When going through a divorce, it’s easy to focus on the major assets such as the house, cars, or retirement funds. But other assets, often hidden in plain sight, need equal consideration. This article sheds light on ten commonly overlooked assets that should be accounted for during the asset division process.
1. The Family Pet
Pets are often an integral part of our daily lives, but they can easily be overlooked when dividing assets in a divorce. In Colorado, pets are treated as assets, much like any other property. During the separation process, the pet may stay with the spouse who remains in the marital home, but this can come with added responsibilities, especially if the pet is elderly and requires more care and medical attention. Therefore, don’t neglect to include your furry family member when discussing property division.
2. Credit Card Rewards
When it comes to credit card debts, spouses are keen on determining who will bear the burden. However, the credit card might also include hidden assets like airline miles, hotel points, and other rewards. Failing to address these rewards could result in them going to the spouse who takes on the debt or whose name is on the account. Given that the value of these rewards can often exceed the debt amount, it’s essential to factor them into your divorce negotiations.
3. Forgotten Small Retirement Accounts
While primary, long-standing retirement accounts are generally top of mind during asset division, smaller accounts from short-term jobs can be forgotten. Spouses should not ignore these accounts as they can still provide a substantial payout upon retirement, particularly when living on a fixed income. Sometimes spouses have pensions from employment long ago too.
4. Sentimental Photos
During the emotional turmoil of a divorce, photographs may be the last thing you think about. However, once the process is over, these photos could become precious. If you have children, having copies of significant milestones is crucial. Even without kids, some photos could carry sentimental value for various reasons. A practical approach is to make duplicates so that both parties can keep these treasured memories.
5. College Savings for the Kids
Whether it’s a 529 account or a custodial account, college savings for children shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to decide who will manage these accounts, how to handle future contributions, and what happens to any remaining funds if the child does not use them for education.
6. Storage Units
Storage units can be the black holes of asset division, often forgotten until it’s too late. Such units may contain valuable family heirlooms or even separate property that you might have overlooked. Moreover, it’s important to decide who will pay for the unit’s maintenance post-divorce, as failure to do so could result in losing its contents.
7. Trust Interests
Spouses may be beneficiaries of trusts and may not even be aware of it. Determining whether a trust is a marital asset can be complicated and often requires legal expertise. Even if the trust hasn’t started payouts, it may still be considered in the asset division discussions.
8. Intellectual Property
Intellectual property, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks, can be easily overlooked in divorce proceedings because they don’t have a physical presence. However, these assets can hold significant financial value and potential future earnings. If either spouse has authored a book, developed a product, or owns rights to a particular brand or invention, it’s crucial to factor these into the asset division equation.
9. Timeshares and Vacation Properties
While the focus may be on the primary residence, timeshares or vacation homes also require attention. Even though they may not be used regularly, they can have both sentimental and financial value. Furthermore, there may be maintenance fees or mortgages associated with these properties that need to be addressed. Ensure these leisure assets are discussed and divided appropriately between both parties.
10. Memberships, Clubs, and Subscriptions
It may sound minor, but memberships to exclusive clubs, gyms, golf courses, or online services can add up in value. These memberships may be in one spouse’s name but used by both during the marriage. Deciding who retains the membership or how to handle transferring it can prevent headaches down the road. Make sure to also evaluate any costs associated with canceling or transferring these subscriptions and memberships. Sometimes these assets are “equity” memberships and other times they are simply liabilities.
Divorce is complicated and emotionally taxing. Overlooking any asset, however trivial it may seem, could have long-term ramifications. Make sure to give equal attention to all assets, visible and hidden alike, for a fair and comprehensive division.
Christopher Griffiths is a Shareholder and Chief Financial Officer of Griffiths Law. Chris specializes in both family law and civil litigation.