The Importance of Inventories and Audit Trails

Whether you are cohabitating with someone other than a spouse, lending someone money or considering a divorce, inventories and audit trails are important. They clearly establish the agreements that are made at the outset and can prevent misunderstandings and disputes from arising in the future. In the event that a dispute does become contentious, they can provide substantive evidence of what was agreed and ease the legal process of establishing a resolution.

What is an inventory?

An inventory is a complete list of the items, money, equipment, furnishings et cetera that are present at a particular moment in time. It can be the inventory of the contents of a building at the time that occupancy is established, for instance. In a cohabitating situation, this would include all items belonging to the homeowner that were present when the tenancy was established and anything that the other party brought with them to complete the home.

For example, if an unmarried couple signs a contract for a rental property that comes partly furnished with curtains and linens, this inventory will be established by the real estate agent or landlord before they move in [1]. Each tenant should then keep an inventory of the goods that they bring into the property, such as any furniture and technology, especially if it will be used jointly for the purpose of the shared tenancy.

By establishing a clear inventory and assigning ownership to every valuable item in the home from the outset, it will be simple to separate each person’s belongings when the rental period ends or the relationship dissolves and one person exits the tenancy.

What is an audit trail?

An audit trail is a written record of changes that have occurred or agreements that have been made. This might include updating the property inventory in a cohabitating situation when a new item of value is purchased for the property, either by a single individual or jointly. 

An audit trail is also useful to record decisions made to dispose of any property or to record any agreements for lending money, making financial repayments or contributing to the cost of utilities or equipment for the home.

If an unmarried couple is contemplating separation but it is clear there will be a dispute as to the ownership of items, they should keep a written audit trail of the agreements they have made. This will help them reach a fair and equitable outcome, in addition to providing proof of their mutual assent [2] in the event that either party later changes their mind as legal proceedings get underway.

What to include in an inventory or audit trail

An inventory or audit trail should include everything that is materially important to you or that could potentially have a bearing on your situation. 

In an inventory, this will include anything you own outright and wish to retain full ownership of, along with anything that has been jointly purchased along with the amount of money spent and the source of such funds. In the case of jointly purchased assets, it is important to determine how the asset or its value should be split in the event of a later separation.

What you include in an audit trail depends on your individual circumstances. If you are cohabitating and want your joint tenant to exit the property, you will need to check the terms and conditions of your rental agreement first, then speak openly and honestly with them to seek their agreement to leave. You should record when they will leave and what they will take with them, how much they need to pay toward rent and utilities for the time that they have remaining, and the point at which you will assume full responsibility for the property and its contents. 

You should keep an audit trail of any communications pertaining to the situation, especially any disagreements that arise. Refer back to the initial inventory and make sure to get any agreements in writing. By maintaining an audit trail in this manner, it will be possible to navigate many of the issues that may arise with ending a joint tenancy.

Likewise, it may be useful for a couple that is contemplating divorce to maintain an audit trail of the decisions that have been made informally. This should include who will leave the family home, where they will live, the way in which financial responsibility for the marital home will be split, who will be responsible for maintaining the property, and any child support arrangements that will be necessary. It is important to document what assets, furniture and fittings will remain in the family home and what the spouse who leaves will take with them. 

Seeking legal support

Whether you want to create an inventory or audit trail or you need legal advice pertaining to your specific situation, you should consult with an attorney who practices divorce law in Albuquerque ( They will be able to advise you on the specifics of your individual circumstances and help you reach a position of mutual clarity. 

To discuss your legal needs, please contact the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer today.