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If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

Writings on Legal Matters

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will By Joshua B. HechtWhen our firm handles a divorce, we reference the client’s Last Will and Testament in the Divorce Settlement Agreement.

During divorce, many people worry about how their property will be distributed between them and their spouse at the end of the divorce. However, few consider how their property will be distributed in the event of their death before the divorce is finalized. There are two questions that everyone going through a divorce should be considering, but rarely do:

  • “What happens if I die before my divorce is final?”
  • “How can I make sure that my share of the property goes to the people that I want it to go to, rather than my future ex-spouse?”

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The Ashley Madison Scandal: The Media Cares, But Do Judges?

Writings on Legal Matters

The Ashley Madison Scandal: The Media Cares, But Do Judges?

The Ashley Madison Scandal The Media Cares, But Do Judges By Jason A. Isaacson{3:05 minutes to read} When the news broke this past summer that AshleyMadison.com had been hacked, leaking the names and identifying information of approximately 37 million users, there were more than a few jittery spouses.

The scandal attracted wide media coverage and rampant speculation about the effect that the leak would have on marriages of the subscribers. However, for all of the media hype, while the revelation that one’s spouse has been cheating is reason enough to seek a divorce, a spouse’s infidelity has little, if any, bearing on the actual divorce process. (more…)

Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet

Writings on Legal Matters

Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet

Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet by Joshua B. Hecht{2:45 minutes to read} If you’re going through a divorce, it’s probably best to start with the presumption that anything you tweet, post, upload, chat about, or otherwise place in the universe of social media can and will be used against you by your spouse and their attorneys. So tread cautiously and be mindful of this problem that comes with getting divorced in the twenty-first century.

Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Harry husband, who happens to be going through a divorce, lavishes expensive gifts upon, Sally, his significant other. Sally takes to social media, tweeting just how generous Harry happens to be. Somehow, Harry’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Wendy, gets ahold of these tweets, and forwards them to her attorneys to be used as evidence in their hotly contested divorce proceeding. Wendy’s and her attorneys’ intent is to demonstrate how Harry wasted marital funds on someone other than her and their children.

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Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce

Writings on Legal Matters

Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce

Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce by Joshua B. Hecht{5 minutes to read} If your business partner is going through a divorce, their spouse may be entitled to compensation for direct or indirect contributions to the business.

The divorcing spouse has the right to argue that their direct and indirect contributions to the business attributed to its growth and success, if they can prove it. However, before even getting to the point where a judge determines whether the spouse made such contributions, the spouse will want to find out how much the business is worth—so that he or she knows what is at stake and whether it is worth fighting for. (more…)

“You’ve Been Served”: What to Do If You’re Served Divorce Papers

Writings on Legal Matters

“You’ve Been Served”: What to Do If You’re Served Divorce Papers

Being served with divorce papers can be upsetting and stressful, or may just be a welcome and practical step towards ending a relationship. However you feel about being served divorce papers, there are certain things you must now do to move the process forward. This article talks you through each step.

  1. Read the papers carefully

Reading your divorce papers may seem like a no-brainer. However, it is essential that you take time and care when doing so to ensure that you fully understand the wealth of information they contain. Signing divorce papers without thoroughly reading them first could mean you end up agreeing to something that you actually object to.

Among other things, divorce papers should contain information such as where the action has been filed, the deadline by which the spouse must respond, and whether the spouse who filed the paperwork is acting alone or with the help of an attorney. The grounds for divorce, as well as information on important matters such as child support and custody and division of property, may also be laid out in these documents.

  1. Provide your response

The required response time is typically 20 days from when you were served with the papers, so you should check your divorce papers to make sure you know the deadline and ensure you provide your response before then. If you do not provide a response within the deadline, it is possible that your spouse could be granted everything they have requested in the papers, as not responding suggests that you are amenable to these requests.  Providing a response may be difficult without an attorney who can prepare the document, called an Answer, properly. This brings us to the next important step:

  1. Hire an attorney

The next thing you should do is hire an attorney. An attorney will help guide you through the process and can assist with drafting and delivering the response to your spouse. An attorney will help you go through the papers and respond to each numbered statement, providing as much information and reasoning as possible.

Legal counsel can ensure that you understand all your rights and options and that your rights are protected, particularly if the case becomes contested at a later date. If your divorce papers indicate that your spouse has employed the services of an attorney, it is even more imperative that you retain your own counsel so that both parties’ rights and interests are protected and fought for on even ground.

  1. Gather paperwork and documents

Documents such as pay-stubs, income tax returns, and recent bank statements are useful to have on hand. Other helpful documents include financial paperwork such as credit card statements, mortgage agreements, and statements from retirement and/or brokerage accounts. These documents will help an attorney ascertain where the income comes from and how assets will be divided.

  1. Protect your assets

Some individuals need to be careful about protecting their assets. If you are concerned that your spouse may try to take money from you, your attorney can and should issue an Automatic Restraining Order, to prevent either party from making unusual transactions, withdrawals, or take other steps that may harm you financially.

  1. Next steps

From here your attorney has two choices – to try and resolve the financials and custody issues amicably, or to ask that a Judge be appointed to the case to help you and your spouse.  If proceeding amicably and outside of the court, your attorney can set up a settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney. If you wish to go to Court, then your attorney will schedule a Preliminary Conference with the Court, during which you will meet the Judge selected for your case, who will make recommendations for settlement and oversee the process if a resolution cannot be reached.  Further, the Judge has the power at this point to direct that certain bills must be paid while the case is pending, how income should be shared between you and yourself, and who should pay the attorneys.

If you are looking for an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation, or e-mail us at jisaacson@sihllp.com

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

Writings on Legal Matters

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

When our firm handles a divorce, we reference the client’s Last Will and Testament in the Divorce Settlement Agreement.

During divorce, many people worry about how their property will be distributed between them and their spouse at the end of the divorce. However, few consider how their property will be distributed in the event of their death before the divorce is finalized. There are two questions that everyone going through a divorce should be considering, but rarely do:

  • “What happens if I die before my divorce is final?”
  • “How can I make sure that my share of the property goes to the people that I want it to go to, rather than my future ex-spouse?”

We often tell clients that to best protect themselves, they should be meeting with Steven Adler, Esq., and planning for the remote possibility of death during or shortly after the divorce process is complete. Most people do not realize that if they die during the divorce process without properly planning for it, their future ex-spouse may simply get everything.

Failure to change your will either before or after divorce could cause serious complications.

If you don’t have a Will and you pass away during the divorce process, your future ex-spouse, still technically your spouse during the process, may inherit everything.  Additionally, if you have a Will where you named your spouse as the beneficiary, and the divorce is not finalized, then your future ex-spouse will certainly inherit everything under the Will.  Even if you disinherited your spouse after the divorce, if you failed to change the executor or executrix, there will be serious complications that will make it difficult for your children or other heirs to get the property distribution that you intended. Most people do not realize this, and fail to even consider it.

What is the spouse’s “elective share?”

Even if you do try to disinherit your future ex-spouse, he or she may still be entitled to part of your estate pursuant to New York Estate Powers and Trust Law, Section 5-1, which provides a “right of election.” The elective share is the greater of:

  • certain cash or cash equivalents up to $25,000.00;
  • one automobile up to $25,000.00 in value; and
  • the greater of one-third of the net estate and $50,000.00.

When a will is probated, the only assets under the jurisdiction of the New York Surrogate’s Court are those assets owned solely by the decedent. However, the right of election applies to jointly owned assets, probate assets, and to other assets deemed testamentary substitutes. The statutes can be complicated and difficult to understand, which is why our firm works closely with Steven Adler, Esq., and our clients to minimize the amount of property that a future ex-spouse is entitled to in the event of a death during divorce.

If you are going through a divorce and fighting over assets, it would be a shame for your future ex-spouse to get everything.

In most cases, the spouse’s elective share is considerably less than the value of your entire probate estate. Accordingly, it is worthwhile to immediately change your will, even if it is temporary, because you will be decreasing the amount of assets that your estranged spouse will receive in the event you do not live through the divorce proceedings.

We are sensitive to the fact that our clients are splitting their property and income with their spouse during the divorce and after, making it very difficult for anyone to live the same lifestyle in divorce that they did in marriage. As a result of the foregoing and our close relationship with Steven Adler, Esq., his firm offers an exclusive program to our divorcing clients at a reduced price. Steven’s firm provides a streamlined will for divorcing spouses at approximately half the cost of a regular will, and then updates the Will and creates a full estate distribution plan post-divorce. This process helps people going through divorce protect their assets during the divorce, and helps them create a post-divorce plan to minimize liabilities and problems, while ultimately making sure that an ex-spouse doesn’t benefit accidentally or unintentionally.

How much would your divorcing spouse stand to inherit if you pass away? 
Co-authored by: Jason Isaacson & Steve Adler

5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Writings on Legal Matters

5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Mediation, as opposed to traditional litigation, offers a more gentle, productive attitude to navigating divorce’s difficult legal waters and generally ends up being less stressful, less expensive, and easier for the whole family to move on. The method includes an independent, impartial third-party that meets with the divorcing couple to work out all the divorce information. Mediation seeks a friendly middle ground that serves all parties.

Choosing mediation instead of a litigated divorce has some important advantages. The five most convincing reasons for choosing mediation are:

1. Mediation is usually less expensive

Because there are no court fees involved, mediation proceedings are simplified and can be far less costly than divorce. The typical cost of mediation is in the $5,000-10,000 range, whereas litigating a divorce will typically cost that much money per person, just to get started.

Mediation costs depend on the complexity of dividing assets, schedules for child visitation, and other concerns. However, the cost should be much less expensive even in complex cases. You may be surprised at how little it costs to employ a mediator, or how expensive it can get to litigate a case to conclusion if mediation is not chosen.

2. Mediation is private and confidential

Divorce proceedings in a government courtroom provide access to intimate information for anyone who may want to find them. No one wants their laundry out in public. For individuals who value their privacy, a traditional divorce may not be the best choice. When you go to court, there are dozens of other married people there as well, listening to the details of your case.

One of mediation’s most desirable advantages is that it is entirely private and confidential. Participants may not have to appear in court at all. The mediator handles all the documentation and ensures the privacy of each person.  We can even meet with you at night so that you don’t have to miss a day of work.

3. Mediation is usually quicker and more flexible

Some mediators like to have the clients come back to mediate a dozen times. Our goal is to get the job done as quickly, amicably, and cost-effective for you as possible. Quite often, we are able to resolve issues the very first time that we meet with you. On the other hand, a lengthy, complex divorce can drag on for months or even years. Mediation is intended to be fast, effective, and flexible.

The lines of communication are kept open due to the relaxed, negotiable process and enables distinctive solutions to be brainstormed to fix any issues. This flexibility enables a swift and cooperative strategy rather than a combative commitment in which everyone feels exhausted and unhappy.

4. Mediation is less stressful

Mediation is far less stressful than going to court. The concept behind mediation is to foster mutually beneficial friendly collaboration. The task of the mediator is not only to help both sides agree on divorce terms, but also to relieve tension, remove emotion from the process, and help both parties act in a friendly manner.

5. Mediation is child-centered and peaceful

The child-friendly strategy to mediation is another important advantage. Custody battles may be harmful to kids – particularly when the Court wants to know which parent the child or children prefer to live with. These issues are all negotiated quietly in our office, while your children are at school and unaware of the process. Children are less affected and they never have to appear in court.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are interested in pursuing mediation for your divorce, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach

Writings on Legal Matters

Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach

Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach By Joshua HechtIt’s a cliché, admittedly. But the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings particularly true when it comes to divorce. Even if an individual has the best of intentions, with emotions running high, one misstep, and what otherwise could have been a very simple matter, spirals out of control.

It is for this very reason that our firm views the initial consultation as an essential part of the process. We firmly believe that if we get to know our clients and what they hope to achieve, we can avoid many of the pitfalls that often hold parting spouses captive to litigation.

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7 Tips for a Successful Settlement Conference

Writings on Legal Matters

7 Tips for a Successful Settlement Conference

7 Tips for Successful Settlement Conference  By Josh Hecht, Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP The settlement conference presents an important opportunity for you and your spouse to settle your differences, financial and otherwise, without the need to set foot in a courtroom.

The following are 7 tips for a successful settlement conference:

  1. Make sure you know your rights. (more…)

Counsel Fee Awards: Courts’ Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field

Writings on Legal Matters

Counsel Fee Awards: Courts’ Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field

Counsel Fee Awards: Courts' Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field By Joshua B. Hecht of Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLPDivorce has many costs, not the least of which are the counsel fees incurred by the parties, a cost which often weighs heavily on the litigant’s mind. As such, clients often ask whether their spouse could be directed to contribute to their legal fees or, conversely, if it’s the spouse with the greater financial resources, whether they can be directed to pay their spouses legal fees. The answer is not always so cut and dry.

In New York, there is a rebuttable presumption that the wealthier or more monied spouse should pay the less monied spouse’s legal counsel fees to level the playing field and ensure that both spouses are on equal footing in terms of representation. (more…)

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