Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Morgan Hill Family Law Blog

How to start an estate planning conversation with your parents

The time has come. You realize that you need to discuss estate planning with your elderly parents. No one wants to have this conversation, but you realize that it's the responsible thing to do.

But there's a problem. You don't have the first clue as to how to approach the subject without upsetting your parents. Here are some tips you can follow to break the ice:

  • Talk about your intentions: Your biggest fear is giving your parents the impression that you're worried more about yourself than them. Make your intentions clear from the start, as this shows your parents that you're truly trying to do right by them.
  • Suggest some times and places: Don't put the pressure on your parents by asking them to choose a time and place to discuss estate planning with you. Throw out a few ideas, keeping in mind that a positive and private environment makes the most sense.
  • Include others: For example, if you're concerned about what your siblings will think, ask them to join you for the conversation. Not only does this ease your mind, but it also helps your parents get on board with the idea of discussing their estate plan.

Read this before a child custody hearing

You have a child custody hearing coming up. It determines your rights after the divorce. Now, perhaps it's a contentious situation where you and your ex both want custody. On the other hand, maybe you're both on the same page and you just want an official ruling as you sort out the details.

No matter where you are in this process, make sure you read this first. These tips can help:

  • Get proper documentation. This may include things like a visitation schedule, proof that you made child support payments if necessary, a detailed phone log and much more.
  • Understand what you're asking. If you want sole custody, for instance, it's not just about giving you custody. It's about taking it from your spouse. It takes a lot to prove to the court that they should do something so drastic.
  • Consider how to behave in court. For instance, even though this may be an emotional hearing, you do want to keep emotional outbursts in check.
  • Put your best foot forward. Show up early, not just on time. Wear the right type of clothes so that you look presentable. Address the court respectfully. All of this puts you in a good light and shows that you take this process seriously.
  • Determine exactly what you want and what fits your life. At the same time, try to determine what is in the child's best interests, and then see if there is a way to bring all of those things together.

Be sure to avoid these divorce mistakes

The divorce process is full of twists and turns, thus making it easy to lose track of what you're doing. When you add in a variety of emotions, it's not out of the question that you could make a mistake or two.

Here are three common divorce mistakes that have hindered many others before you:

  • Unrealistic expectations regarding property division: It's your legal right to fight for what you deserve in your divorce, but being unrealistic will only make the process more challenging. Go into your divorce with an open mind and the willingness to negotiate and compromise.
  • Putting your children in the middle: If you have children with your spouse, it's your job to shield them from the process. Putting them in the middle, such as by threatening to keep them from your co-parent will only make matters worse.
  • Jumping into a big purchase: You may need to make big purchases in the near future, such as a car and/or home. However, do your best to avoid this during the divorce process. An expensive purchase too soon can give the wrong impression. Your spouse may believe you're using funds they're entitled to keep.

Take these steps to prepare your finances for divorce

With the divorce process closing in on you, now's the time to prepare your finances accordingly. Neglecting to take the right steps will hold you back during your divorce, while also increasing the risk of a mistake.

Here are five things you can do to prepare your finances for divorce:

  • Create a budget: Review the budget you were following during your marriage, and then make changes that align with your future. For example, if you have no plans on keeping your family home, you won't have to worry about taking on the mortgage payment.
  • Gather documentation: The divorce process will call for all types of financial documentation, such as tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements, retirement account statements, and a property and debt division checklist. Get this documentation in order as quickly as possible, as it will help keep you organized.
  • Don't make any big purchases: It's okay to spend money during the divorce process, but refrain from big purchases that could cause a rift between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. For instance, even though you may need to purchase a home or motor vehicle, it's best to wait for the finalization of your divorce before proceeding.
  • Save, save and save some more: The more money you save during your divorce, the more money you'll have to start your new life in the near future. Make sure you're saving money in an individual bank account, not one that you share with your soon-to-be ex. Close all joint accounts.
  • Get professional help: There are many types of professionals who can help you with all phases of the divorce process, such as financial planners, tax professionals and a family law attorney. Sometimes leaning on a professional is the best way to make informed, confident and accurate decisions.

Are you protected against these estate planning mistakes?

Most people don't consider estate planning an exciting activity. In fact, they'll do anything to avoid thinking about it.

This approach can result in a variety of estate planning mistakes. Some of these include:

  • Not having an estate plan: If you continually put estate planning on the back burner, you eventually need to take action. If you continue to go without an estate plan, you're taking a big risk. Being young and healthy is no excuse to avoid this.
  • Neglecting to update your estate plan: Don't assume that estate planning is something you do one time and then forget. Review your estate plan once a year with an eye toward making changes.
  • Forgetting to plan for disability: Don't focus all your attention on what happens to your assets upon your passing. You should also plan for a potential disability by assigning financial and health care powers of attorney.
  • Choosing the wrong executor or trustee: The executor of your will or trustee of your trust has many responsibilities. You must trust this person to make sound and honest decisions upon your passing. Don't rush into choosing an executor or trustee, but instead compare three to five people before making a selection.

How to save money when co-parenting

When a marriage ends, and children are involved, ex-spouses must adapt and learn how to divide up their parenting responsibilities. Co-parenting can be challenging from an emotional as well as a financial perspective.

In most cases, the breakup of a marriage results in two new households with each former partner having to survive on half or less than half of the income they counted on before. While raising children can be expensive, parents can devise a plan to save on many of the small and substantial costs.

Keeping divorce from negatively impacting work performance

The end of a marriage can have a negative effect on every part of a person’s life, including the relationship with their employer and co-workers. If someone has an impeccable work record and reputation, divorce can eat away at their focus and work-related habits.

Divorce can be all-consuming and overwhelming, especially before both parties reach a settlement. Some cannot compartmentalize those negative feelings and keep them away from the workplace.

How to prepare and ask your spouse for a divorce

Asking your spouse for a divorce is sure to be one of the most difficult and tense conversations you ever have. Even if the both of you understand that divorce is the best option for moving forward, it's never easy to have this conversation.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare to ask your spouse for a divorce:

  • Know what you want to say: You can't prepare for everything, but a basic idea of what you want to say will keep you on track.
  • Choose the right time and place: Don't ask your spouse for a divorce at dinner. Don't ask your spouse for a divorce while you're spending the day with your children. Choosing the right time and place helps set the table for a very difficult conversation.
  • Don't turn back: You've put a lot of time into thinking about the future. If you know that divorce is the answer, don't let your spouse talk you out of it.
  • Avoid the details: There's a lot to work through in your divorce, but you don't have to discuss the details at this time. Doing so is likely to cause an argument, as tensions are running high.

When are the best times to propose a postnuptial agreement?

One of the main reasons why many engaged couples in California don’t create a prenuptial agreement is that they don’t want to believe in the possibility that they won’t be together someday. They think that if one of them brings it up, then one spouse might believe that the other thinks their relationship won’t work out.

Postnuptial agreements aren’t exactly easy to bring up either. You don’t want to make it appear to your spouse that you’re expecting a divorce in the near future after being with them for a couple of months or years. It is important to time this discussion carefully. Here are some suggestions on when you should have this potentially difficult conversation:

What are unmarried parents' rights for child custody?

Unlike the baby boom generation that came before them, parents raising children in the 21st century are far more likely to be unmarried than their parents were. In fact, the number of unmarried parents has doubled since 1968, from 13% to 32% in 2017. About 15 million children live with a single mother, but five million live with cohabitating unmarried parents.

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