Berman & Asbel, LLP

October 2012 Archives

Who gets pet 'custody' in Pennsylvania divorce?

Divorce can be a time of emotional turmoil, and Pennsylvania spouses can sometimes react to stress in ways that are both irrational and nonproductive, which is natural. Unfortunately, the result can be a breakdown in negotiations over the details of property division. One issue that can cause a great deal of contention is where the family pets will live following the divorce.

'The past is not dead:' Estate of author sues Hollywood director

Most people in the estate planning process probably aren't worried about their writings or their person being used as a character in a film. However, there is a case playing out right now which takes this exact idea, which would make an excellent premise for a movie, and shows how the property of an estate can continue to be protected long after the decedent is gone.

Possibilities abound for Pennsylvania child custody arrangements

Fear of losing access to one's children is often a factor that leads Pennsylvania spouses to avoid filing for divorce. Many worry that once one household becomes two, their ability to bond with and positively influence the lives of their children will be limited. However, in matters of child custody, it is important to remember that courts in Pennsylvania and across the country are becoming more amenable to signing off on child custody arrangements that are outside of the 'traditional' every-other-weekend model.

Estate planning on paper in the digital age

Many people have multiple online accounts -- bank accounts, social media, emails -- and attempt to keep the passwords completely private. However, in the case of an unexpected death, family members will be completely locked out of these accounts. Where paper bills would once have come through the mail, followed by late notices, paperless bill pay would be sending these alerts to the email of the deceased with no one to be aware of it. A few weeks ago, we blogged about digital assets in the form of iTunes accounts or e-libraries, which are important details to include in the estate planning process. However, the ability to pay bills and ensure that beneficiaries are able to access all of the data they may need.

Collaboration can be a kinder, gentler property division path

When faced with the end of a marriage, it can be easy for Pennsylvania spouses to forget that the process is also a new beginning, one filled with possibilities and choices. Although ending a marriage is certainly challenging, the way that a couple chooses to handle their divorce can have lasting effects on their futures as individuals. Not only can a lengthy and expensive divorce leave both parties with larger legal bills, but the contention and bitterness that a heavily litigated divorce and tense fights over property division often bring can have emotional consequences as well.

Pennsylvania has laws specific to access to assets

If individuals die with limited assets, the state of Pennsylvania has laws specific to their estate situation in order to ease access to the estate for the family, rather than going through the process of raising an estate at the Office of Register of Wills. This can greatly ease the estate process for the families of deceased persons with small estates and specific assets who did not have a will.

High asset divorce of Dodger's owner headed back to court

Baseball fans in Pennsylvania and across the nation are likely aware of the high profile divorce that ended last year between Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie McCourt. The split was not only high profile, it was also a high asset divorce due to the couple's ownership of the team. After two years of court appearances, the divorce was finalized last year.

Living trusts, probate and the estate planning process

Probate court is a legal proceeding, supervised by a judge, in order to validate a will. A will does not necessarily avoid the probate process, though it can obviously ease the process. The court appoints an executor to handle the affairs of the deceased, and this person is responsible for the identification and inventory of the estate's property, paying the debts and taxes on the estate, handing the heirs, and transferring the property to the beneficiaries. This requires the executor to be a highly trustworthy and responsible individual.

Prenups can greatly aid in property division during divorce

Having a prenuptial agreement in place prior to tying the knot is a solid financial decision for many Pennsylvania couples. In many cases, the marriage will move forward and the couple will never have need of the document. However, if the union should end in divorce, a properly drafted prenup can greatly reduce contention over issues related to property division.

Estates and philanthropic donations

Sotheby's announced that an auction of the contents of Brooke Astor's two homes resulted in over $18.8 million. Astor is a noted philanthropist and was awarded the U.S.' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1998. Her husband, Vincent Astor, left her his fortune, and charged her to "use it where it would do the most to alleviate human misery."

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