In this blog article I thought I would address some things a person might do, during the marriage, that might be useful later, if the marriage starts to falter. For most people that are reading this some of these recommendations may be too late for them, but perhaps it is advice they can pass on to other friends and family.
Asset List – During most relationships, especially the longer it goes, it is very common to accumulate assets. This would include items that most people think of, like cars, boats and checking accounts, but also less commons items like pensions, 401(k)s and life insurance. I like to see a list that has not only the name of the asset but also such information as account numbers, car VIN numbers, etc. It can also be very useful to list the value of each asset as well (this will change with time, but once it is in some form of electronic document, it is easy to update, say, once a year). Doing a list of assets will force the spouses to think about what they have and to update the list as new assets come into existence. I would also list any debts (with account numbers) including credit cards. Since debts change often, even month to month, there is no need to list the debt value on the asset list, but keeping up on the current credit cards (for both spouses) is important. I also recommend including other information in this document as well. Things like full names of the spouses, his/her date of birth, his/her drivers license number, his/her passport number, names and phone numbers of insurance providers (life, car, etc.). This asset list can be very important in several situations. Should there be the possibility of a divorce/legal separation, this list will be very helpful in identifying the assets and debts – it can be very stressful to try and remember everything in existence at the time of, say, a separation from your spouse. It also would be very important should something happen to one (or both spouses) – again, this information will be helpful in making decisions during a stressful time should one of the spouses pass away, etc. Since this list has a lot of very important and confidential information on it, one must be very careful in making sure it does not fall into the wrong hands – I would recommend keeping the electronic version of the document on a “thumb drive” and store one paper copy in a secure location.
Joint Accounts – For most of my client’s at the start of the marriage they decided to have only a joint checking and savings account. But I am aware of the fact that some parties decide, for whatever reason, to keep their accounts separate. I understand that, but from my point of view, especially if there is a problem in figuring out what has happened with an account that my client does not have direct access to, it can be a problem. In my opinion, having joint accounts allows for “full disclosure” of what is happening in the relationship at any point in time. If there is a concern about not giving a spouse access to the account, then I would be worried about what underlying issues there are in the relationship – but, again this issue can be very “fact specific” and depend on your situation.
This blog article is not intended to convey legal advice, but only address some of the general rules. Most legal issues, in family law cases, depend on the specific facts. Should you wish to discuss your particular situation with the Law Office of Thomas A. Chillquist, please call or email my office. I am a family law lawyer (divorce attorney) and I represent parties in family law, and divorce, matters in King and Pierce County, Washington, including Kent, Federal Way, Covington, Renton, SeaTac, Des Moines, Fife, Auburn, Seattle, Bellevue, Puyallup, Orting, Tacoma and Mercer Island. Copyright Thomas A. Chillquist