3 Myths and Misconceptions about Postnuptial Agreements in California

If you are planning to get married, you may be getting advice from family or friends encouraging you to get a “prenup.” A prenuptial agreement is contract entered into prior to marriage that often contains provisions for property and debt division in the event of a divorce. This article addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions regarding prenup agreements.  

  A prenup dooms your marriage. 

  • Asking your loved one to sign a prenup is not very romantic, but often marriage involves challenges where thoughtful planning and communication can trump the romance and assumptions that come in the courtship stage, which is why loving relatives and friends urge couples to keep the romance alive later in the marriage by tackling tough topics before conflicts arise. 
  • Asking for a prenup is not bucking a trend, but rather following it. As reported on mediate.com, 44% of singles think a prenup is a good idea and 15% of divorcing couples wish they had signed a prenup. 

Prenups are expensive to get or are just for rich people

  • Truth is, not matter how much or little money you have, everyone at some level cares about money because it is the way we survive. 
  • You may have student loans or credit card debts or may plan to incur those during the marriage. 
  • You may inherit money during the marriage. 
  • You may want a safety net against your future spouse’s unhealthy behaviors (money toward addictions, uncontrolled spending, etc. )

Prenups are unfair 

  • The most widely publicized prenup cases are often those that are unfair to one spouse, but the norm is to create a balanced and fair agreement that effectuates the goals of both spouses. 
  • Both parties should be represented each by their own lawyer to ensure fairness in the prenup process. 

Contact an Experienced Family Lawyer

Many couples want a simple prenup that doesn’t break the bank and others want a complex contract that deals with significant assets and future income. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of cost and complexity, here at the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience in prenuptial agreements in California and can help you successfully prepare a contract within your budget that meets your goals. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

 

How Can Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements Strengthen Marriages?

Many people are reluctant to broach the topic of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to their fiancée or spouse with the concern that it may be seen as a hostile or distrusting gesture, but in an article published at Forbes.com, the author (who is a wealth advisor and divorced parent herself) asserts that these types of agreements can actually strengthen marriage and can avoid disastrous consequences in divorce

Why talk about prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements before things go sour?

  • Life is unpredictable and marriage is difficult
  • Talking about challenging topics while the marriage is still good is better than waiting until the typically adversarial construct of a divorce
  • Money and communication are the two top reasons why people get divorced,

What is a prenup or postnup and why do you need one?

  • A prenup is a contract entered prior to marriage
  • A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenup except that it is executed after a couple is already married. 
  • It commonly addresses spousal support and provisions of assets in a divorce
  • It’s not just for the rich and famous. Everyone has something worth protecting.
  • It can address property, debt, future inheritances and earnings. 
  • Information or documents that show assets and debts.

What are topics to consider in a prenup/postnup?

  • Division of assets and debts
  • Amount and duration of maintenance/alimony upon divorce
  • Ownership and use of property 
  • Trusts or wills

Can a prenup or postnup determine child custody or support?

  • No, parental responsibilities and child support are based on the best interest of the children, so they cannot be negotiated in advance of a marriage or divorce.

Contact an Experienced Family Lawyer

An experienced family lawyer can help you with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that can save time and anxiety in the future. At the Law Office of David Knecht we have extensive experience with family law in California and can help you successfully prepare these agreements. We look forward to assisting you.  Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

 

What Can We Learn From Hollywood About Estate Planning

For those who follow celebrity news, there have been recent sobering and tragic events. This article discusses the heartbreaking passing of dancer, Stephen (tWitch) Boss, and actress, Kirstie Alley, as well as Celine Dion’s recent news of a challenging health diagnosis with stiff man syndrome. While we mourn with other fans about these events with sensitivity and compassion, we also urge our clients to use these celebrity examples as motivation to consider loved ones and make estate planning priority. Below we share a few lessons that can be gleaned from celebrity news. 

You are never too young for estate planning

  • The recent tragic death of Stephen (tWitch) Boss, a dancer who rose to fame through So You Think You Can Dance, is a case in point as he was only 40 when he died. 
  • There is much public concern as to the reason Twitch took his own life, but no answers that have been made public at this time and the hearts of many of his fans have been mourning his early death and its impact for his wife and children. 
  • The lesson here for estate planning is a heartbreaking one: you may not know the demons your spouse or partner is facing in life or how to help them, so preparing for tragic possibilities is wise even though it can be a challenging topic to discuss with loved ones. 

Estate planning for a health crisis is wise because a health crisis can be severe and unexpected

  • Celine Dion, renowned singe, recently announced a challenging health diagnosis, stiff person syndrome, that is preventing her from completing her upcoming tour.
  • This highlights that disease and disability can happen suddenly to anyone, and that serious health conditions can impact ability to work and qualify of life. 
  • Part of complete estate planning is thinking ahead to your wishes regarding health challenges in the future – for example, who do you want to help make medical decisions for you if a health condition prevents you from making decisions for yourself, how can you plan your assets for protection from creditors in the event of a major health crisis?

Estate planning is necessary because you never know how much time you have left

  • The reality for all of us is that life is precious and the amount of time we have left is unknown, so estate planning to communicate your wishes to loved ones and dispose of your property as you see fit is timely no matter when you begin. 

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Law Firm

Although these celebrity stores are sobering, the good news is that you can seize today to get started on an estate plan that can help alleviate the stress and sorrow of loved ones in the instance of challenging or tragic events. the Law Office of David Knecht we have extensive experience with estate planning in California and can help you successfully plan for the future. We look forward to assisting you.  Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

 

Year End Estate Planning Strategies from the National Law Review

A recent article from the National Law Review shares 2022 year end estate planning updates and strategies for clients to consider. This article summarizes this publication, which can be found in its entirety here:

Gifts for 2022 

  • A person can make gifts up to $16,000 per recipient to an unlimited number of persons free from gift tax. 
  • For a married couple splitting the gift, this means they can gift up to $32,000 per recipient. 
  • Gifts are within an annual exclusion amount, so they do not reduce the tax payer’s lifetime federal estate and gift tax exemption. 
  • This creates an easy and effective way to pass wealth to family members or others. 
  • The gift must be made by December 31, 2022 to qualify. 
  • All gifts made outright can qualify and certain gifts made to a beneficiary in trust can qualify also if properly structured. 
  • In 2023, the annual amount will increase to $17,000 per recipient. 

The gift exclusion is a tool that is used by many of clients because it is a straightforward and easy mechanism for passing wealth to family members and others without a gift tax consequence for the giver. For clients with greater resources, the lifetime federal estate and gift tax exemption amounts should be considered in estate planning.

What is the lifetime federal estate and gift tax exemption?

  • This is the combined amount a person can transfer during life without 
    • triggering a current gift tax 
    • or upon death, transferring free from estate tax. 
  • However, transfers to U.S. citizen spouses and qualified charitable organizations are not generally subject to tax. 
  • Annual gifts within the gift exclusion described above do not “count” against this lifetime number
  • Other lifetime gifts, however, will reduce the amount of estate tax exemption available at death. 
  • Currently the lifetime exemption is $12,060,000 per taxpayer estate.
  • In 2023, this number will go up to  $12,920,000 per taxpayer estate.
  • This allows opportunities for estate planning in 2023 with these new numbers in mind.  

Contact an Experienced Family Lawyer

Whether you are just embarking on building your wealth or whether you have significant assets, estate planning can be helpful in utilizing tax advantageous tools and planning for the outcomes you seek. At the Law Office of David Knecht we have extensive experience with estate planning in California and can help you successfully prepare the right estate plan for you and your family. We look forward to assisting you.  Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

 

Preparation for Mediation in a Divorce Case

This article follows our previous introduction to mediation. This is part 2, which will provide information on how to prepare for mediation in a divorce case, with information derived from the California Court website.

 

Choosing the mediator

  • Selecting the mediator is an important decision in preparing for a successful mediation, and the right mediator is a very personal decision.
  • For some parties, an excellent mediator might be a former judge to provide experience and information on legal issues. 
  • For other parties, an excellent mediator might be one with the right temperament to fit the parties. Some mediators are more sensitive and collaborative and others tend to be more formal and commanding. 
  • The differences in mediators are as numerous as the differences in attorneys, judges and experts, so no two are alike, and you want to find one that you believe best fits your personality and the opposing party.

 

Understanding the process

  • Mediation can take different forms. In some cases, the mediator meets with each party separately. In other instances, the mediator might lead a discussion of both parties and counsel. In some instances attorneys will be present an in other instances, unrepresented parties seek to use the mediator without retaining and attorney. 

 

  • Find out ahead the time constraints of the parties and the mediator, so that you can properly pace yourself during the process. 

Ask yourself difficult and probing questions prior to the mediation

 

  • Seek to see the strengths and weaknesses of your own case. Be realistic in assessing your position. 

 

  • Try to understand.  Strive to analyze the arguments of the other party and contemplate how to address them. Are there solutions you can think of where all parties win?

 

  • Learn from the past but focus on the future. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. What do you know about your former spouse that will influence your decisions? How can you predict their behavior to foresee problems and challenges that may arise and how can those be addressed ahead of time in the mediation process?
  • Let go of emotion. This is one of the most difficult steps of mediation. A court case can never resolve the anger and hurt that is involved in most divorces, so expecting vindication is a barrier to an effective settlement. To the extent that you can view the case logically and impartially, this will help you understand and accept a result that may be in your best interest. 

CONSULT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

Mediation can be an emotional and challenging process, but it is an extremely important step in the divorce process where the right attorney can add tremendous value. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have years of experience with divorce and specifically with divorce mediation. Call us today at 707-451-4502. 

 

Celebrating National Estate Planning Awareness Week!

Did you know that the third week in October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week? This commemoration was set up back in 2008 to encourage all Americans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents and untimely death.  

This article will summarize the text of the bill creating National Estate Planning Awareness Week to explain why this special week was created and help you understand why Americans commemorate estate planning awareness annually. 

What were the reasons why National Estate Planning Awareness Week was created?

  • A poll referenced in the text of the bill related to this holiday revealed that a large number of Americans believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement and that they are unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k) plan. 
  • What are the benefits of estate planning?
  • Careful estate planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs or charities. 

 What are some of the important considerations relating to estate planning?

  • Safekeeping important documents
  • Documentation of assets
  • Preparation of legal instruments
  • Insurance
  • Availability of trust arragements
  • Charitable giving
  • Care of the benefactor during life

 What are some of the decisions that can be involved in estate planning?

  • Decisions about the method of holding title to certain assets
  • Decisions about the designation of beneficiaries
  • Decisions about possible transfer of assets during the life of the benefactor

What were some of the concerns that prompted the bill creating this estate planning holiday?

  • Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and “financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties
  • Lack of careful planning may lead family members or other beneficiaries to being subjected to complex legal and administrative processes requiring significant expenditure of time
  • Lack of planning can lead to confusion and even animosity among family members upon the death of a loved one
  • Failure to prepare may lead to favorite charities being overlooked and benefactor’s gift-giving goals frustrated. 
  • Many Americans may want to have a plan for organ donation and use of life support functions, which intentions may be unclear without proper estate planning

Where does implementation of an estate plan start?

  • The first steps are education and planning and then the proper drafting and execution of appropriate legal documents, which may include will, trusts and durable power of attorney for health care. 

CONSULT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

Estate planning does not have to be a chore you dread or procrastinate. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have years of experience with estate planning and can help make the process easy for you. In honor of Estate Planning Awareness Week, take a step today for the good of yourself and your loved ones, and call us today at 707-451-4502. 

 

More Drama in the Anne Heche Estate Saga

Last month, we wrote an article about the insightful estate planning lessons that could be derived from the Anne Heche case, and this article will provide updates on the saga of her estate and the custody of her minor son. The take home lesson is PLAN AHEAD. Many people do not want to prioritize estate planning, but this celebrity saga is one that shows the importance of proper planning and follow through when it comes to estate planning and guardianship. This article references information reported by usa.com at the article.

Who was Anne Heche and what happened?

  • Anne was an actress known for various movie roles including starring in the movie “Seven Days Seven Nights” along with Harrison Ford.
  • As reported by Fox News, the actress died in August in a car crash, leaving behind two sons, one an adult and one a minor.
  • The family indicated that she was “peacefully taken off life support” on Sunday August 14, 2022, after being declared brain-dead.  

Who is involved in the dispute?

  • As of October 15, 2022, a family legal battle is still underway. The players are Homer Laffoon, Anne’s adult son and her ex-husband, James Tupper, who is the father of her minor son, Atlas. 
  • Laffoon, the adult son, made a claim to his mother’s estate as the oldest heir. Tupper, the ex-husband, filed an objection declaring the Laffoon was not suitable for appointment over the estate. 

Did Anne have a will?

  • Did Anne have a will? That is the “Million Dollar Question” so to speak. Laffoon believes there was no valid will, but Tupper has claimed there is a will based on an email from 2011 establishing Tupper as the person in “control” of her assets and an email to her attorneys at the time with that the message should “go into my records as my word until further papers are drawn up.” 

 What are the latest developments? 

  • As of October 15, 2022, as reported on Yahoo.com, Tupper and his son Atlas, appeared in court to determine the next steps in their ongoing dispute with Laffoon. According to the article Court found that Tupper did not present enough evidence to halt Laffoon from becoming his half-brother’s guardian ad litem. When Tupper shook his head in disapproval of the judge’s decision, the judge reprimanded him with the statement: “We’re not here to pick the best person. I’m here to decide if he’s qualified, or disqualified.”

Consult the Law Office of David Knecht

While celebrity estate disputes can be fascinating to the public, they also provide a cautionary tale to all of us that death can come unexpectedly to anyone at any age. They are a beacon of warning telling us to prepare early to avoid the messes that can ensue when proper planning is not undertaken and documents are not finalized appropriately and lawfully. Contact the Law Office of David Knecht at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you prepare to avoid heartbreaking disputes. 

 

What is Mediation for a Divorce Case?

This article will provide introductory information about the purpose of mediation, how it works and what to do to prepare for a divorce mediation with information derived from the California Court website.

What is divorce mediation?

  • It is a flexible dispute resolution process with an independent third party who helps to facilitate communication and solution-finding between parties to resolve their own dispute outside of the court system. 

Does the mediator take sides?

  • The mediator is intended to be a neutral party who does not take sides, make decisions, offer legal advice or reveal confidential information. 
  • However, an effective mediator may offer an opinion or share references to legal authority that may be on point for the question at hand. A mediator may provide context with information on how issues have been previously decided by the court.  

What if I have concerns about the process? 

  • If you have any concerns about the mediation process, you should raise those and make sure they are resolved to your satisfaction prior to proceeding. 
  • Some common concerns can include practical considerations like the billing rate of the mediator and your responsibility to pay, or legal concerns such as whether  a judge can make negative inferences against you if you do not settle or whether the information shared in mediation is confidential.
  • It is the mediator’s job to resolve any concerns that you may have prior to the process, and you should not be afraid to ask questions throughout the mediation process. 

 What are some best practices to ensure a successful mediation? 

  • Ask the mediator how to best utilize their services. The mediator often has experience and can guide you as to how to maximize their time and experience. 
  • Come ready to participate fully, honestly and courteously. 
  • Be willing to understand the other party’s arguments. This does not mean you need to agree with them, but understanding your opponent is a good step in finding out of the box solutions. 
  • Assess litigation costs and prospects realistically to yourself. You typically will not get everything you want in a mediation, so assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your case will help you focus on the wins that are most important to you. 

CONSULT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

There are many divorce lawyers, but not all family law attorneys have extensive experience. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have years of experience with divorce and other family law issues. Additionally, we have a commitment to customize our approach to your specific needs and seek to understand your goals and help you achieve them. Call us at 707-451-4502. 

 

Anne Heche, Another Celebrity Estate Planning Lesson, Dies Without a Will

A recent celebrity death can provide insightful estate planning lessons. Anne Heche, who is often known for starring in the movie “Seven Days Seven Nights” along with Harrison Ford, died without a will. As reported by Fox News, the actress died in August in a car crash, leaving behind two sons, one an adult and one a minor. Homer Lafoon, the 20 year old son, has filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court to be named as administrator to her estate. News reports indicated that the crash resulted in severe anoxic brain injury before receiving medical care as she waited for the opportunity to donate her organs. The family indicated that she was “peacefully taken off life support” on Sunday August 14, 2022, after being declared brain-dead.

Estate Planning Lessons to Be Learned from this Untimely Celebrity Passing

It’s never too early to start working on your estate plan.

  • Anne was just 53 year old and likely assumed she had many years ahead.
  • Since Anne did not have a will, her son, who is only 20, has been asked to be named as administrator of her estate. This responsibility may be burdensome for him at his age. Lafoon has also requested to be named guardian ad litem over his thirteen year old half brother.

Dying without an estate plan can lead to uncertainty.

  • For Anne Heche’s estate, the lack of a will may result in an opportunity for controversy, and it may take extra time to identify an executor. Identify the heirs-at-law can also be challenging.
  • For example, Homer Lafoon, her son, has requested to be named as administrator, but it may be that another relative, such as Heche’s mother, may request to step in.

If you have a minor child, you can request a guardian.  

  • The self-help resources at courts.ca.gov provide detailed information about guardianship.
  • You can name a guardian for your children to guide the court as to your wishes, and if both parents are dead, then the court will consider what is best for your children and ask what they want.
  • If you have an incurable illness, you can ask the court to appoint a join guardian for your child, which will give you the peace of mind to know that when you die, the joint guardian will have full custody of your child without additional hearings.

Consult the Law Office of David Knecht

Celebrity deaths provide a wake-up call for all of us that we never know when our time will come. It’s rarely an easy or convenient time to consider estate planning, but making a priority of planning for the future can lead to a greater peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.  Contact Law Office of David Knecht at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you make decisions that are right for your family.

What is a Survivorship Life Insurance Policy?

There are many kinds of life insurance that can be used in an estate plan. One type, survivorship life insurance, covers two people on a single policy. Another name for survivorship life insurance is second-to-die joint life insurance. It pays out a death benefit once both policyholders have died. This article will examine the benefits of this type of policy and how survivorship life insurance works.

What triggers the payout?

  • This policy pays out only after both people have passed away.

Do you have to be a married couple to purchase survivorship life insurance?

  • No, although married couples are often the ones who do purchase this type of coverage, the joint policyholders are not required to be married.

 What are some of the situations where survivorship life insurance is typically used? 

  • High net worth household – after the second spouse dies, the benefit from this policy can be used to pay estate taxes so that the heirs do not have to worry about selling assets to pay the estate taxes.
  • Business succession – this policy can be used to transfer business ownership if both partners die.
  • Special needs child – This policy can be used to fund a trust to provide care for a special needs child.
  • Leaving a legacy –  The death benefit from the policy can help any beneficiary you select, which can include a charity.

 Is survivorship life insurance different from joint life insurance? 

  • First to die vs. second to die – Joint life insurance can refer two any policy that covers two people under one policy. There are two types of joint insurance, first to die and second to die (survivorship life insurance). So, survivorship life insurance is really a subset under the general umbrella of joint life where the trigger is the second death.
  • Different goals – The main goal of the first-to-die joint life insurance policy is to cover the surviving spouse to provide that person with enough funds to replace the lost income from the spouse that passed away. The second-to-die policy has a goal to provide heirs or a charity with the benefit rather than the spouse.

CONSULT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

There are many estate planning tools to choose from, so it is vital to create a customized plan that is right for your goals, assets and loved ones. If you want to get started on an estate plan, contact the Law Office of David Knecht. Call us at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience in estate planning.