Estate Planning and Divorce: What You Need to Know

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If you are considering a divorce, it’s critical to understand the impact of your divorce on what would happen in the event of your incapacity or death, either during the divorce or after.

According to Stacy Perez, a Tampa, FL family law and divorce attorney, many courts are experiencing such a backlog, that “parties are waiting for months to get a first court date… sometimes cases may take over a year to finalize.” Until the Final Judgment is signed by the judge, without modifications to your estate planning, the soon to be ex-spouse may still have decision making authority even though there is a divorce pending. Let that sink in.

Unfortunately, most divorce lawyers don’t give much thought to incapacity or death, simply because they do not have training on these issues specifically and it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue when they’re advising you through your divorce. That’s why it’s important for you to seek our advice at the beginning of the divorce process.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. As soon as you file for divorce, automated “orders” go into effect that will limit what you can do with your assets during the divorce. Upon filing a petition for dissolution of marriage, courts issue automatic, boilerplate orders, limiting control over assets, including property, such as the home or money in bank accounts. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your divorce lawyer and your personal estate planning lawyer about these issues before you file for divorce.
  2. If you have already filed for divorce, you may want to revoke any existing powers of attorney and health care directives giving your soon to be ex-spouse control over your assets and your medical decision-making if you were to become incapacitated, as well as execute what we call a “divorce will,” which is a “temporary” will that would cover the disposition of your assets in the event of your death during your divorce. Again, talk to your divorce lawyer about these temporary documents that can be executed while you are in the divorce process, and then be sure he or she is coordinating with us on your behalf to get these documents prepared and signed.
  3. Once your divorce is final, and all assets are decided upon, be sure to update these “temporary” estate planning documents, to take into account your new reality.

There are many ways to get divorced. The traditional litigation/fight oriented divorce could require years of litigation, and is a division of assets based on legal rights, rather than your specific needs and desires.

Collaborative Divorce

Alternatively, there is a movement today towards “conscious uncoupling” in which you and your spouse collaboratively tailor the outcome of your divorce to meet each of your specific needs and desires, as well as the overall impact on your family. With this method, instead of having a judge make all the important decisions in your divorce, you can make decisions that are right for you. This is especially helpful when dealing with alimony and if children are involved.

Alimony Payments

Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is financial support paid to the non-income earning spouse during the divorce proceeding and after the judgment. Alimony can be paid in a number of ways, usually it is monthly, over a predetermined period of time. Durational payments carry the benefit of a steady income for the recipient, but can be modified under certain circumstances, leaving some uncertainty. It also leaves room for continued communication about what’s needed over the non-income earners life, as well as what’s possible over the lifetime of the income earning spouse.

Alimony Buyout

Because monthly payments (and a continuing relationship) aren’t right for every family, alimony can also be paid in a lump sum. This is also referred to as “alimony buyout.” Lump sum alimony either in the form of a cash buyout or a disproportionate property division is not subject to modification or termination, so it creates a finality to the relationship that isn’t there with a continuing monthly payment.

If you do decide on continuing monthly payments versus a lump sum alimony payment, it’s critical to ensure that those payments would be able to continue in the event of incapacity or death of the spouse paying alimony, and you need to follow up and confirm that those payments are considered in the ex-spouse’s estate planning documents.  Life insurance can be used to guarantee that the support continues, should the unthinkable occur. If you need any recommendations for local, trusted insurance and financial advisors, let us know.

If you decide on a lump sum alimony, be sure to update your estate planning to reflect the new assets you now will have titled in your own name. We can discuss trust planning options to ensure those assets stay out of Court, if and when anything happens to you.

If you’re not already a client, call us at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session to get you squared away when it comes to your property and protecting your loved ones. If you are already a client and considering divorce, please contact us so we can help you consider your options and find the right lawyer or lawyers to support you during the divorce process.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why she offers a Life and Legacy Planning Session during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make the best choices for the people you love. Call Myrna at (813) 514-2946 to get started today.

Thank you to attorney Stacy Perez, one of our local family law and divorce resources, for her contributions to this article and for lending her support to individuals going through divorce. For more information about family law matters and dignified divorce, contact Stacy Perez  at (813) 514-2925 and https://www.facebook.com/dignifieddivorceflorida/

What to Do With a Cash Windfall

Many of us like to fantasize about winning the lottery. We talk to our friends about how we might spend the money, and we dream about never wanting for anything ever again. Although the odds of winning the lottery are very small, there are other ways that we might come into a major amount of cash in our lives, usually in the form of an inheritance, from a business sale or perhaps even though the settlement of a legal claim.

If you do receive such a windfall, planning ahead beforehand is critical, so that it can be available to benefit yourself, and also your loved ones even after you are gone. Unfortunately, without planning, most people who receive large amounts of money lose it almost as quickly as they receive it.

If you see a windfall coming your way, consider the following steps.

1. Consider putting any large cash amounts you receive into an asset protection trust.

You may even want to consider appointing a co-trustee to govern the trust alongside you. This will mean you can honestly tell friends and family that you do not have unrestricted control to your assets when they come asking for handouts.

2. Hire an advisor you trust to help you invest the assets you receive in a manner that is aligned with your values.

This will support you in using the money in the long-term life you desire; if you need recommendations to a trusted investment advisor, contact us.

3. Update all of your own estate planning documents, including your Will, Revocable Living Trust, Health Care Directives and Power of Attorney, and establish a relationship with a personal estate planning lawyer.

This is so if and when anything happens to you, your family will be supported and they can stay out of court and out of conflict.

 

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we she offers a  Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a Planning Session.

Crypto Currency – What Happens When You’re Not Around?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin. What you may not know is what “cryptocurrency” means, and how it affects your estate planning. Maybe you’ve even got yourself some Bitcoin, but haven’t given thought to what would happen to your digital currency in the event of your death or incapacity. As a new technology, cryptocurrency can be a bit confusing, and few law firms are talking about this yet.  But we are!

Today’s article will dive in with some initial thoughts, and then we’ll get deeper in future articles.

  • If you had purchased $100 of Bitcoin in 2010, you would have over $4,000,000 today.  Let that sink in.
  • There are now over 800 digital currencies available, though Bitcoin is the most well-known.
  • Each one operates a bit differently, and with a different purpose.
  • What they all have in common is that they are digital currencies, in the form of “tokens” that you can now buy (or invest in) and in some cases use to exchange for goods and services.

For example, more and more providers of goods and services are accepting Bitcoin as payment method, just as they would cash or credit. A few are even  accepting the lesser known currency called Ripple (XRP).

For today, I want to cover what you need to have in place to ensure that if you become incapacitated or die, and you are holding digital currency, you will be prepared.

Unfortunately, if you have not planned for the transfer of your digital currency at the time of your incapacity or death, it could literally be lost to the ethers. And, if you invested in Bitcoin back in the day before it got popular, that could potentially be millions of dollars lost to your loved ones.

There are two things for you to consider if you are holding digital currency:

  1. Do your loved ones, or whoever you would like to leave your digital currency to, know that it exists?
  2. Do they know how to access it and cash it in or hold onto it?

If you are holding your currency in an exchange, such as coinbase, with 2-factor authentication, it could be very difficult for your loved ones to access your currency. (And if your loved ones can’t access your iPhone, there’s other problems too (see our article about digital access)! We offer our clients access to a cloud-based digital account administration system.  Having that in place would allow the executor of your estate to handle all digital accounts, not just crypto accounts. But if you prefer the traditional route, store that information offline.

Here’s the thing, if you lose those codes, or your loved ones can’t find them, it’s the same as all of your currency being gone.

You can read more about the different storage options for cryptocurrency here.

Bottom line: if you have cryptocurrency and you want your loved ones to have it after you are gone, you should probably call us so we can make sure it’s not lost upon your incapacity or death. As one of the first law firms actively tackling the crypto-currency issue, we want to make sure our clients are ahead of the curb on this as well.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Families, don’t put off your estate planning any longer.

What would happen to your kids if something happened to you? This story will break your heart.

On a summer vacation in 2006, Casey and Melanie Barber took a road trip with their three boys, ages 3, 5 and 8. A tire defect caused a blow out and there was a horrific accident that left both parents dead. Miraculously, all three boys survived.

The Barbers had never legally documented who they wished to be guardian for their children. In the aftermath of the accident, through the grief and confusion, there was a contentious court battle over the boys and their inheritance. Multiple family members came forward claiming they were best suited to care for the three boys. Not only was the well being of the boys a stake, so was their inheritance, and ultimately the proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit (a jury ultimately awarded $14.4 million). Things got so ugly that at one point the boys ended up in foster care. The court battle lasted over a year, involved at least nine lawyers and cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

Ultimately, the court did appoint a guardian to raise the boys. Was it who Casey and Melanie would have chosen to raise their boys? We’ll never know because Casey and Melanie never documented their wishes.

It doesn’t have to be that way for your family.

Like many parents with young kids at home, the Barbers didn’t put a plan together that would have protected their children from that ugly court battle.  Many of us parents have so many questions about estate planning and feel so overwhelmed at the thought of someone else raising our kids, that we procrastinate. We’re so busy taking care of our kids, working to make a living, and spending quality family time, that we may feel like we can’t afford to spend any extra time or money on ourselves, let alone for estate planning.

I know how that feels. I’m a mom of 2 little girls. My husband and I both have demanding jobs. Every day, we have to figure out kid pick-up and drop off at different schools, what chores need to be done…on top of stuff like soccer practice, piano lessons, and the occasional date night.

The most important thing that any parent can do is name a guardian for their kids. Most people don’t realize that if the parents don’t name a guardian to raise your kids if something happens to you, the court will do that for you. And it may not be who you would have wanted.

Parents need to speak to a good estate planning attorney who understands the needs of young families. That attorney needs to be able to offer advice for how to best provide for your children and design a customized plan that meets your needs.

Estate planning doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. We need to make time for this. Our kids are worth it. Call Myrna today at (813) 514-2946 for an appointment.

Business Succession Planning: What’s in it for you now

Many small businesses are family owned, and these businesses benefit from the strength of familial solidarity. However, without a strong succession plan, when it comes time for leadership to change hands, the business can be disrupted. Succession plans can help smooth that transition of leadership. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t have any plans in place.

Often times, business owners overlook succession planning because they don’t think they’ll reap any immediate benefits. However, succession planning can strengthen your business, support its growth and serve as a springboard for your legacy.

The best part of succession planning is that it can allow you to chart the vision for your future, as the business owner, so that you can begin to experience the freedom you may have desired when you first started your business. Succession planning addresses issues such as:

Growth

Employees brought in from outside the company (and the family) might become disappointed with the opportunities—or lack thereof—for growth. A family-owned business that cannot attract talent to take the reins and keep the company viable throughout a leadership transition is risking a lot and can keep your company from the growth you desire.

Small-business owners need to clarify each employee’s role, including its limitations. Being upfront about the room for growth from the beginning can help employees make the most of their positions and allow them also to be clear about what they want out of the role and how they want their talents to be used. Small business owners should be flexible when attracting top talent. If they are not able to provide them room for growth, they should be sure the position is worthwhile in other ways if advancement is not a possibility.

Reluctant Leadership

When a business owner starts from the ground up and sacrifices years of time and money to grow his or her business, it can be hard to let it go. Some business leaders are reluctant to retire because they have a psychological investment in the company. This can create significant barriers to succession planning before it’s too late.

Begin by creating a phased transition plan. A phased transition plan can help you to retain some involvement while incoming leaders learn the ropes. This works to break down the barriers to leadership transition. Easing out of and into new roles creates a more successful transition as the incoming leader takes time to get to know and understand how the current leader sees the company’s future.

If you are ready to create a succession plan, start by sitting down with us. Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty understands that estate planning has many moving parts, including the role of the family business. Our firm can guide you in making the tough decisions, so you can focus your energy on what matters most to you.

Myrna offers a spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Audit for businesses, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule a meeting with Myrna.

Strategic Retirement Planning

Are you approaching retirement, and questioning how you can ensure a smooth transition from working life to retired life?  Walking away from regular paychecks and employer-provided benefits can feel a little nerve-wracking. You can minimize the impact of these major life changes though by planning accordingly, and by keeping these things in mind.

Time It

Get your timing right. Review and understand your employer’s policies on 401(k) matching and profit sharing. Make sure you plan to retire at a time when you can reap all the vested benefits you have coming to you before they expire. Sit down with your company’s HR department to discuss your retirement benefits.

Bridge the Insurance Gap

If you are retiring before the age of 65, you could have a lapse in insurance coverage before you are eligible for Medicare. If your employer, like most employers, doesn’t offer retiree health insurance benefits, look into COBRA insurance to extend your current coverage, or an individual insurance plan to carry you over until Medicare kicks in. Don’t forget about life insurance and long-term care insurance either. If you do not have an insurance advisor you trust, we can refer you to someone, and we can also provide an objective backstop review on any insurance you do have in place to make sure it’s the right amounts and right types for you.

Petition for Your Pension

Apply for your pension at least five months before you retire. Get a benefits statement, and consider your payout options if you have them (e.g. lump sum vs. annuity). Coordinate your pension payout to minimize your tax liability while still meeting your financial needs.

Rearrange Your Retirement Funds

Consider the pros and cons of consolidating accounts and rolling 401(k) funds into an IRA for more investment freedom and easier management. Some retirees find the investment options with employer-provided 401(k)s are cheaper than those bought independently. Make sure you discuss your options with a financial professional and choose the option that maximizes your income and gives you the flexibility you need. As always it is important, of course, to ensure your beneficiary designations are set up to make sure your retirement benefits go exactly where you choose.

Closing Thoughts

Planning a strategic retirement takes forethought, but make sure you don’t short sell yourself on all the perks you may be owed. Make sure you take advantage of all the benefits your employer offers and carefully plan how you will manage your retirement income to minimize tax liabilities. Following these simple steps can help ensure you are financially prepared for retirement.

Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty realizes that estate planning has many moving parts that are impacted by life changes, like retirement.  And that is why she works with a network of trusted advisors in the insurance, tax and financial planning fields. If you haven’t already done so, contact our firm to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session. We’ll get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you and help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.