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Cranberry Township Family Law Blog

Avoiding estate tax liability

When people in Cranberry Township start putting their estate plans together, the first topic they may believe needs to be addressed is allocating funds to pay estate taxes. This is wise thinking, as their certainly is the possibility that one’s estate may be taxed (and those taxes must be paid from the estate’s assets). Yet federal regulations have been modified in recent years to help ease the burden of taxes from many hoping to leave assets for their beneficiaries. Indeed, according to information shared by the Internal Revenue Service, federal estate tax filings have decreased from 38,354 in 2008 to only 12,711 in 2017. 

This is due to increasing the federal estate tax threshold. Estates whose total taxable value comes in under this amount are not subject to federal taxes (Pennsylvania does not have a state estate tax). In 2007, that amount was $2 million. Per Forbes Magazine, the threshold is $11.4 million. Given that the average amount of a typical American estate is much less than that, many will not end up owing estate taxes. 

What are some myths regarding prenups?

Prenuptial agreements are a sticky subject for many couples. Most believe that signing a prenup means that divorce is inevitable, which is hardly the case. In fact, prenups may even strengthen a union since each party knows exactly what to expect when it comes to marital property and financial issues. Business Insider dispels a few of the common myths regarding prenuptial agreements. 

When it comes to the terms of a prenup, not all provisions are enforceable. In fact, including provisions about housecleaning or personal appearance could result in the document being rendered invalid. It's also not a good idea to include things regarding child support, child custody, or alimony. These decisions are largely made by the court, and as a result, language included in your agreement is likely to be ignored. Your best bet is to draft a prenup with the help of an attorney. Some states even require both parties to have sound legal representation. 

Amending your will after your divorce

Ask any estate planning expert in Cranberry Township, and they will tell you that it is best that you see to your estate planning early on in your adult life. This is due to the fact that you never know what tomorrow will bring, and it is best to be prepared for anything. Yet many events can transpire after creating your will (such as a divorce). Many have come to us here at the Sweeney Law Offices, LLC when preparing for a divorce asking what to steps to take after their marriages have officially ended. Many often forget to address their estate planning in these scenarios. 

Yet the reason why updating your will following your divorce may not what you are thinking. If you are like most, then you are likely concerned that if you do not amend your will after your marriage ends, then your ex-spouse will remain your beneficiary after your death. Yet according to Section 2507 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, a divorce effectively invalidates any provisions in your will that address your ex-spouse (it is considered as though they preceded you in death). Thus, the fear that your ex-spouse will still inherit your assets is unwarranted. 

How does supervised visitation work?

Courts believe it's in the best interest of children to have healthy relationships with both parents. However, when there are allegations of abuse or issues with alcohol and drug use, it may not be safe for a child to spend time alone with a parent. In this case, the court may order supervised visits, which take place in the presence of a social worker or another family member. Very Well Family offers the following information on how supervised visitation actually works. 

Supervised visits can take place in a number of settings. For instance, they make take place at the home of the parent. In this case, the child would be taken to the home along with the third party tasked with overseeing the visitation. In other instances, the child and parent would meet at a visitation center, where the third party would attend the visit as well. The goal is to allow visitations to occur in a controlled setting so the child will remain safe and secure. 

Defenses for fault-based divorce

If you are a Pennsylvania resident considering ending your marriage, you may wonder where to begin. The starting point depends on your particular situation. At Sweeney Law Offices, LLC, we assist clients with services for no-fault and fault-based divorces.

According to the National Paralegal College, divorce by consent occurs when neither party must prove grounds for the dissolution of marriage beyond irreconcilable differences. However, if your other half refuses this method and files for a fault-based divorce, you may find that one or more accompanying defenses meet your needs:

  • Connivance occurs when one married person consents to an act by the other person, which constitutes grounds for a divorce. Once the action takes place, the previously consenting party files for marriage dissolution. Typically, this occurs when the fault is adultery, and the offended party knows it took place.
  • Collusion involves an element of fraud. It occurs when it seems that a party in a marriage commits performs an action constituting grounds for divorce. The act does not actually happen; it appears that way by design. In this instance, the goal is obtaining a divorce.
  • Condonation may apply when one party commits an act, such as adultery, that constitutes grounds for divorce. The remaining party, knowing about the transgression forgives and resumes the marriage. If the wronged spouse changes his/her mind and files for divorce, the court may deny it on the grounds of condonation. He or she knew about it and chose not to act.

The purpose of a living will

A last will and testament is a legal document detailing your final wishes. It addresses the distribution of your Pennsylvania property, appoints guardians of your minor children and a variety of other considerations. You may believe that is the only document you need. However, a living will serves another purpose. At Sweeney Law Offices, LLC, we often assist clients in creating a comprehensive estate plan that includes end-of-life decisions.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a living will is a legal document containing instructions for your medical treatment if you cannot communicate. Advance directives guide your caregivers and doctors if you are seriously ill, unable to make decisions or near the end of your life. It is not only the elderly who benefit from this document.

Is my spouse hiding assets?

Asset division is one of the most contentious aspects of divorce. Some spouses even attempt to conceal certain assets so they won't be included during the division process. While this practice is highly unethical and even illegal, it can be difficult to locate hidden assets so they can be divided in a just and fair manner. If you're concerned that your spouse is hiding assets, Forbes offers the following tips.

The first step is to understand just how people normally go about hiding assets from their spouses. Some people will manufacture debt that doesn't exist to claim less in financial holdings than they actually have. In other cases, a person may deny a specific asset outright, or make a statement that it's no longer in their possession. Some people will even attempt to give the asset away to a third party, which relieves them of ownership. Despite these tactics, evidence of hidden assets is often found within the home, so this is a good place to start looking. 

Why do parents modify child custody orders?

Over time, it might be necessary for you and your ex to discuss modifications of an existing child custody order. The child custody plan is created with the best interests of your kids in mind, so when needs or situations change, it makes sense that the arrangement would change as well. Very Well Family offers a few examples of when a custody order might need to be altered. 

If you have primary physical custody, your ex will be allowed visitation. This ensures that kids and parents are able to maintain a tight bond even when they don't reside in the same home. Your ex might not show up on days when visits are scheduled or make abrupt changes to visitation, which is often troubling to kids looking forward to spending time with their parent. Should you request a modification, the court will look at the reasons why the existing schedule isn't being followed, as well as whether you are communicating effectively. 

How can you show your ex-spouse no longer needs alimony?

If your spouse is incapable of supporting themselves to the point of securing the same standard of living that you both enjoyed during your marriage in Cranberry Township, then it may come as little surprise that you are asked to pay them alimony. Such support is typically not meant to be permanent, however; rather, it is only supposed to help them as they work towards securing gainful employment or they remarry. 

Yet what if your ex-spouse chooses not to remarry simply as a way to keep you obligated to continue to pay alimony? They might eventually meet a new romantic partner, yet choose to not marry them knowing that their remarriage will end your alimony obligation. Such an action may be seen as them attempting to take advantage of the court, which is typically not well-received. 

Identifying the best time to begin planning your estate

There is not a more satisfying feeling than knowing you have adequately planned for your future. Preparation from early on can provide you with the resources you need and desire, to live comfortably later on in life. At Sweeney Law Offices, LLC, we have been able to assist many families in Pittsburgh as they plan their estate. 

If you are wondering when the most effective time is to start planning your estate, the answer is now. Regardless of how comfortable you are with your current life situation, whether or not you are aging, whether or not you have dependents, whether or not you are married and whether or not you have valuable assets, taking the initiative to begin planning for your future long before you have a need to, is critical to your ability to finalize and maintain a beneficial plan that is customized to meet your needs and lifestyle. 

Nebraska State bar association Allegheny County Bar Association - RAising the bar on legal and community service Superlawyers 2012,2013,2014,2015 Avvo Rated by Super Lawyers - Mildred B. Sweeney Selected in 2012 Thomson reuters Rated by Super Lawyers - Rising Stars Flora Sweeney Hunzeker Superlawyers.com Rated by Super Lawyers - Rising Stars Heather M. Papp - Sicignano Superlawyers.com Pennsylvania bar association

Sweeney Law Offices, LLC
20581 Route 19, Suite 1
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Phone: 724-742-2590
Fax: 724-742-4409
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