Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tipper and Al: An Emerging Trend Called Gray Divorce

The story of Tipper and Al Gore is a classic example of an emerging trend called Gray Divorce. Four kids and 40 years of marriage, and this attractive, outwardly happy couple simply had grown apart and wanted to live as single adults. Tipper insists that it wasn’t that Al was dull, boring or cheating on her, and who knows what was going through Al’s mind.

These days, an estimated 50% of US marriages end in divorce
Yet while divorce rates seem to have stabilized or even dropped a bit for most age groups, since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled. For those over the age of 65, it has more than doubled.
According to a report by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University, fully one out of every four people experiencing divorce in the United States is 50 or older, and nearly one in 10 is 65 or older. In 1990, fewer than 1 in 10 persons who got divorced was over the age of 50.

Late-life divorce can seem illogical

You’d think that by the time couples had lived together for 20+ years, struggled through their early career-building years and raised their families, they’d have learned to tolerate each other’s bad habits, appreciate their strengths and live in harmony. But the statistics are showing that this is increasingly not the case.

Myriad reasons for an uptick in midlife divorce 

  • Some experts believe that people are simply more evolved. We may have to credit the baby boomers for an attitudinal change—this is the group that’s become more vocal and aggressive about their needs than previous generations. Couples are getting divorced because they want and expect more than they’re getting from their current relationship. Their parents may have stayed in loveless marriages, but this generation is increasingly throwing in the towel on their own empty or dysfunctional relationships.
  • Others think that online dating sites have become influencers. If you’re not aware of the growing availability of online dating sites, you’re not paying attention. These sites are popping up to meet growing needs and demographics. Online dating has become commonplace; it’s an easily accessible forum for meeting someone with mutual interests. Couples who may be unhappy but are coexisting out of habit are inspired by friends who’ve divorced and found new love online. For those for whom the thrill is gone, these sites offer the thrill of romance—something many people haven’t experienced for years. Happily, many online relationships work out; many don’t, but the possibilities are endlessly tantalizing.
  • Empty nests: facing the reality of an empty marriage. The children are gone, and all of a sudden, a couple finds themselves staring at each other across the breakfast table with nothing to talk about. Kids are often the glue that keep marriages together. Once they’re gone, couples are confronted with the harsh reality that they’ve grown apart and have little in common. For those couples in a second marriage who may have struggled to adjust to life as a blended family and helped raise each other’s children, there is an even higher rate of divorce.
  • People are living longer, healthier lives. Thanks to good healthcare, diet and exercise, our life expectancy has increased. For that healthy 50-year old couple staring at each other across the breakfast table, their future together can begin to loom large. It’s not unrealistic to think a 50-year-old could live for another 40 years—or more. The prospect of another 40 years with a current spouse may be the deciding factor for an increasing number of middle-aged couples.
California Document Preparers has assisted more than 2,000 clients with Uncontested Divorce. If you and your spouse are in agreement about custody and a parenting plan for your children and you can agree on division of property, you do not need an attorney. We prepare all of the legal documents, notarize and file them for you. In each of our three offices, we have dedicated Family Law specialists who are sensitive to the unique emotional needs of our divorce clients. They work with you throughout the process, and are available by phone and email for questions.

Call to make an appointment today to talk about your Divorce. The California Document Preparers teamhelps you through every step.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Case Study: 93-Year-Old Woman Updates Living Trust

Bill Schaaf, co-owner of the Walnut Creek office, recently helped a 93-year-old woman update her Living Trust and associated documents. She was a delightful widow who still lived alone, is healthy and stays active; she loves to dance, and is particularly fond of line dancing. While in excellent health, she knows she is growing older and wanted to make some basic changes to her documents. Her main concern was updating her Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, identifying the people she feels comfortable making decisions for her if the time comes when she’s no longer able to make them for herself.

Banker daughter becomes primary decision-maker

She leads a busy, full life and knows she is lucky to be involved in the lives of her two children and four grandchildren who reside in the area. She is very close to her daughter, who lives just a few miles away. Her daughter also enjoys good health, so she feels comfortable making the daughter her primary decision-maker. An important consideration is time--her daughter is retired, with the time to help manage her mother’s affairs, if it becomes necessary.

Our client is also close to her grandson, a Walnut Creek resident and attorney, so she has identified him as her backup agent if something should happen to her daughter. She has thoughtfully chosen these family members based on both their proximity, availability and business savvy. Her daughter was a banker for many years, so our client knows that she will be able to manage the financial information and paperwork that are part of managing someone’s estate.
Updating Living Trust includes updating digital assets

Our client may be 93, but she’s computer-savvy, pays her bills online and has logins and passwords to both her banking accounts and several brokerage accounts. She also loves to stay in touch and regularly exchanges emails with her grandchildren and follows them on Facebook. She had just read an article about the importance of updating digital assets, so we listed her accounts and identified the logins and passwords in her Living Trust. We also listed important service providers--healthcare providers, her financial advisor, pharmacy and her accountant.

Updating her Living Trust was a relatively simple procedure for our client, but having current information in one place where her daughter and grandson can access it quickly can be invaluable for her daughter and grandson.

Read other California Document Preparers’ blogs about Living Trusts:

When was the last time you updated your Living Trust?

We always counsel our clients to update their Living Trusts for major life events-- births, deaths, divorces, important investments—anything that represents a significant change to your life circumstances. Call to make an appointment today. The California Document Preparers team helps you through every step.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Same-sex Marriage: Do You Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

It’s been a little over a year since the Supreme Court passed the landmark civil rights decision in favor of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. For thousands of gay couples who have lived together for years, bought homes, raised their families and become involved in their communities, the decision was a long-overdue recognition of basic human rights.

While the Obergefell ruling was a cause for celebration, it’s important that couples be thoughtful about making the decision to get married. Just because they now have the opportunity to marry doesn’t necessarily mean that marriage is the right decision.

Something interesting’s happening here: Fewer cohabitation agreements since legalization

Before legalization of same-sex marriage, many partners contemplating a long-term cohabitation relationship–especially those with considerable assets–would often create detailed cohabitation agreements to protect those assets.
Yet a recent American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers survey found that 70% of respondents noted a decrease in cohabitation agreements between same-sex partners since marriage has been legalized. This is a significant decrease in just one year and seems to indicate that those couples who were cautious about protecting their assets as they entered into cohabitation agreements are less cautious when it comes to marriage.
Ironically, once marriage was legalized, as the data is showing, couples are marrying without much thought to formalizing the same issues that they carefully documented when they began their live-in relationship many years before.

In same-sex marriage world, Prenuptial Agreements replace cohabitation agreements

Gay couples contemplating marriage should be cautious and thoughtful, making sure that they’re marrying for the right reasons—not just because they now can. They should think seriously about whether a Prenuptial Agreement is advisable—marriage is a contract that comes with emotional and financial responsibilities for every couple—regardless of sexual orientation.

Read other California Document Preparers’ blogs about Prenuptial Agreements

Are you getting married and contemplating a Prenuptial Agreement? An increasing number of couples, especially those who are older and have accumulated assets, are making prenups an important part of their wedding planning. The California Document Preparers team helps you through every step.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Single and Creating a Living Trust: Who Gets Your Assets?

We talk a lot about the importance of creating a Living Trust—the legal document that details how your assets will be distributed when you die, helping your family avoid Probate. For most of our clients, their assets will be distributed first to the surviving spouse, and then among their children. Our comprehensive Living Trust package also includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, and these are also generally delegated to spouses and children.

Estate planning for single people: what happens to their assets?

There are many successful people who have assets, are not married and don’t have children. These days, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 25 is not married; an estimated 15%-20% or more of women over the age of 40 do not have children. These single people well may work and have rich full lives, accumulating assets in the same manner as those with spouses and families. What happens to their assets when they die?

The succession plan, according to California law

If a single, financially successful person dies without having prepared a Living Trust, the estate goes into Probate. According to California law, parents are first in line to inherit the estate. If the parents are deceased, the estate would pass to siblings. If there are siblings who are deceased but have living children, the estate would pass to nieces or nephews. If there are no siblings or surviving family members of any kind, however, the estate would most likely eventually ‘escheat’ to the state, i.e., go into California’s bank account.
In the same way that married couples detail the way in which they will distribute their assets, single people must do the same. The difference is that for the single person who does not have any family members to inherit his/her estate, the State of California becomes the beneficiary. This is where it becomes critical to create and update a Living Trust.

There is an infinite number of ways for single people to distribute their estates

There may be other family members or close friends, however distant, to whom unmarried people want to leave at least a portion of their estates. They may be involved with a charity or foundation and want to allocate part of their estate to that cause. Many people retain strong ties to schools and colleges and leave their money to specific programs, fellowships and scholarship funds. There are countless organizations and institutions that have planned giving programs in which people are able to donate part of their estates upon their deaths. Many single people are involved in long-term relationships, either living separately or cohabitating for years, yet choose not to marry. They may want to leave all or a portion of their estates to their longtime companions.

The importance of updating your Living Trust

We always encourage our clients to update their Living Trusts and other documents with important life events—this normally means births, deaths and important investments. For a single person, life circumstances change as well. If, for example, a single person were planning to leave a portion of his or her estate to a sibling, but that sibling later marries a very wealthy partner, it may be that he/she would want to change the estate’s distribution.

Other California Document Preparers’ Blogs on related Living Trust topics:

Naming a Successor Trustee: A Lesson from Doris Duke and Her Butler
8 Signs That It’s Time to Update Your Living Trust

Have you created your Living Trust? Most of our clients are delighted with how easy the process was. The California Document Preparers team helps you through every step.