What Assets/Debts Does Your Estate Have, and How Can They Be Located During a Divorce?


“I am embarrassed to say I don’t know what assets and debts our estate has, because my spouse always handled these matters. I never thought it would be a problem until now, when I’m going through a divorce! What should I do?”

Clients frequently do not know what/where all of their assets/debts are. Throughout a marriage, typically one or the other spouse handles the finances and investments. If you are not that spouse, what can your divorce attorney do to find assets/debts?

A common method used in family law is to send “discovery” to the other side requesting that all assets and debts be disclosed. Your spouse’s deposition can be taken. A deposition is taken under oath and is the same as if you were testifying in court. If it is later found after a divorce that an asset wasn’t disclosed, that asset is subject to future division by a court.

It is beneficial to review tax returns where valuable information can be found. An accountant/CPA that has prepared the income tax return has the obligation to give copies of tax returns to either/both parties for whom the return was prepared. A copy of your tax return can be obtained from the IRS. The IRS form to request this is online.

Statements from banks, brokerage companies, credit unions and credit card companies are helpful to search for assets/debts as well. These statements can show transfers to/from accounts that you might not otherwise know exist.

Open your mail! It never ceases to amaze me when spouses holding joint accounts and joint credit cards fail to open up mail that contains joint accounts and debts. All parties on joint accounts need to know the status of these accounts. If debt is accruing, it can affect your credit.

Your attorney can subpoena documents from financial institutions and employers. It’s not uncommon for an executive not to know all of the benefits/accounts they have with their company, so it can be very important to obtain the document directly from the institution holding the assets.