At the beginning of a matter, often at an initial consultation, we will ask a client to provide us with a list of all of their asset.  While someone may not know all of the details, they will typically know the major assets such as real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement assets, automobiles, antiques, art and jewelry. 

That said, there are other assets that some people overlook or do not even realize are assets.  The following are some of those things which may be assets or otherwise have value that will be subject to equitable distribution:

  • Frequent flyer mileage
  • Security deposits (e.g., utilities, car lease)
  • Timeshare property 
  • Business AAA accounts or business distributions of cash/property 
  • Memberships (e.g., country club) 
  • Bond or deposit for country club 
  • Unused vacation, sick leave
  • Patents, copyrights, royalties 
  • Income tax refunds
  • Income tax capital loss carry-forwards
  • Income tax charitable contribution carry-forwards
  • Marketable govt licenses (radio licenses, commercial fishing quotas)
  • Special retirement benefits (“golden parachutes”) 
  • Retirement – life insurance benefits 
  • Retirement – medical benefits 
  • Retirement – survivor benefits 
  • Hobby or other collections
  • Contract rights from marital employment (e.g., insurance renewal payments for agent)
  • Affiliation “rewards” programs (e.g., points or discounts for credit card use)
  • Entertainment tickets, season ticket options
  • Business vehicle for personal use
  • Prepaid rent, leases, subscriptions
  • Burial plots
  • Life insurance cash surrender value (or perhaps death benefit if insured is elderly)
  • Tort, worker’s comp claims
  • Stock options, restricted shares (vested or unvested)
  • Hangar lease (for aircraft)
  • Hotel or credit card points
  • Cash
  • Small business retained earnings
  • US Savings Bonds, other securities
  • “Hidden value” items – rare items of personal property (e.g., antiques), rare pets, collectibles
  • Options to purchase property
  • Unpaid commissions on deals set to close
  • Referral fees (e.g., for personal injury lawyers)
  • Security or performance bonds posted
  • Car insurance prepaid
  • Taxes prepaid
  • Zero coupon bonds
  • Assets held by others on spouse’s behalf
  • loans receivable

The goal of equitable distribution is to effectuate a fair distribution of assets – all assets, not just those commonly thought of.  For these less than apparent assets, people must give some thought to their lifestyle and financial history so that they do not share in an asset that may have value.  That is not to say that each of the above has distributable value in every case nor will it be worth it fight over something that has nominal value.  However, you want to make sure that you identify all of the assets so that neither party gets an improper windfall because the other person did not know that an asset could/should be divided.

Click here for a printable copy of this checklist.

 

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