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Don’t Be a Victim in Your Divorce: 5 Empowering Legal Tips

Often in divorce, one ex-spouse can become shellshocked by the process. Paralyzed by fear over family and financial woes, these former partners can cast themselves in the roles of victims. Writing for ABC News, Laura Mattia of the Baron Financial Group believes that women often become financial victims during divorce because of the way they relate to their spouses during marriage. But divorcing spouses can empower themselves when it comes to financial and family situations, rather than taking a sideline in their own divorces. For both women and men, take note of these five empowering legal tips and avoid becoming a victim in your divorce: 1. Be Proactive About Finances. Be proactive about your finances from the start of your marriage through your divorce -- for example, by using a prenuptial agreement. One of the many benefits of a prenup is the ability to delineate who owns what in a marriage and afterward. Even if you're already married, a postnup can accomplish many of the same financial planning goals. 2. Pay Attention to Tax Returns. If you're going through a divorce, do not hand off the responsibility for filing your tax return to your soon-to-be-ex spouse. You should try to communicate with your partner about which tax options are the most beneficial for both of you (if necessary, through your attorneys or a mediator). Doing this will help you avoid being blindsided when you learn that your spouse claimed all your kids as his dependents. 3. Consider Your Long-Term Security. Mattia cautions against relying too heavily on alimony, as it may leave a divorcee financially dependent on her ex. Craft a divorce settlement that covers you and your family's long-term plans (even your kid's college tuition) and that doesn't leave you praying for a spousal support check every month. 4. Stay Smart on Social Media. Don't bad-mouth your ex on social media. Just don't. Not only will it give your former spouse fodder for trashing you in court, but it won't do much for your self esteem either. Instead, consider a social media clause in your prenup or postnup. 5. Hire an Attorney. You know what's the most empowering feeling? Knowing the law is on your side. And you'll only know that for sure with an experienced divorce attorney's help. You don't have to be a victim in your divorce. Use the law to rise above. Related Resources: 5 Things a Divorce Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) A 'Happy' Divorce? 7 Ways to Make It Less Stressful (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Facebook, Social Media Use Linked to Divorce Rates: Study (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Have a Happy, Healthy... Divorce? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Should You Scrap Your Will and Start Over?

When is it wise to scrap your will and start over? As you know, a will reflects a person's wishes for how his or her estate will be handled after death. But because many unforeseen events can happen after a person writes a will, in some situations it may be best to revoke an old will and draft a new one. Here are some general guidelines to consider: Why Start Over? There are several reasons you may want to scrap your old will and start over. Most of them relate to substantial life changes. A few common situations include: A change in marital status. After getting married, both spouses may want to consider drafting new wills. When a spouse is added to your will, it could change what's left to your other beneficiaries, so you may want to divvy up your assets in a different way. Similarly, getting divorced can also trigger a need to revisit your will, as some states don't automatically revoke gifts left to an ex-spouse upon divorce. A change in financial circumstances. If your business or investment has grown exponentially over the years since you first created a will, you may want to consider throwing out the old one and creating a new will to reflect your finances. The same idea could apply if you recently purchased or sold a home, or if you were lucky enough to have won the lottery (though, in that case, you may want to set up a lottery trust). Becoming a parent or stepparent. New members of the family can also change your estate plans. After a child is born or adopted, you may want to include the appointment of a guardian in case anything happens to you. It may also be wise to explicitly mention stepchildren in your will, as some states don't allow stepchildren to automatically inherit a stepparent's property after death. Revoking a Will In order for a new will to be effective, you must revoke your old will. State statutes dictate how wills can be properly revoked. One of the most common ways is to simply rip it to shreds. In some states, including a clause in the new will that scraps the old will may be enough; in other states, a new version of a will that contradicts the intentions of an older will may be sufficient to revoke it by operation of law. However, if an older will is improperly destroyed, a court may continue to act as if the old will is still in effect. For more guidance about how and when to update your will, head to our lawyer directory to find an attorney experienced in drafting wills near you. Related Resources: Checklist: Reasons to Update Your Will & Estate Planning Documents (FindLaw) 5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Paul Walker's Will, Trust Offer Estate-Planning Lessons (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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