In todays world and high divorce rate, men and women should be aware of some legal issues to protect not only themselves, but also their children and any assets you may have. I will explain some of the biggest legal mistakes people overlook. Its much easier to prevent problems than to fight to fix them later.
Prenuptial Agreement. I know the words scare everyone. But what is it? Simply put, a prenuptial agreement is when a couple (before they marry) decides how to divide property if they divorce or one of them dies. Usually there is information in there about having a will that carries out the intent of the prenuptial agreement and waiving rights given by law, to stay in accordance with the prenuptial. Most agreements are upheld if both parties provide full disclosure of their assets and liabilities. Have both parties been represented or had the opportunity to be represented by independent legal counsel? Did both parties enter in voluntarily and of free will? Poor old Marla Maples. She didnt get much from her divorce, right?
Keep your property separate. I dont mean just your house or other property. I mean stocks, checking accounts and the like. Most people get burned when they commingle finances together. If you have a separate account, keep it separate. If you need to move money, move an amount equal to your paycheck so if things go south, it will be easier to prove you were just putting your paycheck into the joint account instead of any of your original asset money. Otherwise you have to prove what portion of the money was yours prior to it being commingled together. Its almost impossible to do.
If your spouse has a business, you should know what it is and what they are doing in the business. If an unfortunate event occurred, could you take over their business without befalling tough financial times yourself? Would you have to take what little life insurance you had from your spouse and pay off bills from the business? How tragic and vulnerable you can be when you are grieving for a loved one. Plan ahead. Know whats going on.
Purchase life insurance. I know its like throwing money down the drain. But not really. If something happens to your spouse, then it wasnt wasted. Id rather waste the money and have piece of mind. What about disability insurance? Could you survive if your spouse became disabled and was unable to manage their business or job?
Know what you own. Review bank statements and keep a list of your bank account numbers. Dont sign blank forms and review your tax forms before signing them. Nobody plans to divorce.
If you start a business, think about incorporating or using a Limited Liability Corporation, LLC. Opening a business is easy. Keeping it open is hard. Pay all your taxes as some can come back to you personally. Follow all the labor laws. Provide insurance not only for your business, but workers compensation, too. Liability insurance isnt required legally, but we dont live in fantasy world where nobody sues.
Put the pen down. Dont sign liabilities you dont want to be liable for. Have your lawyer review documents if you dont understand them. Dont sign a quick claim deed. There would be no reason unless your spouse is up to no good.
Dont forget the IRS. If you dont pay taxes on your business, these taxes can come back to haunt you personally. And if you sign a joint tax return, you can be liable for any tax issues your spouse inadvertently creates later on. Your spouse may be long gone or unable to pay, but the IRS sees that you signed your name on the tax return, too.
Plan and prepare for your death or incapacity. Death is inevitable. Incapacity, maybe not. Do you have a will or a trust set up? If you want, list specific things in your will that you want to go to certain individuals. Durable power would be good to have incase you are unable to make decisions.
Organize your paperwork. I know we dont have time to spend wasting on sorting out our business or property. Keep it all in one file. Ever have to go through a deceased loved ones records to try to figure out what they had and what their final wishes were? Keep your records for your business so your employees could keep the place running if you were gone for a few months. You need to maintain your customer base so if you sell the business, its still worth something or doesnt burden your family with personal debt.
I hope these ten items were helpful, if not somewhat scary, to get you on the right patch to secure your personal future no matter what legal problems you may face.