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College Station Family & Estate Law Blog

Tackling the tricky topic of a prenuptial agreement

Broaching the subject of a prenuptial agreement is seldom easy. You are probably already imagining the emotional response you may get from your intended, and you may even fear your request for a prenuptial agreement may jeopardize your relationship and cause your beloved to reconsider the whole idea of marrying you.

The way you approach the subject of signing a prenuptial agreement may make a difference in the way your intended receives it. While you certainly want to be straightforward and honest about your request, you also don't want to dive right in with a harsh demand for a prenup. When, where and how you start the conversation can be important to its outcome.

Expending your resources wisely

At the Law Office of Randy Michel, we believe in finding the best possible resolution for divorces that is available under Texas law. Sometimes, that means that our clients avoid divorce court almost entirely. In fact, we often recommend that our clients explore all other alternatives before going forward with a trial. There are various financial benefits to this strategy, but perhaps the most important is that we are better empowered to preserve the resources that our clients intend to divide in their divorce contract. 

As you are probably aware, divorces require a certain financial commitment. Mediated divorces— as opposed to litigated divorce— allow us to conserve our clients' resources in two ways. Firstly, we are generally able to complete the process within a shorter timeframe when compared to a courtroom divorce. This leads to lower incidental expenses for our clients and for our office. Secondly, the absence of trial fees tends to represent a significant savings on the part of our clients.

Who needs a will?

Nobody likes to think about the end of their life, but it is something you have to think about. If you were to die today are your final wishes in a legal document? If not, the state of Texas will step in and make decisions for you. One option you have to ensure that does not happen is to create a will. You may wonder, though, if you really need a will.

According to Forbes, most people need a will. This document can be part of your estate plan or stand alone. Even if you do not have a lot of assets, having a will just ensures whatever you do have is allocated the way you want. In addition, if you have children, you certainly need a will. 

Is Texas a no fault divorce state?

If you are a Texas resident contemplating divorce, you may be wondering if Texas is a no fault state where you do not need to allege fault on the part of your spouse in order to get a divorce. On the surface, the answer is yes. But as FindLaw explains, under the Texas Family Code, your no fault divorce petition must say that “insupportability” is the reason why you are seeking a divorce.

Per the Texas Family Code, insupportability is defined as an unsupportable marriage due to a “discord or conflict of personalities” that destroys its legitimate ends. This discord puts you and your spouse in the situation where there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Do your kids have to move just because you're getting divorced?

As a college professor or other educator, you may hear many stories from your colleagues and students that describe challenging familial situations. In fact, you may know several people who have recently divorced or have students whose parents are currently going through serious marital problems. Although you never imagined you would have firsthand experience regarding the topic, you're also a realist who understands that life doesn't always play out the way you plan or expect. Once you decided to divorce, you may have immediately began to focus on your children.

You know your divorce will definitely impact your children's lives; however, you determine to help them fare as well as possible as they adapt to new lifestyles. One of your main, initial concerns was how they'd react to having to move to a new home, especially if it might also mean attending a new school or moving to an entirely different geographical location. That's when one of your co-professors mentioned bird-nesting; your curiosity piqued and you were eager to learn more.

Do I have alternatives to litigation for divorce?

Disputes between spouses seeking a divorce do not always have to end up in a Texas courtroom. Methods exist for separating couples to resolve their disagreements that do not involve the intervention of a judge. Cornell University describes three available alternatives to a divorce trial.

First, the two parties can attempt to resolve their issues through negotiation. Generally, parties will attempt negotiation first to head off a formal proceeding. Negotiation permits both parties to try to mutually resolve their disagreements. The main benefit of negotiation is that the two spouses have full control over the process and do not have decisions dictated to them by an outside party. Solutions can be fully controlled by the parties involved.

What types of guardianship reform are there?

You may have encountered a person in Texas who has a court-appointed guardian and wondered how this relationship was established and how it is monitored. That is a very reasonable thing to want to know about especially with so many sad stories about people in guardianship positions essentially robbing those whom they are supposed to provide care and oversight to. This problem is why so many people have and continue to call for reform of guardianship laws.

There are multiple ways that guardianships may be able to be improved as reform efforts could focus on different aspects of the guardianship process, role or relationship. Guardians are appointed by the state and Texas, like other states, has its own set of laws on this matter. As explained by the National Guardianship Network, one area worth reviewing is how a particular guardian is identified and even how the request for guardianship is reviewed and approved.

Probate is not always a bad thing

Many people in Texas who hear about wills or estates going through the probate process after a person dies automatically assign a negative connotation to this. However, probate is not always a bad thing and may even work in people's favor in some circumstances. Understanding probate and its potential pros and cons is important before making a final decision about an estate plan.

One thing that Forbes indicates people should understand is that many types of assets do not need to go through a probate process. Inheritances based upon being a named beneficiary on someone's life insurance policy, 401K account plan or other financial asset are outside the scope of probate. Therefore, if these types of assets represent a large or even all of a person's estate, worrying about avoiding probate should not be a concern.

Ex-wife of former NFL player sues to recover alimony

Many in College Station might assume that when they choose to divorce, the awarding of alimony is automatic. Yet that is not always the case. The court considers a number of factors when deciding whether to award one alimony, such as the duration of the marriage, the role each spouse played in supporting it, and the ability each has to return to enjoying the same standard of living they did while married. In cases where spousal maintenance is awarded, the court may further decide to only require it indefinitely (until the one receiving it dies or remarries) or over a predetermined period of time. 

The court may also decide to award a lump-sum alimony payment, which it did in the case of a former NFL football player and his ex-wife. When their proceedings were settled in Florida, the player was required to pay her a one-time spousal maintenance payment of $8.67 million (in addition to the $4,000 in child support he pays for the couple's three children). Yet in a recent lawsuit, the ex-wife claimed that he still owed her close to $3.4 million in alimony. This very public action seemed to contrast the original intent of the couple, as they had come to their original agreement in private. Yet this time around, her attorney's stated an intent to subpoena his financial records to show that he did indeed have the money to pay here. The pair eventually settled their dispute out of court. 

Gifting money to non-direct descendants

When it comes time to make a will or a trust or engage in other forms of estate planning, Texas residents who do not have children may face unique choices that require careful consideration. Some people in this situation may opt to donate money or other assets to one or more charities. Others might decide that leaving their estate and valued possessions to family members even if they are not direct descendants is important.

As U.S. News and World Report Money indicates, it can be important to review the implications of leaving money to relatives such as nieces or nephews especially if only some of these relatives will end up receiving a part of your estate. One thing to review is your reason for choosing to name a particular person as an heir in your estate plan. If you have a nephew with special needs, providing for him may be logical and easily understandable by others who do not receive anything from your estate. If your choice is simply a matter of preferring some people over others, keep in mind the ramifications for that person after you die.

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College Station, TX 77840

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