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

How can you keep the full value of your 401k?

You have likely worked very hard to accumulate assets in Oceanside. Some might be earned with the help of a spouse, while others come solely through your own individual efforts. Divorce, however, can call your claim of sole ownership of your individual assets into question. Consider the 401k you have earned through your employer in Oceanside. The funds that go into it are a result of the work that you do. Why, then, would it be considered a marital asset? 

Almost all assets that you earn while with your spouse will end up being considered marital property. This includes salaries and wages. As contributions to your 401k come from your salary (and by extension, any matching funds provided by your employer), these also would then fall into this category. Keep in mind, however, that the full value of your 401k may not be subject to property division. Only those contributions made while you were married (along with any profits or interest the account generates during that same time frame) would be considered shared assets. 

Portability, new tax code and estate plan updates

As California is one of the states in the nation with a state income tax, residents logically want to understand how the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may impact their bottom lines. When reviewing their situations to determine this, it is wise to also evaluate one's estate plan. 

As explained by MarketWatch, currently when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is able to inherit assets without incurring any tax on the value of those assets. This is often referred to as portability and a person's estate plan must clearly reference this in order for it to be effective. Under the new tax law that goes into effect next year, this will remain intact.

Estate plan changes before your divorce

Whether you have informed your spouse of your intention to file for divorce or are waiting for the right moment, you likely have a list of things you must take care of before you begin divorce proceedings. You may need to secure a new place to live, cancel credit cards and start a separate bank account. You probably have packing to do, and you may even need to obtain a realtor to sell your home.

Among those important things to accomplish before the divorce decree is signed, you would be wise to add a review of your estate plan. While some documents automatically adjust to your changes in marital status, you may place yourself and your estate at risk if you wait until that day to make important changes.

Going about a will without the drama

No matter the age, siblings can carry out a feud long after an incident has come and gone. Many of these disagreements involve serious topics such as a parent's will. California parents who are at the stages of drafting a will may be hesitant to explain the details to younger family members. Is there a correct way of going about estate planning, and how does one explain decisions made in such an important document?

The American Grandparents Association provides an article on sibling will disputes, using a study to show that roughly 15 percent of siblings quarrel over parents and money. Even though this percentage may be small, the arguments can become vicious. For instance, the AGA shares that most sibling disputes arise over the ways a parent has divided inheritance. Stemming from this issue comes another common point of contention: determining who cares for a struggling parent the most. The mere differences in generations can fan the flame of an argument involving finances. As with most arguments, the AGA urges readers to always communicate over confusion surrounding a will.

Plan wisely for a good summer with kids

Parents in California who do not live with their children's other parent know just how stressful planning the summer vacation time from school can be. Whether freshly divorced or maybe having never been married or living together at all, once spring break is over and attention turns to the end of the school year, it is time to develop a strategy that will make the experience positive for everyone.

Parenting Magazine suggests that moms and dads keep in mind what should be their mantra all year long. That is to remember that kids come first. No decision should denigrate into a power struggle between the parents or a way of one parent winning over the other. Those struggles ultimately serve to hurt children as they are able to pick up on the tension between their parents.

Estate planning for unmarried couples is important

If you and your significant other in California have made the choice to live together but not to get married, you are far from alone. Data from the United States Census Bureau indicate that in the first decade of this century, the number of couples making this decision increased by 25 percent. There are many reasons people may want to share a life and a home together without formalizing their commitment by marriage but they should be aware of the increased need for attention to an estate plan due to the lack of natural protection for them.

A legal spouse commonly enjoys many financial and decision-making benefits that would not be equally enjoyed by an unmarried partner without clear documentation. Take, for example, the case in which your partner is the named owner on the home you share. If they die, you may have no legal right to stay in that house whereas a legal wife or husband might have such a right. This is just one reason that Bankrate recommends unmarried couples living together create either a will or a revocable living trust.

5 mistakes many parents make during and after a divorce

Divorce can be stressful in even the most amicable of situations. Unfortunately, when children are involved, a divorce can get contentious. At Palmer Rodak & Associates, we are prepared to help divorcing couples in California navigate these issues without bringing children into the conflict. As you may understand, your children are likely to be profoundly affected by your divorce, and the way you and your spouse act toward each other and around the kids can impact how they heal and adjust.

As Working Mother explains, children are often exposed to conflict during their parents’ divorce even unintentionally. The following tips illustrate common mistakes you or your spouse might make during your divorce and while co-parenting:

  • Using the children to relay messages to the other parent or spy on the other parent’s activities, instead of directly communicating with the ex
  • Talking bad about the other parent to the children or to other people in front of the kids
  • Discussing stressful adult issues, such as child support or parenting gripes, to the children
  • Being the “fun” parent, either out of guilt or to undermine the other parent, and not enforcing rules and responsibilities
  • Not being consistent with schedules or structure, which children need during times of upheaval

Getting the short end of the stick in your divorce?

Like most California spouses who divorce, you likely hoped you would be able to swiftly navigate the process in as amicable a manner as possible. At first, things may have looked as though you'd be successful in achieving such goals, until you started to suspect that your spouse wasn't playing fair when it comes to the marital property. If you think your spouse is hiding assets, know that yours is not an isolated problem. 

There's not much, if anything, you can do to change another person's choices; however, there are definite steps you can take to rectify the problem of hidden marital assets. Gathering evidence and knowing where to turn for support are key factors in obtaining a successful solution to your problem.

Providing education funds for grandchildren

Many grandparents today want to help their grandsons and granddaughters achive the dream of receiving a college education. This may be in part to continue a family's tradition of pursuing higher education or it may be a means to helping their grandchildren achieve something nobody in the family has yet been able to do. Either way, when in a financial situation where they are able to help, grandparents should carefully review the options on how to do this.

As Forbes explains, the 529 account has become popular and known as a main means of saving for a college education. However, these funds have some drawbacks and grandparents especially may find a variety of types of trusts to be preferable in the end to a 529 account.

Pets as property or family members in divorce

For most pet-loving owners in California, their dog, cat or other animal companion is often considered a valued member of their family. However, when it comes to a marital dissolution, the law has often considered pets as mere property. That, however, may well be changing.

The New York Times reported that a 2014 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed an increase in the number of couples seeking custody decisions regarding their pets during a divorce. Some states have even put custody laws regarding pets in a divorce into place. A notorious case in which a couple spent a large sum of money over custody of their dog occurred in San Diego and resulted with the wife being awarded sole custody.

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

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Del Mar, CA 92014

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