When spouses divorce, they can reach their own agreements about property division or rely on the court to divide their assets according to state laws. Inventories and appraisements allow the court to see a full picture of the couple’s assets and help the court make an accurate decision about how to divide those assets. Such valuations can also help the spouses and their attorneys during negotiations toward a settlement.
An inventory and appraisement is a listing and valuation of all property of the divorcing spouses, including the couple’s marital property and each spouse’s separate property. Though exact definitions vary between states, marital assets are generally those acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. Separate, or non-marital, assets are those acquired before the couple’s marriage or by gift or inheritance. The attorneys in a divorce case can use the inventory and appraisement to negotiate an agreement between the spouses, or the court can use the inventory and appraisement to divide the property.
The requirements for an inventory and appraisement vary between states. In some states, such as Florida, the inventory and appraisement can be included in a financial statement that is required as part of the divorce process. In other states, such as Texas, it is common practice for the spouses’ attorneys to have their clients sign a sworn inventory and appraisement form as part of the fact-gathering, or discovery, process at the beginning of a divorce case. If a spouse lies on a sworn form, he can be charged with perjury.
Divorcing spouses can choose to appraise every item they own -- from real estate to art collections to smaller items -- but this can be expensive and time-consuming. Many spouses agree to appraise only the larger items or appraise items in categories. If the spouses want to avoid the expense of appraisals, they can reach agreement about the value of assets. If they cannot agree, they can hire a professional to appraise each asset. The couple’s real estate probably requires a different appraiser than their jewelry or art pieces.
Divorcing spouses can avoid hiring appraisers and performing a detailed inventory by agreeing to a property settlement rather than relying on the court to divide their assets. If they can reach agreement on a settlement, the court often will not require a thorough inventory, and spouses may be able to avoid hiring attorneys by filing for divorce on their own.