Estate Planning Through a Divorce

Attorney Jeff Melick of Kates & Barlow, PC addresses the ECEPC on Sept. 17

ECEPC-MelickTalk“Divorce is just about one of the worst things that people can go through,” said Attorney Jeff Melick of Kates & Barlow, PC, a Boston-based law firm specializing in family law. “About 50 percent of people who get married, get divorced.”

Melick spoke to members of the Essex County Estate Planning Council at an educational breakfast held at Spinelli’s in Lynnfield on Sept. 17, and offered advice on how estate planning professionals can help clients through a divorce and how to plan in advance to protect their assets.

Melick discussed all of the factors that the court considers when dividing assets during a divorce – such as the health and age of the parties, income and occupation and length of marriage, among others – but also pointed out that Massachusetts does not have hard and fast rules for weighing each factor.

“Some states have very formulaic standards when getting a divorce,” he said. “Massachusetts is not one of them.”

This makes it difficult to predict with any certainty how a judge will rule in any given case. “People come into my office and say, ‘What’s going to happen?'”

“I have no idea,” he said.

There are ways of dealing with this certainty in advance, however, and Attorney Melick talked about many of them, including marital and premarital agreements, and he gave advice on how to manage assets so that their division is fair and equitable if a  divorce occurs.

The most important thing, he said, is to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. This experience will go a long way in helping to get any sort of divorce agreements enforced. At the end of his talk, Attorney Melick passed out hard copies of his presentation, “Estate Planning and Divorce: An Introduction to the Process,” a valuable resource containing the Mass General Laws on alimony, child support guidelines and probate court forms.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Elizabeth Macomber, vice president of philanthropy at Care Dimensions – the Council’s Elite Annual Sponsor – spoke to Council members about her organization’s decision to sponsor the ECEPC.

“We were really honored to be asked to become a sponsor for this group,” said Macomber. “I think there’s a lot of synergy between what you do and what our organization does.”

Though Care Dimensions’ service area reaches as far south as Walpole and as far west as Framingham, Essex County remains its strongest area. Here, Care Dimensions has cared for 44 percent of patients receiving end-of-life care, Macomber said.

The organization recently held its annual Walk for Hospice – its biggest fundraiser of the year – where more than 4,000 walkers gathered to support Care Dimensions’ commitment to providing quality hospice care, palliative care and support services. It’s not too late to make a donation. Visit www.caredimensions.org to find out how.

Help the Essex County Estate Planning Council continue to develop a schedule of educational programming that provides high value to our members. Please let us know what you thought of our Sept. 17 event featuring Attorney Jeff Melick below. Thank you. 

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