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How to Keep Your Inheritance in a Divorce

If you’re facing a divorce, you may not realize that you may not automatically be entitled to keep things you personally inherited. Property obtained, earned, or received during marriage is considered community property. There is an exception for separate property and inherited items fall into that category, but only if they are not converted into community property. If you inherited money from your grandmother and put it in a joint bank account with your spouse, that property may have become community property when you put it in the account. If you inherited a vacation home from your aunt and you put your spouse on the deed or if your spouse assisted in upkeep, improvements, or helped pay a loan you took out against the property, it may have been converted to community property.

To protect your inheritance from divorce:

  • Have a prenuptial or post-marital (created after the wedding, but serving the same purpose as a prenup) agreement created that protects inherited property.
  • Keep proof. Wills, gift tax returns, and other documentation showing something was intended as a separate inheritance can help prove your case.
  • Keep assets as separate as possible during marriage so there is no commingling.
  • Create a living trust, placing your inherited assets into the trust, thus keeping them out of the marital pot. You can control and use the assets during your life, but they are passed on to your beneficiaries after your death and there is no question about ownership.
  • Keep titles and deeds in separate names after they are inherited to prevent claims by your spouse.
  • Discuss all inherited property with your attorney when you begin to discuss your divorce.

The Sampair Group provides confidential and compassionate assistance with your divorce or family law case. We serve clients in Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix, Arizona.  Schedule an appointment today.

Dividing the Home in a Divorce

Your home may be the largest asset in your divorce. It also is usually one of the most emotionally important assets because you have a history there and may still have children in the home. The home is symbolic of your marriage and your security and as such it can be hard to make decisions about it.

Because Arizona is a community property state, the assets of your marriage divided equally. Your marital home is a community property asset if it was bought during the marriage. It may also be community property if it was bought prior to the marriage and both spouses contributed to its upkeep and payments during the marriage.

Who gets the house is often a hot point and the decision may come down to who can afford to keep the home. If one spouse can refinance the mortgage, it may make sense for her to keep the home. Of course, the other spouse is still entitled to half its value, which is distributed through other assets.

If you can’t afford to keep the home, you may be able to do so if you receive spousal support from your ex after the divorce, or if you receive enough other property in the divorce to enable you to afford the mortgage payments.

If neither one of you is able to take on sole responsibility for the home, it’s possible to co-own it. This could be a temporary situation until it increases in value enough to be sold, or you might decide to co-own it until the children move out as adults.

If you can’t agree about what to do with the home, the court will consider custody of the children, which one of you is presently in the home, how other property is being divided, and what your financial resources will be after the divorce.

The Sampair Group is your firm for divorce or family law matters. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys in Maricopa County today.

Marital Assets You Don’t Know You Have

When you get a divorce, you know that you will need to divide your marital assets. In Arizona, anything acquired during the marriage is considered community property and needs to be divided during the marriage. The things that probably immediately come to your mind are the house, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and household belongings. That’s certainly a lot to divide and getting through those items takes careful work and solid legal advice.

What you might not be aware of is that there are a whole host of other assets that need to be divided that you probably are not even thinking about. Most of these are intangible assets. They aren’t things you can hold in your hand, so they are easy to forget about. Here are some of these intangible assets that may have value and may need to be part of your property division:

  • Copyrights, trademarks, or patents owned by either one of you. If either one of you has written a book, blog posts, or anything published, copyright is owned even if you don’t file for one.
  • Gym memberships.
  • Frequent flyer miles.
  • Reward points on credit cards, frequent shopper cards, and more.
  • Leases on real property.
  • Web sites and blogs. The actual writing on the site is covered under copyright, but the actual site itself and domain name (URL) may also have value, as well as the design.
  • Degrees earned during marriage.
  • Professional licenses earned during marriage.
  • Digital photographs.
  • Digital files.
  • Digital movies, music, and books.
  • Seasons tickets for sports, theater, music and more.
  • Memberships or donations that give some kind of benefit or privilege (such as free admission to a museum you have donated to).

The Sampair Group provides divorce representation in Maricopa County, Arizona. We are here to answer your questions. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Dividing Property in an Arizona Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, there’s no question that it can be a difficult process that causes both financial and emotional challenges. These issues often get even more trying if you are unable to come to some type of agreement about the primary issues that need to be resolved – especially the division of your property. Read on to learn more about this here.

Understanding Community Property

According to Arizona law, any debts and assets that are acquired by a married couple from the beginning of their marriage until the divorce paperwork is served is considered community property. This means that each spouse is entitled to receive half.

Technically, there’s no requirement for the court to divide all the property equally. Instead, the court will divide property “equitably” or fairly based on the circumstances. Even with this being the case, unequal divisions are extremely rare. Debt or property that is brought into the marriage by one spouse or funds or assets that are received during the time of the marriage by inheritance or a gift, is the property of that spouse as long as it has been maintained separately.

Even though this seems pretty straightforward, trying to figure out separate property from community property can often present a challenge. In some situations, separate property is converted into community property when the single owner of a home opts to change the title to community property. Also, the community property may obtain an interest in the separate or sold property of one spouse if improvements or mortgage payments are made by both spouses.

How is Marital Property Divided in Arizona?

There are several ways that assets may be divided in Arizona during a divorce. The two people getting divorced can come to an agreement, assigning certain assets to the other person, or even buy out the other’s share. Additionally, they can opt to sell the assets and then divide the proceeds that are earned.

Also, all of the debts that are incurred, which include credit cards, car loans and mortgages have to be assigned to one of the spouses and each of the marital debts needs to be paid off after the divorce has become final.

While the classification of a couple’s property is something that takes place automatically after the couple is married, they do not have to follow the laws of community property if they agree to a post- or pre-marital agreement. This provides that each spouse will maintain their assets separate from the other.

Additionally, there are several exceptions based on Arizona law that require community property to be divided equally. For example, if one spouse’s behavior (i.e. gambling or drug use) wasted the community property.

In the end, due to the complexity related to issues of property division in Arizona divorce cases, one of the best things a person can do is to enlist the services of a divorce attorney. At the Sampair Group we can help ensure that the entire process is handled fairly, regardless of the asset or debt situation that may be present. Contact us today at 623-777-3926.

Can We Divorce Without Dividing Assets?

Divorce is so complicated because it involves complex financial calculations and formulas. The actual ending of your relationship to each is quite simple. Divorce takes so much time and money because the assets and debts of the marriage must be divided and often there are important issues regarding children. You may wonder then if it is possible to divorce without dividing up assets.

In general, with certain important exceptions, any assets or debts acquired during your marriage by either of you are community assets and debts. They belongs to both of you and must be divided in the divorce. The ownership of community property must be addressed in your divorce (the exception to this would be if you have had a marriage of very short duration and have not had time to acquire any community assets or debts).

You don’t need to go to court to have this division occur. You and your spouse can create a settlement agreement on your own. Decide how you want to split everything up. If you agree, it’s a fairly simple matter for your attorney to draft the divorce papers and move your divorce through the courts quickly without undue delay. Even if you can’t decide on your own, an attorney or mediator can help you quickly divide everything so that your divorce can move forward without contest.

Some spouses keep things completely separate throughout their marriage, never putting two names on any asset or debt. Although these items are legally community property, this can simplify your divorce if you agree that each will own or be responsible for assets or debts currently in the spouse’s own names.

The Sampair Group handles divorce and family law cases in the Mesa, Phoenix, and Glendale areas of Arizona. Our attorneys are uniquely qualified to handle your case with attention to detail. Call our office to schedule a convenient appointment today.

What Is Community Property?

Home being soldIn Arizona, community marital property is divided as part of the divorce. But what exactly is community property? In Arizona, the laws about community property are broad. Any property, asset, or item of value (which includes intangible assets such as degrees, certifications, copyrights, trademarks, and professional licenses) that is acquired (bought, earned, or otherwise obtained) by either spouse during the marriage is considered to be community property, property that belongs to both spouses equally. The exceptions include anything that is received as a gift or inheritance. This includes gifts from spouse to spouse, so if your spouse gives you a car, it is not community property. If your grandmother leaves you her house, that is not community property.

Community property also does not include anything acquired once a divorce or separation action is begun. If you file today and tomorrow your spouse buys a lottery ticket with his own money and wins, that is not community property.

Assets can be transformed from separate property to community property if the other spouse helps to maintain or improve the value of the item. For example, if you own a rental property prior to marriage and during the marriage your spouse helps you pay the mortgage on that property or helps you keep up the property and do repairs, a portion of the increase in value of the property may become community property.

The person who is claiming something is separate property has the burden of proving it is in fact separate property in Arizona. If this can’t be adequately proven, the item will be considered to be community property and will be divided in the divorce.

The Sampair Group provides excellent and detailed advice about the division of community and separate property in your Maricopa County divorce. Call our office to schedule an appointment today to protect your assets.

Safe Deposit Boxes and Divorce

SafeYou may be someone who keeps valuables in safe deposit box, a secure, fireproof storage area inside a bank.  When you get a divorce, the items in the box may become important. If you jointly own the box with your spouse you can each access it and remove anything at any time. If you are worried your spouse will try to take items out of the box, you can remove them yourself and place them somewhere that your spouse cannot access, in order to preserve them so that they can divided in the divorce.

If you have a box that is in your name alone, the items inside it may still be community marital property, so it will be important to preserve those assets as well. If you and your spouse have separate boxes but have appointed each other as deputies for access, you should not access your spouse’s box without consulting your attorney unless you believe your spouse is immediately going to remove and destroy or sell marital property. An alternative is to photograph the contents without removing them.

Joint boxes should be closed when you divorce. If you are considering a new box in your own name, first evaluate whether you have a safe place at home to store items of value. A home safe might be more convenient, but it is not as secure. If you decide to open a box it may be useful to store items such as:

–        Expensive jewelry you do not regularly wear

–        Personal documents that are hard replace like passports or birth certificates

–        Financial or legal documents like stock certificates, titles, or deeds

–        Valuable such as coin or stamp collections.

Divorce is complex. You need an attorney you can trust to help you navigate through it. The Sampair Group provides the advice you need in the Mesa or Glendale areas of Arizona. Call us now.

Divorce Vocabulary

Divorce Lawyer GlendaleWhen you go through a divorce, you may encounter many legal terms you are unfamiliar with. Understanding what these terms mean will make it easier to go through the process.

Community Property: All assets acquired during marriage in Arizona are community property and are divided equally in the divorce.

Default Hearing: When the respondent does not respond to the divorce papers, the case continues without him and a default hearing is held to complete the divorce.

Dissolution of Marriage: This is another term for a divorce.

Early Resolution Management Conference: Every case where the parties are not represented by an attorney is required to have a conference where the parties and their attorneys meet with a Family Law Case Manager who will identify the issues of agreement and dispute for the Judge. That Case Manager will file an Early Resolution Statement identifying these matters for the Court. The Case Manager generally does not aid in settlement of the issues and is not a mediator.

Decree of Dissolution/ Consent Decree of Dissolution: This document is issued by the court and details  exactly what the judge decides in your case. This document also formally ends your marriage.

Legal Decision Making: When there are children, the court establishes how the parents will share legal decision making. In the past this was referred to as legal custody.

Mediation: Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse work with a neutral third-party mediator who helps you reach agreements on your own regarding Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time with your children. Mediation does not resolve money issues, division of debt or support issues.

Alternative Dispute Resolution:  This process allows the party to meet with an attorney or Judge to attempt to resolve issues in the divorce usually related to support, division of  debt and assets.

Parenting Time: How parents share their time with their child is called parenting time. This is sometimes referred to as visitation or a parenting time plan.

Petition For Dissolution: This is the document that is filed to begin a divorce.

Petitioner: The person who is asking for the divorce.

Respondent: The spouse who is served with divorce papers.

Response: The spouse served with divorce papers replies by filing a Response. This often explains what the Respondent agrees or disagrees with and states his or her position about the issues in the case.

Separation: Spouses who live apart are separated. It is possible to get a legal separation by filing for one with the court.

Service: Arizona has specific legal requirements about how divorce papers must be given to the respondant called service of process.

The attorneys at the Sampair Group are skilled in divorce and family law. We serve all of the Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale areas of Arizona. Find out how we can help you with your case.

Community Property Law in Arizona

Community PropertyArizona is one of eight states that observe community property laws. This means that Arizona courts are required to follow community property law principles when dividing community property in divorce hearings. In any case, you should always consult with a divorce lawyer in Glendale at The Sampair Group. This requirement ensures that courts identify all of the spouses’ property and then classify it as either property owned by both spouses together, or if it is property that belongs to only one spouse. They will then value the property that is determined to be community property and fairly divide these assets.

Community property is assets that a husband and wife own together and were acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Arizona classifies the following as a married couple’s joint property:
– Any income received by either spouse during the marriage
– Any real or personal property acquired with income earned during the marriage. This includes vehicles, homes, furniture, appliances and luxury items.
– Any debts acquired during the marriage

Regardless of who earns or spends the income, spouses own and owe everything equally under community property laws.

There is however, certain guidelines for what stays separate in states that recognize community property:
– All property owned by a spouse prior to marriage.
– Property obtained by a spouse after a legal separation.
– Any property received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage from a third party (as long as this property remains separate from community property, such as joint banking accounts).

Pre-marriage debts will remain separate property after marriage, such as student loans that were taken out before the marriage. However, if one spouse adds the other’s name to a deed or lease, even before the marriage, that home becomes community property.

If one spouse is self-employed, both parties will receive a community property interest in some or all of the income earned from that spouses business, including property purchased with those funds. This amount is determined by a business appraisal to evaluate all of the profits of the business earned.

Once the court determines the classification of property, the judge then awards each spouse the property that belongs to him or her separately, and will then divide the remaining community property.

While assets will usually not greatly increase in value during a divorce case, there are some circumstances where the value of assets will change significantly during the proceedings. It is then that the court will determine the date that the assets were valued and use this information in making their decision. Arizona courts are granted broad discretion to choose a date of valuation, but will do it in a way that is as fair to both parties as possible. Not all assets will have the same value dates.

In Arizona, there are some exceptions to the requirement that property be divided as equally as possible. For instance, if it is proven that a spouse wasted a substantial amount of the community assets through an activity such as gambling, drug activity or if they are found to have been hiding assets, the other spouse can request more than their equal half, or can ask that the other spouse be solely responsible for the large debt accrued.

In determining the division of assets and whether they are community property and subject to fair division, each case requires careful analysis and patience. For more information on community property and how you can keep yourself and your assets legally protected in a divorce, consult with a Phoenix divorce lawyer today.