On Air: Dan Ruttenberg Shares Estate Planning Tips for the Elderly

Preparing in advance is vital if you want to protect your assets and have a say in how they are passed on. SmolenPlevy Principal Dan Ruttenberg, JD, CPA, LLM shares estate planning tips on local TV show, Senior Living in Alexandria.

“Legal documents are tools to address issues,” Ruttenberg tells Senior Living in Alexandria host Jim Roberts. It is important to have documents that keep you covered in case of death or disability. Particularly in the event of a disability, you want to have confidence in who is making decisions on your behalf.

What happens if you don’t have an estate plan in place? That will depend on the circumstances at the time — Ruttenberg explains important estate planning tips, including how to avoid probate in the complete segment above.

The Huffington Post: 5 Reasons For a Prenup

SmolenPlevy-Dickerson-Plevy-Reasons-PrenupAs seen on The Huffington Post by Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson and Alan Plevy.

5 Reasons For a Prenup–Even if You Aren’t a Celebrity

There’s nothing classically romantic about prenuptial agreements. Most couples willfully avoid them because they don’t want to ruin their blissful idea of a marriage lasting until death do they part. But they can learn from the long list of celebrity splits about what can happen when you don’t have a prenup. In one of the most expensive Hollywood divorces, actor/director Mel Gibson reportedly paid $425 million to his ex, Robyn Moore.

Recently, actress Kaley Cuoco, the 30-year old star of the Big Bang Theory and one of TV’s highest-paid performers, split from tennis player Ryan Sweeting. Because of a prenuptial agreement, he reportedly will only get a lump sum of $165,000 and $65,000 for legal fees.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity to benefit from a prenuptial agreement. Without one, divorce litigation can become costly and complicated. More importantly, a premarital agreement often forces couples to discuss in detail uncomfortable financial issues that they might otherwise have ignored. It is challenging to discuss what debt a person brings to the marriage and the basis of the debt – especially if it is consumer debt, like credit cards. Disclosing a prior bankruptcy can be more difficult than disclosing a prior marriage. A premarital agreement, no matter who brings it up, opens the door to those conversations.

Here are some reasons prenuptial agreements can be useful for couples.

Second marriages/blended families: Often, people have continuing obligations to their prior spouse or to children from a prior relationship. Premarital agreements can determine which assets will be protected or allocated for the children of a prior relationship, and which assets will be safeguarded for the new spouse. Premarital agreements can also protect the new spouse’s assets from being used to pay the arrears or debts arising out of their spouse’s prior marriage.

If you own a business: Young entrepreneurs rarely imagine a divorce being one of the biggest threats to the stability of their business, but it can significantly impact cash flow, ownership, and productivity. Regardless of whether you started your company before marriage, a spouse may claim a portion of the business appreciation or income. Prenups can classify which assets are separate or marital. This means you and your intended spouse can agree that your business will be considered your separate property and not subject to division upon divorce.

Death or disability: While most people think divorce when they hear about premarital agreements, such agreements can also protect your assets in case of disability or death. Premarital agreements can prevent, or provide a remedy if an estranged spouse retitles or liquidates assets during their spouse’s disability.

Debt: Some couples may have more debt than assets. Couples with significantly different debt loads can protect themselves in the same way as couples with vastly different wealth. The couple can agree as to which debt shall be considered a separate, non-marital obligation and how the income of the couple will be allocated during the marriage as to the payment of that debt.

Inheritances: If one or both spouses expect to receive an inheritance over the course of their marriage, a premarital agreement can protect it from division upon death or a divorce. Family heirlooms can also be specified to remain in one spouse’s possession.

The Huffington Post: Common Post-Divorce Life Changes


A parenting relationship does not end when the divorce proceedings do. SmolenPlevy Principals Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson and Alan Plevy share six common post-divorce life changes with The Huffington Post.

Life After Divorce: 6 Common Post-Divorce Life Changes

Circumstances change over time and affect the continued workability of the original arrangements and create issues to which you have to adapt. Children grow older and their needs change. Either or both of the parents often find their lives become significantly different than they were during the original proceedings.

Here are some of the most common post-divorce life changes and how you can prepare for them.

Remarriage: A new marriage, for either or both divorced parents, can mean lots of changes — especially for their children. Will the new marriage lead to relocation? How well does the child interact with the new spouse? Older children might feel displaced by infants or other children new to the household. Planning the introductions, staggering the combining of families and working with the other parent to help the children adapt to the changes can make the transition from a single parent household to a blended family easier for the children.

Read the rest of Dickerson and Plevy’s suggestions on The Huffington Post

On Air: Daniel Ruttenberg Shares Why You Should Have a Will in Order on ABC 7

A court confirmed that music superstar Prince died without a will, which leaves complicated questions about who inherits his vast fortune. There are at least six siblings, including half siblings, who may inherit, and the confusion is just starting. In an interview on ABC 7, SmolenPlevy Principal Daniel Ruttenberg explained the problems that may occur when you die without a will, and why it’s vital to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

Ruttenberg explained that without a will, Prince could not direct where his assets should go. “I think that’s a travesty,” said Ruttenberg. Often, people avoid estate planning because they don’t think they have enough assets. But Ruttenberg said you don’t need to own much to learn from Prince’s mistake — plan now and prevent the heartache and need for the court’s intervention after you’re gone.

A will can dictate to whom your money goes, protect your children’s interests in their inheritance and help avoid taxation. News reports predict Prince’s siblings will split the multi-million dollar estate, but Ruttenberg indicates that someone who claims to be Prince’s child could trump all of that.

Ruttenberg told ABC 7’s Kimberly Suiter that whoever does inherit Prince’s estate isn’t necessarily going to be better for it. Sudden wealth has its own set of problems, and many people who inherit a fortune overnight end up blowing it all quickly. They can end up broke, homeless, and in a worse position than they were before getting the money.

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Named Top 100 by Virginia Super Lawyers

Kyung Kathryn Dickerson

SmolenPlevy is pleased to announce that Principal Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson has been named one of the Top 100 Virginia Super Lawyers and Top 50 Virginia Women Super Lawyers in 2016.

This is the second time since 2014 that Ms. Dickerson has received these honors. The annual selections for Super Lawyers are made using a multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area.

Four SmolenPlevy Attorneys Named to 2016 Virginia Super Lawyers & Rising Stars


2016 Virginia Super Lawyers

SmolenPlevy is pleased to announce that Principals Alan Plevy, Daniel Ruttenberg and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson have been named 2016 Virginia Super Lawyers. Additionally, Associate Joshua Isaacs has been recognized as 2016 Virginia Rising Star. Both honors are awarded to no more than five percent of attorneys in each state.

Super Lawyers is a rating of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent evaluation of candidates and peer reviews.

The Huffington Post: Summer Vacation Tips for Divorced Parents


For divorced and separated parents, summer vacation can be a chaotic and combative time. SmolenPlevy Principals Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson and Alan Plevy share six tips for summer vacation tips for divorced parents with The Huffington Post.

6 Summer Vacation Tips for Divorced or Separated Parents

It’s an annual rite of Spring — children are eagerly anticipating the end of the school year and the start of their summer break. The same can’t be said for a number of divorced or separated parents. Summer vacation can deteriorate into a very stressful, chaotic and combative time for parents who share custody as well as a confusing time for their children. This nightmarish scenario can be avoided. Here are some tips to help create peace and ensure that your children have a fun summer.

Plan ahead: To avoid last-minute disagreements, parents should discuss and come up with a vacation schedule. Most separation agreements or Court Orders set out what time each parent has with the children during the summer. This can simplify this time of year for those families, but the agreements or Orders often set out deadlines by which you must notify the other parent of your vacation. If you don’t make timely decisions, you can lose your right to have priority in the selection of exclusive time with the children.

Read the rest of Dickerson and Plevy’s tips The Huffington Post.

Jason Smolen Named “Trailblazer” by The National Law Journal

Jason Smolen Named a 2016 National Law Journal Trailblazers Honoree

SmolenPlevy Co-Founding Principal Jason Smolen has been named to the inaugural National Law Journal Divorce, Trust and Estates Trailblazers and Pioneers list. The honor catalogs the accomplishments of 50 innovative thinkers and leading practitioners in the fields of divorce, trust and estates.

For nearly 40 years, Smolen has practiced business and individual succession planning, trust and estates, and other complex areas of estate planning. A member of the bars of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, his expertise has drawn the attention of ABC News, USA Today and Yahoo!.

Smolen shares his journey, accomplishments and hopes for the field in the in the The National Law Journal’s March 21, 2016 issue.

Read Smolen’s Trailblazer’s profile here.

The Divorce To-Do List: Kyung Dickerson Shares Tips for Couples with The Huffington Post

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While no two divorces are the same, there are certain proactive steps couples can take before separating. SmolenPlevy Principal Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson a divorce to-do list with The Huffington Post:

 The Divorce To-Do List

“Till death do us part.”

When most couples make that vow, they don’t think that divorce is a possibility. But statistics reflect that a significant number of marriages don’t last. While couples often spend countless hours planning their wedding, many spend far less time preparing for a divorce. This can make an already challenging time even more difficult.

While every marital breakup is different, there are certain steps that couples should take before separating. By investing this time, they may avoid significant negative financial repercussions.

It is prudent to know what comprises your marital estate. The following can help you educate yourself.

Follow the money: In most marriages, there is a division of labor. One person might do the cooking and mow the lawn, while the other one might do the laundry and pay the monthly bills. Even if you aren’t the household CFO, you still need to understand what accounts exist, how they are titled and how they are managed. You should be able to access any accounts on which you are titled. If account passwords are changed regularly or have been changed since you’ve last looked at the accounts, make sure you know the new ones and where they are kept.

Read the rest of Dickerson’s Divorce To-Do List in The Huffington Post.

On Air: Kyung Dickerson Addresses Holiday Dilemmas for Divorced Families on FOX 5 and NewsChannel 8

The holidays can be a festive and joyous time spent with families and friends. However, for newly separated and divorced parents and their children, it can be a stressful and challenging time. SmolenPlevy Principal and family law attorney Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson joins FOX 5 DC’s Good Day DC and NewsChannel 8’s Good Morning Washington to share practical tips to deal holiday dilemmas for divorced families.

When handling the holidays, communication is key for separated, divorced and blended families. “The more they communicate, the smoother, easier, and better it will be for the children,” Dickerson tells Good Day DC host Allison Seymour. She goes further to suggest written communication is ideal, so there are no questions about “who is going to show up where with what gifts and whom.”

In addition to working out detailed plans, avoid unnecessary tension by not trying out-buy the other parent or buying something you know that the other parent doesn’t want the child to have.  Also one of the biggest mistakes Dickerson sees during the holiday season is introducing the children to a new significant other.

Divorce is often viewed as an ending, but the holidays may be a great time to start new traditions – to begin writing a new family story.

At the end of the day, interactions with an estranged spouse should be civil, businesslike, and keep the children’s happiness and best interests in mind. “The greater the tension, the less the children like the holidays,” warns Dickerson. For many children of divorce, seeing their parents get along during the holidays may be the greatest gift of all.

Watch Dickerson on NewsChannel 8 and FOX 5 DC below:

FOX 5 DC’s Good Day DC:

NewChannel 8’s Good Morning Washington: