Divorce After 50 – Older Couples Face Unique Issues

Phoenix, Arizona, divorce attorney Scott D Stewart, who writes an Arizona Divorce Attorney Blog,  recently published an article on the issues faced by older couples, usually where one or both of the spouses are over 50.  He notes that Al and Tipper Gore's divorce has caused many Baby Boomers to examine their own marriages and has many of them wondering how this could happen. But it does happen, and for many different reasons. As an Atlanta and Marieta divorce lawyer, I have also seen an increase in the number of my cases involving Baby Boomers.

Mr. Stewart notes that aside from the emotional aspects} of a divorce, an older couple should also analyze various problems that affect them solely as a result of their age and stage of life. The years in which they earn the majority of their income usually behind them, so careful attention must be paid to in evaluating and dividing their assets, which typically include their home as their primary residence, retirement accounts, investment portfolios and the like. If the divorcing couple is retired, dividing up the retirement assets can be complex. Typically they will need to have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a separate court order that covers the division of retirement benefits.

Mr. Stewart also points out that other decisions must often be made, including:

• Can one spouse receive survivor benefits if the other spouse dies?

• When can each spouse receive benefits and how can they avoid tax penalties?

• Who is entitled to retirement plan contributions made following the divorce?

• If any loans have been taken out against a retirement plan, how that should be repaid before assets are divided?

Social Security benefits cannot be divided in a divorce, but rules about them can affect post-divorce income and standard of living. For example, if a wife is over age 62, and the couple’s marriage lasted for over 10 years, she can collect benefits after the divorce on her former husband’s earnings record without a reduction in benefits to the husband.

If the former husband dies, the wife may be entitled to survivor benefits – 100 percent of the former husband’s Social Security benefit. To qualify, the marriage must have lasted 10 years, the surviving spouse must be at least 60, and that spouse cannot already be entitled to benefits that are equal to or greater than those of the former spouse.

As in Mr. Stewart’s case, in our Marietta, Georgia, family law practice, we've seen that the question of  who gets the house also takes on greater significance when our clients are older. If your home has lots of equity, you could use that equity for a reverse mortgage when you reach age 62. Reverse mortgages are popular vehicles for older Americans to generate income.

Eligibility for tax benefits, exemptions and waivers also have greater significance for older clients in divorce cases.

Not  65 yet and not qualified for Medicare? Getting individual health insurance will likely be another issue you will face. Are you covered under your spouse's employer-provided insurance? COBRA laws will allow you to stay covered for up to 36 months following a divorce, but you will usually be responsible for paying those premiums. There are national organizations for seniors which offer individual health insurance coverage for members, and those groups may be a good place to start if you need to look for new individual coverage.

If you are older (over 50) and facing a divorce with these issues and others, we are here to consult with you and guide you through the process. We are happy to help couples of any age face a divorce with dignity and grace, in deference to all those years you shared a life together. Because many such clients are parents and grandparent together, we also urge those clients to take a careful look at collaborative law and mediation as a better means than litigation to resolve these issues.

SOURCE FOR ARTICLE: "Divorce After 50 – Unique Issues Older Couples Face," by Scott David Stewart, pupublished at Avvo.com and JDSupra

Valentine’s Day Means an Increase in Divorce Filings

Dreamstime_17971746 Divorce lawyers and family law attorneys have discovered that the early part of the year is often their busiest season. Some couples stay together through the Christmas and New Year holidays only to separate to ring the new year. Others wait to get their income tax refunds and use them to finance their divorces. By filing after the first of the year, the spouse is able to discover the other spouse's earnings as reflected on W2s, 1099s, and other tax documents.

So what does Valentine's Day have to do with all of this? Do divorce filings really go up around February 14th? According to Mark Britton, founder and CEO of Avvo, “Over the past two years we’ve seen an average increase of 40 percent in the number of requests for divorce lawyers around Valentine’s Day, compared to the previous six months.” You can read much more about this trend here.

SOURCE: New York Post

SOURCE FOR ARTICLE: South Carolina Family Law Blog

Marietta  Wills and Trusts Lawyer Asks, ‘Are You Afraid of Seeing Your Shadow Like the Groundhog?’

Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer Asks, ‘Are You Afraid of Seeing Your Shadow Like the Groundhog?’

I’m not sure there are official statistics for this, but based on my years of experience as a Marietta wills and trust lawyer, the number one reason people don’t do their estate plan is that they simply can’t face their own mortality.

In a way, we are like the groundhog…occasionally we stick our heads out of our warm, protected, cave of ignorance to think about what would happen to our family if something unexpectedly happens to us.  In regard to estate planning, are you the type of peek-out, see your shadow, and go back in to your safe and warm bunker and hide type of person?  Or do you step out and face the day and charge full steam ahead?

Interestingly enough, the tradition of the groundhog being afraid of seeing his shadow is a recent phenomenon.  The tradition started as a medieval superstition that all hibernating animals (not just the groundhog) came out of their caves and dens to check the weather in early February.  If the animal could see their shadow, it meant winter could go on for another 6 weeks which meant they could go back to sleep.  A cloudy day meant spring was just around the corner and they could venture out.  As you can see, shadow didn’t “scare” the animal back into the safety of their den.  It was simply an alarm clock of sorts!

So with that myth dispelled, I also want you to stop using the fear of your mortality as a reason for postponing doing your own will or trust.

Simply think of estate planning as a way to ensure that your legacy will go to the people you want, in the way you want, when you want.  It will also allow you to save your loved ones court costs, attorney’s fees and most importantly, will allow them to mourn your loss without the additional burden of dealing with government red tape, a chaotic court system and financial confusion.

So, as we see all the news and excitement surrounding Punxsutaney Phil this year, take a long look at yourself and see if you are ready to make sure your family is taken care of no matter what.  If your plans are sorely lacking, I invite you to give me, your neighborhood Marietta wills and trust lawyer a call to discuss your options.

By simply mentioning this article, you can come in for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750) at no charge.  However, this offer is limited to 10 this month so call 770-425-6060 to reserve your space today.