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Getting Divorced: FAQs Part 1

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman has all the answers to your personal finance questions! While nobody likes to think they will go through one in their lifetimes, the fact is that 40-50% of all marriages end up in divorce. The best way to arm yourself in case a divorce ever does happen to you is by getting to know the following frequently asked questions and answers:
▼ Is it possible to financially prepare for divorce?

A plan for the termination of the financial partnership of the marriage is crucial if you are thinking of divorce. All financial assets and liabilities that have been acquired during the years of marriage will need to be divided. If children play a role, the support that will be paid to the custodial parent in the future should be taken into account.

The time put into organizing this will be worth it in the long run. The following are a few steps to consider:

  • Prepare an inventory of your financial situation that will help you in two ways:
    1. It will aid in determining how debts accumulated during the marriage will be paid off. (It is best to try and get all the joint debt (credit card debt) paid off before the divorce. To come to an agreement as to the method for paying them off, it is smart to make a list of the debts. )
    2. It will give you an introductory look at the information needed to divide the property.
  • Prepare a list of all assets, whether joint or separate, that includes:
    • Your residence(s)
    • The value of any brokerage accounts
    • Your valuable antiques, jewelry, luxury items, collections, and furnishings
    • The current balance in all bank accounts
    • Your autos
    • The value of investments, including any IRAs
  • Locate copies of the last two or three years’ tax returns. These will be beneficial later.
  • Know the exact quantity of salary and miscellaneous income brought home by your spouse and you.
  • Obtain all papers regarding insurance, life, health, pension, and other retirement benefits.
  • Make a list of debts that are owed both separately or jointly, including mortgage, credit card debt, auto loans and other liabilities.
▼ How should credit card accounts be dealt with during a divorce?

As soon as you know you are going to be getting a divorce, immediately cancel all joint accounts.

Regardless of who accumulated the bill, creditors can legally try to collect payment from either party on the joint credit card or other credit account. You will be responsible for payment as long as your name appears on the joint accounts.

The agreement that is reached during the divorce may state who must pay the bills. From the creditor’s point of view, both your spouse and you are responsible as long as the joint account stays open.

Divorce FAQs from Scarsdale Tax Preparers

Get to know these FAQs to prepare yourself in the case of a divorce.

The creditor will attempt to receive payment from who they think are most likely to pay while reporting late payments to the credit bureaus in both names. Due to the irresponsibility of the co-signer, your credit history could be harmed.

You may be required to pay the remaining balance in full upon closure of the account. If this is the case, ask the creditor to distribute the outstanding balance to separate accounts.

 What can I do when my current or former spouse’s bad credit affects me?

It is possible to separate yourself from your spouse on your credit report, if the spouse’s credit is hurting yours. If you can prove that he/she opened the shared accounts prior to marriage and that he/she pays the bills, you might succeed in convincing the creditor that the damaging information is relevant to your spouse and not you.

It may take persistence to demonstrate that the credit history in question doesn’t reflect your own.

▼ After a divorce, what happens to my credit history?

If the name on your account changes, lenders may appraise the application and credit line to decide if your qualifications meet the credit standards. You may be asked to reapply.

To avoid inconvenience, maintain credit in your own name. Preserving your own, separate, credit history makes things easier in the future. In an emergency, if you need credit, it will be available.

Avoid using your spouse’s name – i.e. , Mrs. Peter Johnson – for purpose of credit.

Get an update on your credit report. Be sure that your name, as well as your spouse’s, is being reported correctly. If you would like to use your spouse’s credit history to your benefit, simply write a letter to the credit agency and request that both names be put on the account.

Find out if there is any incomplete or inaccurate data in your account. Send the credit bureau a letter asking them to correct this information. They need to confirm receipt within a normal time period and inform you when the mistake is fixed.

Improving your own credit history in your name should be simple if you have been sharing accounts with your spouse. Make a call to a major credit bureau and ask for copies of your account information. Get in touch with the issuers of the cards with whom you share accounts with your spouse and request to have your name on the account as well.

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman is here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Mt. Kisco NY, Larchmont NY, Scarsdale NY, Rye Brook NY, Pound Ridge NY, Stamford CT and beyond.

Getting a Loan 101

Scarsdale tax preparer Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! 

What are the advantages of prepaying a mortgage, and should I if I can? Tips from Scarsdale accountant on getting a loan

It is highly recommended that you prepay as much of your mortgage as possible every month, which will drastically reduce the total amount that you pay.

However there are times where this could be disadvantageous.

If you are in a situation where you don’t have funds to cover three to six months of expenses, it is recommended that you save that amount before you pay additional amounts on your mortgage.

If you have a large amount of credit card debt, over the long run, you will save more money by knocking down those high interest loans first.

There also may be times where that money would be more wisely invested in the market, depending on the expected rate of return versus how much you would save in early payments.

 Should I refinance?

In order to refinance your home, the current market rate should be at least 2 percentage points lower than what you are paying on your mortgage. Speak with a lender to see what rate you may be able to get. Remember to factor in costs like appraisals, points from the lender, and others, which may not be apparent in your initial price assessment.

After assessing that cost, get a quote of what your total payment would be after refinancing. The simplest way to find out how long it will take to recover the refinancing costs will be to divide your closing costs by the monthly savings with your new monthly payment.

Also take into consideration how long you plan on holding your home. It may not make sense to refinance the home if you plan on selling in the near future.

▼ Does borrowing against my securities make sense?

This could be a low-cost option for borrowing but there is some risk involved. Deductions are not allowed for the interest unless that loan is used to invest in a business.

▼ Can a Home Equity Line of Credit be beneficial?

A home equity line of credit is a form of credit which allows you to borrow and use your home as collateral. Since for many, a home is their greatest asset, they tend to use these sorts of credit lines for large things like a college education for their children, medical expenses or for large unexpected bills as opposed to luxuries or day to day expenses.

After receiving a home equity line, one is approved for an amount of credit, or a maximum that may be borrowed at any given time for the duration of the plan.

On many occasions a lender will set a credit limit on a home equity loan by setting a percentage, after considering the amount of the appraised value of the home and the amount owed on the home.

After the line of credit is approved, you will be able to borrow up to the set limit, usually in the form of checks. In some instances a borrower may be given credit cards to utilize, sometimes with minimum spending requirements.

▼ What costs are associated?

The costs associated with getting a home equity loan are basically the same as a refinance.

  • Appraisal
  • A non-refundable application fee
  • Up front points, which equal one percent of the entire credit limit
  • Closing costs, which are the same as the closing costs you would pay upon purchasing a home
  • Yearly fees and the possibility a transaction fee per draw

▼ How can you lock in an interest rate?

After choosing a lender, you may be quoted a rate, which may “float” until the actual closing, meaning that it is not guaranteed. With a lock-in you are guaranteed that the interest rate will not change before your closing. You may want to ask for an agreement that ensures that your rate is capped, but allows you to take advantage of a lower rate if the rate lowers before your close.

There is usually a time limit that a lender will put on this guarantee, and if you don’t close before that time, they no longer have to honor that lock-in. It is recommended that you stay in close contact with your loan officer during the process to ensure that you are able to close in a timely manner and get the locked-in rate.

▼ What disclosures should I get from my lender?

The lender is obligated by the Truth in Lending Act to provide you with a written statement with a list of all of the costs associated with the loan and the terms of financing. This statement must be delivered to you before the settlement.

If you want to rescind the loan, you may do so within 3 business days of the receipt of the Truth in Lending paperwork, receipt of cancellation notice, or your settlement, whichever was the most recent.

You will want to carefully review the disclosure that you are given before you sign. This disclosure will have all of the pertinent information about your loan, the finance charge, the amount financed, the payment schedule and the APR.

▼ How does a reverse mortgage work?

A reverse mortgage is a way for you to take advantage of some of the equity that is currently tied up in your home. A reverse mortgage works in the same manner as a normal one, reversed, and the homeowner is paid monthly versus having to pay. The major difference between this and a home equity loan is that you aren’t required to pay anything back to the lender as long as your retain ownership of the home.

The major benefit of a reverse mortgage is that it allows homeowners to take advantage of some of the equity that they have built up in their homes without the burden of having to pay it back in monthly payments. This could be used to supplement income, defray the cost of medical aid, pay for college education, stop a foreclosure or to make it possible to retire.

When the homeowner sells the home or dies, the home must be paid off and, if sold, the remainder of equity is given to its rightful heirs.

 Is any loan interest tax deductible?

These interests are deductible, some fully, some partially:

  • Education-related interest
  • Business interest
  • Investment interest
  • Mortgage interest

▼ Can you stop paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

Usually people that make a down payment of less than 20% are required to pay private mortgage insurance by their lender. Once you reach 20% equity, PMI is cancelled, and any money accrued in your escrow account towards it will be credited to you.

Our Scarsdale tax preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s are here for all your financial needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Larchmont NY, Chappaqua NY, Dobbs Ferry NY, Mamaroneck NY, Purchase NY and beyond.

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Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.