10 critical pieces of paperwork you need to file divorce

10 critical pieces of paperwork you need to file divorce

10 critical pieces of paperwork you need to file divorce

A lot of divorce clients ask me, what documents do I need to get together? Here is a list of some of the most important documents you will need:

  1. Complete income tax returns, W2s, and other like documents for the last 3 years.
  2.  Year-to-date income information (such as pay stubs) for yourself and your spouse.
  3. Statements for banking and other financial accounts for the past 12 months.
  4. Statements for credit cards and other debts for the past 12 months.
  5.  If you have children, copies of the monthly out-of-pocket cost of health insurance and the number of people covered on the plan. If you have employer-provided health insurance, this may be on your pay stub.
  6. If you have children, copies of any work-related daycare expense.
  7. Deeds, appraisals, mortgages, or other like documents for all real estate.
  8. Your will and your spouse’s will.
  9. Life insurance policies for you and your spouse.
  10. Certificates of title or other ownership documents regarding any cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs, or any type of titled vehicle.

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Many people are unfamiliar with the legal distinctions between powers of attorney, health care directives, and guardianships/conservatorships.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving authority to another person to act for you in either specified or all legal and financial matters. The person giving power of attorney must presently have the capacity to do so. That is, they must understand what they are doing and be able to make important decisions. If you are concerned that you may become incapacitated for health or another reason (for example, unavailable due to being out of the country), it is a good idea to give power of attorney to someone that you trust. Note: This person will have the authority to conduct legal or financial transactions as if they are you, with no further notice to or permission from you, so be very careful when granting someone your power of attorney.

Health Care Directive

A Health Care Directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, or medical directive is a legal document specifying what actions should be taken for a person’s health if they no longer can make decisions for themselves due to illness or incapacity. In your health care directive, you make decisions about whether you would want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated, or whether to allow other treatment which would keep you alive but which could not cure you. You can also designate someone to make those decisions for you if you are unable to do so.


A Guardianship or Conservatorship is granted only in instances in which an individual is already mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot take care of himself or manage his affairs. There must be medical evidence in support of same presented for the Court to order a Guardianship or Conservatorship. A Guardianship applies to matters affecting the person, and Conservatorship strictly applies to their assets and financial affairs.

Please contact Herlihy Family Law if we can assist you or your family with a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, or Guardianship/Conservatorship.

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

Divorce and the sale of your home often go hand in hand. Below are some tips from Carolyn Hasser, a local Realtor with Roberts Brothers.

Getting your home ready to sell

If you’re thinking of selling, here are a few tips to help you get top dollar for your home!

1. Spruce up your yard – plant a few flowers, hang a couple of ferns on the front porch, trim your shrubs back so that your windows can be seen, pull vines away from the house or eliminate them completely, edge, replace missing grass, and pick up toys. Curb appeal beckons your buyer to come inside, and if the outside doesn’t look neat and well kept, no one will want to go inside!

2. Declutter – Take personal pictures and put them away – buyers want to imagine their pictures and belongings in the house, and too many personal items like collectibles and pictures are distracting. Even too much furniture can keep the home from looking spacious. In the kitchen, remove as much as you can off the countertops. Either pack it away or put it into a cabinet. And don’t forget the garage! You’ll be moving anyway, so pack up as much as you can and store it. It may help to hire a professional stager to give his/her opinion and help you rearrange. Your realtor should be able to help you as well, or ask a friend whose taste you appreciate to be honest with you.

3. Clean out your closets – Space is a big seller, and if there are out of season clothes you don’t need at the moment, pack them away under beds or take them somewhere to be stored.

4. Keep rooms clean and neat – Sometimes a buyer will want to see your house at a moment’s notice – and you don’t want to pass that up, so keep everything in its place. If you have children (or a messy spouse!) just grab everything and put it in a container if you need to show quickly. Clean windows and bathrooms and make your kitchen sparkle.

5. Take Fido with you – or at least kennel him. You wouldn’t believe how many people are terrified of dogs. And if he does his business in the yard scoop it up!

6. List with a realtor – I know, it sounds self serving, but the fact of the matter is that realtors are the oldest profession in our country (well – maybe the SECOND oldest), and with good reason: a realtor can almost always sell your home faster, and for more money, than you can. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), over 78% of those who list a home for sale themselves either (a) give up, or (b) list with a realtor. Realtors have already prequalified buyers, so you don’t waste your time showing your home to someone who can’t afford it. And, realtors are trained to negotiate and can keep the “emotions” out of it.

You may reach Carolyn Hasser at 661-4660 or CarolynHasser@RobertsBrothers.com.

End of Year and New Year: Top 10 Things to Do Now

End of Year and New Year: Top 10 Things to Do Now

A lot of us resolve to get more organized for the New Year. Below is a great article I found on lawyers.com with helpful tips on getting your legal and financial business in order for the new year. I especially like the tips at number 3 through 5, as I have found that many of my clients over the years are unfamiliar with household finances, as they have allowed that to be their spouse’s primary responsibility.

Everyone’s busy all year long. There’s work, school, and kids’ sports. Tack on summer vacation and the holidays at the end of the year, and you have even more to do. It’s easy to forget about taking care of some things that really need to be done each year. Taking some time to do them now can save you and your family time and headaches later.

1. Review and Update Your Will

You should look over your will each year to make sure it’s up-to-date. The laws don’t automatically add people to your will or automatically remove them, either. Did you get married this year? Divorced? Did you have a baby or adopt? Are your children now young adults? Your will needs to be updated for these and other life events.

While you’re at it, check your powers of attorney, too. Make sure the person you’ve named to take care of your affairs (your “attorney in fact”) is still willing and able to do so. If not, you need to make a new power of attorney.

Don’t have a will or any other estate planning tools? Get them. You can find everything you need at Lawyers.com. Whether you’re married or single, a good place to start is a planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns, talk to an attorney.

And don’t forget about your digital assets, like online bank accounts and passwords to social media and other websites. Make a list of them and keep them in a safe or safety deposit box with your other important papers.

2. Insurance

There are all kinds of insurance matters to take care of:

  • Homeowner’s and Renter’s insurance: Did you make any improvements to your home, like remodel a kitchen or finish your basement? Did you buy a new TV? Check to make sure that your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers them.
  • Car insurance: In most states, it’s illegal to drive without auto insurance. You don’t want to be overinsured, though. You can save a few dollars over the year by reducing your coverage on an older car or one that’s been paid off. You can also save some money by increasing the amount of your deductible – the amount you have to pay when you make a claim against your policy.
  • Life and health insurance. Do you have enough life insurance to take care of your family in case something happens to you? Talk to your insurance agent about your new baby or a change in your marital status. The same thing goes for health insurance. Talk to your human resources professional at work or your agent about changing your coverage.

3. Start Getting Ready for the IRS

It’s never too early to start gathering receipts and other documents for next year’s taxes. Most employers send out W-2’s or “earnings statements” before Jan. 31, so if you’re ready before then, you can file fast and get your refund early.

Preparation is crucial especially if you itemize deductions, such as out-of-pocket medical expenses, mortgage interest and expenses related to your child’s college education. You’ll want to gather your paid medical bills, billing statements from schools, prescription receipts and receipts for cash donations you made to your church or favorite charities.

4. Credit Reports

Each year you’re entitled to one free report from each of the major reporting companies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Get and read them carefully. Any errors, like credit accounts that you didn’t open, should be reported to the agency in writing. The agency will investigate the matter, usually within 30 days, and will let you know how the matter was resolved.

With identity theft so common today, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the free credit reports each and every year.

5. Credit Cards

Check the terms of your credit cards. Rearrange your budget and try to pay off your cards in full. At the very least, shop around for a credit card with a lower rate and see if you can transfer the balance to the new card. This could save you thousands of dollars in interest.

6. Licenses, Permits and Leases

Practically all of these important documents have expiration dates. Here are few to keep in mind:

  • Driver’s license. These usually expire every few years on your birthday, so check the date on yours. Driving with an expired license may lead to points against your license and higher insurance rates
    Business license and permits. Many professions and trades require you to have a license. Attorneys, electricians and plumbers usually need one. Bars and restaurants typically need a permit to sell liquor or sell food. Check the expiration date. Don’t practice your trade or profession on an expired license. You may have to pay fine, and you may even be barred from practicing for a period of time
  • Leases. As the expiration date on your home or apartment lease nears, contact your landlord to see if a rent increase is planned for the next lease term and try to negotiate. As a car renter, you should check the mileage to see if you’re in danger of going over the number of miles given by the lease. Consider asking the dealer to sell you extra miles, or perhaps take an early trade-in if you’re near the limit

7. In the US on a Visa?

Be certain to check the expiration date on your visa if you’re in the US temporarily. Start the renewal process early because it could take some time. You may be deported for being in the US after your visa expires, and you may not be able to return to the US for a period of time. Contact the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office if you have any questions.

8. Computer Security

It’s always a good idea to keep your computer’s security settings and software up-to-date. Shopping online, using a software program to prepare your taxes and online banking makes your computer a treasure trove of valuable information. Be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to your personal information and identity theft. Once the hackers or scammers have your information, it’s too late.

Learn how to protect yourself from viruses, phishing attacks, scams and even exposing you and your family to legal risks from participating in social networking.

9. What about the Kids?

New technologies come out every day it seems, like smarter, faster computers, hand-held devices and cell phones, to name a few. You may or may not pay much attention to these things, but your children almost certainly do. If any of these items are on a gift list, start looking into security and protection for their computer and cell-phone usage.

And if you don’t already do so, maybe it’s time to monitor your kids’ computer and cell phone activities. Don’t think of it as an invasion of privacy. Rather, think of it as protecting them from the bad things that you know are out there.

10. Get a Check-Up on Your Health & Records

It’s a good idea to see your family doctor at least once a year for a regular check-up. While you’re at it, take care of some other health-related matters, such as getting a copy of your medical records, asking your doctor about how your electronic medical records are kept safe and making sure your living will and health care power of attorney are in order.

How Do You Determine Your Filing Status for Income Taxes?

How Do You Determine Your Filing Status for Income Taxes?

By: Brandi Morgan, CPA

It is very important to select the correct filing status as this will impact the amount of your standard deduction and your tax rate. You may fall into more than one category, so you should choose the one the produces the lowest overall tax. An individual may be single, a surviving spouse, head of the household, married filing jointly, or married filing separately. Filing status is determined on the last day of the tax year.

The basis standard deduction amounts for 2016 are:

  • Single 4,050
  • Married filing jointly and surviving spouses 12,600
  • Married filing separately 6,300
  • Head of Household 9,300

You are considered single for the whole year if on the last day of the tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance agreement. You are considered unmarried if you and your spouse did not live in the same household for the last six months of the tax year. If your home was the main home for a qualifying child or relative and you provided more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year, you are eligible to file as head of household instead of single which provides a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates.

A single taxpayer qualifies as a surviving spouse during the two years following the death of a spouse if the household is maintained for a dependent child and you do not remarry. Tax brackets for surviving spouses are more favorable than filing single.

Married individuals may opt to file jointly or separately even if only one spouse had income. In most situations, it is advantageous to file a joint return due to higher deductions and lower tax rates; however, there are special circumstances where filing separately produces a lower tax bill. It is advisable to calculate your tax both ways and use the filing status that yields the lowest aggregate tax. Considerations other than tax savings should also be considered. If you believe your spouse is not reporting all of his or her income or you do not want to be held responsible for any taxes due because your spouse did not have enough tax withheld or pay enough estimated tax, filing separately may be ideal.

If you are unsure which status applies to your situation, consult your tax advisor.

Brandi Morgan is a CPA and Manager at Wilkins, Miller, Hieronymus LLC, Certified Public Accountants and Advisors. She can be reached at wilkinsmiller.com or 251-410-6700. Her office is located at 41 West Interstate 65 Service Road North, Suite 400, Mobile, Alabama 36608.

Divorce and the Family Business

Divorce and the Family Business

Divorce and the Family Business: What happens to the Family Business when you get divorced?

The business you and your spouse co-founded and run together is thriving. Your marriage? That’s another matter. Many people put off filing in situations like this because they fear that it will soon mean the end of the company. It does not have to be that way, especially if your lawyer is sensitive to the fact that the two still need to cooperate and that it will take a quite careful approach in figuring out severing some financial ties, but also having to keep the business alive.

A Census Bureau estimate from 2007 found that nearly 4 million businesses in the U.S. are operated by husband and wife. With a 50% divorce rate, divorce clearly affects a lot of small businesses. Overall, there is no question that it can be a very difficult situation involving two people. Though it may initially seem like a battle, it can work if you work together. Research says that it all depends on the individual couple, but also how the company runs and the skills of your divorce attorneys.

Some things to keep in mind:

Respect each other- this can be hard, especially if the reasons for the split were particularly painful. In some cases, if there isn’t any trust left between the two then there isn’t any respect, and it is probably be best to cut off communication.

Know when to get help- Unlike a lot of separated couples, the ones that operate a business together have to see each other a lot, even after the divorce is finalized.

Create agreement-This is a very important legal step that many couples haven’t though out when they found the business together. The agreement explains what will occur in the event someone wants to sell.

Sit down and discuss the situation with your employees- They will know what is happening, and what you don’t want to happen is for them to choose whose side to be on. Choosing sides can always slow the process down so its always in each party’s best interest to try to get along.