Jacksonville Family Law And Estate Planning Blog

How divorce can impact an estate plan

Getting divorced in Florida could make it necessary to make changes to an estate plan. Generally speaking, a divorced individual will want to make sure that his or her former spouse is no longer his or her health care proxy. The same is true as it relates to a financial power of attorney. Instead, a friend, family member or trusted professional should have these roles going forward.

If a former spouse is a trustee or executor of an estate, that should be changed as soon as possible. Otherwise, that person could have control over where assets go or could even receive assets when former spouse dies. Typically, a child will be raised by a former spouse in the event that a divorced parent passes on. However, this may not be true if that other parent is unfit to do so for any reason.

Divorce risk linked to disparity in attractiveness

If one person in a Florida couple is significantly more attractive than the other, that couple might be more likely to get a divorce compared to those who are more evenly matched in attractiveness. An article in Psychology Today reports that studies show this disparity can put a strain on a relationship.

Research varies regarding the nature of that strain. One study found that women who were more attractive than their husbands might have a tendency to be less committed to the relationship and to flirt with others. However, another study found that it was the jealousy of the less-attractive partner that tended to cause the problems in a mismatched relationship. In a different study, men who were married to more attractive women were happier and more helpful to their wives than other husbands.

Update beneficiaries to reflect current estate plans

People in Florida may create a will in order to make sure that their assets are passed on to their loved ones after their death. Making a will is an important part of creating an estate plan, but it does not reflect the whole picture. There are other important steps that a person can take in order to make sure that their assets are handled according to their wishes. Beneficiary designations can be some of the most important yet simple options for people to check.

While a will covers the distribution of most property after a person dies, some assets are distributed according to a beneficiary specified with the policy or plan manager. For example, life insurance policies, annuities, 401(k) accounts and IRAs are distributed to named beneficiaries designated by the policy holder. This designation is given priority over written information in a will or trust. However, many people name a beneficiary when they first create an account but do not update it to reflect life changes. For example, people may name their long-divorced former spouse as a beneficiary. In other cases, they may have created the account as a young person and named their late parents as beneficiaries even though they are now married with their own children.

Entrepreneurs and divorce in Florida

While all divorces are stressful, those that involve business owners can be especially complex. A spouse who owns a business in their own name will need to be very careful about they end their marriage.

It is true that many couples opt to start businesses together. However, it isn't unusual for one spouse to go into business for themselves. While one spouse may be a sole owner of this business, the assets of the company may be a matter of contention during the divorce process.

Should you spy on your spouse during a divorce?

Couples often look for any reason to save money on a divorce. This is why many couples sprinted to finalize divorce proceedings before 2019, so they can take advantage of tax incentives. 

Another way some Florida spouses look to get more money out of their exes is to bring evidence to the court's attention that proves infidelity. As a result, many spouses wonder if they should spy on a spouse throughout the divorce proceedings to find evidence of cheating. For the most part, you should avoid snooping on your spouse, but if you do want to find further evidence, then you need to hire a professional. 

Debts can cause problems for couples

It's not uncommon for couples to go through turmoil because of money. According to a study conducted by Fidelity, more than 50 percent of couples begin their relationships with some level of debt and 40 percent said the debt negatively impacted the relationship at some point. Married people in Florida experience stress because of their debts and many come to consider divorce because of financial and other factors.

Couples are not likely to pinpoint money as the root cause of the divorce, even though it can be in many cases. If the parties involved can't be honest with one another about money, neither of them will know how to manage expenses or live within the couples' means. Often, the debt figures are larger than the couple thinks. The Federal Reserve has reported that people in the U.S. underestimate their credit card debt by 37 percent and their student loan debt by 25 percent.

Understanding different kinds of child support cases

Many parents in Florida are confused by what they encounter when they first begin to navigate the child support system. It may not be clear why some families handle child support payments through a state agency while others make their payments privately. However, there are four different kinds of child support cases, and the type of case determines how each is processed.

Child support cases are classified as "IV-D," "IV-A," "IV-E" or "non-IV-D." The number "IV" comes from the 1975 Social Security Act's Title IV, which addresses federal grants to states to provide services to families with children. IV-D cases are those in which the Office of Child Support Enforcement provides some kind of assistance to the custodial parent, including establishing paternity or enforcing a support order. In IV-A cases, the custodial parent is receiving some form of state public assistance. In these cases, state agencies are automatically involved in an effort to defray their costs.

What to do about the holidays after a divorce

Holidays can be stressful for families at all times, but Florida families that have gone through a divorce might experience additional stress. Parents and children may be struggling with such emotions as sadness, anger, betrayal and fear. While parents may feel overwhelmed by these feelings, they still have to make decisions that will put their children first.

Parents may be able to manage their emotions by talking with professionals and loved ones. This can help them focus more on their children. It is important for parents to avoid letting feelings toward one another cloud their judgment. For example, a child should not be prevented from seeing the other parent during the holiday as a method of revenge.

Questions to ask during the estate planning process

Florida fans of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee may be aware that in the final years of his life, there was some controversy. For example, he reported that $1.4 million was stolen from his bank account to buy a condo. He also ran into a conflict with his daughter. Lee signed a document saying she had befriended men who wanted to defraud him, but then he took it back.

It is not yet clear what type of estate planning Lee did before his death, but the process can become more difficult as a person ages. People who make changes to the plan as they get older may have cognitive abilities called into question by other family members. For this reason, one thing a person may want to discuss with financial planners and an attorney when creating an estate plan is how a cognitive decline would be determined and what action would be taken.

Using joint ownership to avoid probate

Many people in Florida are interested in how to avoid probate when thinking about how to plan for the future. They want to be able to provide their heirs with direct access to their assets without having to go through a court procedure. There are a number of ways that property can be transferred outside of the probate system, but one of the most commonly used is joint ownership. For example, many people own their homes jointly with their spouses with a right of survivorship. If one spouse dies, the other owns the home in full without going through probate.

Some people want to extend this idea to their bank accounts or other assets by, for example, adding their children as joint owners of the accounts. People can do this relatively easily by going to the bank with the other person. This gives both people equal rights to the property, effective immediately. Once one of the two joint owners passes away, the other will receive the property right away. This also means that the joint owner can manage the account in case the other person becomes incapacitated or needs help with managing finances.

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Rachel Rall, Attorney at Law, P.A.
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