Month: October 2018

The Importance of Estate Planning for the Single Parent

Being a single parent has added responsibilities, including making sure that your minor children are taken care of in the event you no longer are there.  What would happen to your children if you died, or became incapacitated and could no longer care for them?  Where would they live?  Who would take care of them?  Who would pay for their day-to-day care, housing, and education?  If you are not married to the child’s other parent, or are married but separated and in the process of divorce, these questions become much more complicated. You may legally be the sole decision maker when it comes to the care of your children and you may have a plan in mind.  You may have spoken to family members or friends about what you would want to happen if you were to die unexpectedly.  But, unless these plans are stated in properly executed estate planning documents, your choices may not be followed.  A knowledgeable and experienced Virginia estate planning attorney will educate and advise you, and create the documents needed to make sure your wishes become a reality.  Remember, your goal is to make sure your children are well cared for, even if you’re not the one doing it.

An estate plan is much more than a will!

A properly drafted estate plan will reduce your stress now, and also reduce the stress and eliminate guesses and conflict of those left behind during a difficult time.  What estate planning documents do you need and how will they help you as a single parent? Will:  First and most importantly, your will is used to name a guardian for your minor children.  In the event of your death, your children’s other parent will automatically become their guardian.  But, even if that parent is fit, you should always designate a guardian in case the other parent can’t or chooses not to act.  You may also designate a different person, other than your children’s other parent or the named guardian, to manage your children’s inheritance.  Without a will, the court will appoint a guardian of their choosing and may grant custody of your children to someone you wouldn’t want raising them. A will is also used to designate the executor for your estate; the person who will honor your wishes and decisions and distribute the estate according to your instructions.  If you don’t have a will, your estate will be distributed per the intestacy laws of Virginia. Revocable Living Trust:  A living trust has many benefits, especially for a single parent of children who are too young to manage assets on their own. A trust allows you to be in charge of your assets while you are alive, but when you die or become incapacitated, the person you name as successor trustee will follow your wishes, administer your assets as necessary, and make distributions to beneficiaries. This is particularly important even if your children are technically adults…18 years or older.  Young adults may not be ready to handle an inheritance and use the money as you would want.  A well written trust will name a trustee who can distribute the inheritance wisely and per your intentions, with the goals of paying for living expenses, college, or possibly a down payment on a home.  A properly drafted trust will also avoid probate, which can be both expensive and time-consuming. Advance Health Care Directive:  A health care directive, often called an advance medical directive or “living will” allows you to name someone you trust to make decisions about your health care when you are not capable of doing so yourself.  This allows a single parent to specify, in advance, what his or her health care wishes are and how they should be carried out.  This should give you peace of mind, knowing that your medical decisions even made in advance are made according to your wishes.  It also makes sure that your family members do not undergo the additional strain of trying to make key medical decisions on your behalf, during an already stressful time. Power of Attorney:  As a single parent, you are probably the only name and signer on your bank accounts, mortgage, credit cards, and other bills.  A durable power of attorney lets you name a trusted individual to manage your financial affairs and legal decisions if you are not able to due to incapacitation.  It’s critical that someone is able to access your accounts, if necessary, to pay your bills and mortgage, keep the lights on, and make sure your children are being properly cared for. Beneficiary Designations:  You may have life insurance policies and retirement accounts.  These policies are not listed in your will or trust.  The beneficiary designations on these accounts will control who they are distributed to.  It is important to understand that minor children are not legally allowed to control assets, so it is important that you review your policies and make sure your minor children are not named as beneficiaries.  If they are, a guardian will have to be appointed by the court to manage these assets until the minor child turns 18.  A Virginia estate planning attorney can suggest strategies that will allow your children to benefit from your life insurance and retirement accounts without court intervention. As a parent, your first and most important goal is to protect your children.  This is true even if you are not able to do so yourself because of incapacitation or death.  As one of your most important responsibilities, a comprehensive estate plan allows you to make decisions now to ensure that your children are cared for in the way you wish if the unthinkable happens.

About Melone Law, P.C.

Melone Law, P.C. is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients. We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about estate planning, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

Working Through the Unique Issues of a Grey Divorce

Even though the U.S. divorce rate has pretty much leveled off and even decreased over the past two to three decades, the divorce rate for couples over 50 years of age has increased dramatically and now accounts for over 25% of all divorces.  There are many factors that may help explain the rise in “grey divorce.”  Some likely reasons include: Growing apart – After a long marriage, couples feel they don’t have much in common anymore and have different interests and goals.  People expect more of marriage today.  Sticking it out in an unfulfilling marriage, just for the sake of being married, has become passe‘. Improved health and longer life expectancy – People are living much longer than they did even 50 years ago, and they’re healthier and active.  A divorce at 55 or 60 isn’t the end.  It’s often the beginning of a new and interesting chapter of one’s life and seniors are ready and willing to take action to pursue a more fulfilling life. According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration as of 2016:
  • A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
  • A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6.
  • About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90.
  • One out of 10 will live past age 95.
Opportunities to Date – Divorced seniors are entering the dating scene at unprecedented numbers, looking for new opportunities to socialize and meet new people who share their interests.  Online dating is surging in popularity for those over 50. Women are financially independent – Women over the last 20-30 years have been in the workforce and led more independent lives.  They’ve had or may still have a career, other than motherhood, and don’t have to rely on their husbands for money.  Husbands are no longer the sole breadwinner in the family.  Women have much more financial stability as they age.  They have good salaries, retirement accounts, pensions, 401k accounts and are much more able financially to leave an unsatisfying marriage.

Critical issues to consider in the Grey Divorce

When younger couples divorce, the main issues are usually child custody and support, visitation, spousal support (alimony), and division of property.  No matter why you’re seeking a divorce later in life, the fact is the longer a couple is married, the more complex the issues surrounding their divorce will be.  The division of marital assets can be significantly more complex and complicated during divorce proceedings.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is an equitable distribution state.  That does not mean property is split 50/50.  Equitable means fair, not even.  It is important that you speak with an experienced Virginia family law attorney to ensure that your divorce gives you the new life you are planning for.  Here are the issues and financial challenges a knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorney can work through with you:
  1. Income and spousal support: How will each spouse maintain an income stream that meets their circumstances?  Will it require rejoining the workforce, delaying retirement, paying or receiving spousal support, or splitting a fixed income, like a pension, if you’re retired?
  2. Division of property: If you’ve been married 20 years or more, you probably have significant assets, both marital and separate property that will need to be divided.  It may be difficult to define which is separate property after a long marriage.  There are many considerations that are unique to a grey divorce when dividing assets, such as the length of the marriage, if one or both parties are retired or close to retirement, when and how assets were obtained, pensions and retirement accounts, inheritances, and much more.
  3. Social Security: In some circumstances, a spouse is entitled to benefits based on his/her spouse’s social security.  This depends on the duration of the marriage and each spouse’s income. Getting remarried will stop any spousal social security benefits.
  4. Life insurance: Anyone paying spousal support is required to have a life insurance policy in the amount and for the term that is equal to the amount and duration of the spousal support decreed in the divorce.  This can impact seniors, as even term insurance policies can be extremely and sometimes, prohibitively expensive.
  5. Long-term considerations: There are many issues surrounding getting older, including competency, long-term care, end of life care, and preparations for burial or cremation. This should be considered in a grey divorce. It is important to update your estate plan both during and after the divorce to protect your estate and your wishes.
As you can see, divorce issues for older couples are far more complex than issues a young or newly married couple face.  If you are considering divorce as a senior citizen, it is important that you speak with an experienced Virginia family law attorney with expertise in senior divorces.  Together, you and your attorney will carefully plan and prepare for all eventualities to ensure that you have the bright future you desire.

About Melone Law, P.C.

Melone Law, P.C. is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients. We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about a grey divorce and family law, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

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