Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Monday, August 22, 2016

Things to Consider When Picking an Executor

The role of an executor is to effectuate a deceased person’s wishes as declared in a will after he or she has passed on. The executor’s responsibilities include the distribution of assets according to the will, the maintenance of assets until the will is settled, and the paying of estate bills and debts. An old joke says that you should choose an enemy to perform the task because it is such a thankless job, even though the executor may take a percentage of the estate’s assets as a fee. The following issues should be considered when choosing an executor for one's estate.

Competency: The executor of an estate will be going through financial and legal documents and transferring documents from the testator to the beneficiaries. If there are legal proceedings, the executor must make all necessary court appearances. There is no requirement that a testator have any financial or legal training, but familiarity with these areas does avoid the intimidation felt by lay people, and potentially saves money on professional fees.

Trustworthiness: The signature of an executor is equivalent to that of the testator of an estate. The executor has full control over all of an estate’s assets. He or she will be required to go through all of the papers of the deceased to confirm what assets are available to be distributed. The temptation to transfer assets into the executor's own name always exists, particularly when there is a large estate. It is important to choose a person with integrity who will resist this temptation. It makes sense to utilize an individual who is an heir to fill the role to alleviate this concern.

Availability: The work of collecting rents, maintaining property, and paying debts can take more than a few hours a week. Selecting an executor with significant obligations to work or family may cause problems if he or she does not have the time available to devote to the task. If an executor must travel great distances to address issues that arise, there will be more of a time commitment necessary, not to mention greater expenses for the estate.

Family dynamics: Selection of the wrong person to act as executor can create resentment and hostility among an estate’s heirs. A testator should be aware of how family members interact with one another and avoid picking someone who may provoke conflict. Even the perception of impropriety can lead to a lawsuit, which will serve to take money out of the estate’s coffers and delay the legitimate distribution of the estate. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Domestic Violence & Protection From Abuse in Alabama

Domestic violence is an act that, like skipping stones into a pond, leaves ripples in its wake. Regrettably, what's left behind isn't just a puddle of water; it leaves damage ranging from emotional turmoil, to physical and emotional scarring that takes years to heal, and it creates legal problems. In the case of parents, domestic violence can affect who is awarded custody.  Like the emotional turmoil and legal problems mentioned above, the ripples of domestic violence into family law, child custody, and visitation determinations is widespread and deeper than many realize.

One of the most common misconceptions about Domestic Violence is that victims often believe that because they weren’t physically struck or wounded, the issue at hand is simply a “disagreement” and not abuse.

Read more . . .

Monday, June 6, 2016


While talks pertaining to divorce, death, and/or estate planning are hardly welcome ones in a loving and committed marriage or partnership, couples must realize that frank and honest discussions about divisions of property and assets are an absolute necessity.  This is doubly true and important when couples may have children from prior marriages or hold significant assets, especially assets attained prior to the partnership or marriage.  There is also now added complexity for same sex couples in Alabama as a result of last year’s Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling in Obergefell v.
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Estate Planning

Estate planning is designed to fulfill the wishes of a person after his or her death. Problems can easily arise, however, if the estate plan contains unanswered questions that can no longer be resolved after the person's demise. This can, and frequently does, lead to costly litigation counter-productive to the goals of the estate. It is important that a Will and Trust be written in language that is clear and that the document has been well proofread because something as simple as a misplaced comma can significantly alter its meaning.

Planning for every possible contingency is a significant part of estate planning.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to Fully Fund a Trust

What does funding the trust mean in estate planning?

While part of a comprehensive estate plan includes putting a will in place, it only becomes effective after it has been probated in court, a process that can take several months or longer. In order to avoid the expense and delays associated with these proceedings, many individuals can benefit from establishing a revocable living trust.  

A living trust is a legal document that names a trustee (usually the person making the trust), lists the property owned by the trust, and specifies how property is to be distributed by the successor trustee.

Read more . . .

Monday, May 2, 2016

Why it is Crucial to Review Beneficiary Designations

As you are likely aware, there are several assets in your portfolio that will be disposed of according to the beneficiary designations on the account. While this is a simple and convenient way to transfer funds from one generation to the next, it is not without risk -- especially if an estate plan is contradictory to the terms of the designation.

It is vital to regularly review any assets with such beneficiary designations, including any assets that are set to transfer via a contractual agreement. Oftentimes, people create these accounts and name beneficiaries, only to leave the same person on the account for the next several decades. In the event of a remarriage -- or the beneficiary predeceases the account holder -- this could create a dicey situation for the estate administrator.
Read more . . .

Friday, April 15, 2016


Imagine the following scenarios, all of which happen with more regularity than the public might think:

  1. Husband and wife have been married for nine (9) years, with three (3) small children – seven, five, and two years of age respectively.Husband is diagnosed with cancer, and due to a flagrant and negligent failure to diagnose, the cancer spreads resulting in lengthy chemotherapy and radiation treatments, surgery, and additional treatments.During the treatment, Husband was unable to work or help care for the family, while Wife attempted to hold down her job and care for Husband and the children.An attorney was contacted regarding a possible medical malpractice case, and suit was filed over the misread imaging results.Claims included not only damages for the Husband, but claims for loss of consortium for the Wife (i.
    Read more . . .

Friday, April 1, 2016

Losers & Losers - Can't We All Just get Along

On the heels of our last post comparing and contrasting a scorched earth versus collaborative divorce approach, we now take a look at a prime example of the former scenario.  In an outspoken cry for sanity and reasonableness, an Ontario Superior Court Justice, Alex Pazratz, recently issued an order calling into question the litigious process of child custody disputes.

Read more . . .

Friday, March 11, 2016

Divorce & Child Custody: It Doesn't Have to be Scored Earth

Adversarial and litigious divorces can be extended and prolonged psychological and financial battles.  Depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, guilt and shame are all too common.  However, a growing trend in divorce practice, and especially here in Alabama, approaches a divorce proceeding in a rational, civil and ultimately, mutually beneficial manner for both parties – Collaborative Divorce.

Read more . . .

Friday, March 4, 2016

Forgery & Identity Theft Between (Ex-) Spouses

Signing your spouse’s name, filling in their date of birth and listing Social Security numbers happens all the time in many marriages.  Checking accounts, forms for schools/jobs/home/etc. and a host of other opportunities arise when necessity or convenience demands signing “Jill Jones” rather than “Steve” or vice-a-versa.  More often than not, these instances are inconsequential and are consensual between the spouses.  But what happens when your spouse or your ex-spouse uses your name, your social security number or your date of birth without your knowledge and without consent?

Read more . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Social Media: Blessing or Curse To Your Domestic Case?

Take a moment and remember back to the times when Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Vimeo, Tumblr or Snapchat did not exist.  Depending on your age (and perhaps addiction level to social media), you had one of two reactions: (1) a sense of freedom and peace which washed over you or (2) pure panic as you realized you would never know what your friend’s boyfriend’s cousin had for dinner last night!  Regardless of which camp you were in, the fact is that society, relationships and communication are heavily driven in today’s world by social media.

Billions of people connect all over the world every day via social media platforms, the largest of which are Twitter and Facebook.  You can celebrate the mountaintop experiences of your life and of those you know and love (and even those you don’t know at all) or share the rough patch through which you are struggling.  Perhaps one of the most common aspects of social media communication is the ability to post your feelings, both good and bad, about individuals, groups or business and organizations.  Bad experience at the grocery?  Post about it and make sure your neighbors know.  Just had the best meal ever while visiting New Orleans?  Post about it and recommend it to every contact you have.  With Twitter, post and tag (via hashtags) the business, restaurant or company and often times you’ll get a direct response.  That’s pretty amazing considering some of these organizations are multi-country conglomerates.

Read more . . .

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