets.
Provides the necessary liquidity and flexibility for both partners to meet their needs and goals after the divorce.
Selling your assets may trigger capital gains taxes and transaction costs that reduce the net value of the assets.
Transferring some or all of the assets to one spouse in exchange for other assets or cash
Each spouse may be allowed to keep the assets they prefer or those that suit their risk tolerance and investment strategy.
You could possibly avoid or minimize taxes and fees associated with selling the assets.
A fair and accurate valuation should be done beforehand with careful consideration given to the tax implications and future growth potential of each asset.
Keeping some or all of the assets in joint ownership until a later date
Preserves the value and growth of the assets and defers taxes until they are sold or transferred.
Offers continuity and stability for both spouses, especially if they have children or dependents who benefit from the assets.
This option may also entail ongoing communication and cooperation between the former partners, as well as legal and financial risks if one spouse dies, remarries, or becomes insolvent.
Creating a trust or an allowance to provide income or support for one spouse
Ensures a steady and predictable income stream for one partner, especially if they have lower earning potential or higher expenses.
May also protect the assets from creditors, lawsuits, or remarriage of the other spouse.
May incur fees and taxes for setting up and maintaining the trust or annuity, as well as reduce the control and access of both parties over the assets.
Update Your Documents and Accounts
Once you have finalized your divorce settlement, it’s best to update the rest of life’s paperwork as soon as possible, so you can shake the weight off your shoulders and get back to living your life.
Remember to update your beneficiary designations, account titles, passwords, and contact information. You should also review your estate plan, insurance policies, and credit reports to ensure that they reflect your new status and preferences.
No matter what option you choose when it comes to separating your assets and investments, it is important to consult with a qualified accountant.
At Freedom Accounting, we have the experience and expertise to help guide you through life’s financial challenges so you can make the best possible decisions for your future. Contact us today for a free consultation.