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Use a property division checklist to protect your assets

As you prepare for divorce, you'll constantly deal with changing emotions. One day you're sad and upset, while the next you're upbeat about everything the future will bring.

While you care for yourself, it's critical to take steps to protect your legal rights. And for many people, this starts with understanding what they can and can't do in regard to property division.

With a property division checklist in hand, you can make note of the assets that you own separately and jointly. From there, you can add them into the appropriate category, with these four a good place to start:

  • Personal property: Common assets in this category include china, antiques, artwork, furniture, electronics, guns, collectibles, jewelry, clothing and all types of motor vehicles.
  • Real estate: Your family home should be at the head of this list, but also consider rental property, vacation homes and any land you own.
  • Financial assets: The most valuable category for many divorcing couples, this includes but is not limited to retirement accounts, bank accounts, pensions, annuities, stocks and bonds, profit sharing, educational accounts, certificates of deposit, trusts and life insurance policy cash values.
  • Business property and assets: It doesn't matter if you own a business yourself or with your spouse, be sure to outline all the property and assets associated with it. For example, business bank accounts and commercial real estate.

Once you have a property division checklist in front of you, turn your attention to placing a value on each asset. For some assets, such as bank and retirement accounts, this is simple. For others, such as the family home and antiques, you may need professional assistance.

While a property division checklist will keep you organized and help you understand where to focus your efforts while negotiating with your spouse, keep in mind that you're likely to run into challenges along the way.

For instance, both you and your spouse may be interested in remaining in the family home, which can become a sticking point.

You won't get to keep all your marital property, but understanding your legal rights will help you negotiate from a position of power.

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