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Phoenix Family Law and Estate Planning Law Blog

Should you consider a postnuptial agreement?

You and your spouse married when you were young. Neither one of you brought any assets into the marriage beyond some second-hand furniture and small savings accounts -- dwarfed in value by your student loan debt. You didn't even consider a prenuptial agreement.

However, things have changed. Maybe one of you makes considerably more money than the other and/or has started a business. Perhaps one of you is leaving your job to be a full-time parent. Maybe one of you has incurred a significant amount of debt. Perhaps one of you is going to be inheriting a significant amount of money. Whatever the case, one or both of you wants to put something in writing to protect yourself in a divorce. That's what a postnuptial agreement is for.

What powers of attorney should you have when your kids turn 18?

If you're the parent of a college student or other young adult, part of you likely still considers them your little girl or boy. However, under the law, once they're 18, there are certain rights you no longer automatically have because you're their parent.

For example, you can't make medical decisions for them. That means that if your child crashes on the ski slopes during winter break and ends up unconscious in the hospital, you aren't entitled to make decisions regarding their treatment or perhaps even have access to information about that treatment unless you have the proper documentation in place.

Financial stress can occur among couples at all income levels

It's been widely reported that money is one of the primary sources of tension in marriages. In one survey by SunTrust Bank, over a third of the 2,000 people surveyed cited finances as the main cause of conflict with their spouse or partner.

However, that doesn't mean that couples without much money have more marital woes related to finances than wealthy couples. A more crucial factor is whether they have the same similar attitudes about money.

The importance of estate planning for singles

If you were never married and have no children, you may think there is no reason for you to consider creating an estate plan. However, the opposite may be true. In fact, those who are married with children may have built-in protections that you do not have because of your single status.

Instead of dismissing the idea of building an estate plan, you may benefit from learning about the options available that may fit your circumstances and the ways in which you can use your plan for your own benefit as well as for those you care about.

Can your spouse be required to pay your legal fees in a divorce?

Even relatively amicable, uncomplicated divorces cost money. When you hire an attorney, you will have to pay them for their time and services. However, having an attorney who knows how the process goes, understands Arizona family law and will work to get you a fair settlement can save you money in the long run.

Many people hope that they can require their spouse to pay their attorney's and other legal fees as part of the divorce settlement. Your spouse may agree to this arrangement, particularly if that spouse is the one who wants the divorce or feels guilty about their actions that led to the break-up.

Navigating parent-teacher conferences with your co-parent

One school activity that separated and divorced parents need to find a way to navigate is parent-teacher conferences. Whether it's a regular conference to discuss your child's progress or there's an issue that a teacher needs to discuss with you, parents must determine whether they're able to put aside their differences and attend these meetings together, to meet with the teacher separately or leave it to one parent to handle.

Many parents want to attend these meetings together so that they're receiving the same information and can work together with the teacher to formulate a plan if there's an issue. To make these meetings productive, current and former educators advise co-parents whose relationship is strained to keep the focus where it belongs -- on the child. If your child is having problems at school, whether it's poor grades or behavioral issues, now isn't the time to point fingers at each other.

Beliefs about co-parenting infants after divorce are changing

When a couple with an infant decides to separate or divorce, they face co-parenting challenges that couples with older kids don't. However, beliefs about what's best for the infant in these situations are evolving.

In the past, it was generally accepted that infants should spend most of their time with their primary caregiver, who is usually the mother -- particularly if the baby is breastfeeding. Part of the reasoning behind this is that routine is crucial to a baby's development and well-being. Therefore, custody schedules for infants were divided unevenly -- with the primary co-parent having the child far more than the other one.

What is the generation-skipping transfer tax?

As you develop your estate plan, you've decided to leave some property or other assets directly to your grandchildren. Perhaps you have a vacation home that your adult grandson particularly loves and takes his own family to regularly. Maybe you have an art collection that your granddaughter has expressed interest in and would appreciate more than anyone else in the family.

Before you leave assets to your grandchildren or anyone significantly younger than you, it's important to know about the generation-skipping tax (GST) or generation-skipping transfer tax. This is a tax that people may incur if they inherit or are otherwise given property directly from their grandparents without it first going to their parents. It should be noted that if the grandchildren's parents are already deceased, they'd be exempt from the GST.

Protect your minor kids by officially naming a guardian

If you are one of the numerous Arizona residents who have young children still living at home, you likely have ideas about who you would want to take care of them if anything were to happen to you or their other parent. It is one thing to have an idea and another to actually have a legally binding plan in place. You can protect your minor children and prevent family conflict by officially naming a guardian for them.

Setting up a guardianship for this purpose is probably easier than you think. It is a matter of stating your wishes in your will.

Are you new to Arizona? Review and revise your estate plan

Many Arizona residents have moved here from colder, wetter climates. If you're one of them, you may wonder whether the estate plan you put in place in your previous home state is still valid.

You'll need to make some changes. Estate planning laws can vary significantly by state. That doesn't mean that all of your hard work creating an estate plan was for nothing. You likely won't need to start from scratch. However, you will need to make some modifications to your will, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives and other documents to ensure that they comply with Arizona law.

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