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Divorce mediation is about you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse deciding your own divorce and what is best for the both of you and most importantly, for your children. In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, Ellie Tipton Ortiz, and with Ellie’s help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so the two of you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effective as possible. Ellie does this by assisting the divorcing couple in formulating ideas that can eventually lead to agreements.
Each case is different and has different factors and circumstances which call for and receive individual attention. A separate analysis of individual issues is made and they are handled accordingly. Complex cases involving custody, property, support, pension, and difficult parties, generally take more time. With cooperation of both parties, the Family Law matter can move forward to a reasonable and prompt resolution.
Once the Petition is served on the Respondent, the six (6) month clock commences to run for the obtaining of a final decree of dissolution. While many dissolutions take longer than six months to resolve, no final decree of dissolution can be entered sooner than the six month period, and will only be entered with a full settlement agreement or agreement to bifurcate the marriage status.
Yes, as long as your domestic partnership has been registered with the State of California.
A Summons and Petition will be prepared and filed with the superior court in the county where you or your spouse lives. You will have to pay a fee to the Court to file these papers.
There are several steps that may occur after you file. Disclosures will be filled out, an agreement (resolving dissolution without having to appear in court) will be drafted and reviewed and finalized in a mediation session. Final papers will be filed and judgement will be obtained.
You may have religious, insurance, tax or other reasons for wanting a legal separation instead of a dissolution. To file for divorce in California, you must have resided in California for a minimum of six months AND in the county you’re filing in for a minimum of three months. If you have recently moved to California and do not meet the above residency requirements, but you need to file paperwork now to obtain temporary orders for custody or support, your only option is to file for legal separation. If you obtain a legal separation, you and your spouse will remain married, but the court can divide the property and issue orders relating to child custody, visitation, child support and spousal support, and, if necessary, a restraining order. A legal separation requires a mutual agreement.
If you file for legal separation, then while the proceedings are still pending you decide you’d prefer a divorce, or if you did not meet the residency requirements before and now do, the process may be quite simple. You will use the same Judicial Council forms (Petition and Summons) that you used to file for legal separation, only this time you will need to mark each form “AMENDED” and, on the Petition, check the box for “Dissolution of Marriage”. Caveat – if the other party has filed his or her Response to your first Petition or you have already filed an amended Petition, you will need court approval to file a new amended Petition.
There is generally no additional filing fee with the court, but you should check the rules for your county before you go to the courthouse to file the forms. Once you’ve filed the amended forms with the court, your spouse must be served again by any adult other than yourself, just as before, and a Proof of Service of Summons must be completed and filed with the court.
Now for the exception…if you have already obtained a final Judgment of Legal Separation from the court and later decide that you would like a divorce, you cannot file amended paperwork as indicated above. You will need to start over with a new case.
The law does allow parents to make agreements that are different from the Child Support Guideline, provided that there are reasonable assurances that the children's needs will be met. Child Support can always be modified to Guideline.
Guideline support takes into account the incomes of each parent and the percentage of time that the parents spend with the children. Guideline Support does not take into account your budget. Parents generally follow the Guideline, but can also work together to find a different resolution.
Spousal support is the term for alimony in California. Spousal support is money that one spouse pays to help support the other after the filing of a dissolution.
To determine the amount of spousal support, there are many factors to consider. They include but are not limited to: the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, earning capacity and job histories of both individuals, and any other relevant factors.
A trust is a legal entity that can "own" assets. The document looks much like a will, and like a will, a trust includes instructions for whom you want to handle your final affairs and whom you want to receive your assets after you die. There are different kinds of trusts: irrevocable (usually cannot be changed) and revocable living trusts.
Today, many people use a revocable living trust instead of a will in their estate plan because it avoids court interference at death (probate) and at incapacity. It is also flexible. As long as you are alive and competent, you can change the trust document, add or remove assets, even cancel it.
The person who assumes control of the trust after the initial trustee dies or becomes unable to continue with his or her responsibilities. Once the successor trustee has assumed control, he or she is responsible to ensure that your property is distributed to your beneficiaries according to the trust terms. Ideally, a successor trustee will be someone you know and trust.
The person that manages trust property on the beneficiary's behalf. In most cases, the first trustee of a trust is the person who created it. You can name someone to act as a successor trustee after you are gone.
A person or company that receives benefits from a living trust. For example, if you leave a car to your son in your trust, he is a beneficiary of the trust. Your beneficiaries are entitled to their property only after your death
If you have been named as a trustee or successor trustee for someone’s trust, you may be wondering what you are supposed to do. Successor trustees can relax a bit, because you don’t do anything right now. You will only begin to act when the person becomes unable to manage his or her financial affairs due to incapacity, or when he or she dies.
For a living trust to work properly, you must transfer your assets into it. Titles must be changed from your “individual” name to the name of your trust. Because your name is no longer on the titles, there is no reason for the court to get involved if you become incapacitated or when you die. This makes it very easy for someone (a trustee or successor trustee) to step in and manage your financial affairs.
The most important thing to remember when you step in as trustee is that these are not your assets. You are safeguarding them for others: for the grantor (if living) and for the beneficiaries, who will receive them after the grantor dies.
As a trustee, you have certain responsibilities. For example:
You must follow the instructions in the trust document.
• You cannot mix trust assets with your own. You must keep separate checking accounts and investments.
• You cannot use trust assets for your own benefit (unless the trust authorizes it).
• You must treat trust beneficiaries the same; you cannot favor one over another (unless the trust says you can).
• Trust assets must be invested in a prudent (conservative) manner, in a way that will result in reasonable growth with minimum risk.
•You are responsible for keeping accurate records, filing tax returns and reporting to the beneficiaries as the trust requires.
Usually the trust document contains instructions for determining the grantor’s incapacity. The trust may require one or more doctors to certify the grantor is not physically or mentally able to handle his or her financial affairs.
If all assets have been transferred to the trust, you will be able to step in as trustee and manage the grantor’s financial affairs quickly and easily, with no court interference.
First, make sure the grantor is receiving quality care in a supportive environment. Give copies of health care documents (healthcare directive/power of attorney for healthcare) to the physician. If someone has been appointed to make health care decisions, make sure he or she has been notified. Offer to help notify the grantor’s employer, friends and relatives. Next, find and review the trust document. (Hopefully, you already know where it is.) Notify any co-trustees as soon as possible. Also, notify the company who prepared the trust document; they can be very helpful if you have questions. You may want to meet with an attorney to review the trust and your responsibilities.
You will want to become familiar with the grantor’s insurance (medical and long term care, if any) and understand the benefits and limitations. Assuming the insurance will cover a certain procedure or facility could be a costly mistake. Have the doctor(s) document the incapacity as required in the trust document. Banks and others may ask to see this and a certificate of trust before they let you transact business.
Become familiar with the finances. You need to know what the assets are, where they are located and their current values. You also need to know where the income comes from, how much it is and when it is paid, as well as regular ongoing expenses. You may need to put together a budget.
If you cannot readily find this information, others (family members, banker, employer, and/or accountant) may be able to help you. Last year’s tax returns may be helpful.
Apply for disability benefits through the grantor’s employer, social security, private insurance and veteran’s services. Notify the bank and other professionals that you are now the trustee for this person. Put together a team of professionals (legal service or attorney, accountant, banker, insurance and financial advisors) to help you. Be sure to consult with them before you sell any assets.
Now you can start to transact any necessary business. You can receive and deposit funds, pay bills and, in general, use the person’s assets to take care of him or her and any dependents until recovery or death. You’ll need to keep careful records of medical expenses and file claims promptly. Keep a ledger of income received and bills paid. An accountant can show you how to set up these records properly. The trust may require you to send an accounting to the beneficiaries. Also, don’t forget income taxes (due April 15) and property taxes.
You go back to being a co-trustee or successor trustee and the grantor resumes taking care of his or her own financial affairs. It’s very easy, and there is no court involvement.
You will have essentially the same duties as an executor named in a will would have. But if all titles and beneficiary designations have been changed to the grantor’s trust, the probate court will not be involved. That means you will be able to act on your schedule instead of the courts. The trustee is responsible for seeing that everything is done properly and in a timely manner. You may be able to do much of this yourself, but an attorney, corporate trustee and/or accountant can give you valuable guidance and assistance. Here’s an overview of what needs to be done:
Inform the family of your position and offer to assist with the funeral. Read the trust document and look for specific instructions. Notify a co-trustee as soon as possible.
Make an appointment with a legal service or attorney to go over the trust document, trust assets and your responsibilities as soon as possible. Do not sell or distribute any assets before you take a full inventory.
Before the meeting, make a preliminary list of the assets and their estimated values. You’ll need exact values later, but this will help the attorney know if an estate tax return will need to be filed (due no later than nine months after the grantor’s death). If there is a surviving spouse or if the trust has a tax planning provision, the attorney may need to do some tax planning right away. The trust may also need its own tax identification number.
Collect all death benefits (social security, life insurance, retirement plans, and associations) and put them in an interest bearing account until assets are distributed. If the surviving spouse or other beneficiary needs money to live on, you can probably make some partial distributions. But do not make any distributions until after you have determined there is enough money to pay all expenses, including taxes.
Notify the bank, brokerage firm and others of the grantor’s death and that you are now trustee. They will probably want to see a certified death certificate (order at least 12), a certificate of trust and your personal identification.
To finalize the list of assets, you will need exact values as of the date of the grantor’s death. Some assets will need to be appraised. An estate sale may need to be held to dispose of household goods and personal effects.
Keep careful records of final medical and funeral expenses, and file medical claims promptly. Keep a ledger of bills and income received. Contact an accountant and attorney to prepare final income and estate tax returns, if required. Verify and pay all bills and taxes. Make a final accounting of assets and bills paid, and give it to the beneficiaries.
If the assets are to be fully distributed, you will divide the cash and transfer titles according to the instructions in the trust. That’s it...you’re finished and the trust is dissolved.
If the assets are to stay in a trust (for minors, for a surviving spouse, for tax purposes or if the beneficiaries will receive their inheritances in installments), each trust will need a new tax identification number, and proper bookkeeping and reporting procedures will need to be established.
Yes, trustees are entitled to reasonable compensation for their services. The trust document should give guidelines.
Consider hiring a legal service or attorney, bookkeeper, accountant or corporate trustee to help you. (A corporate trustee can manage the investments and do the record keeping.) If you feel you cannot handle any of the responsibilities due to work, family demands or any other reason, you can resign and let the next successor trustee step in. If no other successor trustee has been named, or none is willing or able to serve, a corporate trustee can usually be named.
Each county assessor's office reviews all recorded deeds for that county to determine which properties require reappraisal under the law. The county assessors may also discover changes in ownership through other means, such as taxpayer self-reporting, field inspections, review of building permits and newspapers. Once the county assessor has determined that a change in ownership has occurred, Proposition 13 requires the county assessor to reassess the property to its current fair market value as of the date ownership changed. Since property taxes are based on the assessed value of a property at the time of acquisition, a current market value that is higher than the previously assessed Proposition 13 adjusted base year value will increase the property taxes. Conversely, if the current market value is lower than the previously assessed Proposition 13 adjusted base year value, then the property taxes on that property will decrease. Only that portion of the property that changes ownership, however, is subject to reappraisal. For example, if 50 percent of the property is transferred, the assessor will reassess only 50 percent of the property at its current fair market value as of the date of the transfer, and deduct 50 percent from any existing Proposition 13 base year value. In most cases, when a person buys a residence, the entire property undergoes a change in ownership and 100 percent of the property is reassessed to its current market value.
If a transfer of real property results in the transfer of the present interest and beneficial use of the property, the value of which is substantially equal to the value of the fee interest, then such transfer would constitute a change in ownership unless a statutory exclusion applies. While a transfer of real property may constitute a change in ownership, the legislature has created a number of exclusions so that some types of transfers are excluded, by law, from the definition of change in ownership. Thus, for these types of transfers, the real property will not be reappraised.
An exclusion occurs when the assessor does not reassess a property because the property or portions of the property are automatically excluded from reassessment or is eligible to be excluded if the owner properly files a claim. The following list covers most changes in ownership that are excluded from reassessment, either automatically or by claim; however, there may be other excludable qualifying transactions not listed here. Thus, you should contact your local assessor if you have a specific transaction that you would like to discuss.
No. Adding joint tenants does not result in reappraisal so long as you, as the original joint tenant, remain as one of the joint tenants. As a result of this exclusion, you become an "original transferor." Once you no longer have an interest in the property, at that time, the entire property would be reappraised. However, adding someone to title as tenants-in-common would cause a reappraisal, unless an exclusion applies.
C Corporations are subject to double taxation; that is, one tax at the corporate level on the corporation's net income, and another tax to the shareholders when the profits are distributed. S Corporations have only one level of taxation. All of their income is allocated to the shareholders.
However, C Corporations have greater tax planning flexibility and can shield shareholders from direct tax liability. C Corporations are not listed on your personal tax return. In addition, S Corporations are subject to limitations, such as the number of shareholders they can have.
Taxes are not due when the entity is formed, but there is an annual tax of $800 per year due to the Franchise Tax Board.
Reaching a decision to divorce is an extremely stressful time. During that time one is faced with the decision of legal counsel as well. Having selected Legal Assistance Center for divorce mediation was the best choice we made. All transactions ran smoothly and without failure from beginning to end. We left feeling well informed and confident in our decisions. I have since referred Ellie to several people and will use Ellie for all of my legal document needs.