A Paralegal’s Advice for Women: A Word about Divorce and Heirlooms

As a paralegal, I often work with women who are going through a divorce.  They sometimes ask:

How do I know where my assets are located?

What can I take with me, and what can he take with him?

As modern women it's important we address these issues and educate ourselves. So today, let's start with a few ways to rightfully divide your personal assets.

  1.  Identify your family heirlooms:

You know all heirlooms that were given to you alone (not to you and your spouse) by your family. This is true of all heirlooms, either received before marriage or during marriage. Compile a list of your heirlooms and take photographs of them inside the family home. In the case of a divorce, do not take your heirlooms out of your home until you have taken pictures and made a list.

A divorcing couple will both have the same legal rights to take the items of community property (excluding business property) from wherever you were living last. Remember that you take these items at fair market value, not replacement value.

Get proof:

Get proof of when you were given the heirloom. Have the relative who gave it to you or purchased it for you to write a note about the purchase, or have them state how it came to be passed onto them before they passed it onto you.

Get an appraiser:

Make sure you get a professional appraisal on your assets so you can be sure that you don’t suffer a loss on every asset you have. Even consider the assets that you cannot see, such as retirement accounts, stocks, any business that was owned by both of you and operated during the life of the marriage and anything else financial acquired during the life of the marriage.

If you owed a business together, make sure you pay close attention to what the judge is told about the operation, and who owned the business. It is common for some to claim that you were not an owner of the business, so beware.

Also, please remember that when getting a professional appraisal done on the business, use a forensic accountant (who can also testify in court, if need be)

Keep records:

Keep detailed records of how much money you earned before and after the separation. Learn what your spouse has been doing with the property such as checking for parking tickets, liens on anything of value (real estate liens against your property), any bank account liens and make sure all vehicle registration is paid and up to date. Also make sure that insurance and property taxes are caught up and paid for.

Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. While you have inherent rights, you should never sacrifice your safety for material goods. If you feel your safety is at stake, or you need further help, please seek professional legal consultation.

Karen Corbelli is a Redding-based legal document assistant armed with more than 20 years of legal experience. She can be reached at 515-5081 or kjparalegalservice@yahoo.com.

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2 Responses

  1. KarenC says:

    Karen, is this general information that would apply to all states or would this be for CA? Thanks for the good information.

    • Karen C says:

      Hi Karen,

      I am not licensed to practice law so this information comes from my schooling, and working on the job.

      I am not sure if this applies outside California, but if you have a specfic place in mind that you were curious about I can check for you. Please let me know.

      Thank you,


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