Planning for Life’s Unthinkables

Being prepared for divorce, or death, takes courage but results in peace of mind.

Friday, March 29, 2013 | 4:07 pm

Heidi Bitterman

Heidi Bitterman

Heidi Bitterman specializes in helping her clients plan for the unplannable and think through the unthinkable and by doing so gives them peace of mind and deep satisfaction they have done what’s best for those they love.

Bitterman, a Pasadena estate planning attorney with the family Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer, specializes in helping people think through and make the tough choices about what to do with their assets – even their body – when they divorce and when they die.

Statistics say that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce – and 100% of us will die. The gloomy statistics are often ignored by even the most organized and intelligent, until it’s too late. This avoidance often results in savage disputes over asset ownership.

Losing custody of key assets can mean losing control of one’s life. The question now is: how do you protect what’s yours? At all times – even during divorce, and after death?

Bitterman says the most important fundamental for most people is to guarantee their assets pass to the people that they want.

By helping to set up trusts and making sure assets are safe during whatever life-changing event clients may face, Bitterman makes sure that her clients are protected. She keeps them well-informed during the entire process.

Absolute trust in your attorney is something Bitterman stresses.

“I don’t recommend that you hire just anyone. I think you should interview to make sure that the attorney is a good fit for you,” she says, continuing to say that some attorneys are very tax-minded but miss out on important details and on family dynamics.

Details like facing down the tough questions.

“It’s difficult when we have conversations about the Advance Health Care Directive,” Bitterman says. This is a document that specifies a person, or persons, who will make medical decisions for you in the event you do not have the capacity to make those decisions for yourself. Within that document, you specify such things as whether you want to be an organ donor, how you want your body disposed of after death, and your preferences for when you would prefer to be taken off of life sustaining treatment.

“We’re talking about things that people don’t really want to think about – but it’s a very important conversation to have,” Bitterman adds.

“What if you were in a car accident? Okay, what if you and your spouse and all of your children were in the car during the accident?” Not at all fun, questions like these, but Bitterman asks because she needs to. She has to know to help plan for the unplannable.

In divorce cases “my job is to determine what type of estate plan is in place, how that plan will be affected by the dissolution proceedings and what I can do to help the client craft an interim plan that will be more consistent with their wishes in light of their new life situation.” Bitterman explains: “What most people don’t know is that you are considered spouses until the divorce judgment is final. And when we’re going through a divorce, we really don’t want our spouse to inherit all of our assets.”

Another thing people are not aware of when they begin the process of divorce is that there are automatic temporary restraining orders that prevent them from transferring assets or changing beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts once the petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed. The restraining orders are intended to preserve the financial status quo for both parties so they don’t start moving money around or hiding assets.

While this is positive for divorce process, Bitterman says, it limits the types of actions one could normally take when assisting a person in creating (or modifying) an estate plan. “In counseling a client who is considering divorce, I talk about the effect of the restraining orders and discuss the types of preemptive measures we could take to change the client’s estate plan before we file.”

Aside from helping you plan for the unthinkable, Bitterman gives clients the “peace of mind that at least that portion of their life is planned for and okay.”

If you need help with the unthinkables in your life, you can contact the Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer at:

Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer
201 South Lake Avenue
Suite 800
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 683-8113

Consultations are free if referred, so tell them we sent you.











blog comments powered by Disqus