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The problem with 'bartering' to divide assets

Dividing assets can get complicated. The easiest way to do it, in some ways, is to sell all of the assets you own and then split up the money. If you do this, you know that both you and your ex got a fair share.

However, the logistics of actually doing this make it nearly impossible for many people. While they may sell the house or the vacation property, they do not want to sell everything. Instead, they "barter" back and forth, exchanging different items.

For instance, perhaps you want to keep the family home. Your spouse wants to keep the vacation property. The home is worth more, though, so your ex agrees to take the vacation property and the retirement funds, just to make things even. Essentially, you assign monetary values to everything and then split them up without actually selling them.

This tactic can work, but the problem you need to watch out for lies in getting a proper valuation for every single asset. Never assume it is worth as much as you paid. You need a third party to do the assessment so that you actually split things up for fair market value -- the price you would have gotten if you had sold.

For instance, maybe you bought the house for $1.5 million. You still owe $900,000 on it. The value has gone up, though, so that you could sell for $2.1 million. You have to look at all of these different factors and take them into account.

As you move through this process, make sure you know exactly what steps to take to protect your financial interests and your rights.

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