Medical decisions are often tough and important. What happens if you’re unable to make one of these decisions for yourself — in a situation where you’re incapacitated or in a coma? [Read more…]
Did you know: With a power of attorney, you can grant someone (known as an “agent”) the legal authority to act on your behalf. But what happens when you become mentally or physically incapacitated — will your power of attorney be functional and valid? [Read more…]
No one wants to talk about death. It’s uncomfortable, can be a little depressing and feels like a distraction from all of the other demands of your living world, yes? But planning a living will is necessary — and here’s why I think you should take a moment to consider it. [Read more…]
Jimi Hendrix would have never imagined on September 17, 1970 (the day before his death), that he’d be leaving behind a messy, drawn-out courtroom ordeal because he lacked a proper last will and testament. How can you avoid passing down a headache to the heirs you leave behind after your death? [Read more…]
Millennials are finding themselves providing money to their aging parents for basic life needs. But with limited fiscal flexibility of their own, how do they offer support – without breaking their own bank?
In today’s episode of Your Money Minute, I talk through a few conversation starters to have with your aging parents as you discuss financial support. [Read more…]
After a divorce, many Baby Boomers swear they will never marry again. Then they fall in love. In a previous post, Boomers: In your next relationship just shack up, I listed the financial incentives that are fueling the surge in seniors shacking up together. In this post, I will share tips on how to handle your finances when living in sin.
Share Household Expenses? Definitely
Many divorces are sparked by the inability to talk openly about money. In your post-divorce relationship, don’t fall into the same trap that got you into that divorce. Make it a priority to go over the money situation once a month. Share the household expenses equally or proportionately based on your respective incomes. Here’s where that joint account comes in handy to pay the bills. You each deposit your share of money to cover expenses and pay for them out of the joint account.
When I say “household expenses”, I am not talking about improvements to the house; fund those by the person who owns the house. Sharing in the cost of remodeling or major repairs can get complicated when one of you passes away first without clearly covering this situation in the estate planning documents. Again, I can refer you to excellent estate planning attorneys in the Brazos Valley.
Mingle Assets & Debt? Nope
When shacking up together, retain separate checking accounts. One joint account is fine as long as you also have your separate account. Do not apply for a joint credit card. Do not comingle debt.
Do not contribute toward the purchase of a major asset that is titled to your partner. Talking about houses, vehicles, boats, airplanes and investment accounts. Ok, if you just have to contribute, be sure your name is also on the title. If you are leasing an abode, get both your names on that lease. No exceptions. Consult with an estate planning attorney. Ask me for the best ones in the Brazos Valley. Do not get yourself into the pickle of co-owning a house with your partner’s mother after your partner tragically and suddenly drops off the perch.
Get a No-Nup? Yep
Ok, it might not be romantic, but get a no-nup anyway. This is a legal document that addresses property division, financial support and debt planning for the possibility that your relationship ends prior to either of you passing on. You want to be clear what will happen to your assets if and when the relationship ends. It is not a DIY project. You will need a family law attorney, so call me if you want recommendations.
It used to be called living in sin. It is now socially acceptable and growing by leaps and bounds among boomers. Shacking up is a popular alternative to marriage and divorce, even a nice collaborative divorce. Older people are living together for an average of nine years. Financial reasons top the list of incentives.
Loss of Income. Alimony usually stops when the recipient marries. If you have survivor’s pension benefits, you might lose those if you remarry. If you are receiving a share of your late or former spouse’s Social Security benefits, you could lose those benefits if you remarry before your 60th birthday. If you remarry after age 60 (age 50 if you are disabled), you can collect benefits on your former spouse’s record.
Potential Financial Burdens. In Texas, both spouses are on the hook for most debts incurred during the marriage, regardless of who incurred the debt. Then there is the cost of nursing homes at $5,000 a month in the Bryan College Station area. As a married couple, such costs can devastate the surviving spouse’s financial security.
Tax Disincentives. If each of you has income, as a married couple you could be thrown into a higher tax bracket. As singles living together, you each get $3,000 of capital losses to offset ordinary income, which results in an offset of $6,000 over the two tax returns. As a married couple filing with a joint tax return, you two would only get $3,000 to offset.
Estate Planning Risks. Protecting their children’s inheritance is a big reason Baby Boomers opt to cohabitate. Assure yourself and your heirs that their inheritance will remain intact. Visit with an estate planning attorney before you move in together. Contact me if you need a recommendation for an excellent estate planning attorney in the Brazos Valley.
In my next blog, I’ll give you tips for what to do and what not to do when shacking up. Do’s and Don’ts for Boomers Living in Sin
I’ve yet to meet a single person who was jumping with joy to find a divorce attorney. It just never happens.
No, more often than not, in my 30+ years in divorce finance, people rank finding a divorce attorney a couple rungs higher than getting a root canal on the “Things I’d rather not be doing” ladder.
But here’s the thing: Finding good, solid counsel is a difference maker in the divorce process. The folks who skip over this step or don’t come prepared with the right advice tend to be the people clamoring over their disastrous divorce 15 years down the road (and you don’t want to be one of those, do you?)
So, how do you find the right divorce attorney (when it seems like there are just so many of them?)
We’ve all heard the stories of the ravenous, blood-thirsty divorce attorney who can take your spouse to the cleaners in the blink of an eye. If you’re looking for one of those, you won’t find tips for finding them here (but you should definitely continue reading—because you might discover that’s not a great idea anyway.)
I had a chance to sit down with a good friend, colleague and well-respected family law attorney, Randy Michel, who had some great advice for finding the right counsel for your divorce team.
(And a little side-note: Randy is anything but one of the aforementioned attorneys. You won’t find a more articulate, congenial and dedicated professional working to serve couples and families during divorce, I assure you.)
Tip #1: Consider the source
Divorce horror stories are (sadly) about a dime a dozen these days. So why then are we consulting these folks who have had terrible misfortune with the divorce process for information on how to successfully get a divorce?
It’s important you consider the source when taking advice on getting a divorce, finding the right attorney or how to manage your affairs while going through the process.
Best piece of advice: Find someone who you know, like and trust who has an outcome that looks like what you’d like to achieve with your resolution. Have they found some normalcy after the divorce? Do they have open lines of communication with their spouse? How have their children adjusted?
Ask questions and take notes. You’ll want to have a good model to work with when you interview prospective counsel for your divorce team.
Tip #2: Asking the right questions
It’s important to have an agenda and a desired outcome when you interview professionals as prospective additions to your divorce team.
Randy suggests a few questions you should ask each attorney when you sit down with them:
- What is your experience with family law? (Tip: This is not the same as asking “How long have you practiced as a lawyer?)
- Are you board certified in family law or civil trial law?
- What experience do you have in front of local judges?
- How often will you communicate with me about the status of my case?
- What is your practice regarding me receiving copies of letters, emails, documents, etc etc, which have been received from my spouse and their counsel?
- If my spouse has handled the money most of our marriage and I’m unaware of what debts we owe, how will you uncover necessary financial details?
Tip #3: Do your homework
The internet makes it very easy to dig up information on professionals these days. One Google search could save you hours of head aches if you poke around with the right keywords and sites in mind.
Some great searches to get you started include:
- divorce attorney in college station
- family law in college station
- collaborative divorce in college station
- collaborative law in college station
You’ll find websites and content for individual attorneys and divorce professionals, but you’ll also stumbled upon some valuable directories which may provide ratings and reviews for your prospective counsel.
Another great resource for researching legal professionals is called Avvo, which is a crowd-sourced directory providing reviews, ratings and any disciplinary actions for attorneys from across the country.
It’s important to remember that anyone can get online and post reviews and comments, so use your best judgement and take online research with a grain of salt. Use it to help you pose better questions and narrow your list of prospects—not as a final “yes” or “no”.
Tip #4: Think like a judge
Appearance and attitude matter, especially when the fate of your family and finances is dead-centered in the crosshairs of a judge.
You want your attorney and counsel to look sharp, like they care about what a court thinks of them. Their appearance should be neat and presentable—not messy and disheveled (trust me, those are out there.)
You want them to be approachable with a pleasant demeanor. If you don’t want to work with them, a judge probably won’t either.
Tip #5: Get the inside scoop
This one will require you to get the lowdown on your prospective counsel from the folks who (may) know them the best—the clerks and deputies of the court.
Here’s how it works: You make a phone call to the courthouse and ask a clerk or deputy, “If you were going through a divorce, would you have so-and-so represent you?” Sometimes, they’ll be reluctant to answer or may not have any information for you.
The other way you can work this one is to give them a few names (including one of your top prospects) and see if they can rank or suggest one from the bunch.
The clerks and deputies will often have had interactions with many of the attorneys you’ll come across, so they can give you the details they know. And hey, it’s like any other office—people talk.
Tip #6: Go with your gut
Randy is right on when he says that you should pay attention to the personality and habits of your prospective counsel. If you don’t feel comfortable, or just don’t get along, you don’t want them representing you in court.
If they seem distracted, disorganized or disinterested in you, you want to walk right out the door and continue looking.
If you think you look like a giant trio of dollar signs to them—red alert. There are plenty of options out there, so stay on the prowl.
Finding the right attorney will set you, your family and your financial future on the pathway to success after your divorce. But there’s even more you can do to secure the right outcome.
In my free ebook, “The Pitfalls of Divorce: Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes Couples Make During Divorce”, I’ll show you five more slippery slopes to watch out for along the way. Drop your details in the boxes below, and I’ll send a free copy your way.
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One of the most frequent questions I am asked by College Station clients is about the difference between Collaborative Law divorce, litigation (going to court) and mediation or informal settlement.
My clients ask this question when they are consumed with fear and negative emotions at the start of their divorce process. Often they don’t trust their spouses to be rational and reasonable. They are fearful that they will lose what financial security they may have and face poverty in the near future. They cannot believe that litigation is as expensive as they are warned because they have never experienced it and cannot imagine what it is like. Likewise, they do not know what to expect of mediation. They usually think mediation is a process separate and apart from litigation. In fact, mediation is an event within the traditional litigation process. Mediation can also be used to settle tough disputes inside a Collaborative Law case.
My good friend and colleague, Camille Milner, has beautifully explained the differences in her blog. She talks about Collaborative Law, mediation, traditional litigation (the courtroom style) and settlement conferences. Please hop on over to her site, Milner-Law.com, and read about it for yourself.
I hear questions from people who come to me for divorce financial advice. No matter whether we are talking about College Station or Houston, the answer is always “it depends.”
It depends upon which divorce process you choose. Do it yourself, litigation, mediation or collaborative. Even the do it yourself can be expensive if you are not fully aware of the complexities of your financial situation. Don’t be like most people. Don’t assume your situation is simple.
It depends upon how cooperative you and your spouse are going to be with each other. Will you compromise quickly? Will you fight over the vacation souvenirs? (Yes, I saw that happen.)
It depends upon whether you are counting the future hidden costs of incomplete information. Don’t be focused only on the present. Look ahead at the possible financial gotchas that will bite you if you shortcut your divorce. Hire competent professionals: attorney, divorce CPA and child specialist.
It depends upon whether you hire the cheapest or the most expensive attorney. Don’t do either. Hire an attorney with average hourly rates. Ask other professionals for recommendations. Your friends and colleagues will give you names, but that doesn’t mean their favorite is the right fit for you.
It depends upon how organized you are. The more organized, the more you can save on fees.