After the emotional upheaval that comes with the breakdown of a relationship, entering into negotiations for a property settlement with your estranged spouse, can be daunting and overwhelming.
To ensure a complete and final severance of the relationship, there is often more involved than simply a division of the assets and liabilities. Before you embark on negotiations, and certainly before the first meeting with your lawyer, you should consider the following.
- Silent Directors – if you are a director of a company that is entirely run by your spouse, without your involvement or input, seek advice on this arrangement.
- Trusts – do you, or your spouse, have an interest in, or are a beneficiary of, a trust? This is relevant and requires advice.
- Bank Accounts – are there any accounts where your estranged spouse may unilaterally access funds? You need to obtain some urgent advice in relation to options available to you to address this.
- Powers of Attorney – have you signed a Power of Attorney in favour of your estranged spouse, that you may now wish to revoke?
- Superannuation Binding Nomination– have you made a binding nomination in favour of your spouse? This may need to be reviewed.
- Title to Property – is the title to any property owned by you and your spouse held as joint tenants or as tenants in common in equal shares? Sounds the same, but the legal implications are different, and can be significant depending on the circumstances.
- Wills – seek advice and review and/or update your Will on separation.
- Future Estate Claims – even when parties reach a final agreed property settlement or orders, it is possible for one spouse to later make a claim against the estate of the other spouse (if they predecease them). Seek advice about your options to minimise the risk.
- Spouse Maintenance – rights for spouse maintenance claims may remain open even if parties reach a final property agreement or Consent Orders. Discuss with your lawyer the option of entering into a separate Spouse Maintenance Financial Agreement.
- List all Assets, Liabilities & Financial Resources – last but certainly not least. Whether those assets are in joint names, or in either party's name and include any financial resources (for example, if you are a beneficiary of a trust).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.