Q: Can your assets be protected before a divorce is declared by forming a revocable trust?
A: Presuming you are asking about protecting your assets from your spouse, the short answer to your question is no. If you are trying to put some of your assets into a trust to keep them out of your spouse’s hands, and then you plan on “revoking” that trust after the divorce so that you can have your assets back, it won’t work. If the trust contains or is funded with marital property, it doesn’t matter how ownership is titled, the assets are still marital property, subject to division by the court in a divorce proceeding.
Something is marital property if it was acquired after you got married, unless you got it as a gift or inheritance and kept it separate. Most everything that you purchased or earned after you were married, or put into joint name with your spouse after you were married, is considered marital property.
So the broad answer to the broad question you have asked is that if you attempt to hide or transfer marital assets before or during divorce proceedings, you can be sure that your spouse will find out about it. In addition to looking at financial misconduct allegations, which probably would delay the divorce and irritate the judge, you are sure to be looking at a furious spouse. As you no doubt know by now, a furious spouse can make the remainder of your divorce proceedings even more painful and more expensive than they already are!
Title 19-A M.R.S.A. §953, available on the state of Maine Web site, gives you the definitions of marital and nonmarital property if you want more details. Even then, you may want to check with an attorney to see that you have interpreted the statute and applied it correctly to the specifics of your particular situation. There may be something that you have not described in your question that might allow an attorney to see some precautionary action you may take legitimately.
This column is a service of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service of the Maine State Bar Association. Its contents are a general response to the question and do not constitute legal advice. Questions are welcome. E-mail AAL@mainebar.org, describe your question and note you are a BDN reader. Written questions mailed to “Ask a Lawyer,” Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329, will be forwarded to the LRIS.