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True Love Lasts a Lifetime. So Does an Estate Plan.

There are many different ways to express how much we care and say, “I love you.” Red roses, a date night, a spa day, or planning a trip are all great ways to celebrate Valentine's Day. However, what says "I love you" more than assuring them that you will do anything you can to minimize their stress should something happen to you? This Valentine’s Day, consider giving your loved one an unconventional gift… an estate plan. Don't forget the flowers and chocolates too!

While a legal document may not be the most "romantic gift," it is definitely one of the most meaningful and heartfelt gifts you can give or receive. Sitting down and taking time with your significant other or family member to review your current estate plan, or discuss your estate planning goals and create a carefully crafted strategy, is an important and thoughtful “date” that will protect and benefit your family for years to come. An estate plan is not just an important legal document that saves your loved one's time, money, stress, and potential heartbreak. An estate plan is also a way of expressing care, commitment, and love. Present your loved ones with a gift that will last well beyond February 14 and will continue providing and supporting that individual today, tomorrow, and even after your passing.

The past twelve months have been a constant reminder that life is truly unpredictable. Major life events such as a global pandemic, marriage or divorce, death, or a crippling change in one's financial situation could happen at any time, and any one of these would require changes to your estate plan to keep it valid. Whether you are in the beginning stages of your estate plan or revisiting an existing plan, everyone needs to plan ahead— no matter how young, healthy, and invincible you may feel. While your estate plan will never expire, it is strongly advised that you review your plan once every three years.  Make this a regular date night! Enjoy a nice bottle of wine together, review your plan, discuss your goals, address any major changes. There is no better way to show your commitment and love for one another.

Sandoval Legacy Group is now a division of Holstrom, Block & Parke, a Professional Law Corporation, one of the largest and most respected family law firms in Southern California. Once you are ready, we encourage you to meet with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys. With over 30 years of experience, we are here to guide and support you and your loved ones throughout your estate planning journey. We will ensure you, your loved one, and your legacy is protected no matter what life has in store. Request a consultation or contact us at (855) 939-9111 for any estate planning needs.

Setting Boundaries During a Divorce Can Save you Money

By James R. Parke

Going through a divorce? Then you know attorney’s fees can be expensive.

Do you want to save 70% on your attorney's fees? It really is nothing more than learning to set boundaries with your soon-to-be former spouse.

Focus on the Things You Can Control

It is often said that a divorce proceeding is 70% psychological and 30% legal. That being said, if you want to save on your fees, focus on that area which you can control: the psychological aspects of your divorce.

One of the main causes of high attorney's fees is a client's inability to deal with the other spouse's manipulation, be it real or imagined. If you want to limit certain types of fees, learn to control the "psychological" aspect of your case.

How do you do that? It's very simple. You must learn to set boundaries. For those who would like to learn more about this concept from an original source, read the book, "Boundaries" by co-authors Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

What you will learn from this book, among many other very useful tips, is that nobody can dictate to you how you feel, speak, or think. That is up to you, that is if you learn how to set boundaries.

What are "boundaries" and how do you set them? Boundaries are not walls or physical barriers, rather, it is simply the ability to self-define. If you do not want your former spouse calling you names, sending you on "guilt" trips, or trying to manipulate you to reconcile, then learn how to say "No" and then set consequences for those times in which the "No" is not honored.

For example, if you are on the telephone with your former spouse who is berating you, instead of angrily hanging up the phone, which will leave you angry, simply tell him/her that you will not be spoken to in that manner so you are ending the call, and then end the call. Here's a news flash: you do not have to stay on the phone with and be berated, and you do not have to take the return calls. In fact, you do not have to take any of the calls until the "berater" learns how to communicate in a calm, civil, and reasonable manner.

When you take care of the problem with your "boundaries", you do not have to call your attorney to have your expensive legal counsel call the other attorney. The result of creating boundaries results in savings for you in attorney fees, as well as, self-empowerment.

Bankruptcy During Divorce: How They Interact

If you need to file for divorce, you might be understandably hesitant to see what the future holds for you. Regardless, you have it under control and you can get through it. Or maybe you need to file for bankruptcy? It is an intimidating process that can be rife with complications but, once again, it is nothing you can’t handle. But what happens if you are going through a divorce and need to file for bankruptcy? Now things are getting trickier.

How to Reduce Your Filing Costs

Many people who were in a financially stable position are actually driven towards bankruptcy as a result of divorcing. Others are already in financial straits before divorce is brought up. In either situation, going through bankruptcy before finalizing your divorce could potentially save some money.

If your soon-to-be ex-spouse files for bankruptcy with you, it can count as a joint bankruptcy filing. This will essentially save you 50% on bankruptcy filing fees because it is just one process, rather than two separate ones. Deciding to stick together one last time to complete a joint filing can also make debt division and property distribution much easier since everything that could be collected by creditors in your bankruptcy will already be gone and not pending division. On a more positive note, a joint filing often doubles the exemptions granted to the bankruptcy petition, allowing you to keep more of your property than if the both of you filed separately.

Fast & Slow Bankruptcies

You must also consider which form of bankruptcy you are going to use to resolve your debt issues. If you are filing for Chapter 7, sometimes called liquidation bankruptcy, it could be over within the year, so you could file for bankruptcy first, complete it, and then divorce without dragging things out for an extended period of time. On the other hand, Chapter 13 bankruptcy always relies on a debt restructuring plan that is paced out over three to five years. If you are planning on divorcing and need to use Chapter 13, the divorce should come first, or else youwill be waiting a couple years at least.

Passing the Means Test Due to Divorce

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a powerful tool that can wipe out huge portions of debt entirely. In order to make certain the people who really need it are the ones who use it, a means test is required for eligibility. Petitioners who make more than the average household in their state, based on annual incomes and earnings, will fail the means test and cannot use Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

How does divorce relate to the means test? If you aren’t divorced and file a joint bankruptcy, your combined incomes may cause you to climb over the statewide average, and you may fail the means test. If you finish your divorce first, you can file separate bankruptcies and only your income will be measured; feasibly, this could cause you to drop under the average and pass the means test, enabling Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Sort Through the Complications with Confidence

In all the many ways that divorcing can affect bankruptcy, and vice versa, the common theme is intricacy. You will need to know what you are doing, where your end goal remains, and how it is going to affect your family. Let Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC and our Southern California divorce attorneys be the ones to help you make sense of the complexities and make the decisions that benefit you most.

300+ years of combined legal experience can be on your side – contact us today.

Divorce Finance: Staying Ahead of The Game

If you’re like Amy Koko, author of Ex Wife New Life, the end of your divorce may have caused some serious financial confusion. There are attorneys who, unfortunately, don’t assist their clients and prepare them for their financial future properly.

If that’s you, do you remember what it was like trying to adjust your life to your new financial situation? (We know some people don’t need to adjust at all, but that isn’t always the case.) You may have had to cut back on your groceries, your gym membership, clothes for your children, etc. It can be a serious challenge that you may not have been prepared for.

Koko states that for women (or men) living on alimony, there are two things they’ll need to understand. The obvious is the financial planning element: knowing your situation and adjusting your spending accordingly. The other less obvious barrier is coming to terms with the fact that you still financially depend on someone you’re no longer married to and probably don’t love anymore.

All financial plans and settlements are different, and it’s important to have a firm understanding of your finances as they are currently and as they’ll be in the future. Divorce is confusing enough, and you don’t need money to be another form of confusion.

Remember: alimony is taxable! Some women, like Amy Koko, find this out the hard way. If your ex was doing your taxes throughout the marriage, it might be quite overwhelming to try to tackle them yourself now that you’re divorced or separated. We usually recommend working with a financial advisor at least the first year on your own to make sure you’re on track.

Koko also provides an interesting outlook on being financially dependent as a divorcee. She states that if a company employed you and financially and you were dependent upon that company for 30 years, you’d have no problem leaving with a great financial package (i.e.- retirement). That’s how you can look at alimony: you earned it.

How Can Women Increase Their Income After Divorce

Divorce affects everyone differently. For the lucky few, divorce is a relatively pleasant experience. Some individuals are able to amicably wrap up their relationship and move on. For others, divorce can be a tedious and stressful process. Individuals can get to such an unhealthy point in their relationship that they want to fight over every asset and issue surrounding the divorce, almost as if for sport.

Regardless of the type of divorce you are going through, there is often some stress related to the unknown because imagining life after divorce is impossible. On top of worrying about issues such as your future living situation and the effect that divorce may have on your children, there is almost always stress surrounding finances.

A lot of stress regarding finances can be overcome by increasing your income. Some of us are stay at home moms and some of us work either part-time or full-time; but even for those of us that work full-time, our family’s total income has likely decreased because we no longer have our ex-spouse’s income coming in. But how can we, as women, increase our income?

First, sit down and write out what marketable skills you have. It is important to actually write down what skills you have so that you can create a plan for yourself moving forward. Even if you did not work during the marriage, it is still likely that you have marketable skills. For example, a stay at home mom that helped volunteer as a team mom or helped coach her daughter’s soccer team has plenty of marketable skills. That individual has experience working with children, has the ability to coordinate events, has experience dealing with unruly parents, and has the ability to both lead and be a team player. These skills will transfer into a plethora of job opportunities that are not necessarily limited to the realm of sports. While applying for a job at a sports complex or getting paid to coach are some of the more obvious options, these marketable skills will also transfer well into other fields such as an event planner, babysitter, or customer service representative.

Second, look at your schedule and write down the realistic hours that you have available to work. It may be the case that you only have a couple hours on the weekends when your ex-spouse has parenting time. Or, it may be the case that you have to work from home. Regardless of how little “extra” time you have to work, any extra work you do will lead to an increase in your income and a decrease in your stress.

Third, start actively looking for a job. If you do not look for a job, be certain that a job opportunity is not going to just fall into your lap. Remember that creating a new opportunity for yourself will also help you to move on. This job will be something “new” that doesn’t have anything to do with your ex. This is a healthy way to start paving the road to creating a new life after divorce.

Am I Entitled to my Husband's Retirement Account?

When choosing a beneficiary for a retirement plan, it is important to understand how your spouse will be treated under the plan.

Surviving spouses are treated differently under 401(k)’s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). While a 401(k) provides protection for a surviving spouse, and IRA does not.

Most people name their spouses to inherit the funds in their retirement plan accounts, but even a spouse who wasn’t named as the beneficiary of a retirement account may have the legal right to claim the money.

In a traditional IRA or Roth IRA account, the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner is not automatically entitled to inherit the money – especially if the account owner designated someone else as beneficiary. However, there are certain limitations.

Since California is a community property state, the money in a retirement account may be owned equally by the couple. An IRA is an individual account, but if the contributions came from community property, such as one spouse’s paycheck, all the money in the account is considered community property – unless the couple agreed otherwise.

If it has been determined that the account is community property, then the surviving spouse is entitled to claim his or her half of it.

A 401(k) plan is set up for employees and they meet certain IRS rules in order to qualify for federal tax benefits. With this type of plan, the surviving spouse has the right to inherit all money in the account – unless the survivor signed a waiver giving up his or her rights and allowed the spouse to name a different beneficiary.

The survivor must have signed the waiver while the couple was married. However, if the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before they married, and one or both of them gave up their rights to the other’s qualified retirement plan account, it won’t serve as a valid waiver.

If you have any questions regarding estate planning, the division of retirement plans, what benefits you might be entitled to or how these orders get drafted, contact the family law offices of Holstrom, Sissung,& Block. We have offices located in Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties for your convenience.

Law Removes Same-Sex vs. Opposite-Sex Marriage Distinction

Good news for same-sex couples!

The Federal government will soon afford married same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to the following legal procedures and protection: bankruptcy, testifying in court, and visiting family in prison.

According to excerpts from a speech Attorney General Eric Holder gave, policies will be issued eliminating the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the Federal criminal justice system. The Department of Justice will make every effort to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages.

The changes began last year when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to refuse Federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer, the Obama administration has rewritten Federal rules to allow same-sex couples to file taxes together and receive Medicare and other benefits reserved for married couples.

The Federal government estimates that more than 1,100 regulations, rights, and laws touch on, or are affected by, marital status.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might violate the marital privilege.
  • The U. S. Trustee Program will take the position that same-sex married couples should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and that domestic support obligations should include debts such as spousal support owed to a former same-sex spouse.
  • Federal prisoners in same-sex marriages will be entitled to visitation by a spouse, inmate furloughs during a crisis involving a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on an inmate’s spouse being incapacitated.

If you are unsure about this latest development relative to same-sex marriage, and you have questions, contact the Family Law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke with offices located in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties for your convenience.

How Should I Handle My Retirement Fund?

Divorce is not an easy process for anyone – young or old.

Are you aware that the divorce rate among people over 50 has doubled in the last two decades?

Whether you’re fifty years old and married to the same man for 25 years or you’re only celebrating your third wedding anniversary, it’s never too early or too late to think about retirement accounts and pension plans.

If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you should begin thinking about these issues today.

Retirement accounts and pension plans are quickly becoming one of the most contested items in divorce and asset division negotiations. For people over 50 years old, this is not a unique situation. Retirement accounts can make up a significant portion of the couple’s net worth, especially in the current economic climate. Because of this, it is important that these accounts are divided fairly to ensure that each spouse has sufficient financial resources for their retirement. To aggressively negotiate your assets get an experienced attorney, it can make all the difference for you in your divorce settlement.

In case you didn’t realize – retirement funds that are added during the marriage, whether through personal contributions or employer matching, are considered to be marital property. Therefore, those funds can be divided among the spouses upon divorce.

There are a few considerations for doing so. The division of a 401(k) plan, as well as other pension plans, requires the creation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO. This order instructs the pension plan administrator on how to pay the non-employee spouse’s share of the benefits.

This document should be created before the divorce is finalized in order to ensure timely processing and payment.

Getting divorced requires additional planning – By putting away extra money for the future, you can retire with the expectation that there will be money to live on and hopefully, some extra for fun and games or the vacation of your dreams.

Once you have a basic understanding of these issues and want to proceed with a divorce, consult with a skilled and experienced family lawyer to help you work through the process of dividing up retirement and pension accounts as part of your final divorce agreement.

Contact the family law offices of Holstrom, Sissung, Marks & Anderson to guide you through these issues so you can focus on moving forward with your life. Submit our online contact inquiry form, and have one of our attorney will get in touch with you.

I Need Help With My Child Support Payments

When a family court judge rules on issues of child custody and child support, he or she does so knowing that at some point the order may need to be changed. Circumstances in people’s lives change as time goes by – and these court orders can change with them.

In order for a court to allow support modification, the party seeking the modification must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants the change.

Has one of the following happened to you?

  • You have experienced a decrease in your income – job loss, medical problem/serious injury
  • Remarriage
  • Your ex-spouse wants to leave town – changing your custody and visitation arrangements

If you fall into one of the above situations and need a post-decree modification on your child custody and/or child support, it is important to contact an experienced Family Law attorney to discuss your options and risks.

Contact the Riverside Family Law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke because our attorneys know when to recommend compromise to prevent escalation of disagreement and discord in a divorced family situation. Let us help you move forward and start planning the future you want.

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