How To Protect Your Assets Before, During, And After Marriage With Jane Euler

MCFA 11 | Protecting Your Assets

 

In our current society, love isn’t the only factor when it comes down to marriage. Before you can even think of tying the knot, preparing for marriage agreements is slowly becoming part of the process. Family Law Attorney Jane Euler joins Athena Paquette Cormier to discuss the positive effects prenups and postnups can have in a marriage. She goes into the finer details of how taking these simple steps in communication beforehand can do your marriage good in the long run. Protecting your assets means protecting your family and that’s what it boils down to. Learn the steps you need to take and the people that can help you in educating yourself in order to protect what’s important.

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How To Protect Your Assets Before, During, And After Marriage With Jane Euler

We’re joined by Jane Euler, a family law attorney here in the South Bay part of Los Angeles. She’ll give us Family Law lingo 101 but also tell us how to protect our assets before during and after marriage. Welcome, Jane.

Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

I’m glad you could join us.

Me too, I’m excited.

Rather than give your bio myself and it’s going to sound like a dry enumeration of all your professional achievements. I thought maybe you could share with us your professional background, your journey into law, how you come into family law and how your story evolved.

I am a Family Law attorney. I’ve been a family law attorney since 1995. You asked me why I wanted to get into law. It’s funny because you asked me that question before, so I had a chance to think about it. It was a great cathartic experience for me to look back too. I had this great tenth-grade government teacher. I love the government. I was fascinated by how it worked. It inspired me to go to law school. I decided right then in there in tenth grade that I wanted to be a lawyer. For my steps, college, law school and at some point in time, I did some personal leadership work.

I identified my values for my life and one of them was to leave the world a better place. In tenth grade, I was watching how everything worked in our government. It inspired and called to my value to lead the world a better place. I thought I could make a difference. In law school, I ended up taking community property, it’s required. I liked it and I ended up getting into more and more Family Law classes that weren’t necessarily required. I realized that I had a knack for it. Ultimately, I had a bunch of opportunities dropped in my lap to get into Family Law. I took advantage of them realized pretty quickly that I was pretty good at it and liked it.

Early on, I took mediation training and collaborative training, where both parties hire attorneys, but we all signed an agreement, we won’t go to court for them. We work together in a transparent process to help everybody come to agreements and complete their divorce in a more amicable way. I do meditation, I’ve been doing collaborative and a lot of consulting to the point where the predominant part of my practice is what we call Consensual Dispute Resolution. That’s where our clients agree to resolve things, their cases and their family law matters out of court.

That has been the predominant part of my practice for many years. In 2014, I decided no more litigation. It’s an important part of our court process. Some people need access to the court process. For me and for the clients that I serve, my value is much better served and practice on a daily basis if I’m able to leave couples and families in a better place because I can help them resolve their issues between themselves. That’s how I got in and that’s why I do what I do. I believe that I am helping families and couples on a daily basis, and I’m excited to think about that.

Did you start in a big law firm as a litigator? Did you start your own practice right away? Structure wise, who did you work for in the beginning and as it evolved?

It’s interesting I had those opportunities fall in my lap. I was working for a law firm as a law clerk. It was a personal injury law firm. I had a great civil background. When I passed the bar, I started getting opportunities to do contract work for other attorneys. I went in, got instructions, did appearance, casework and motion work for them. Eventually, I met up with an attorney who helped me get into Family Law. I was doing a contract and building my practice. No, I never ended up getting into a big law firm. I worked for big law firms as a secretary. I’ve had this nice big crescendo. I started as a gopher, I became a legal secretary, I did a paralegal work and law clerk work. When I became a lawyer, I had this opportunity to do this contract work and build my own practice. Ultimately, a female attorney who’s in Employment Law, Debra Lauzon. She and I were working in the same office and we decided to partner up pretty early on. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

You’ve got a lot of experience before you even became an attorney to where you knew the inner workings. Some attorneys don’t ever get to do the typing, arranging of the files and all that kind of stuff. That probably gives you a certain edge or angle to your work.

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I feel it does. I feel that I’ve had that background. I’m particular about how I keep my files in my office. We’re constantly organizing and making sure our processes are organized so we can better serve our clients. I do think I had a nice little edge on having that background and seeing it from the ground up.

What percentage of your business is that collaborative thing? How often are you helping the whole group together versus where everyone has their own representation?

I’m going to break it down a little bit more. Consensual Dispute Resolution that I do is 100% of my practice. I do collaborative, it’s where both parties hire collaboratively trained attorneys and we all signed an agreement that we won’t go to court. We work together and our clients can work with us individually. We can work with them. We work in the same room together. We can bring in neutral financial specialists, neutral appraisers, mortgage lenders, and neutral mental health professionals to help coach them through the process. We have a team approach.

Collaborative, I’d say it’s probably a good 25% of my practice. I also do meditation. It is where I’m the neutral mediator between two clients. I can’t represent either one of them at any time against each other for anything arising out of their marriage. I help prepare the paperwork. We look at what their issues, assets are, what homework we need to do and we decide together how they’re going to split up their assets. What support and parenting plans look like. I mediate that between the two of them and if they want consulting counsel, we make sure that they have access to that.

I also have access to those neutral professionals that I was talking about in the collaborative case in mediation. That’s the kind of way I do it. That’s probably a good 50% of my practice. I do all these interesting little odd consulting types of cases where they need a little piece here or there and I help. I’m completely forgetting the fact that I do premarital agreements and post-marital agreements, which is something that we’re going to talk about more. That’s definitely a percentage of my practice, probably 15% or so.

If you could run down some of the terminologies, so we know. You hear Prenup and Postnup. What do all these words mean?

If you were my husband, he would be making that into a whole sentence that makes no sense whatsoever. A Prenup is a Premarital Agreement. It is something that couples decide to enter into to define their separate property and what their assets and debts are going to look like during the marriage. We will educate our clients as to what community property is and what separate property is. We will look at what their assets and their debts are before they’re getting married. We’ll ask them, what do they want to do with this and how do they want that to look?

What are the potentials that could happen during marriage to the separate property assets? What do they want the money and the things that they acquire with the money that they earned during marriage to look like as well? If in fact, they’re separate then we can take a look at what we want things to look like when they separate to take some of that burden of what a divorce can be away from the parties. If we identify everything beforehand, they have a clear picture and a clear understanding of what it’s going to look like can create less animosity during the marriage.

It’s over. What’s a postmarital?

It’s not over, it’s during. The postmarital agreement is after marriage. After you’re married and you didn’t do a premarital agreement, maybe want to revise your premarital agreement or you want to have some agreement regarding some asset or support during the marriage, we can create what we call a postmarital agreement. They’re the same thing. We’re defining what assets and debts are going to look like. For both of them, our clients have to do disclosure documents. They have to identify what their assets are, what their debts are, what the value is, and the amounts of these are. The requirement for the postmarital agreement is stronger.

We like to make sure everything is disclosed because it’s a 50/50 shot as to whether or not a judge will enforce it on a postmarital agreement. There’s some sort of presumption that there’s more influence a spouse can have on their spouse during the marriage to get them to sign an agreement. We want to make sure that their disclosures are complete, thorough and that everybody has a full understanding of what the assets and debts are. Also, what it is that they are going to do with their separate property assets before marriage and their community property assets during the marriage.

What were some other terms we should know?

MCFA 11 | Protecting Your Assets
Protecting Your Assets: If you identify everything before marriage, people will have a clear picture and understanding of what to expect and create less animosity during marriage.

 

First and foremost, I’ve been saying community property. Everything that we earn during the marriage in California is community property and own 50/50. Everything that we purchase with what we earned during the marriage is also community property and its own 50/50.

Are you even talking about your own paycheck?

Your paycheck is 50/50. A lot of people think that because they title and they each keep their separate accounts during marriage and think separately during the marriage that it’s going to make it separate property and that’s not true. If you earn it without any sort of premarital agreement or postmarital agreement and if you earn or acquire it with what you earn during the marriage, including contributions to various accounts you have, the presumption is it’s going to be community property unless there’s some exception.

Let’s say income could be cashflow from a building or maybe payments from an IRA if the couple’s older, they might already be getting IRA distributions, is all that included?

It’s not the payments from the IRA. It’s the contributions to the IRA. Did the contributions to the IRA occur? If they occurred during the marriage, they’re going to be a community. If they occurred before marriage, they’re going to be separate property. If you have both, we’re going to have a mixed asset. It’s not going to matter unless people are divorcing. It’s going to matter as far as what’s the community portion, separate property portion and how are we going to distribute that between our clients.

If you’re getting cashflow from your apartment building, it would be the same thing?

Yes, it’s going to depend upon when the property was acquired and/or with what funds the property was acquired and how you and me, our clients agree to title the property and when they do this. There are different dates on which we can do this that are going to make a difference in whether or not it’s separate property, community property or a mixed asset. If the property was acquired during the marriage, the cashflow from it is yes, it’s going to be community property unless they come up with some exception.

What kind of exception would there be?

If one of them inherits a partial rental property, then that is their separate property. Let me give that as a definition. Separate property is everything that we own prior to marriage. Everything we earn and own that we earn after the date of separation. Date of separation is the date on which one or the other says, “The marriage is over.” It is considered separate property and anything that we receive by gift or inheritance at any time. It doesn’t matter if it’s before marriage or during the marriage. Inheritance is separate property. Gifts are generally separate property. There are exceptions and that’s a little more complicated.

If we have separate property buildings, if we have any real property that’s a house, residence, rental property or commercial property that we acquired prior to marriage, it’s generally going to be separate property. It’s the same with IRAs, deferred compensation accounts, 401(k), stock accounts, and pension retirement accounts. We have them as a date of marriage, they’re going to be separate property and any earnings that they gain and lose over time or any losses through the date we distribute those accounts from the date of marriage forward are also going to be separate property. Separate property begets separate property.

There could potentially be a community interest depending upon whether or not the properties are able to sustain themselves, the income they get in pays for themselves or whether or not the community is contributing to them. It gets a little more complicated. You have to know that if you have a mortgage on a residence that you own prior to marriage, you’re paying it down during marriage and there’s no Premarital agreement, all monies that you are during the marriage are a community. If that community is paying down the mortgage, the community is going to gain an interest in the property. It doesn’t turn the community property because you get married but you gain interest by paying down that principal on the mortgage.

I heard you say something about if the property is self-sustaining. For example, if you have a rental property that’s negative cashflow and you have to chip in once in a while. If I were to use my paycheck to cover that negative cashflow, the community has an interest because my paycheck covered the shortage on the payment or the expenses?

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I don’t want to say yes. We’d have to see what I’m separate property monies you had and what community property monies there were and how much was paid it and what it paid. I’m going to say it potentially can have an interest if the community is helping to make up the difference. It’s going to be case-specific. It’s a harder question for me to answer until we have specific scenarios.

What types of assets should an investor consider protecting before they get married?

Do you mean if they plan to get married?

What steps or what assets should they think about protecting? How should they set up their life to protect their assets before or future marriage?

First of all, you have to get an education from people like you, realtors, retirement specialists and certainly family law attorneys. I love my friendly forensic accountants. They know our family law rules. They know the models and they can talk about what things are going to look like. Number two, if you are thinking of getting married at any point in time, any assets that you have right now are your separate property assets. You want to document them. I’m a big believer in saving statements and everything’s technology. We should be careful and take care of things. The big and important thing is as a date of marriage if you believe in a community and you want to build that community together, you should have all of your separate assets disclose.

You should have a disclosure that identifies all of your assets, what their current values are and what debts are owed on them. That way you could literally keep the statements from the date of marriage going forward and you could show what your separate property was and if you still have it. The other thing you might want to do is decide. Do you want to commingle these assets or do you want to start new accounts and new properties together so you create the community here and you keep those separate, separate?

Who commingles all the time? I’m going to give you an example. If you have that retirement account we were talking about, you have a balance as a date of marriage, you’re going to contribute during the marriage, keep your statements from the date of marriage going forward. I don’t care how you keep them. You can keep them electronically, but you want to keep them, so it’s easy to look back. More often than not particularly for retirement accounts, the yearend statement says, “Year to date contributions.” You can get away with keeping those. It’s not difficult to go back and look.

I’m going to give you an example of myself. I absolutely believe in a community. I did not get a premarital agreement. That was one of the first questions my husband asked me when we met. He wanted to know what I thought about that. It’s what he appreciates about me. I believe in building the community but I have all my statements for my SEP-IRA from the married to the present. I do not plan on divorcing my husband ever. We work hard at our marriage but I have those, so it doesn’t make anything difficult if, in fact, we ever were there. It’s nice to look back on it.

It’s important with that education to decide what do I want things to look when I get married? Do I want to build that community? All I need to do is document what I have as separate property and you should get advice as to whether or not you need a premarital agreement. It’s something you should be clear about. Remember that house you have but you have a mortgage on it and it’s going to be paid during the marriage, we should talk about it. We should decide if we want to identify that and what do we want that interest to look like during marriage?

It’s important to get that education. Keep your statements and you have to decide do you believe in the community or do you feel both of you are one of you wants to keep everything separate during the marriage, including what we were talking about. The money that you earn, the paycheck that you earned your marriage and what you purchase with that paycheck, if you want to keep everything separate, then you have to talk to your fiancé. You have to get on the same page about what you want to do. For people, it’s a touchy subject, especially when you’re thinking about marriage. Athena, you know this. Do people fight about money during the marriage?

That’s always.

Isn’t it important for us to talk about it before we get married and see if we can agree on what it’s going to look like so we can reduce some of that animosity? In fact, maybe even all of it, because we had some healthy conversations before marriage. When you talk about protecting the assets, you have to get the education and decide what do I want it to look like? Does my partner want it to look the same way? Can we agree on that? Also, get help and it doesn’t mean that what you think now is going to be the same after you have these conversations? That’s okay. You can change your mind and you set it up. Maybe it’s with a premarital agreement or by documenting everything. You set it up to look like the way you guys want it to look. I’m a big believer in communication. It’s important for a healthy marriage. If you can address these things beforehand, it’s a great opportunity. I like premarital agreements because if nothing else it can bring people together and that important conversation they have to have.

MCFA 11 | Protecting Your Assets
Protecting Your Assets: If you earn something during marriage without any agreement, the presumption is it’s going to be community property.

 

Money conversations are pretty difficult. First of all, some people are afraid of money, how to approach money and their own habits about money. You’re saying, “Let’s come together and let’s talk about money,” when they don’t talk to their own selves about money. It’s a great talent you have to bring people together and have that conversation.

It’s a skillset. If you’re afraid to talk about money, it’s absolutely something you should dive right into. That’s going to an accountant to understand all of these things. That’s getting the education and for people like you or people like me. One of the things I did when I started my partnership with my former partner, Debra, we went to a finance class that somebody was offering in a networking group that we were in. It was Debra’s idea. She was the brains of the operation at the beginning. I’m in Manhattan Beach and we went to Santa Monica in Brentwood once a week for two months. We took this financial class that deals with exactly what you talked about.

Our own attitudes about money. Also, looking at attitudes about money differently and how you plan. We had to do budgets and we had to do a minimum bare-bones budget, we had to do what our budget was, and we got the sky’s the limit budget. We worked on all kinds of things and I thought it was a wonderful way to start our practice. It was wonderful that I made my husband do it with me when we got married. That’s something that people can do. Go and look for financial classes and education. You can get investing and real estate tips. It’s the thing people can do together to help get over their own attitudes about money and learn how to communicate better with each other.

The question about the money and ask how it all works. When we think of the next thing that we could get asked a lot, the partner can have a deal. If you have a property or a real estate deal and it’s not your spouse and let’s say you get divorced, how is that an asset eve if someone else is connected, or is it?

That’s going to depend upon whether they got the asset before marriage and they introduce partnership before marriage. If you get it before marriage, you have this partnership and you have property together. Are you talking to purchase a property, not necessarily a business?

Yes, a real estate. Passive investing.

If you have it before marriage, you’re going to have some agreement with each other or you’re going to have title to it. You have to decide if they’re a mortgage on it that’s going to be paid down during marriage and how is that going to be paid? Is the rental income going to cover the expenses? Keep a separate account for the property. What most people do is they take the rent and put it in there and they pay the expenses from there. Is the community going to help? If there’s a potential for the money we earn during to be paying and it’s not going to sustain itself, you want to talk about what you want it to look. Probably a premarital agreement is going to be in your best interest for both the partner and you. Maybe you want it to be separate no matter what happens and you do a premarital agreement if nothing else on that particular asset.

If it’s going to be purchased during the marriage, it’s going to be community unless the two spouses decide they’re okay with this being my spouse is separate property. If that’s the case, you should do a postmarital agreement that transmutes. It’s another legal ease but it means that it transfers any potential community interest to your spouse’s separate property interest. That way there won’t be any issues. The bottom line is and what I’m saying is you need an agreement to define what the community interest is going to be or that there isn’t going to be any community interest. If it happens before marriage or if it happens during the marriage, you should get an agreement to make sure you clearly outline what you want the other spouse’s interest to be in it.

I’m going to give you another qualification on that. If you have inherited a property or money to help go on and in on this partnership with somebody else to put a down payment on a property, if it comes off from the separate property, you can put it into a separate title with this other partner. I personally would say you that I would personally make sure that there’s some statement, whether it’s in the deed or in some agreement that you do that says that your spouse transfers over and get waves any interest in that property if you want it to be separate property.

That brings to mind the quick thing. People think that their spouse has to sign the deed that they’re off that property. They’re coming off titled. They’re saying, at that moment, they don’t have an interest in that property.

We have case law and we have statutes that conflict with each other. I would not rely on a quitclaim deed releasing interest alone. You need a statement, at least in the deed that says that the spouse is quitclaiming her or his interest says, “I waive any interest in this property,” in the deed at the least. I would say, go that extra step and have a written agreement that says they waive their interest in that property. That’s the problem. We’ve got case line statutes that conflict. I have all kinds of interesting issues over this and some weird twist happens. It’s important to have these clearly outlined by agreement and not rely on the quitclaim. At the least, I wave my interest in this property than the deed.

That’s a good point. There’s often an agreement with each other, but they don’t have an agreement that those other people that are part of the new life that have an interest. They haven’t signed anything.

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Oftentimes, when people do partnership agreements during the marriage, they will have the spouses sign something. By all means, if you’re being asked to sign something, go and see an attorney to have it reviewed and make sure you understand what you’re signing. Secondly, if in fact, my husband was to buy a piece of property, a business or something with somebody else during our marriage and they have a partnership agreement between them, technically his interest in it is 50/50 with me. Unless he was able to get this from some other source, if it was from some other source of funding, I would tell him, please make me sign an agreement that waves my interest in this. It’s important to have things documented and not rely on, “I had $500,000 inheritance to fund this.” If it happens during the marriage, your spouse is going to have a 50/50 interest unless there’s something that waves their interest.

I had a client years ago that his partner passed away and he thought that he was going to be the sole owner of this property in this partnership. It turns out he became partners with his ex-partner’s wife. She started making demands and wanted him to sell the property that was never his intent. You do need to document these pretty well because that can happen. You end up partners with someone who didn’t intend to be partners.

That could even be it can either be by community property laws or it can be by a trust that they have where their properties pass to the other spouse. If you don’t have a will or a trust, it goes by what we call intestate succession. There’s a hierarchy of where property goes and how it’s distributed when there’s no will. A lot of things could create a third party coming in that you didn’t anticipate. A partnership agreement or some an agreement as to what’s going to happen. A clear understanding as to what happens if something happens to one of the partners.

If you want interest wave by a spouse or you could have a partnership agreement where each of the partners only gets to have a say about it and the remaining spouse might have an interest. Maybe you do something with stock or they’re not able to make decisions about that. Businesses are another good example of that or a piece of property. You can create agreements and I’d say, business attorneys and corporate attorneys are good for those. Also, you should, when you’re entering into these kinds of agreements with people, you have to consider the spouse’s interest in it and what you want that to look like.

Also, not rely on how you hold a title until you have a full-blown agreement.

There is a statute that says you look at everything by title, but there are many other case law and statutes that can come into play in conflict with that. That’s what creates the problems so I’m always a big believer in making sure you have everything in writing. You have an agreement with a clear understanding of what you guys are doing. What other questions do you have?

Someone asked me what happens to the debt? Let’s say you’re a real estate investor. You have a line of credit and you use that for your investment. I had a lady said to me that she was upset that her husband is the line of credit to invest and she wasn’t getting part of the investments because it’s their house. Is there a way to delineate whose debt to use? She said her husband had borrowed some money against their principal management to go buy an investment and they were an LLC. She thought she wasn’t going to get any of those buildings because she has shares in them. With the money from the house, I was wondering whose liability is it? How do you note that? You were talking about it but not on the asset side but on the liability side. How do you determine whose liability is it?

Without knowing more about what that woman laid out, I would say off the top of my head, particularly because he took a line of credit from an asset acquired during marriage based on the scenario you gave me. Even though the LLC or in his name, and the shares are in his name. She owns 50% of those shares because it’s community property unless there’s a premarital agreement I’m not aware of or something else I’m not aware of. Assuming he purchased it during the marriage with equity in the residence and even though it’s in his name because that’s what we do. We have a business and we do in her name. His shares are 50/50 between the two of them as community property unless I’m missing something, assuming that she’s responsible for half that credit line.

She would have 50% interest in the LLC and she got 50% in the remaining net equity and the residence assuming it’s all community property. Let’s go to debts. Debts are interesting. First and foremost, the assumption, as of the date of separation, all debts that are in existence, whether it’s in my name, his name, or both names are community property. You’d have to come up with some other reasons or exceptions for it to be a separate property debt to be someone’s responsibility. If you come to me and want to look at creative ways of resolving these things, we can look at it. Maybe somebody takes on more debt and they have a little bit more of an asset. Maybe they want to buy something out of the house so they’ll take on more debt, instead of having to split it 50/50 so they can reduce what they have to buy the other spouse out for.

Yes. It’s balancing.

In general, debts are going to be considered 50/50 unless there’s some exception. People would then ask, “What about as of the date of marriage?” You can expect that debts that you bring into the marriage are going to end up being joint as you pay them down, but you can outline what debts each of you is going to be responsible for if you wanted to do a premarital agreement between the two of you. Maybe you wanted to agree with what you were going to do. There are some debts that you bring into the marriage that end up staying with you like school loans.

MCFA 11 | Protecting Your Assets
Protecting Your Assets: You need an agreement to define what the community interest is going to be or there isn’t going to be any community interest.

 

I personally brought in school loans into my marriage. I paid them off through my business. If for some reason, we were to separate and I still have these school loans outstanding, the rest of the school loans would go to me. Here’s a question based on how long we’ve been married as to whether or not the community would be entitled to payback of some of what I paid down on those loans because we’re less than ten years in the marriage. If we were less than ten years in the marriage, he might be able to get some reimbursement because the community paid my school loans.

There’s another statute that says if we’re married more than ten years, the community is presumed to benefit from those loans because my income should have been going up. The community benefits from me. Also, we get to write the interest off in our returns so the community benefits. It’s a much smaller piece of the principal pay down on these debts that we would be talking about. You need to know that if it’s been more than ten years, we’ve benefited. If it’s less than ten years, it’s something that you can talk about as to whether the community is entitled to some reimbursement for paid out of my school loans and I get to take my education with me.

The growing presumption and it takes a while to do that. Those student loans take forever. How does the IRS fall into this as far as the debts?

Both spouses are jointly and severally liable for all tax debt. As a date of separation, if you’ve filed joint returns, you’re each going to be jointly responsible for those as far as the IRS and the state of California are concerned. If you can’t negotiate some different kind of split and responsibility for those debts, you’re going to be equally responsible for them. The weird thing is if somebody isn’t paying their share of that debt because some people don’t pay them, they can be assigned it in judgment. They’re not going to pay it. The IRS is going to go after the easiest fastest target. If your spouse ends up leaving and not being responsible for debts, and you get it and maybe you’re a cashier at a Rite Aid.

If they see a paycheck, they’re going to garnish your wages. It’s one of those things that talk about money, how you’re going to file and how you guys are going to be paid debts down and keeping up. It’s so easy when we work and we have kids to let somebody else handle the money. Even if you do that, you still have to talk in some way or another about what your assets and debts are, what’s going on with them. You’re not surprised by anything so you can get a handle on debt if it’s getting out of hand. You have to cut back on expenses if, in fact, it’s getting a little out of hand. File all your returns. Don’t get tax debts.

A lot of people don’t understand the return, especially with what you’re saying. One spouse is dominant in the money area. They’re maybe more talented at it, but it can come back and bite you.

That’s more education. Even if we don’t understand it, make somebody dumb it down for us. I’m a big believer. That’s where I like that CPA or forensic accountant. Go and make an appointment with somebody. Asks somebody like you, “Where can I find an accountant that I can take my returns to and have them break it down for me?” Information is power. The more knowledge we get for ourselves, the better we feel and the better control we have of our lives because we know what’s going on. Don’t put your head in the sand because you don’t understand something or because it’s not your skillset. The joke is this is lawyers go to law school because we suck at math. The main part of my job is math.

I pay accountants to spend an hour with me and teach me these things that I don’t understand the first time I hear it. With these new tax changes, I’m going to go to seminars after seminars to make sure I understood so I can help explain it and help my clients get settlements that take these tax changes into account. It’s important for us to get educated. Don’t be afraid, especially when you don’t know something. That’s the time you dig in you find somebody. With the internet, we can get an education on everything. You can get YouTube videos. You can get all these things and don’t go to one source. Go to many so you have a good understanding. This may be not so much but I get the gist of how this works. It gives you more control over your life. The more knowledge we have, the happier we are because we understand everything.

The fear diminishes as you learn about it. Your fear level goes down because you’re learning more and more as the deals come.

I have a girlfriend who’s gone through this horrible divorce. She’s already divorced a long time ago, but they haven’t been able to finish the distribution of their assets and it’s been a long time. The husband has this attorney. I have never heard of anybody who does some of the things that she does, she’s horrible. She not necessarily having an understanding of how things work in the legal process. She’s put her head in the sand. As we sat and we gathered paperwork and I listened to what his claims were, I said, “Get this and this and this.” She got it and I give her an outline for the next tasks to do. I can’t tell you I see a different person in front of me as she gets all of her documents and files. She understands how it works and she feels better about it. Ultimately, we can’t control what the judge is going to do or how he or she is going to see the situation. She feels better because she was letting two people make her feel like she was less than because she did not have a basic understanding. It takes a little work and belief in yourself.

It’s because some people are going to feel beat up. Sometimes you get knocked out of there because you’re not allowing information to figure out, they’re the victim.

Especially now, information is much easier to get and it’s at our fingertips. Take the first step. When you start to look into something, you get advice from people or you go to this public education like you give. When you go do these things, you start to feel better because you have a better understanding about it.

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Someone asked the biggest difference between someone getting divorced at a young age versus old age. What are the main differences?

I would normally say the amount of assets and the type of assets. Young people have a lot of assets early on, particularly with the evolution of technology. I keep saying that, but it’s amazing. General assets are getting more complicated. They’re interesting to have to look at and how we’re going to distribute them. With older people, in general, we call it Gray Law. As older people, we’ve amassed our assets. We built our kingdom. We have our assets and it’s all right there. If you’ve had a long-term marriage and you had some assets before marriage, it’s important to keep that documentation. My older clients are much better at keeping documentation. We have the support issues if they’re past 60, and they’re not working anymore, we’re looking at retirement income.

There may not be any support because there’s the distribution of retirement. We look at whatever income you have at that time and we’re going to relate it back to what was the standard of living, what were you living off of towards the end of the marriage. We’re looking at the issues of support, the distribution of retirement, assets, and debts. A lot of times, we’re looking at one house. Is one person going to keep that house or do they have to sell it and what are they where are they going to go from there? Those are issues with older people. We have the young generation, where we’re going to be seeing a lot more relationships that we’re dealing with that aren’t going to be with marriage.

They’re going to be outside of marriage. They’re going to have kids together and they’re going to build assets. We’re not going to have the community component to it but we’re going to have partnerships where they’ve done things separately. They’ve done things together that we’re going to have to sort out. With my set, they’re in the 30s and 40s. It’s that building of the assets and we’re bringing in these complicated and mixed assets of people. Young people have acquired a lot before they get married. The question is the documentation on it, can we prove up?

If you have a separate property interest and you want to see at least not everybody needs to have that back out of the marriage. If you want to at least request consideration of what it looks like, you have to have the documentation. The burden is on what we call the separate-tiser. It means the person who says, “I put in $500,000 to this home that I acquired from stocks I had prior to marriage. Shouldn’t I get that back?” The answer is, yes, there’s a statute that says that you get your down payment with no interest at the time you are either doing a buyout of the house or you’re selling the house and that’s off the top of the net.

We give them their $500,000 back and we split the rest equally, assuming it’s a community home. They’re not going to be able to get that if the other spouse doesn’t agree that they put $500,000 in or they have to prove it. The burdens on them to trace back the document that says, “I got this from this separate property account and we put it in. Here’s the escrow, closing sheet and here’s where the $500,000 is, so I’ve proved it.” More often than not couples will agree, “Yes, he put in this.” “Yes, she put in that.” That’s why I said I’m a big believer in that documentation. If you’ve got assets, you keep your documentation on it.

One question that I’m thinking about. What about intellectual property? I guess it’s the same when someone had an idea for a business that wasn’t brought into fruition. They’ve been working on it. They’ve been using the community asset. Because it hasn’t come to fruition, how do you put a price on intellectual property that’s nascent in a stage?

It’s going to be case and fact-specific. How far have they gotten on it? What work was done during the marriage? If it’s an idea but nothing has been done with it, maybe there might be some little agreed to buy out, so you don’t have to worry about it again. Maybe it’s, “Let’s give a small percentage because we were brainstorming at the kitchen table over this for a couple of years.” Maybe there’s more work done before you separate, and you do the majority of it after the fact. We look at it from a time real perspective. How much time was spent during the marriage and how much time was spent after the date of separation?

We’d have to look at it from that perspective. If you have something that you called a nascent stage and both spouses have this interest in it, we might consider reserving jurisdiction over it and looking if anything becomes of it, or we might consider addressing a small percentage to it. Having a forensic accountant, go ahead and look at the time roll. How much time is spent during marriage and help them kind of come to an agreement on a percentage, or maybe some kind of payout from it if it ever comes to fruition? A lot of people will shelf the idea start on something new later after the date of separation.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

We have gone the gamut. We did community property and separate property. We talked about premarital agreements. If you don’t do one before marriage, you can do one during the marriage, but sometimes you both have to be on the same page. It’s harder to get somebody to do the agreement. It’s not necessarily the motivation unless you both have it. That’s why I’m going to say as much as possible, have that communication before you get married and well before you get married. Do that work with each other because you’re creating a healthy path for your marriage. We talked about what assets look like during marriage, whether they’re separate property and community property and we gave examples but we necessarily talk about divorce. That’s what I do. I help people come to agreements with their divorce.

It’s a requirement in the state of California. The date of separation when a divorce or legal separation is filed, our clients have to fill out the schedule of assets and debts or property declaration. They’re the same form and an income and expense declaration. Everybody says, “Do I have to do this?” The answer is yes because it’s a statute that requires at least a preliminary disclosure. Also, it’s a blueprint for the people for each other and for the people that we’re working with. It says, “This is what we have.” I will take those once we’re done with them and I’m requiring my clients to be pretty particular about it.

Unless there’s no reason to be but pretty much in my work, there’s a reason to be. I don’t have to go back and ask them questions when we’re writing up a judgment later. I want to know what you have. I want to ask you, “Is there any sort of separate property interest we have to talk about?” What do you guys want to do with this? Do we have to have something value? Do we need to get an appraiser? Do we need to have them come meet with you, Athena to get see if they qualify for a refi or what they need for refi if one wants to buy one out?

I write notes when I’m in the process with my clients whether they’re collaborative or mediation. I’m a huge note taker. I start writing action items. What are we going to do with this asset? What are we looking at? What homework do we have to do? Do we want to bring in a forensic accountant for all of it or for one little piece, one determination of that retirement plan that started before marriage and was contributed to during marriage? You should be clear about it because it helps each other and helps you talk to each other. It helps us work with you to say, “What do we’ve got? What homework do we have?”

Once we do all that homework and we agree on values, we’re going to decide who gets what and we’re going to put it into a judgment of dissolution. When you talk about protecting your assets in the date separation, it’s important to continue to be involved as to what assets you have, how the returns and what are the debts. Keep copies of statements and you can put it into a disclosure document. It’s not so hard to do that if you have information on it if you know of things that haven’t necessarily had that access to, you can certainly know enough to ask about it. Once we get that information, it makes coming to an agreement much easier.

Basically, documentation at any sage is your best friend.

In our computers and flash drives to be a little bit green, we receive statements online. You want to make sure you have documentation of your assets, have a special place for them whatever that looks like for you.

Do you do family trust the revocable trust too? Is that part of family law or no?

Family law, for me, involves that premarital discussion, premarital agreement, what things are looking during the marriage, if we’re divorcing or separating, children, child support, spousal support, attorney’s fees, we’re looking at it. I’m coming about all of that through either collaboratively, two attorneys working with their clients, but we’re not threatening court throughout. We’re helping them come to an agreement. We can bring in neutral professionals to help them through it. We’re not only addressing legal, but we’re addressing financial and mental aspects of the divorce rates because we have all three. I’m also doing that from a mediation perspective. I’m helping a neutral between my clients and I’ll bring in people that I need as well. I consult people who might need me for little pieces of it or they want to work it out with each other but they need a little advice throughout the process. What was your question?

It’s about a family trust, living trust or revocable trust.

I don’t do any estate planning and probate. I have a great list of referrals if anybody needs those kinds of referrals. I do work with those types of attorneys when we have those issues in our case.

You must have to know a lot about them to be able to help people because a lot of people have their stuff in there in trust. It’s part of your world.

Yes, and I know enough to be dangerous. I know enough to be able to say, “We need to get you to an estate planning attorney or we need to get somebody on the phone to answer this question for us.” Yes. I know enough that we know when we have an issue that we have to deal with.

Thanks, Jane, for educating us. It was super fun. If someone wants to get into touch with you or contact you, what would be the best way to do that?

I’m in Manhattan Beach and I’m on my own. I have this great little office that I feel comfortable in. It’s Jane K. Euler Family Law and I’m on 2nd St. Sepulveda. My email address is Jane@JaneEuler.com. My phone number is (310) 376-1318. You can also Google me.

We’ll be sending this up to our database and sending it to you so you can put it on your website. Hopefully, more people will get to know you that way. Thank you much for joining me, Jane.

Thank you so much.

You’re welcome. In the next episode, joining Investors Corner, we’ll learn from Jennifer Valko, who’s the Founder of Fostering a Change, which shelters 18 to 24-year-old women who are aged out of the foster system and need a transition place. Out of her passion for real estate, she’s a former mortgage underwriter, and she wanted to make a change in that world. She’ll be joining us with one of her residents, who has made it all the way through college with a double major bachelor’s degree and is running the shelters. It’s exciting to be able to meet those ladies. On Mortgage Monday, join me at 6:00 to learn about the five poison pills of buying a condo. Thanks for joining us. Bye.

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About Jane Euler

MCFA 11 | Protecting Your AssetsJane K. Euler, has successfully been representing the needs of her family law clients since 1995. Ms. Euler is a skilled, seasoned and knowledgeable legal professional in all areas of family law issues, including divorce, separation and paternity actions from petition through judgment; child and spousal support issues; parenting plans; asset distribution issues; post-judgment assistance and modification requests; premarital, post-marital and cohabitation agreements; and more.

Specialties: Ms. Euler’s practice allows her to continue to build her family law clientele handling cases using the following Consensual Dispute Resolution alternatives for her clients:

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