Estate Planning is Love
As a society, we often associate love with grand gestures or grand gifts. However, one of the most loving things you can do for your family is to make sure that your affairs are in order before you become incapacitated or die. This includes creating an estate plan.
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that outline how you want your assets to be managed and distributed upon your death. If you have minor children, it also involves providing for who will take care of your children, and what resources will be available to them. Estate planning can include a will, trust, power of attorney, and advance healthcare directive. Having an estate plan in place can provide peace of mind for both you and your loved ones, knowing that your wishes will be followed and that your family will be taken care of.
While it may be tempting to try to handle the estate planning process on your own, hiring a lawyer to assist with the process is a loving gesture for several reasons. Although the cost may be more in the short term, the long-term benefits – both financial and emotional – will far outweigh the short-term costs.
First, a lawyer can ensure that your estate plan is legally valid and enforceable. Estate planning laws vary by state, and it is important to make sure that your documents comply with the law in your jurisdiction. A lawyer can also identify any potential issues or complications and provide solutions to address them.
Second, a lawyer can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances. No two estate plans are the same, and a lawyer can help you tailor your plan to fit your needs and goals. This can include taking into account the size and complexity of your estate, your family dynamics, and any potential tax implications.
Finally, hiring a lawyer to create your estate plan is a loving gesture because it shows that you care about the well-being of your loved ones and want to make things as easy as possible for them during a difficult time. By taking the time to plan ahead and put clear instructions in place now, you can save your family from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf. You can also spare them from having to navigate a complicated legal process, wherein generic legal defaults take the place of your specific, individual preferences.
Don't wait until it's too late – call today to ask about working with Wysocki Law, PLLC to develop your estate plan now.
No one ever "wins" a divorce
Divorce very often is a difficult and emotionally charged process. It's natural for people to want to come out on top in the legal proceedings. However, the reality is that no one ever truly "wins" a divorce.
While it may be possible for one party to receive a favorable outcome in terms of asset division or custody arrangements, the truth is any time a divorce is litigated, both parties lose. The end of a marriage means the end of a partnership and the dissolution of a family unit. It's important to remember that the ultimate goal of the divorce process should be to find a resolution that allows both parties to move forward in the best way possible, rather than trying to "win" at the other party's expense.
One way to achieve this goal is through the use of mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows divorcing parties to work out their differences with the help of a neutral third party mediator. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties, but rather helps facilitate communication and encourages the parties to find a workable compromise that enables them to move on from the marriage.
On the other hand, when the court dictates to two adults how to live their lives and what they can and cannot do with their their kids, these orders can be very difficult to enforce against someone who feels that the orders are unfair. Sometimes court orders that favor one party result in ongoing litigation wherein the disfavored party relentlessly seeks to overturn the orders for years on end in pursuit of some personal ideal of "justice."
Mediation has a number of advantages over court. It is often faster and less expensive than going to court, and it allows the parties to have more control over the outcome of their divorce. In addition, mediation can be a less stressful and more respectful way to resolve conflicts, as it allows the parties to work through their differences in a private setting, rather than airing all their dirty laundry in a public courtroom. Parties can be more creative in mediation than in court and can design solutions that uniquely work for their family. The court, on the other hand, is more likely to produce cookie-cutter solutions fit for "average" families, and we know that no family is average. No judge is privy to the innermost workings of a family; the people best situated to find solutions that work for their unique families are the divorcing spouses themselves.
Overall, it's important to remember that divorce is never a win-lose situation. Spouses have fiduciary duties towards each other that do not end just because a divorce has been filed. By working towards a resolution through the use of mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, divorcing parties can find a way to move forward from the marriage that works for them and their families. Mediated resolutions tend to bring more peace to a family over the long run.
Later in Life Divorce
There’s no age limit on divorce. There’s no cutoff date or limit on the many reasons you may wish to seek one.
Divorcing later in life, however, does raise a set of particular issues and questions that are somewhat thorny and can affect your future in different ways than had you divorced at a younger age. These are important differences and only apparent to attorneys with experience in ‘later in life’ divorces.
If you’re a little bit older and considering a divorce, you’re not alone. The divorce rate for U.S. residents ages 50 and older has doubled in the past twenty years. As COVID ebbs, it shows no sign of abating. It may, in fact, be increasing.
Here’s what you need to know when considering a divorce:
Be ready to discuss spousal maintenance
Spousal maintenance is more commonly granted when the divorcing spouses have been together more than ten years. On the other hand, spousal maintenance may be unavailable if spouses are already living on retirement income, or nearing retirement. Either way, spousal maintenance will be part of the discussion. Whether you expect to pay maintenance or to receive it, it’s best to prepare from the outset while exploring the role these payments may or may not play in your future plans.
Examine your retirement options carefully
Retirement funds and assets are marital assets. Wysocki Law collaborates with accountants and financial advisors to fully explore and understand the tax implications of any decision you might have to make as your matter moves forward. We can and will explore alternatives.
Don’t count out your kids
Your children are adults. That does not mean a divorce won’t affect your relationship with your children – personally and financially. If, like many parents, you and your spouse are supplying financial support to an adult child, you’ll need to discuss how that support will continue after the divorce.
Most importantly, though, regardless, you need to be prepared to talk to your kids about the divorce and its implications for the future.
Talk now. Putting it off will create rifts where there didn’t need to be any.
Update your estate plan
Your current estate plan almost certainly includes your spouse in many roles. Heir, executor, personal representative, or more. This will need to be corrected as soon as possible – probate courts are filled with cases that have ground to a halt because of this [very] basic mistake.
Wysocki Law can help with your later in life divorce.
She was famous – on and off and on and off through the late 1920s through the early 1950s. Mary Astor was iconic in the early ‘30s, disappeared to Broadway then came back for one of the greatest roles of the decade – Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon, opposite Humphrey Bogart. She won the Oscar for best supporting actress in 1941 and was gone, at least as far as Hollywood was concerned, again.
In the mid-1930’s, Mary was famous (or infamous depending on which side you were on) for something different. The 1930s version of the Trial of the Century.
Here are the [very] basic facts: Mary married Dr. Franklyn Thorpe in June, 1931. They had a child, Marilyn, in June 1932. In late 1933, Mary, unhappy in the marriage and in her career, went to New York to work on the stage. She had an affair (torrid was the mildest word used in the tabloids of the day) with the playwright and Broadway director, George S. Kaufman, a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Mary, an excellent writer (she went on to write two bestselling memoirs and five novels), kept a well-written, detailed diary of her time in New York.
Mary went back to Hollywood in 1936. The moment she did, Thorpe obtained an uncontested divorce. Then he found the diary. Then he demanded custody. Then it went to trial. Then it got ugly.
The one thing to take from this in the age of litigation and the Internet is clear: you can hide a diary probably a lot better than Mary Astor, but you can’t hide your social media. Enough said, that’s not where we’re really going with this.
Dr. Thorpe claimed that Mary was an unfit mother because she had affairs. The fact she wrote about them probably made it worse. She had a tendency to write about her lovers and Thorpe came up short in comparison.
It didn’t look good for Mary – in civil court or in the court of public opinion. Without a great attorney, Mary’s prognosis was bleak.
Then she hired an attorney almost as famous as her, George Simon Kaufman. He had the diary thrown out as inadmissible. The fact that Thorpe shared it with a gossip columnist and together they added bogus entries and changed others most likely had a lot to do with that decision.
More importantly, Kaufman presented all the facts: Mary had the stage parents from hell. At 14, she was under contract for $500/wk. (that’s $7,000 in today’s dollars). Her parents controlled the money and imprisoned her in the mansion they bought with her money. She got out to perform. She was given a $5/week allowance but had no place to spend it. Her father was physically abusive and derided her performances while cashing the checks.
Mary escaped. She fled one night through a carelessly left-open third floor window. It was 1928 and she was earning $3750/wk. ($53,000/week). She married a director in 1929, but her parents still held her money. When she finally gained control of her finances in 1932 after a contentious law suit, there was so little money left she had to apply for aid from the Screen Actors Guild. Then her parents sued her for support.
Mary’s husband, Kenneth Hawks, was killed in a plane crash in 1930. It devastated Mary. A few years later, earning a huge salary again and working almost nonstop, she took a leave of absence from the studio. She signed into a ‘mental health’ hospital. By now you can probably guess who her doctor was. Thorpe.
No one will know if Thorpe ever loved Mary but there’s no doubt he loved her money. Weeks after the wedding he bought a yacht and opened a private practice.
This filled in the blanks in the custody case. It was enough for the judge, he awarded Mary full custody. Her career took off again. The diary disappeared during the trial. It became the Loch Ness monster of Hollywood, sightings were rare but hyped up in the papers., It was discovered in 1953 in a safety deposit box. By court order it was burned.
The important lesson from the Mary Astor custody case is that facts don’t mean anything until someone makes a narrative out of them. That someone is a good attorney.
 If she really did hide it. The more I read about this the more I’m convinced Mary meant to get caught – see below for why.
These posts are written in collaboration with our valued friends and colleagues. We welcome your ideas for future musings.