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Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

If you’re interested in modifying the child custody arrangement that you have with your ex, the key is to focus on your child’s best interests when you ask for the change.

The court does not want to change an existing custody order for frivolous reasons. For instance, perhaps you feel angry that your ex has started dating someone new. You decide to seek full custody of your child simply as a way of getting back at your ex for this new romantic relationship.

That’s not a reason the court will respect. The court always puts the child’s interests first when determining custody. The child’s well-being and way of life cannot get interrupted simply because of something a parent wants.

However, there are valid reasons to seek a modification –and times that your wants will align with your child’s needs. For example, maybe your ex’s new partner has a criminal history and you fear for your child’s safety and well-being when they’re together. Perhaps your ex has been ignoring the child custody schedule that you have now due to influence from this new partner, and you want to seek full custody so that you can stop dealing with these violations. You and your child would both benefit from a change in custody orders.

When asking for a custody modifications, you have to think about how the changes will impact the child’s life. If the changes will somehow serve to keep the child safe, provide a better living situation or give the child more opportunities in life, that’s a good reason to request a modification of your custody agreement.

This can become a complex and contentious issue. Even when you have a valid reason, your ex may oppose the action strongly. You need to know all the legal options you have and how to officially (and effectively) ask the court to order the custody modification in order to be successful.

When dividing an estate, it is often easiest for children to simply auction off minor assets and possessions that they do not need and that no one really wants. They can then split the money up evenly and ensure that everyone actually gets the same value out of those assets.

However, one major issue is that the true “value” of an item cannot always be determined at auction or by an appraiser. If the object in question has some sentimental value to any member of the family, then the value of that item could be far above the price it would ever fetch on the open market. Additionally, heirs may be hesitant to sell sentimental items, making it impossible to divide that value between multiple children.

For instance, perhaps the parents had a set of dishes that they used at Christmas every year. They originally purchased these dishes second-hand, so they were not even worth much at the time of purchase. They’re worth even less now. They’re not collectibles and the whole set may bring in $100 at most.

However, the heirs have a lot of warm childhood memories of eating holiday meals off of those dishes. They’re worth far more than $100, to them, and all the children may want them even more than they want other high-value assets. Those memories change the way they approach the set, making it hard to divide and increasing the odds of arguments and disputes.

Are you facing these types of complications while dividing an estate? A dispute can become a long, complex process, so you need to make sure you know all of your rights.

You maybe have heard about probate before. Oftentimes the term holds negative connotations. Many people want to avoid this process, but don’t fully know why. These bring up various questions, and it’s important to learn more about it early on. In doing so, you will know whether it’s necessary or not.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process in which the court distributes your assets after you pass away. When someone doesn’t have a will, all their assets fall under the control of state law. The state then determines who receives your assets. In addition, they consider any debts.

While the California probate process is a valid last option, some individuals and families want to avoid it altogether. There are a few reasons why, which includes:

  • Probate is expensive. Since probate happens in court,your loved ones will most likely need an attorney. In addition, the procedure is directed by an executor, who also receives fees that are pulled from your assets. Court fees, appraisal fees and all other expenses could result in thousands of dollars, which could have gone to your heirs instead.
  • Probate is time-consuming. Anything that happens within court takes time. The probate procedure involves filling out documents and forms under court supervision. Moreover, transferring property to your heirs can take anywhere from six months to 2 years.
  • Probate is court-controlled. Rather than you or your loved ones making important decisions, a judge determines how your assets are distributed. They decide which heirs your estate will go to just by browsing some documents.

How do you avoid probate?

Most people own both probate and non-probate assets. It’s possible that probate assets need to be transferred in court. Aside from that, there are still ways to ensure a majority of your assets avoid probate court, such as:

  • Living trusts: A living trust protects various assets from probate, like real estate, bank accounts and vehicles. Similar to a will, you will name someone as a successor trustee, and then transfer ownership to yourself as an additional trustee. When you die, your successor trustee will then transfer those assets to your predetermined heirs.
  • Joint ownership: In California, spouses may opt for either a joint tenancy or right of survivorship. These are both forms of joint ownership in which if one spouse passes, the surviving spouse inherits those assets. This option requires some extra paperwork, and include other aspects of estate planning. Since California is a community property state, additional steps are needed if you want to keep property separate.

Every individual and family has unique estate planning needs. Sometimes the probate process works for people, while others want more control of their assets. It’s important to explore different options when dealing with your financial future.