Considering Divorce? First...You Need an Exit Strategy!

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Before we get into this week’s narrative, allow me a moment of diversion so I can articulate the following disclaimer. Although I am a certified divorce financial analyst™ and board certified as an estate and trust specialist, I am not an attorney. Therefore, I cannot provide legal advice. I encourage you to seek the assistance of a competent legal professional to address your legal issues. Okay, now that we satisfied the legal folks, away we go.

We may get a chuckle out of the following quote from Zsa Zsa Gabor, “I am a very good housekeeper. Each time I get a divorce, I keep the house.” However, divorce is not a laughing matter. Frankly, I argue that one does not know the true emotional and financial impact of divorce proceedings unless one has participated in such an unfortunate event, as divorce is incredibly complicated and often overwhelming. I should know, as I have the scars to prove it, both as a divorced spouse and a financial advisor assisting clients.

Nevertheless, as much as it might appear conniving, anyone that is contemplating a divorce owes it to himself or herself to prepare diligently for his or her future.

Please understand that pre-divorce planning is not about trying to take advantage of one’s spouse or being deceitful. Instead, it is all about carefully planning and making clever choices with a clear mind to ensure a good, stable economic future and to prevent long-term regret with financial decisions made during the divorce process. Said differently, it is paramount to have one’s “ducks lined up” BEFORE the initiation of divorce.

So where does one begin to be prepared and organized? Arguably, one of the best resources that one can utilize is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™); yet, regrettably, few people know about CDFAs. Of course, as a CDFA™, I am biased to how instrumental a CDFA™ can be to the divorcing spouse and his/her attorney. For example, working with a client and his/her attorney, a CDFA™ professional can forecast the potential long-term effects of the divorce settlement. This includes details of all tax liabilities and benefits.

Developing a long-term forecast for the financial situation is far better than a short-term snapshot. Moreover, a CDFA™ professional can educate their clients by providing a thorough knowledge and understanding of the often complicated financial decisions. In the end, using a CDFA™ professional can reduce the amount of apprehension and misunderstanding about the divorce process, which leads me to the following quote from one of my favorite authors, Brian Tracy.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power,” said Tracy.

One critical area of pre-divorce planning that is repeatedly neglected is estate planning. In other words, there is often a significant amount of work that needs to be done in this so-called dark corner of planning. For instance, most likely one will have to revoke his/her current will, change guardians for any minor children, make new powers of attorney, update health care proxy and change beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement plans, transfer on death (TOD), and payable on death (POD) designations.

Please understand that the above-mentioned items are not the responsibility of your divorce attorney. In other words, you are on your own to figure this stuff out, which is just another reason to consider employing the services of a CDFA™. Now get this, one could “hire” a CDFA™ without it costing him or her anything! Yep, it is true. What is the catch, you ask? Simple: a CDFA™ hopes that you will find him or her competent enough that when it comes time for one to receive his or her lump sum settlement or alimony payment, one would consider employing his/her money management services. Of course, one has no obligation to do so. Therefore, it appears to be as close to a free lunch as one can get!

Finally, my last bit of advice to anyone anticipating a divorce or already involved in the divorce process is perhaps the most important words of wisdom that I can offer. One must check at the door your ego, your sense of entitlement, your impatience, your fear, your hope and your anger. Yep, one MUST leave it ALL behind because if you do not, you will likely make the situation far worse than you ever imagined. Again, I should know because I have the scars to prove it. As they say, do as I say, not as I do, did! Ouch!

 

Harry Pappas Jr. CFP®

Managing Director-Investments

Master of Science Degree Personal Financial Planning
Certified Estate & Trust Specialist ™

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™
Pappas Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

818 North Highway A1A, Ste 200

Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082

904-273-7955

harry.pappas@wellsfargoadvisors.com 

The use of the CDFA™ designation does not permit Wells Fargo Advisors or its Financial Advisors to provide legal advice, nor is it meant to imply that the firm or its associates are acting as experts in this field.

Wells Fargo Advisors is not a legal or tax advisor. You should consult with your attorney, accountant and/or estate planner before taking any action

Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a Registered Broker-Dealer and a non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are subject to change. The material has been prepared or is distributed solely for information purposes and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy any security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy.

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