Retitling Assets Following Divorce
A large component of a divorce is dividing the assets that you and your spouse accumulated during your marriage. Now that the divorce decree is completed, it is essential to start retitling assets as soon as possible. Retitling of assets confers control by defining ownership and restricting access.
A good way to begin this process is to create a personal net worth statement that lists all of your assets and liabilities, per the divorce decree. This statement will serve as the master checklist in your retitling process. Every asset has its own retitling requirements, but essential to the process are the following documents:
- Current Identification, reflecting any name change if applicable
- Certified Divorce Decree (see our blog on changing your name)
- Account information for bank accounts, investments, loans and credit cards
- Social Security numbers for both you and your ex-spouse
For instance, let’s say you have a joint account with your ex-spouse. The typical steps you would need to take are as follows:
- Each of you open individual accounts in your own name
- Complete a letter (called a “letter of instruction”) explaining that due to divorce, you would like to divide your joint account per the divorce decree, and clarify how the joint account should be divided.
- Both of you sign the letter
- Have the letter notarized (banks accounts, etc.) or, Signature or Medallion guaranteed (for investment accounts; it will depend upon the specific investment company as to which guarantee is required). A notary is quite common and can be found at many institutions. Both as signature and medallion guarantee can be obtained at a bank, credit union or investment company (note that this is different than being notarized).
- Mail the letter along with a certified divorce decree to the company.
You will receive a letter of confirmation when your individual accounts have been opened and the assets transferred into them, from your joint account. The joint account will be closed once the transfer has been completed.
Remember that with any new accounts, you will need to reestablish things such as bank account links for automatic deposits or withdrawals, as well as updating beneficiaries on retirement accounts.
Retitling real estate typically requires a Summary Real Estate Disposition Judgment (SREDJ) or a quit claim deed. A SREDJ is written by your attorney and signed by a judge, authorizing the transfer of the property, and is completed once it is filed with the County Recorder. A quit claim deed is also written by an attorney, but is signed by your ex-spouse before being filed with the County Recorder. Certain properties may require a quit claim deed as well as a SREDJ or a certified divorce decree to be filed with the County Recorder to complete the title transfer. Be sure to follow up with your family law attorney for assistance with this.
Don’t forget to retitle assets such as vehicles and insurance policies. You will also want to make sure your name is removed from the assets transferred to your ex-spouse, in order to limit your liability if something goes awry with their property.
Retitling is a lot of work but it is essential to start as soon as the divorce is final, and to see the process through until you have checked off every item on your personal net worth statement. Once completed you can be assured that what is yours is officially yours.
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