When preparing to go through a divorce, one of the first steps you need to take is to create an inventory of your property. Unless you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement, you will need to divide your property inventory according to the principles of “equitable distribution” during the divorce process—and this starts with knowing all of the assets on the table.

Dividing Your “Separate” and “Marital” Property During Your Divorce

As we discussed in a recent article, there is a key difference between “separate” and “marital” assets for purposes of an Illinois divorce. Separate assets include most assets acquired before the marriage (potentially among others) and are not subject to equitable distribution. Marital assets include most assets acquired during the marriage and must be distributed equitably between the spouses during the divorce process.

To make informed decisions during your divorce, you need to know which of your assets (i) qualify as marital property, (ii) qualify as your separate property, and (iii) qualify as your spouse’s separate property. The first step is to create a property inventory.

What is a Property Inventory?

So, what is a property inventory? A property inventory is a list of everything you own. The division of marital property is a crucial aspect of the divorce process, so you must have a complete list of the assets you will need to address as you work toward ending your marriage.

While some people’s property inventories will be much longer than others, it is worth preparing a list regardless of how much property you own. This will help you avoid overlooking any assets that require attention during your divorce, and it will help you stay organized during the process as well. A complete list of your property can also help you decide which assets you want to prioritize—as we discuss in greater detail below.

Tips for Creating a Property Inventory

Now that we’ve briefly covered why it is essential to have a property inventory when going through a divorce, we can talk about the process of putting one together. Here are five tips for creating a property inventory for your divorce:

Tip #1: Take Your Time

Our first tip is to take your time. Remember, creating a property inventory requires a comprehensive list of your (and your spouse’s) separate and marital property. If you rush, you may overlook assets that are on the table in your divorce (or that are yours to keep), which could lead to unnecessary challenges.

First, you can walk around your house, going room-by-room and writing down everything you see. Then, you can look through your files, log in to your accounts, go out into your shed or garage, and look anywhere else that you may have tangible or intangible property.

Tip #2: Don’t Overlook Any Types of Property  

One of the keys to creating a comprehensive property inventory is to ensure you don’t overlook any property types. As we just mentioned, this includes tangible (physical assets) and intangible (things you own but can’t touch). With this in mind, your property inventory may include:

  • Real estate
  • Cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles
  • Boats and ATVs
  • Furniture
  • Appliances and home electronics
  • Personal electronics
  • Clothing, shoes, jewelry and watches
  • Tools and yard equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Bank, retirement, and investment accounts
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Digital music and video libraries
  • Photos and other keepsakes
  • Family heirlooms
  • A privately-held business

Even these are just examples. If you own any other types of assets, you should also include these on your property inventory.

Tip #3: Take Detailed Notes

When you add assets to your property inventory, you should take some notes to make it easier to deal with each asset during your divorce. For example, it will generally be helpful to have information such as:

  • When you (or your spouse) acquired the property
  • Where the property is located
  • Where any property-related documents are located (i.e., car titles or real estate deeds)
  • Whether any assets are encumbered by loans (i.e., car loans or mortgages)
  • Whether any purchases have other co-owners (i.e., a timeshare or privately-held business)

Here, too, these are just examples. You know your property better than anyone else. If you have information that you think may be relevant to your divorce, you should write it down to share with your divorce lawyer.

Tip #4: Identify Each Asset as Marital or Separate Property (if You Can)

Another essential detail to write down (if you can) is whether each asset qualifies as marital or separate property. You might not know—and that’s okay—but the more you can share with your lawyer, the better.

For example, if you owned a piece of property before you got married, it is most likely your separate property (and therefore yours to keep). Conversely, if you and your spouse bought an asset during your marriage, it is most likely marital property subject to equitable distribution. If you can confirm (or roughly confirm) when you acquired your assets, this will help, and then your lawyer can assist with making sure that each asset is characterized appropriately.

Tip #5: Start to Prioritize

Finally, since marital assets are subject to equitable distribution during the divorce process, you should start to prioritize. Which of the marital assets on your property inventory matters the most to you? With a comprehensive list in front of you, you can think critically about your priorities and begin setting yourself up to achieve a satisfactory outcome from your divorce.

Request a Free Consultation with Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

Are you thinking about getting divorced in Illinois? If so, we invite you to contact us to learn more. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or contact us confidentially online today.