Putting the “Fun” in Funeral…

Susan Soper has a fantastic workbook (a short one) called the ObitKit.  It is short and useful – and it is particularly useful for families who are facing long-term care issues.  Susan’s focus on celebrating one’s life includes some wonderful ideas about “the funeral” that goes to show that a little planning can go a long way.

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Atlanta – Divorce Seminar 1/21/12 with FREE Consultations with Financial Professionals and Attorneys!

Legal & Financial Divorce Seminar & Consultations

 

An educational, supportive one-day workshop for those seeking help

in any stage of divorce, with information, resources, and connections.

 

Saturday, January 21, 2012, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

LOCATION: The South Terraces, First Floor Auditorium

115 Perimeter Center Place, Atlanta, GA 30346

Free parking garage

Visions’ office phone, 770-953-2882, will be answered all day.

 

$89.00 – Breakfast & Lunch Included

Registration Closes midnight Friday, January 13, 2012

Register at www.visionsanew.org or call 770-953-2882

 

Top Notch Professionals Educate About Divorce:

¨      “The Legal Divorce Process”

¨      “Understanding the Finances of Divorce”

¨      “A Private Investigator Shares Secrets”

¨      “How to Separate the Emotions from the Business”  

¨      “Kids and Divorce”

Includes 30 minutes, one-on-one, with both a legal and financial professional: 

  •  Completed application required at check-in to schedule
  •  Receive 30 minute one-on-one legal & financial assessments of your situation
  •  Be prepared to talk factually about your income, assets, and liabilities

Visions Anew Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit, connecting those seeking help, in any stage of divorce, with information, resources, and each other through Weekend Workshops, Seminars, and Support Groups. We are grateful to the sponsors and donors who make our programs possible, especially Ruby Sponsors: the law firm, Boyd, Collar, Nolen & Tuggle, LLC; Peggy Espinda LaFreniere and Emerald Sponsor: Anonymous Alum of Weekend Workshop  #29.

Three Tips on Split/ting the 401(k) in Divorce

Forget the emotional workout that divorce provides….watch out for the paperwork workout!

Ask someone who’s been through divorce:  There is a lot of searching, collecting, requesting, gathering, compiling and more that must be done!   This drill also extends to pensions and certain retirement accounts, such as 401(k)’s.

Also ask a divorcee how much of the legal bill involved requests for documents, follow-up on those requests, and plain old nagging…the number will probably astound you!   So, how can you address the 401(k)’s proactively to get at the paperwork workout without incurring legal fees associated with nagging?   Here are three tips:

1.    Call the 401(k)’s “Plan Administrator.”    Ask the employer with whom each 401(k) is associated for the Plan Administrator’s number (usually, this involves calling HR – don’t hesitate to call HR, they get these kinds of calls all of the time).  From the Plan Administrator, request and follow-up with an email these three items:   the 401(k)’s guidelines for preparing the QDRO (sounds like “quad-row”), a model copy of a QDRO for this 401(k) and any fee structures for filing a model QDRO instead of a non-form QDRO, and any checklist associated with preparing a QDRO for this 401(k).     Do this early and for every 401(k) (or even any pension) that either spouse holds.

2.   Contact a CPA, a Financial Planner, or a Tax Attorney (and maybe even a CDFA) about the tax consequences and liabilities.   Ask your CPA and your financial planner for advice.  Your age, income bracket, and the kinds of assets in the 401(k) can affect how both spouses may view the 401(k).   For example, a 401(k) may have a “liquidated value” of $50,000 (what the financial statement usually reflects).  However, what is not reflected in that number is what Uncle Sam is going to take if you DO liquidate the account.  Suddenly, that $50,000 could plummet to $30,000.00 if you don’t play your cards correctly!  Know what you’re doing before you do it!

3.  Assess the 401(k) as one piece of the bigger puzzle of dividing the marital estate.  Before you negotiate a division of property, understand what it might mean to keep the 401(k) intact and what it might mean to divide it into two parts of various sizes.  Would it make sense for one spouse to keep all of the equity in the house while the other spouse keeps the 401(k) “as is” (and avoid fees associated with drafting and filing a QDRO, as well)?  Would it make sense to give a portion of the 401(k) to the other spouse in exchange for larger helpings of something else in the marital estate (keep the boat and the lake house)?  There is some good news with 401(k)’s providing greater options and opportunities for dividing the marital assets.

 

The bottom line is that the paperwork burden in divorce alone can be overwhelming.  What those documents mean may seem completely out of reach when you are on a litigation timeline.  As such, plan ahead to take small bites at it, and you will be more confident, more prepared, and more willing to move forward without unnecessary self-doubt (and paying a law firm to nag you).

 

Manimony, Palimony, Alimony – Oh My!

The punch lines abound:  be careful what you wish for;  what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; turnabout it fair play….

The reality is that alimony or spousal support’s intention is to assist the more financially vulnerable spouse with a transition (sometimes permanently and sometimes not) to a non-married status where the benefits of the marriage no longer exist.   American society has a greater acceptance of married and older women in the workforce, it also has a greater tolerance for wives being the sole or primary/greater breadwinner.  Interestingly, society has also shown greater acceptance of Stay-At-Home Dads (some call themselves “mannies,” a play on the word nannies) and husbands who make less money than their wives.  With these shifts in stereotypes, it should be little surprise that husbands who are in a more financially vulnerable position in a divorce would seek alimony in order to transition to a non-married status with greater financial security.

“Big-Breadwinning” wives often have the very same reaction to paying alimony to husband as husbands have had to the concept of paying wives alimony during a divorce.  However, some wives’ resistance (abhorrence) to the idea of alimony is – interestingly so – based in part on their very own sex-based stereotypes:  What judge is going to give HIM alimony?  He is going to come off looking bad if HE seeks alimony from me ?  What kind of self-respecting MAN would ask for alimony?

The non-sexist objections often are identical to what men facing alimony demands have said for years!  They turn on things such as “the other spouse” chose to stay at home (the “you made your bed” objection), make less money (the “you could do more if you wanted” objection), do nothing (the “I’m not funding laziness” objection), etc.    Similarly, these objections often are followed with “I did the work, made the sacrifices, took the risks,” unlike the other spouse, therefore, I should be able to keep the spoils, retain the current lifestyle, etc. without concern for what happens to the “other spouse” post-divorce.  Often these objections do not go very far, unless it is before a particular kind of judge (know thy judge!).   Apparently some aspects of love and money do not know a gender line.

So, the advice given to the men about alimony is often going to be identical to the advice for the women about alimony.  Know the law, balance any factors, know your judge’s track record, and…crunch the numbers on what it will take to pay the attorney to fight it vs. pay your husband and get on with it.

Post-Holiday Divorces…Just Get Me Through the Holidays, And Then….

Family Lawyers will tell you that their practices typically will slow down (except emergency matters) around the last two weeks of December.  However, they come roaring to life in January.   The theory goes that many folks who are in trying family circumstances will try to “make it through” the holidays before getting serious with legal processes, making their decision to leave a spouse known, or otherwise create more trying or contentious circumstances.

Despite the feigned peace over the holidays, planning, stewing, and emotional roller coasters continue.

As to the planning, getting as much information as possible about the separation and divorce process in your state and getting as much information about your own family (more about this in a minute) is a critical step…often one that should be done before jumping into full-fledged litigation.

“Two Suggestions” for divorce planning:

First, consult (only consult) with an attorney or a divorce mediator in your town about the process, timeline, and cost.  For a taste of what information you might receive or inquire about, click here.

Second, review these inventory forms for getting organized regarding “the financials.”   The benefit of being organized early cannot be overstated.  Cannot. Be. Overstated.

 

 

 

Investigations in the Face of Whistleblower and Retaliation Concerns

Laws are proliferating that specifically forbid retaliation against employees who raise certain workplace concerns (often in certain ways) to their employers.   Perhaps these protections are overdue in some instances, but legislators are more often than not recognizing that employers can chill the willingness of employees, the very people who would know, to raise concerns about how a business is run, how individuals perform their duties, etc.  to the employer itself or even to an enforcement agency.

In this climate, employers are starting to look for proactive and “early detection” processes to solve problems before they arise.  However, even in encouraging employees to speak up, employers still hold concerns about being accused of retaliation by the complaining or reporting employee.

In some instances, these competing interests of wanting to nip problems in the bud while also trying to minimize the likelihood of a retaliation claim, employers are turning more to external investigators.   When an employer does utilize an external investigator, there is a stronger likelihood that the process will be viewed as being fair (though it may be imperfect), that the information uncovered and the conclusions reached were impartial, and that concerns about retaliation should decrease.

Employers and legal counsel should be aware of anti-retaliation provisions that affect the employer and be prepared to call on an external investigator, such as those at One Mediation, when personnel matters are raised.  Getting it right the first time can do wonders for morale, compliance, and long-term legal expenses related to litigation.

 

Mediation as an Employee Benefit

Apparently, One Mediation isn’t the only entity to tout the benefits of mediation…as an employee benefit.  While many employers are beginning to look at establishing internal conflict resolution programs using a mediator (or other third party), other employers are recognizing that their employees need greater access to resources and tools that can assist with resolution to issues and problems in their lives that bleed into the workplace or cause presenteeism/absenteeism.

One Mediation offers an option for employers to provide discounted mediation services to its employees as a benefit of employment.  Through this Family Matters Program, employees can gain greater access to mediators for family related matters:  divorce, child custody and support, parenting plans, modifications to child-related matters, elder law, long-term care/caregiving matters, and more.

Call One Mediation (404-720-0599) for more information and the latest version of the Program offering.

Mediation Operates for Opera Dispute

Labor talks have utilized mediation and arbitration for decades.  Professional athletes and professional artists, even opera singers, have used these processes to get at the problem of compensation, work conditions, and more.

However, the use of mediation and arbitration in non-union workplaces on these same issues in a “pre-litigation” phase has not had the same degree of traction.  Why?

Perhaps the cost.  Perhaps the suggestion that an employer is “not in charge.”  Perhaps the protections that now exist under federal law (and in many states).  Perhaps the thought that only litigation will create necessary change.

Whatever the reason, non-union workforces and their employers may be missing great opportunities to nip issues in the bud.

Internal Workplace Dispute Resolution Programs

Unions and many public employers have utilized “grievance processes” for decades.  In essence, these grievance processes are an early, dispute resolution program.  However, they are predicated on an adversarial model of the employee vs. the employer.  As a result, these processes do not result in cooperation or even problem-solving, but rather on who was right.  For some, the grievance process is merely a necessary step to get to litigation rather than to get to resolution.

Litigation has its place.  However, in many cases, the parties, the lawyers, and usually every member of the jury, is able to point to missed opportunities to solve the problem or de-escalate the issue that prompted the lawsuit.   Recognizing the expense of litigation and the wisdom of conflict resolution, some employers have instituted “workplace mediation” programs, including in many segments of the federal government.

Some of these programs involve training co-workers in mediation, while others involve “in house” mediators or a panel of contract mediators.   They all, however, appear to have a common goal to facilitate discussion and problem-solving before the problem morphs into an abyss of distrust, gamesmanship, and other unproductive and unhealthy behaviors.  Often, a policy is in place that permits employees an easily accessible means to access the process, often through the human resources department.

In a workplace mediation, a third party works with the individuals to understand the problem, its business implications, and its interpersonal implications in order to assist with problem-solving and future-oriented planning.  From such discussions, the participants can often clear the air, gain a better understanding of the problems, and look into ways that will help them move forward in a reasonable manner.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  And, it is a simple application of thousands of years of the human experience on handling conflict productively….