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Property Settlement – Ways you can prepare

Have you recently separated and need to do a property settlement? Here are 10 things you can do to get started from your computer.

  1. Get an understanding of the asset pool to be divided.
    • You can do this by making a list of all the assets, liabilities, and superannuation you and your ex-partner own, whether jointly or in separate names. Be sure to include your house/apartment, any investment properties, businesses, companies and trusts, shares, cars, bank accounts, furniture and any other valuable items (e.g. jewellery, antiques). This will give you a head start when you speak to your lawyer, or when you and your ex-partner start having property settlement discussions (if you choose to have direct discussions).

  2. Pay attention to your bank accounts
    • Make a list of all bank accounts, including joint accounts and accounts in separate names (including account numbers).

    • Check the limit on credit cards and the redraw available on home loans.

  3. Know your mortgage
    • It is not uncommon for mortgage accounts to have a redraw feature. Pay close attention to: whether a redraw can occur with only one party’s signature, or whether both signatures are required.  If the mortgage does allow for one party to sign to redraw then take immediate steps to ensure that it requires the consent of both parties

    • What are your loan repayment obligations? Do you have the ability to change to interest-only if you need to?

    • Do you have a relationship with your bank manager and will he/she answer any questions confidentially? Do you have his or her contact details?

  4. Have funds available to you
    • Make sure you have funds or access to funds, so that when you need them, you are not reliant on your ex-partner.

    • Do you have independent access to your own funds?

    • Do you have access to a credit card in your name? Or are you a supplementary card holder only?

  5. Passwords and online security
    • Make sure you can access important personal information.

    • Make sure no one else has access to your personal information, online banking, social media, and email accounts.

    • Make a list of your passwords. Change them if you believe that your ex-partner or anyone else might have had access to them. Keep your password information in a secure confidential location.

    • If you and your ex-partner share access to online banking, now is the time to set up your own online banking profile.

    • Check whether any devices are linked to your ex-partner’s or the children’s. Ensure your complete digital/online privacy.

    • Check whether location services is activated on your devices and consider switching it off.

  6. Gather your financial disclosure documents
    • Start collating your important financial documents (i.e. employment contract and payslips, tax returns, superannuation statement, valuations etc). For more information about what documents you will be required to disclosure, see our article titled “Disclosure: What, When and Why?

    • To make this information easily accessible and organised for yourself and your lawyer, save your documents in categorised folders in a “drop box”.

  7. Know your day-to-day living costs
    • Now is the time to make a list of your living expenses.

    • Categorise them into “essentials” and “optionals” so you can realistically assess what you will need in terms of income/access to funds.

    • Prepare a cash-flow schedule. That is, what expenses are due and when they are due. For example, groceries are a weekly expense, mortgage repayments are commonly a monthly expense, private school fees are a per-school term expense, rates are a quarterly expense, and car registration/insurance is an annual expense.

  8. Plan for the eventual sale of your home
    • Head to the various online real estate sites that provide an estimated value for your home. This might not be precisely accurate, but it’s a starting point.

    • Research real estate agents to get a feel for who you would like to appoint to sell the home, including their pricing structure, and any recommended repairs/ preparation to the home before marketing.

    • Start to de-clutter the house and attend to gardens – keep receipts for any outlays.

  9. Get clear on your priorities
    • What is important to you? Owning your own property, having more superannuation, ensuring that your children can attend private school until the completion of their education?

    • Think about where you want to be in 12 months, 3 years, and 5 years. What will help you get there and enable you to be happy along the way?

  10. Take care of you!
    • Separation can be a difficult time. It is vital that you take care of yourself. Remember to eat well, exercise, sleep and take time out where you can.

    • If things are overwhelming or particularly stressful or upsetting, talk to a trusted friend, family member or psychologist/counsellor.