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Cranberry Township Family Law Blog

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. 

What if you want to move away with the kids?

There may be any number of reasons why you might want to move away from Cranberry Township following your divorce. You may find it too difficult to stay in the same area where you made your married life with your spouse. You could also find employment opportunities in other markets that are too good for you to pass up. Whatever your reason, one thing to keep in mind when preparing for a move is to how you can reconcile your relocation with your current custody agreement

If and when you choose to relocate, Section 23-5337 of Pennsylvania's Consolidated Statutes says that you must provide your ex-spouse (and any others who may be party to your custody agreement) with notice at least 60 days prior to your move. What if, however, you do not have that much time? In cases where your relocation is work-driven, you may be asked to move sooner than you anticipated. If that proves to be the case, the law may allow you to bypass the 60-day notification period provided you send out notice within 10 days of learning that you need to move. 

Living wills grant peace of mind

One of the hardest parts of growing older is having to cede parts of our independence. This is even more difficult if we fall ill and can no longer make decisions for ourselves. Who will you trust to make decisions about your health care if you are incapacitate and you can’t voice your wishes?

You’ve already planned for the future – your retirement, your estate. Why not plan your end-of-life health care decisions now as well?

Understanding Pennsylvania's intestate succession guidelines

While most adults in Cranberry Township likely understand that they should start considering their estate planning, few have actually completed the process. Indeed, according to information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, as many as 60 percent of Americans do not have a will. There may be many reasons why people put off estate planning: they may fear the prospect of facing their own mortality, or they may simply believe that they will always have time later to do it. Yet one of the primary reasons is likely misunderstanding. 

Among that misunderstanding may be the notion that if one does not leave a will, it is left to their heirs to determine how to divide their estate. That is not the case. If a person dies intestate (without a will) the state then determines how their assets are dispersed. Pennsylvania's intestate succession guidelines can be found in Chapter 21 of the state's Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code. Here it states that one's surviving spouse is entitled to their entire estate if they die intestate and leave behind no surviving issue (direct descendants). If one does leave behind any issue (who are also the issue of the surviving spouse) or they are survived by their parents, then the spouse is entitled to the first $30,000 of their estate plus one-half of its remaining balance. The estate is split evenly if one leaves behind issue who are not biologically related to the surviving spouse. 

Are you entitled to receive alimony?

A long-term marriage has unraveled. Both spouses contemplate their financial future and have many legitimate concerns. When a marriage lasting years or decades dissolves, courts commonly award alimony to the spouse in need. Judges do not grant alimony to short-term partners or significant others.

Interim alimony

How can you divide up your 401k in a divorce?

When making a mental inventory of the assets you expect to be included in your property division proceedings in Cranberry Township, you likely failed to include your 401k. Remember that the money used to fund your 401k comes largely from your income, which makes any contributions made to your account during your marriage subject to property division. Yet how can you share assets from your 401k with your ex-spouse without having to deal with those hefty early withdrawal penalties? 

You could always try to avoid altogether having your 401k included amongst your marital assets. According to the 401k Help Center, the way to do this is to approach your ex-spouse with the proposal of your relinquishing your claim to a marital asset provided that they give up their interest in your 401k. This may work to their advantage if there is a certain marital asset they cover, yet be aware that the potential of added income earned from interest from their own 401k account may prompt them to reject such an idea. 

Creating an estate plan as a college student

Often, people think of older adults when they picture the type of person who sets up an estate plan. However, estate planning can offer a number of benefits for college students (as well as their parents) and these plans can be very helpful for people at a younger age. Whether you are currently attending college, plan on starting in the fall or have a child who is in college, it is important to look into the benefits of setting up an estate plan and take action if you are interested in the perks associated with estate plans.

First, it is imperative to review the different estate planning options that are available. For some college students, a simple revocable trust is ideal, but there are many other options on the table. College students may want to look into a healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney. After all, people can become incapacitated for various reasons regardless of their age, whether they suffer an unexpected health crisis or are involved in a devastating accident.

Can joint debt be a problem for divorcing couples?

When it comes to your impending divorce, you will have a lot of questions you will need to ask your Pittsburgh attorney about what is to come. Make sure that your marital debt is one of the items near the top of your list of inquiries. If you are not careful, you might find debts that you currently share with your spouse can cause you major trouble down the road.

As the CESI website explains, it does not matter whether a couple is married or not if they both own debt together. Debt can take many forms, such as a line of credit, a credit card, or a loan, but if the debt is jointly owned, each spouse remains responsible for paying off the outstanding amount, even after the divorce is finalized. Ideally, both parties should work out how to pay off their debts during the divorce.

Can you appeal a child custody decision in PA?

Unfortunately, unless the parties of a Pennsylvania divorce come to a child custody agreement via mediation, one or both parents are bound to be unhappy with the court's custody determination. If this is the case with you, you may wonder if it is possible to appeal the court's decision and, if so, if making an appeal would be a good idea.

According to the Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the law grants you the right to appeal a judge's decision after a full custody trial. However, note that you have a deadline to make an appeal, which your custody agreement should specify. Typically speaking, if you disagree with a judge's decision, you have within 20 days to file a petition for an appeal. In your petition, you must detail in writing why you think the judge's determination is wrong. You must make sure the courts receive the petition within 20 days of you receiving the original written recommendation.

Job loss and the divorce process

There are many life-changing hurdles that people have to work through, such as losing their job and bringing their marriage to an end. In some instances, people experience both of these changes simultaneously. For example, someone may have been informed that their position was being terminated, and in the wake of the stress and uncertainty brought on by this challenge, their marriage may have fallen apart as well. Or, someone may be surprised when their spouse tells them they want a divorce, prompting them to become depressed and ultimately lose their job.

There are many things to consider with regard to job loss as well as divorce, but finances should be a top priority. Both of these life changes can have a significant impact on one’s financial future, and it is imperative to be ready for what may lie ahead. By focusing on key divorce issues such as property distribution and alimony, you may be able to deal with hurdles that arise in the future easier. Moreover, you should be aware of family law matters (such as child support) that could affect your finances in the years ahead.

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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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