Before the Lawyer: Questions to ask yourself about your finances

Before the Lawyer: Questions to ask yourself about your finances

Let’s face it, thinking/talking/looking at finances is not always fun.

It can be complicated, time consuming and to someone who is not particularly enthused by numbers it can be downright boring. If you are in a committed relationship like a marriage it is easy to pass the buck to your partner, allowing them to look after finances and budgeting. While no one plans for a relationship to end, the fact is they sometimes do, and not knowing about the intricacies of your financial situation can be very detrimental should a separation or divorce become part of your reality.

Here is a list of a few key things to know about your finances before you pick up the phone and call a lawyer.
  • Where are all your financial documents kept? Are your tax returns, banks statements, credit card statements, mortgage loan statements, pay stubs and other financial documents kept as hard copies in a desk drawer or on a file on the computer? Do you have access to them?
  • What are your assets as a family such as investment accounts, pension plans, RRSPs and TFSAs? Whose name is on them and how much are they worth? Are there any investment accounts your spouse might have that you don’t know about?
  • Do you have a safety deposit box and if so, do you have access to it?
  • Are there any business assets? Is the business un-incorporated, meaning it’s a partnership or incorporated with shares owned by you and your partner plus other possible stakeholders? Do you have a copy of the shareholder’s agreement? Where is the corporate minute book held?
  • Follow up on any debts like a mortgage, lines of credit, credit cards and other loans. Whose name is attached to the debt? Have you or your spouse personally guaranteed any business loans? It is also important to make sure you don’t accrue even more debt if you are on the road to divorce.
  • Make sure you have your own bank account set up. If you don’t, open one. Don’t rely on the joint bank account when going through a divorce. Also, make sure you have a credit card that is in your name. Having joint credit cards is not always a bad thing in a relationship, but it is important that you have established your own credit.
  • Do either of you have extended health care? Will new coverage need to be purchased? If not, how will you pay for medical expenses that aren’t covered by OHIP?
  • What assets did each of you have before you were married? This could be hard to figure out depending on how long the marriage was but is important because it could affect the division of assets.

Having all your ducks in a row before you file for divorce will make the process go more smoothly and hopefully decrease confrontation. It may seem like a lot of work but I guarantee you it will be worth it in the end.

About Marg Egan

Marg is a partner with McCay Duff LLP and has over 30 years of experience in developing a personalized approach to resolving each client's unique issues and concerns. Marg works with her clients to understand what keeps them awake at night and finds solutions to their financial problems.