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.

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.

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 WUSA 9: Safeguarding Online Accounts After Death

In today’s digital and “paperless” age, it is hard staying on top of all our online accounts. However, it is important to keep record of “digital assets” as a part of your estate planning. On WUSA 9SmolenPlevy Principal Jason Smolen joins anchor Mike Hydeck to discuss tips for safeguarding the location and access information of your online accounts and social media.

Smolen suggests making a list documenting the login information for every online account you have and ensuring that there is a current paper copy of that list. After death, that paper list will inform your loved ones of what accounts exist. However, having the login information and passwords may not entitle beneficiaries to use your online accounts on behalf of your estate. Many service agreements and some federal laws prohibit others from using your accounts in your absence.

Preparing a list of online accounts is an important first step in protecting access to your digital assets. Smolen further suggests providing instructions on what to do with each account in the event of death.

Watch Smolen on WUSA 9 above.

Jason Smolen Discusses the Step Up Provision with MainStreet

Smolen - Step Up Provision

Traditionally, heirs have avoided taxes on increases in the value of a decedent’s portfolio assets. However, President Obama proposed ending of this provision, commonly referred to as the Step Up provision in the capital gains tax, during his State of the Union address in January. SmolenPlevy co-founding Principal Jason Smolen explains the implications of the proposal in a just published article on

Under the proposal, the capital gains tax on inherited assets would only exempt the first $200,000 for a married couple and $100,000 for singles. The elimination of the “step up” provision could become an accounting challenge for heirs. “You would have to know what the deceased paid to acquire an asset to determine the original cost basis for all inherited assets,” Smolen tells MainStreet.

Although the end of “step up” is still just a proposal, there may be an increase in using life insurance policies as an estate planning tool. Smolen says insurance can be an add-on benefit that can reduce the frictional costs of taxes.

Read the full MainStreet article here.

In The Media: SmolenPlevy’s Kyung Dickerson on the Surge in January Divorces


There’s a chill during January. Not just outside, but in many a marriage. As just reported on WNEW radio, SmolenPlevy Principal and family law attorney Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson says January is a busy time for divorce.

“There’s something symbolic about the new year,” according to Dickerson, who states that the number of people who want to take action towards separation and divorce increases after the holidays. Many people wait until January for the sake of their children and family. They don’t want to create memories that associate the holidays with the breaking up of a family.

While the desire to separate is there, some couples fail to prepare financially. Dickerson says people need to consider whether there will be additional expenses, such as a second household and the expenses associated with it. Dickerson suggests couples get a full picture of their finances–assets, debts, etc.

Listen to Dickerson on WNEW Radio below:


In the Media: Kyung Dickerson Discusses ‘Cyberspying’ on WTOP

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Discusses Cyberspying on WTOP Divorce often brings out the worst in people, but ‘cyberspying’ shows how low they can go. SmolenPlevy principal Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson discusses the disturbing new trend on air with WTOP.

Cyberspying occurs when one parent uses technology to spy on the other parent while he or she has custody of the child. It can be as simple as forcing the child to Skype or FaceTime when the other spouse has custody, or as complex as planting a tracking device in the child’s shoelaces.

Angry and suspicious parents fail to realize how much cyberspying affects the children who are caught in the crossfire.

“The worst part of it all is, the children are put right in the middle of the debate,” says Dickerson. “As the children get older and are aware of what’s going on, that’s really not healthy for the children.”

Listen to Dickerson discussing cyberspying on air below.

 Part 1:

Part 2:

Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Featured in AP Article About Divorce and the Holidays

Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson featured by the Associated Press

For the children of divorced or separated couples, the holiday season can be stressful and frustrating if their parents don’t cooperate with regard to gift giving.  In a recent article, “Holiday gifting can be vexing for kids of divorce,” on the Associated Press’s The Big Story website, SmolenPlevy principals Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson suggest ways to make the holidays more joyful for kids who spend their time in more than one home.

Transferring favorite gifts or toys between both parents’ homes can be difficult and result in lost or broken pieces.  Also, it is not uncommon for parents to forbid their kids to take new treasures from one home to the other.  And divorced parents sometimes compete with each other by purchasing elaborate gifts that they really can’t afford.

Plevy advises parents to work together so that one doesn’t “outgift” the other.  “Children value peace over presents,” he advises.  “They don’t care about which parent gives them the biggest gifts.”

Dickerson adds that pleasing the kids without considering the ex can make a painful situation worse and for a long time after the holidays. “The children show up at the custodial parent’s house, where they’re living most of the time, with a puppy,” she said.  “If that parent had wanted a puppy,” she says, “they would have gotten one.”

Click here to read the article in its entirety.