Paperwork. Ugggh. Is that the reaction you have to it? Or is one of your superpowers relishing pulling information together, tabulating it with nifty little post-its and cross referencing it all in a spreadsheet?
With any separation or divorce, there will be a feast of paperwork and information to gather and digest. Most of this will be about your finances and property. Part of being smart and savvy in your separation is being ALL over the paperwork!
Your lawyer or financial consultation will no doubt have a list of information that is needed in order to properly advise you. Compiling this information yourself, rather than having your professional gather it, will…
… save you lots of money
… along the way, give you opportunities to learn more about your finances
… mean you can pick up on things that won’t be immediately apparent to your lawyer (like strange transactions on a credit card).
Even if you are not using a lawyer, getting together your financial information is still important. Having sufficient information allows you to make sound, fully informed decisions as you work through your separation. In some jurisdictions, a full exchange of information and independent legal advice will be required by law for this very reason.
If you are thinking about separating, pulling together information in advance can save you the time and cost of being led a tortuous dance by an ex who may want to delay matters or avoid revealing information.
If you are already separated, gather the information promptly – I know, you are busy and the days just fly by, right? But, think about the additional cost of being chased by your lawyer for it and the stress of having the task HANGING OVER YOUR HEAD all the time. Don’t you just feel a sense of dread thinking about it? Wouldn’t it be fantastic not to have that heavy feeling every time you think of this task on your to-do list and being freed up to get on with more enjoyable things?
If you are facing paperwork tasks in your separation and gathering up information...
…make sure you are providing the exact information that you have been asked for. For example, if you have been asked for mortgage statements for the last twelve months, provide them for that complete date range not a “close enough” range! This will save your lawyer coming back to you and you having to get the information again.
…Identify the information you don’t have. If you can access the information by making a request for it (to your bank, insurance company, trust lawyer, retirement fund provider etc), then do so. If you cannot legally access the information or have difficult accessing it, then note that down.
…Ask what format the recipient of the information prefers to receive it in. Provide the information in the format your lawyer or other professional prefers it. He or she may want hard copies or just electronic copies or both.
…Collate the information in an organised fashion. I once had a client who literally provided me with shoe boxes full of receipts, statements and various other documents in no order. Can you imagine the cost to her of my team and I having to sort through it all to find what we needed compared to the costs to my other client who gave me a ringbound folder, tabbed and indexed so that I could easily find things?
…Make each item easy to locate and identify. Use labelled tabs (if in a physical file) or easy to identify and consistent file names for electronic documents. Again, simply scanning a lot of documents and emailing them to your lawyer is akin to sending them that shoe box of documents! Take the time to ensure the file name for an electronic document describes what the document is. It’s a lot easier to know what the document or folder named “Bank Statements 2018” is than what its previous scanner generated name, “IMG20190716”, suggests.
…If you dread this sort of task, do what you can to make it more pleasurable for example, use gorgeous stationary, set up a nice work-space, organise someone to look after the kids, treat yourself to some of your favourite foods and music while you work. Organise some rewards for yourself. Break the tasks down into smaller chunks and reward yourself after each one.
…Use your uber organised friend! If you really can’t face the task alone, arrange a time to have your most organised friend come and help you (you know the one - she colour codes her diary and has the neatest Tupperware cupboard in the nation). You may decide this is an area to invest some money and get a financial expert in or contract a freelance personal assistant to come in and assist you for a couple of hours. Making a commitment to incurring some cost or your friend’s time will drive you to get the job done and make it feel less overwhelming.
Go on, what are you waiting for? Get to it. You’ll feel more in control, informed and organised and you will have saved yourself some money. How awesome will that feel?
Was this useful? If you think someone you know could do with this, share the love and forward this to them! Do let me know what is working for you or challenging you in your separation by messaging me on Facebook or over on Facebook in The Divorce Lighthouse Group.