Broken Trust: Advice About Estate Planning During A Divorce

by Meredith L. Brown, Esq.
Brown & Brown

Many couples prepare Wills and Trusts in connection with a happy life event, such as the birth of a child. Frequently these documents are placed in a safe deposit box, never to be updated or even thought about again.

When the unfortunate life event of divorce happens, couples often opt to defer consideration of their old estate planning. No one wants to think about their mortality on a good day, much less when divorce is on their mind. This decision is understandable, but it is probably unwise and potentially costly.

First, a note of caution: if a Petition to dissolve the marriage has already been filed, the law requires that specific steps be taken before changes are made to Wills and Trusts. Similarly, there is an automatic restraint against making changes to beneficiary designations on any insurance. Couples must be sure to comply with these rules.

Family law does not place restrictions on changes to your Advance Health Care Directive after you have filed for divorce. Most couples designate their spouse as their legal voice when it comes to treatment and end of life decisions. Even in divorce situations where couples are amicable, it may not be appropriate for a soon-to-be ex spouse to make these decisions in the midst of a divorce.

How do you decide whether to change your existing estate plan?

The first (and obvious) step is to read and understand your documents. Most couples prepare documents that leave the estate to the survivor between them. Then, ultimately, the estate goes to their children. But this is not always the case, particularly in second marriages.

If you acquired assets after your Trust was created (for example a new home), determine whether title was taken in the name of your Trust. If you hold assets outside of your Trust, you could have the cost of a probate proceeding.

Even if you haven’t done any estate planning but own real estate or other titled assets with your spouse, be sure to check the deed or other title documents. Certain forms of title such as joint tenancy carry with them an automatic right of survivorship. You should consider whether you wish to change the form of title to one without survivorship rights. But before you make any changes, be sure to comply with the notice requirements mandated by law.

Second, ask yourself:  if you were hit by the proverbial truck before your divorce is final, would you want your spouse to receive your share of the estate? If you have children, do you trust that your former spouse will preserve your share of the estate so that your children ultimately receive everything? Would you feel differently if your former spouse sold the marital residence? What if he or she remarried?

Keep in mind that even if you decide to change your estate planning by preparing new Wills and Trusts, your former spouse may still have control over assets you leave to your children, if they are still under age 18. If you do not wish for this to happen, you will need to designate someone else as the guardian of the estate of your children.

As you may guess, determining how your assets are distributed upon your death can be complicated like many other aspects of your life when you file for divorce.  But this is something you need to address for the well-being of yourself and your children. You don’t have to go it alone.  Investing in the advice of an attorney with expertise in estate planning as well as a skilled financial specialist is an investment well worth making.

If you pursue a Collaborative Divorce, a financial specialist is part of your divorce team.  This can be extremely helpful if you are also working through a complex estate plan. It’s another smart reason to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Collaborative Divorce Can Help You Capitalize on the Holiday Season Spirit

San Diego family law attorney Colleen Warren

by Colleen A. Warren, Esq.
Certified Legal Specialist – Family Law, LEWIS, WARREN & SETZER, LLP

San Diego family law attorney Colleen WarrenWhat did you do during the holiday season? Most of us enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Many people put their differences aside during the holidays and attempted to live together harmoniously for the sake of the children or their family, or to ensure no one else knows they are unhappy in their marriage.

Many people wonder, “Now that I have made it through the holidays, is it the right time to tell my spouse I want a divorce?” Those same people do not want to disrupt their family life by separating or divorcing.  However, now may be the best time to have this most difficult conversation and capitalize on the feel good spirit enjoyed during the holidays.

If you have children, Summer Break is still six months away, and the next holiday season is a little less than a year away.  If you are worried about how a divorce or separation will impact you financially, you are likely to know, or at least have a better sense of, what you and your spouse earned last year, or how your investments fared over the last 12 months.  Now is the time to resolve your differences, rather than waiting until quick decisions must be made.

Rather than start a divorce or separation with fighting, posturing, or all-out war, Collaborative Divorce can help you and your spouse capitalize on the holiday spirit, resolving issues in a manner where each party feels supported.  You and your spouse will work with a team of expert attorneys, coaches, and financial advisors, to reach agreements that are beneficial to both parties and their family, all without going to court.  Imagine resolving all the issues in your separation without seeing a judge, without exposing the most intimate details of your life in a public court? This type of resolution is promoted and highly successful through the use of Collaborative Divorce.

The professionals in the San Diego Collaborative Family Law Group are here to assist you to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without traditional litigation. See our “Contact Us” page to find someone to answer the questions you may have about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

Collaborative Divorce Offers Alternatives to “Divorce Corp.” Documentary

January 20, 2014
Contact:
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

 

(SAN DIEGO) – The release of the new documentary film “Divorce Corp.” has generated renewed attention and focus on family law court proceedings involving divorce, child custody and child support issues across the United States.  While the film offers a critique of the way that divorce is commonly handled in the United States, it does not discuss a critical and viable alternative for many families: the Collaborative Divorce process.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process offering  an alternative to litigated divorce.

Julie Mack, CFLS, attorney and President of CFLG San Diego, says the film presents the opportunity for fresh dialogue, which will allow couples, especially those with minor children, to learn more about Collaborative Divorce.  “Long before the film ‘Divorce Corp.,’ many couples, discouraged by the prospect of an expensive, adversarial divorce, started looking for an alternative way to address their family law issues that did not involve confrontation or handing over decision-making regarding their lives to family law courts. For many, the alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

“Thanks to the attention generated by this documentary, we have a new platform available to introduce the many benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process. When people learn that going to court is not inevitable, they eagerly embrace this positive, respectful approach to resolving issues in a way that avoids litigation, including the time and expense, to say nothing of the lasting emotional turmoil,” said Mack.

“The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is eager to let people know we offer them a range of choices for legal, financial, and mental health services all with the ultimate goal in mind of preserving the health and well-being of the family.  “We urge divorcing couples or parents wrestling with child custody or support issues to give the Collaborative Process a chance. Even if they are skeptics, they have nothing to lose by giving our alternative a try,” said Mack.

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

See the trailer for the documentary “Divorce Corp.” here.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce

Is a good divorce possible? After 30 years of experience helping families cope with divorce and remarriage, Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Dr. Constance Ahrons believes it is possible.

Dr. Ahrons works with those navigating through a divorce and its aftermath as coach, mediator and/or therapist. She is among the earliest champions of collaborative divorce.

Constance Ahrons is a best-selling author of the books “The Good Divorce” and “We’re Still Family,” and co-author of the highly regarded book, “Divorced Families.” An acclaimed speaker, she he has been featured on numerous national television interviews.

Dr. Ahrons is deeply interested in the welfare of the entire family, particularly children, who are facing the challenges of divorce. If your divorce involves children, Dr. Ahrons suggests following these rules to help everyone cope and move forward in the most healthy way possible.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce

1.    ACCEPT THAT ALL-OUT WAR IS NOT INEVITABLE.

In fact, it is destructive.  Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are two choices that aim to reduce anger between divorcing spouses.

2.   STAY IN CHARGE OF YOUR DIVORCE.

Remember, this is your divorce, not your lawyers.

3.    SLOW DOWN THE PROCESS

Although adults often want to move on quickly, remember that children need time to adjust.

4.   ACCEPT THAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS–AND HAS A RIGHT–TO BOTH PARENTS.

Even though you’re angry with your spouse, remember your children’s needs.

5.    COOPERATE WITH YOUR EX FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN.

It’s one of the best gifts you can give your kids.  Ongoing conflict between parents increases children’s distress.

6. DON’T BADMOUTH YOUR EX IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN

When you badmouth your ex to the kids you are telling your kids that the part of them that is like their other parent is bad too. It is bad for their self-esteem.

7. DIVORCE IS NOT THE END OF THE FAMILY

It’s important to your children’s well-being for them to feel like they still have a family.  Help them to understand that the divorce means that they are now a dual-household family.

8. RECOGNIZE THAT COMPROMISE IS ALWAYS NECESSARY

This is key to helping to reduce your anger.

9. LET YOURSELF FACE AND GRIEVE YOUR LOSSES

One of the big losses is the loss of future dreams. Just beneath    your anger is sadness over the losses of those special things you might have hoped for in your future.

 10.  LET THE ANGER GO—AND MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE.

Holding on to hostility and anger is self-destructive.  It keeps you stuck in the past and keeps you from finding new joys in life.

 

CFLG San Diego in the News: San Diego Daily Transcript: January 3, 2014

The San Diego Daily Transcript published a story about the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego’s outstanding membership growth in 2013 in its January 3, 2014 edition.

You can access the article at this link, or see a screenshot of the online version of the article below.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego Featured on “San Diego Living”

Representatives of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego appeared on “San Diego Living” on Monday, December 30 on San Diego 6 (CW6/XETV). Family law attorney Nancy Taylor, financial specialist Cinda Jones and psychologist/coach Dr. Robert Simon were interviewed by host Marc Bailey, who asked them to explain the collaborative divorce model and answer common questions that people might ask about the collaborative process.

You can view the entire informative interview at this link. Please feel free to share with others who might benefit from the information, or post to your own online pages.

 

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego sees record membership growth in 2013

January 2, 2014

Contact:  Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR – 619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) saw record membership growth in 2013. CFLG San Diego is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process as an alternative to divorce litigation.

Hildy Fentin, CFLS, attorney and immediate past president of CFLG San Diego (2013), said membership is up nearly 25 percent in the last year. Fentin pointed out several reasons stimulating interest in membership. “Due to court cutbacks, resolving divorce issues or any family law matter through the court system prolongs the resolution of these issues. This creates enormous financial and emotional strain on everyone involved, especially children.

“We also have more baby boomers getting divorced later in life. These couples want to avoid an expensive, adversarial divorce. They want to work with attorneys, financial specialists and mental health professionals who can provide them an alternative way to address their family law issues.

“As professionals grow more familiar with the many benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process, they enthusiastically embrace this positive, respectful approach to resolving issues in a way that avoids litigation including the time and expense. By joining the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, they can work with and learn from like-minded colleagues, and expand the range of choices for families who come to them for legal, financial, and mental health services,” said Fentin.

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need of families to resort to court litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.