By: Michelle J. Perkins, Esq.
In second, third and subsequent marriages, it often becomes important to
the person that has their own savings, financial accounts or expensive
personal property items to keep them as their own separate property, even
though Arizona is a community property state. Younger people just starting
out together typically don’t run into these issues as many of them
just have debt and/or student loans with very limited assets, if any.
But, as we go through life, many people accumulate savings and property
that they would like to keep as their own, even in the unfortunate event
of a divorce.
There are steps that you can take that will make your life a lot easier
in the unfortunate event of a divorce and make the divorce much less expensive
if you follow these suggestions.
Financial accounts: Most couples will open up a joint bank account before or after they get
married to pay their monthly living expenses. Each spouse is not required
to contribute equally to the account, the contributions to the joint account
will be whatever the parties decide. Going into it, you should assume
that any money you put into that joint account will belong one-half to
you and one-half to your spouse. If the money is spent, it’s gone.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal claim in a divorce that
will bring money back that has been spent during the marriage (absent
a waste claim, but that is a complicated topic for another blog).
Let’s say that you have a financial account that has $50,000 in it.
You have scrimped and saved for years and years and now you have accumulated
a very nice sized nest egg. Just because you decide to get married does
not mean that you have to make a gift of part or all of that $50,000 savings
to your spouse. You can keep that savings in an account in your own name
and just let it continue to grow. You do not want to make contributions
to the account during the marriage from your paycheck because by doing
so you will then commingle community money with your sole and separate
money, making it much harder to trace and prove what you had at the time
you got married. So, in short – if you have a financial account
that you want to keep your sole and separate property
first, keep it in your own name, do
not add your spouse’s name to the account;
second, don’t make deposits to the account from your paycheck during your
third, don’t take money out that you are not willing to spend and lose forever.
Personal property: Typically the most expensive piece of personal property that people own
is their car. When you get married if you are lucky enough to have your
car paid off prior to getting married, the car will remain your sole and
separate property in the event of a divorce. If you owe on your car and
payments are made on the car during the marriage, your spouse could assert
a claim for a community lien against the car in a divorce. You are
not required to put your new spouses name on your vehicle, it should stay
in your name alone. Many newly married couples start discussing estate
planning and what happens to their assets in the event one of them passes
away. Fortunately for Arizonans the Motor Vehicle Department has a Beneficiary
Designation Form on their website that you can fill out. If you want your
new spouse to get your car in the event of your untimely death complete
the Motor Vehicle Beneficiary Designation form.
CLICK HERE - Motor Vehicle Division - Beneficiary Designation Form
If you would like more information about how to best handle your financial
accounts and personal property items to keep them your sole and separate
property, please call
OWENS & PERKINS at480.630.2464 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation with one of our experienced