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The Legal Divorce

No matter how long spouses have lived apart, no matter what the financial arrangement between spouses is, and no matter if spouses interact with one another or lead completely separate lives, a married couple cannot be legally divorced without an order from a court. At a minimum, to obtain a legal divorce, one spouse must initiate a divorce action by filing a complaint in court alleging specific facts to meet certain statutory requirements and must subsequently prove his or her case before a judicial official. While a legal divorce requires certain action by the court, the manner in which divorce litigation proceeds is greatly influenced by the behavior of the parties. Most people seek an “amicable” divorce, but the legal way of framing this procedure is either as a “contested” or an “uncontested” divorce. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of family law cases settle before a judge has to make a decision. In cases with protracted litigation, a judge’s decision may be the only way a case can resolve. With this in mind, it is important to understand how the “emotional divorce” and the “financial divorce” affect the “legal divorce.” The likelihood of a procedurally simple legal divorce is greatly enhanced if parties make the effort to work through emotional and financial issues ahead of a formal filing with the court. In particular, a comprehensive and clearly written marital settlement agreement that is reached by the parties can serve as a map to remind the parties of their obligations to one another and to their children. While it may be confusing to enter the realm of contracts and courts, depending...

Transferring your vehicle after death: Life has been made a little simpler

While it is true that government is not always the easiest entity to deal with, this year in Annapolis, the General Assembly passed HB 492, a bill that modifies Maryland’s Transportation Article. This new legislation should make tending to estate planning a little bit easier. Beginning October 1, 2017, a sole owner of a motor vehicle may designate a beneficiary of the motor vehicle to a specified beneficiary by noting the beneficiary on the title of the motor vehicle. This designation of a beneficiary may be shown by the words “transfer-on-death” or the abbreviation TOD. On the death of the owner of the motor vehicle, the ownership of the motor vehicle passes to the beneficiary if the beneficiary survives the owner. Such a motor vehicle passes outside of the decedent’s probate estate. Of course, if the designated beneficiary does not survive the death of the owner, then the motor vehicle is part of the estate of the deceased owner and will be subject to a probate action. This new legislation also calls for the adoption of regulations to implement the purpose of the bill. We can expect to see new forms – likely available on-line – to assist the owner of a motor vehicle in the process of directly designating a beneficiary. Many people already know to whom they wish to give their tangible personal property after they pass on, including their vehicles. Procedurally, this new law will give owners of motor vehicles a new option to dispose of an important asset. We can thank the General Assembly this year for this initiative, and most especially the chief sponsor...