Reviewing Your Living Will after Divorce Your will must be revised following your divorce

Reviewing Your Living Will after Divorce Your will must be revised following your divorce

During a divorce there are many financial and legal considerations that can get swooped up into the emotional whirlwind. A living will is one of those important issues that tend to slip through the cracks, but can resurface to cause major problems. A living will is a legal agreement that authorizes a spouse to make medical decisions in the event you become incapable of doing so for yourself.  When you were first married you willingly put your complete trust into the hands of your spouse, but now that your marriage is ending do you really want your soon to be ex-wife making the medical decisions that may determine life or death? This is one of those situations where it is better to be safe than sorry.

Your best bet to be certain your wishes are carried out should the unexpected come to pass is to revoke the existing living will and draft a new one. It’s prudent to go a step further and change your living will, last will and all your other estate planning documents before filing for divorce. This includes updating your living will (medical directives) and financial powers of attorney so that someone other than your soon-to-be ex-wife has the power to decide all financial and medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of doing so.

Should your separation or divorce drag on for years your spouse would most likely continue to retain the right to make medical and financial decisions in the event of your incapacity. Since a divorce is not settled until the judge issues a final judgment, if you become incapacitated during your divorce proceedings then your living will is still valid—meaning your spouse can make medical decisions for you. After a divorce, these rights do not automatically revert to the person you want in this role unless you have your own living will and/or power of attorney revised. Revoking is a simple process; first write a statement indicating you are revoking the will. Provide a copy for your spouse and her lawyer, and be sure to keep a copy for yourself. After the revocation of your spouse as your legal health surrogate, you must list a new person who will be assigned the power over medical decisions. The earlier the better when it comes to revoking the agreement, in order to prevent any future problems since unforeseen incidents can occur at any time.

Where do you begin?

  1. Update Powers of Attorney. This may include financial and healthcare powers of attorney. Beware that once divorce proceedings have begun, the ability to change various accounts, name new beneficiaries and/or revise other documents might be prohibited due to an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO). An ATRO is often instituted to ensure that both parties’ assets stay the same until they have been divided pursuant to the final divorce decree.Powers of attorney—documents that give someone authority to act for you if it’s ever necessary—are a vital part of an estate plan. You should have two powers of attorney: one for healthcare (medical decisions), and one for financial matters. If you currently have powers of attorney that give your soon to be former spouse authority to make decisions on your behalf, revoke them immediately and draft new documents.
  1. Update Beneficiaries on Life Insurance Policies. Part and parcel of your medical directives are who will inherit your life insurance should you pass. Odds are if your spouse was granted legal authority over medical decisions than she also is listed as the beneficiary in the event of your untimely death. Many assets pass outside of a will, to beneficiaries named on paperwork provided by a bank or insurance company, and a life insurance policy is usually among those. So be sure to update your beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, don’t assume that your state’s law will automatically revoke earlier designations you made upon filing for a divorce, or even when the divorce judgment is finalized.Policies named as “qualified plans,” such as 401(k)s, pensions, and employer-provided life insurance policies, are governed by a federal law called ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act). ERISA dictates that a plan administrator is required to pay out funds to the beneficiary named in the plan documents—no matter what state law says. So if your former spouse is still the named beneficiary on your employer provided life insurance, she will inherit unless you update the paperwork to name a new beneficiary.

When you’re in the midst of the emotional and financial turmoil of a divorce, your living will is likely to be the last thing on your mind. But it can have dire and lasting effects and should be made a priority, the sooner the better. If you neglect to update your legal health surrogate and beneficiary designations you are literally leaving your life and some of your assets in your ex-spouses hands.

Your living will is just one of the many crucial issues with legal, financial, parenting and tax implications that must be considered before, during and after a divorce. There are many pressing issues that cause havoc and grim consequences when they are overlooked during the chaos of divorce and the confusion of divorce law. Seeking competent professional assistance, even considering a financial planner with specialized expertise in divorce, can help guide you through decisions and moves that will ensure the best possible outcome for a secure future.

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Credit Report Verification How to make sure your credit report is correct

Credit Report Verification How to make sure your credit report is correct

It’s a common piece of advice disseminated from even the most unlikely of places: Everyone from your parents to divorce lawyers tell you to stay on top of your credit. Know what is on your credit report. Know how to dispute any negative listings on your credit report. It’s sound advice, especially if you’re standing at the precipice of a looming divorce.

But disputing negative marks on a credit report is easier said than done. The effort can be both time-consuming and frustrating. The three credit report bureaus will investigate disputes but most agents will admit that the claimant is obligated to prove their innocence, and until sufficient evidence regarding the fallacy of the claim, is presumed guilty.

As with anything, knowledge is power. Educate yourself on how to deal with the credit bureaus. For example, if you receive a letter from one of the bureaus stating that the information you disputed has been verified as accurate, you can request the method of verification, which is your right under the FCRA section 611 (a) (7). “A consumer reporting agency shall provide to a consumer a description referred to in paragraph 6Biii [the section requiring reinvestigation] by not later than 15 days after receiving a request from the consumer for that description,” the section reads.

You may ask yourself: why does the method of verification used make any damn difference when I’m trying to repair my credit? Well, the answer is simple. The credit bureaus will not go out of their way when doing an investigation. They are not known for due diligence. This method is the most secure way to verify that your request for investigation is being honored. Call any of the three bureaus and ask for this method of verification. Unfortunately, CRAs often deny that they have a responsibility to provide the method of verification. The statute, however, is very clear, and it’s good to have a record that you made the request.

Determining if your dispute is being investigated properly can be a difficult process. Each agency has a different process for handling these disputes. Luckily, they all use a similar system.

Because we are not required to interact with enough automated software on a daily basis, the three agencies have aligned  to automate the entire reinvestigation process using an online computer program, e-Oscar. Credit bureaus and creditors use the software to investigate disputed items. Every dispute investigated by the bureau is received via written letter, the telephone or the credit bureaus online dispute service. Even if the credit bureau receives a highly detailed, written dispute with accompanying documentation, however, the information is downgraded to a simple two digit code within the e-Oscar software. Not the most optimal system for thorough investigation. The bureau will first attempt to resolve the dispute internally. Should that effort be unsuccessful, the agencies are required to send the all of the supporting documentation  to the creditor, but the only explanation included is the two-digit code.

With all of the frustrating practices of the bureaus making it seem nearly impossible to have a dispute validated and verified, where do you begin? Well, let me share my own experience with you. More than 10 years ago, I was a victim of identity theft, a nightmare in-and-of-itself. I had been waiting for random, negative things to appear on my credit report. The first was a credit card  that had been maxed out to the tune of $7k. The item appeared on my report with impeccable timing; the same week I had applied to refinance my car. A close friend, who was also the banker helping me refinance, told me that the negative mark could keep me from refinancing.  I was beside myself, convinced that this was a result of the identity theft. I felt victimized all over again.  It never occurred to me that an administrative error could be at fault.

I began calling credit bureaus, beginning with TransUnion, the bureau that had listed the fraudulent item first. I filed a dispute claim,and proceeded to call the agency to ask for a method of verification. The operator was extremely combative and unhelpful, only willing to say that the bureau had documentation, and that they almost never called creditors to verify claims.

I was shocked, but decided to conduct my own investigation. After only one phone call, I was able to speak with the creditor who was able to confirm that someone had made a mistake and transposed two of the numbers in the listed social security number. The debt was not mine. The culprit had made the mistake of using their real name and address. The creditor also confirmed that nobody from TransUnion had ever contacted them.

I called TransUnion again, recounting what the creditor’s agent had just relaid to me. Then, I insisted that the bureau verify what I’d been told. The agent refused, stating that she couldn’t.

I insisted.

“You are required by the FCRA to investigate my dispute and consider all information. Verify this or there’s going to be a problem here,” I’d said.

The agent asked if I wanted to open a new dispute. My head aching with the effort it took to not scream that she was an incompetent idiot and from two days of almost continuous eye rolling, I told her, that yes, I did. She gave me a confirmation number, and two weeks later I got a letter that the bogus charge had been removed from my credit report. I was able to refinance my car.

So, what worked for me? I took the following steps to have the mark verified and removed from my credit report.

First, challenge the listing with all the bureaus where the mark appears. Try to use the normal channels. If you see that the listing has been verified, be sure to have a copy of the investigation readily available and call the CRA at the phone number listed at the top of the report.

Give the agent the report reference number and ask for method of verification per FCRA Section 611(a)(7).

You’ll learn that the original creditor was never contacted, but that the bureau relied on a third party database to verify. If the agent cannot provide solid evidence of how the verification was obtained, ask for the creditor’s contact information. Then call the original creditor and ask for the records associated with the listing.

The creditor may tell you that the account has been passed to a collection agency. Request contact information for someone with that company. Get a name and a direct line. If that information is not available,  demand a copy of the records under the new FACTA act.

Second, when you are sent records, review them. If the records aren’t conclusive you’ll have to take the next step.

If the original creditor claims to no longer have the records, you have only a few choices. Call the bureau and alert them to that fact and demand that they open another dispute. Be sure to jot down the names and numbers of everyone you speak to. If the agent refuses to open a new dispute, inform them that  you will sue for willful non-compliance under section FCRA ß 616.

If they still refuse, send the information via certified letter along with an intent to sue letter. If not, they will give you a new confirmation number, and be obligated to get back to you within 30 days.

The good news is that if you have been diligent in keeping records of your efforts and contacts, you can prove that the original creditor cannot back up the negative listing. Send this information via registered mail to the CRA along with a letter of intent to sue.

The account will have to be removed or you should follow through on your threat for litigation.

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A Good Relationship Gives You Super Powers Good relationships give you strength and power not experienced otherwise

A Good Relationship Gives You Super Powers Good relationships give you strength and power not experienced otherwise

Humans are social animals. There’s no getting around the science that our support system—the network we count on for encouragement, inspiration, love and guidance—is vital to our physical and psychological health. Science indicates romantic relationships play an especially powerful role in our wellness, increasing our life span, lowering rates of depression and anxiety, and spiking overall satisfaction. A good relationship can even pad the pocketbook when sharing financial resources.

But be warned, the reverse is also true. Bad relationships wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. They flood our systems with toxic stress hormones, make us less creative and more insecure. The key to having your relationship make you better, more peaceful at home and productive at work, is to have a healthy relationship. If you want to be as dynamic and satisfied as possible—ditch the dysfunctional relationship sooner not later. You win twice; you get rid of the negative anchor dragging you through the dregs and open yourself up for the positive mental and physical benefits a good relationship will activate in your life.

4 ways a good relationship improves your physical and mental wellness:  

  1. Hormonal Bliss.  When a romantic interest enters your life a chemical reaction sparks, literally.  The connection you feel floods your body with feel-good hormones. Rushes of dopamine, one of the hormones triggered when people are in love, instigates pleasure, optimism, energy and a sense of well-being.Physical touch—hugging, kissing, hand-holding and sexual intimacy—releases oxytocin, which drops stress hormones. Research shows these positive love related emotions build up your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and increase healing time after illness and injury. As if the physical boosts weren’t enough, they also inhibit anxiety and depression.
  1. Physical Super Powers.  A committed relationship breeds both biological and behavioral benefits for your body. A European journal of preventive cardiology published a study that evaluated heart attack rates for married and unmarried people and showed that married people were less likely than single peers to have, or die from, a heart attack. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior study shows married people have a post-surgery survival rate three times higher than single people. The British Medical Journal published an article indicating that health benefits continue to increase over the longevity of a relationship. Some of the health bonuses men reap are a consequence of the way a committed relationship affects their behavior. Men tend to drink more, driver faster and live more risky lives when they are single. Think back to when you were rolling solo, you probably stayed out later (so you got less sleep), were quicker to get into fights and ate more junk food. Many men won’t care as much about their own safety and health when single as they will when they have another person in their life they care about. They come to value their own life more because of the other person they love.Men’s habits in positive relationships become healthier because their partner nags …uh um…encourages them to adopt a more active and healthful lifestyle. They are more likely to ditch cigarettes, see the doctor regularly, exercise and improve their nutrition.
  1. Mental and Productivity Super Powers.  University of Chicago researchers report that being in a committed relationship is associated with a reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone. The finding bolsters a growing body of evidence showing marriage can insulate us against stress. Emotional support lifts psychological health because people are more stable when they feel someone is looking out for their interests and cares about their welfare.Having a loved one’s support helps people achieve difficult goals, rebound from devastating life events and manage life’s unpredictable ups and downs. Companionship, having a special partner you enjoy being around to share life with, makes the poignant moments less heartbreaking and the funny and blissful moments more gratifying.
  1. Financial Perks. Two incomes buy a better quality of life than one. Since finances are one of the biggest stressors, having someone to contribute to the household expenses adds stability. Knowing you have a partner to help with household duties and that has your back to weather life’s storms, gives you an added sense of calm and confidence that leads to increased productivity and creativity.

There’s no doubt there are times when every relationship, no matter how positive and loving, has its share of strain. But overall, a good partnership promotes security and stability. Caring about someone takes you outside of your own head, making you less self-absorbed and freer to live in the moment. A solid mate you can set and work toward goals with betters your chances of achieving them. It also makes the journey more enjoyable. Superpowers might not only be for comic book heroes after all.

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How to Open Up to Your Partner in an Effort to Save Your Relationship Communication is key if you want to save your marriage

How to Open Up to Your Partner in an Effort to Save Your Relationship Communication is key if you want to save your marriage

Every relationship book in existence advises struggling couples to communicate more effectively. Well, that’s a bit easier said than done. Aside from knowing how to approach communication from a genuine and nonjudgmental place, the idea of opening yourself up to criticism and emotional attack can be daunting.

While nobody has the definitive answer about what it takes to create the perfect setting for real communication to take place, there are a few tips that can help you on your way.

Develop an Open Dialogue. First, try to be as open as possible with your partner. Keeping your problems private can create a chasm of isolation between you and your significant other. One of the perks of being in a relationship is that you don’t have to face the perils and pitfalls of life solo. When you worry alone, when you face the world alone, you may as well be alone. Allow your partner to share your burdens. Tell him or her what is on your mind. Let them in. Don’t hold back. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest, even when the topic at hand has something to do with his or her behavior.

I’m not suggesting that you tell your significant other about every minute detail that meanders into your mind, but I am telling you that when something significant occurs, you should not hold back.

Find the Right Time. Timing is also of the essence. Ambushing your partner with a heavy discussion will only breed discontent. If you need to schedule a time to talk with your partner, don’t hesitate to do so. Especially if you need time to collect your thoughts. If you find that you’re in a bad mood, in a hurry or can’t commit at least a half hour to your discussion, try to initiate communication at a different time.

Build intimacy. If the goal is to build overall intimacy, one particularly effective communication strategy involves creating a weekly companionship inventory where you and your spouse sit down for an honest conversation and gut check about the status of your relationship at least once a week. This can typically become a housekeeping discussion after the initial lines of communication have been opened.

Use this time to check in with each other. What in your relationship is working? What needs improvement? Are your communications efforts helping you to reach your overall goals or is there something you need to tweak? Talk about your feelings, and yes, the level of intimacy you’re experiencing.

Keep your cool. Realize that there is a right way to argue. Don’t allow your talks to devlove into something base and ugly. If you are tempted to begin hurling accusations or resurrect past hurts, remember the purpose of these weekly check-ins. And never allow yourself to begin attacking your partner with hurtful insults or contempt. Remember, these talks are designed to increase your intimacy and save your relationship, not hurl derogatory sentiments and hurt your partner. The ability to express harsh words may feel like a relief when they’re expressed in the moment but the old cliche is true: be careful what you say because you can’t take it back.

Remain positive. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember to stay positive. Even if you find your inner dialogue trailing off into negative territory, pump the brakes. For every criticism that pops into your mind, remind yourself of at least one positive quality your partner possesses. You fell in love with him or her for a reason. Tap into those early emotions.

Remember, winning isn’t everything. This may the toughest effective communication component on our list. When emotions are raw and you feel justified in your anger/hurt/lack of empathy, the idea of focusing more on the bigger picture can help you fend off the urge to just be right. You are opening yourself up and creating a vulnerable space in an effort to save something that is or once was precious to you. Stay internally connected to your purpose, and you’ll be able to quiet the negative barbs that seem to crawl up your throat of their own volition.

“Sorry” is not a dirty word. Be willing to apologize without hesitation when the situation warrants it. Real intimacy can only be created when both parties are open to change. This means being able to admit when you’re wrong.

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It Takes Style What exactly is style? It’s a very personal thing.

It Takes Style What exactly is style? It’s a very personal thing.

Fashion isn’t something that a lot of men think about on a daily basis.

In fact, I’ve had guy friends that would literally rather sit through a “Sex and the City” marathon than spend the day shopping for themselves. Most guys have two modes: fast and functional.

So where does a guy who’s looking to up his fashion game turn without having to troll men’s fashion magazines and read tailoring advice from the likes of Kanye West? Well, look no further. We are here to help with some basics.

What exactly is style? It’s a very personal thing. One man’s designer blazer is another man’s monkey suit. One man’s graphic tee is another man’s laundry day shirt. But before you go burning all of your t-shirts and suits, decide what vibe you’re trying to rock on a daily basis. Style is about doing your own thing, and making other dudes envy your flawless lack of effort.

There is a distinct difference between style and fashion. Women know this inherently. Style is making something your own. Fashion is a fad that you are embracing to try and be “in.” Fads change every day. An effort to latch on to the latest trend almost never works out organically. Style is effortless, it’s quintessential you and makes you feel good about yourself.

So where should you begin?

Think about the personal qualities you want most to broadcast to the world. What kind of people are you looking to attract? Remember, like attracts like. It may be a cliche but cliches exist for a reason–because they’re true. Are you quirky? Business minded? A complete super nerd? Style is a great way to let the world know where you’re coming from.

Defining style is a very personal journey.

Filling your closet with a line for every season might make you look like a GQ model but it won’t mean that you’ve found your groove. If you aren’t comfortable with your look, you aren’t telling the anyone that you’ve arrived and you’re going to do great things. You’re simply broadcasting to the world that you’re a poser. Your style should be an expression of who you are.

Think about your life a year from now, five years from now. Where do you see yourself living? What will you be doing for work? Who do you want to be in the future?

Don’t be afraid to discover style inspiration from icons with similar tastes. If you like a look, steal the basic components and make it your own.

There are tons of examples of “stylish” celebrity men. Their looks can be great inspiration for your own style. Let’s consider Johnny Depp for a moment. Depp has built a career on the promotion of his quirky, rockabilly image. He dressed in a blue tuxedo and a bow-tie in the early 2000s when he was nominated for the Academy Award. He’s the go-to-guy for doing things on your own terms. Depp never follows trends. He’s his own guy and never apologizes for being one-of-a-kind. Don’t be afraid to buck the trends.

Go through the next month or so asking yourself a series of important questions that may help you define your personal style.

Here are just a few: What does your daily attire say about who you are as a person? Are you dressing for success or comfort? Are you trying to catch the eye of a certain someone? What do your clothes say about your lifestyle? Are you trying to pull of that edgy bad boy thing? Are you a party dude or a man on a mission? What do your clothes say about who you are and where you’re going in life?

All of these questions can help you define your personal style. And it’s okay to have personal style icons. Maybe you’re really  into the vintage look and you think nobody worked it better than Frank Sinatra. David Beckham, for example, is somewhat of a style genius. Icon is a word that is thrown around a tad haphazardly in the age of the internet, but David would definitely qualify as a style icon. His style is flawless: classic, chic and almost always monochromatic. He’s seldom photographed without a tailored suit jacket or dress shoes.

Some women really seem to go for the preppy look pulled off by Zac Effron. This look can be achieved by pairing a simple t-shirt with a sweater and a sports coat over it. Dress it up with a pair of suave loafers or go more casual and take over Silicon Valley with a pair of Chucks.

There’s no shame in trying to model your look after someone you know got it right.

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