Palmer Rodak & Associates
Palmer Rodak & Associates
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Oceanside California Divorce and Estate Planning Blog

Health care proxies and divorce

When a couple in California separates or gets divorced, they may often have to sort through many decisions that they had made while they believed they would remain married for the rest of their joint lives until at least one person died. Some of these decisions might include who each spouse might list as an emergency contact for an employer or who they would name as the executor of their estate.

Another choice that might need to be revisited is the updating of a health care proxy. CNN Money explains that this is also sometimes referred to as a medical power of attorney or an advanced health care directive. Regardless of what it is called, the purpose of this document is to assign rights and responsibilities to another person to make health care and treatment decisions on behalf of someone who cannot do so for themselves.

Lack of will raises many questions

It is not always easy for people in California to take the first step toward making a trust or a will. Some believe this is due to the natural human trepidation that comes with facing one's own mortality. However, one does not avoid dying simply by refusing to create an estate plan. In addition, the lack of such a plan may open up a plethora of questions and potential issues after a person's death.

As The Washington Post explains, the potential for challenges to an estate's handling in lieu of a clear estate plan may increase when the deceased person was very wealthy, famous or both. In the wake of the recent passing of an entertainer oft referred to as The Queen of Soul, many are wondering what might come of her estate that is rumored to be worth approximately $80 million. While suprising to some, the woman had no will or trust in effect when she died due to pancreatic cancer.

Fathers and 50/50 joint custody; can they get it if they want it?

The country as a whole is moving toward treating mothers and fathers equally when it comes to divorce and child custody matters. While the system is not perfect, California family courts see the good that can come from joint custody arrangements. They are now known to be better for the children and the parents in the long run.

If you are a dad and have concerns about achieving the joint custody arrangement you desire, you have every right to feel the way you do. Traditionally, the courts have given preference to mothers in custody cases. Sometimes, they still do, though the state is working to change that, so you may not have to worry about it as much as you think.

The changing face of fatherhood

If you are a man who is getting divorced in California and you have minor children still at home, you will understandably be concerned about your ability to spend quality time with your children. While many changes have taken place in the past several decades, many fathers still fear they will end up with less time with their children than their mothers will get. To help yourself through this process, it can be useful to clarify just how important fathers are to their kids and how societal views are evolving.

Data from the Pew Research Center from a 2016 study shows that nearly half - 45 percent - of people polled felt that dads were equally able to provide quality care for their kids as were moms. This represents a big step forward for fathers and for their children.

Making a good executor selection

If you are creating your will in California, you will know that there can be a seemingly endless list of decisions that you need to make. One of these decisions is who you will name to be the executor of your estate. Many people rush into this too blindly and end up leaving their heirs facing challenges because of the poor selection.

According to Forbes, the seemingly natural choice of an eldest child or closest living relative may not be the best option for your estate executor. There can be multiple reasons for this and one is the fact that this person may end up in conflict with other co-beneficiaries. If you have only one living child, that may not be an issue but for families with multiple children, it is more common that most people would wish.

Modification of child support order

California parents who either pay or receive child support may find themselves in a situation where they believe a change in the amount paid is appropriate. As the California Courts explain, any change must be signed by a judge in order to be legally binding. This means divorced parents cannot simply make an agreement themselves even in writing and consider it legally binding. 

If both parents are able to agree on a new amount for child support, they may offer that to the court for a judge's signature that would then make it an official court order. If they do not agree on an amount, one parent must initiate a petition to the court.

How can I navigate back-to-school with my ex?

Coastal southern California is graced with temperate weather year-round but that still does not take the specialness out of summer break from school for kids. Having a few months without homework or the requirement to get up at a certain early time is something most children enjoy and therefore they need parental help to make the transition back to the school-year routine. For divorced or separated parents, helping their kids do this can be a different challenge.

Our Family Wizard, a tool that helps divorced spouses coparent effectively, recommends that moms and dads make a clear plan together about how to navigate all aspects of the back-to-school experience. One of these elements is shopping for and paying for school supplies. Especially for families with multiple children, the cost of new backpacks, lunch bags, notebooks, crayons, paper and more can add up fast. Having an agreement in place ahead of time can help avoid some arguments.

Differences between contested and uncontested divorce

Californian couples may get to a point in their relationship where one or both parties believes that a divorce is the best option. Sometimes couples will both agree on this, but what happens when one person finds a divorce to be preferable while the other does not?

According to FindLaw, uncontested divorces occur when both parties involved find it mutually agreeable that their marriage should come to an end. However, that's not the only thing they need to agree on to be eligible for an uncontested divorce. They must also agree on a number of other matters. This can include determining who pays spousal or child support, how child custody will be handled, the division of joint property or assets, and so on. For this reason, it can be somewhat rare for a couple to agree on enough matters for uncontested divorce to be feasible.

There are alternatives to litigated divorce

You and your spouse may have had hard times in the past, and you were able to muddle through them. At this point, however, you both agree that the marriage is not working, and it is time to end it. As sad and difficult as it may be, you know it is the right decision for both of you, and you hope to remain part of each other's lives, especially if you have children.

With this in mind, you may dread the thought of going through a divorce. You may know couples with good intentions who were practically enemies by the time the divorce process ended, and you don't want that for your family. Fortunately, there are more amicable options if you and your spouse are willing to compromise and negotiate over the critical issues involved in your divorce.

Understanding debts and death

When most people in California think about making a will, they think about leaving something to their heirs. However, it should be remembered that asset distribution is not the only activity that takes place regarding a person's estate when they die. Any debts that the deceased person had ideally are to be paid as well. This is an important part of the probate process and it can reduce the amount of money left for heirs.

As explained by the Federal Trade Commission, just because a person has died does not mean that their debt has also died. Debts continue to live on well after a person's death and should be paid first before anything is distributed to people named in a will. If the amount of debt a person had exceeds the value of the estate, some debts may well go unpaid. There are a few exceptions to this, however.

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Palmer Rodak & Associates
Certified Family Law Specialists State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization

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