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San Francisco Estate & Family Law Blog

Millennials should have a will, too

Someday, we’re all going to die. This may be hard to fathom if you are a 25- or 30-year-old millennial, healthy and apparently invincible. Still, you shouldn’t be reluctant to deal with talking about death and creating a will. Where do you want the money in your bank account to go? Who should administer your social media accounts once you’re dead? Who will get your top secret recipe for avocado toast?

A will would be beneficial, providing directives straight from you as to where your assets – no matter how small they are – should go. This decision will save your loved ones from having to deal with your estate matters. They’re already in mourning, and really don’t need any additional grief.

Child custody and support issues can complicate divorce

Going through a marital breakup can naturally be overwhelming for two adults due to the financial and emotional challenges involved. However, the process becomes even more complicated for those having to navigate child custody and support as well. A couple of tips may help parents who are going through divorce in San Francisco.

First, divorcing parents may be wise to take stock of their financial health. For instance, do they have debt, and do they have child support payments? Putting these figures on spreadsheets can help them to determine where they currently are in their lives and then plan ahead so that they have financially promising rather than devastating futures.

Bitcoin complicating divorce mediation, divorce trials

Marital breakups in the United States, including in San Francisco, are becoming increasingly complicated due to the rising popularity of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. These types of virtual currencies are virtually unregulated. As a result, they may be misused to circumvent divorce law, which would impact the outcome of divorce mediation sessions or a divorce trial.

During the divorce process, both spouses must disclose their assets, along with the assets' realistic values. This is essential for accurate property division to take place. However, cryptocurrencies pose two challenges. First, thanks to these virtual currencies, divorcing spouses have a new, innovative way of hiding their assets anonymously. This means that assessing a spouse's assets and net worth properly during divorce has become more difficult.

Divorce mediation or postnup may help with dividing assets

Individuals in San Francisco who are not famous or rich often do not create prenuptial agreements. These documents, however, are invaluable in the event of divorce, as they detail which spouse gets what during the divorce process. Fortunately, married couples who never created prenuptial agreements can still put together postnuptial agreements, or they can take advantage of divorce mediation if they have already filed divorce papers.

A postnuptial agreement, or a postnup, is akin to a prenuptial agreement, the only difference being that it is created after two people have gotten married. This type of agreement can be particularly useful when a couple would like to split assets up differently from how the state laws governing divorce property division would dictate otherwise. Having an agreement in writing is far better than simply making verbal promises or reportedly coming to an understanding of which spouse owns what items.

Divorce mediation, planning for future valuable during breakup

Negotiating a settlement as part of the dissolution of a marriage can seem like a confusing, unsettling, uphill battle. However, the divorce mediation process may help to make the process faster and less acrimonious. In addition, a couple of other tips may help people to protect their best interests once their divorces have been finalized in San Francisco.

First, researching options for health insurance right away may be a wise move for a spouse who is no longer covered by his or her now-ex-spouse's medical insurance plan. One option is to apply for COBRA. However, the coverage available through COBRA is temporary, so the spouse will ultimately have to search for his or her own policy.

Wise to include virtual currencies in estate planning

Cryptocurrencies are gaining increasing attention due to their high, yet constantly, evolving value. Those who have chosen to invest in these digital currencies in San Francisco may be excited about creating wealth with them. However, their virtual wealth my end up in unintended hands if they do not take estate planning seriously.

Unlike other types of investments, virtual currencies can easily be purchased on an exchange without the need for personal information. This is part of the appeal of cryptocurrencies: their secretive nature. However, the downside is that the potential heirs of cryptocurrency may not end up getting the funds if the cryptocurrency investor has not recorded details about the wealth properly.

The complications of same-sex divorce

It wasn’t easy – or legal – for same-sex couples in the entire United States to gain the right to marry until 2015. And now what many of these couples are finding out is that if they want to divorce, it’s not easy, either. Same-sex divorce is filled with complications related to asset division, child custody and spousal support, and these complications typically aren’t faced by heterosexual couples.

Heterosexual marriage has been part of our society for centuries. When such couples decide to divorce, lawyers and judges typically maneuver and deal with the break-ups with some ease and regularity. However, that’s not the case with same-sex divorces, because same-sex marriage has been around a relatively short time. In a way, the courts are finding themselves in uncharted territory with same-sex divorce.

Smart estate planning involves updating documents in 2018

With 2018 in full swing, now may be a wise time to look at an existing will if you live in San Francisco. Other estate planning documents are also important to go over and update. After all, the United States has a new tax law now, and new tax laws bring changes in the area of estate planning.

Asset owners would benefit from double-checking to make sure that their wills spell out their current wishes, not the wishes they had five or 10 years ago. For instance, perhaps a divorce has occurred within the past few years. Crossing an ex-spouse off of the beneficiary list and replacing him or her with another close family member is critical to make sure that one's assets end up in the proper hands.

How will community property play into my divorce mediation?

One of the fist questions people having during a divorce is, "Will I lose everything?" Despite how movies and TV shows might depict asset division, divorce mediation will not lead to one spouse receiving the vast majority of marital property. Divorcing couples in San Francisco can expect to receive a roughly equal portion of their marital assets.

California is a community property state, which can simplify division in the sense that both people know what they will receive -- approximately half of their community property and retain the separate property. Some assets such as retirement accounts earned before and duriing marriage can be mixed community and separate property. However, getting to that point, is not always so easy. Before asset division can even begin, all marital property must be identified and valued. This is customarily done by exchanging court required Preliminary Disclosure Documents stating each party's disclosure of both separate and community assets and debts and current income and expenses.  Failure to disclose is serious, and undisclosed assets and debts will not be distributed or divided.  The party failing to disclose may be subject to sanctions for non disclosure. 

For this reason, careful consultation with counsel during the disclosure process is usually recommended before or during mediation, especially when there is a possible mixed asset or debt.

I'm a beneficiary, can I start trust litigation?

Living trusts can play an important role in estate planning. Either revocable or non-revocable, these trusts are created during a San Francisco person's lifetime and can help avoid probate, making the time following his or her death less stressful. Unfortunately, not all living trusts are sound in nature, and trust litigation may be necessary.

A grantor -- the person who creates the trust -- must transfer property into the trust and establish a trustee. The trustee will manage the trust on the grantor's behalf, ensuring that property is properly managed and, if applicable, distributed after the grantor's death. It is possible to challenge these trusts, but a legal standing must first be established.