Some family-law attorneys ask me if I help my clients after the divorce is finalized. The others should. It’s an important question.
Let me put this into terms you can relate to.
You’ve just wrapped up a divorce case, and then you get a call from the now-ex-wife. She wants to know about some IRS form that arrived in the mail. Or what to do with that investment account, which still has her married name on it. Or any of a zillion questions like that.
What do you do? You can’t bill for this; it’s not legal service.
So, typically, you’ll parry that thrust. “Talk to your financial advisor,” you might tell her.
“But he’s now working with my ex-husband,” she’ll say. “I don’t feel comfortable with that relationship anymore.”
After the divorce decree has been signed, there’s a ton of ongoing issues for any woman who’s just been through this wringer; these are the type of people I help. And, by extension, I help their attorneys, too.
Consider the manifold challenges that present themselves: There’s the transitioning of once-shared assets. The re-titling thereof. The updating of beneficiaries for everything from previous marital trusts to things as mundane as auto insurance policies. (Would that woman really want to be listed as a driver on a car her ex- was awarded?)
It gets a lot more complex than that. Think of things such as non-retirement assets. What if the couple had owned, let’s say, 37 shares of Coca-Cola? You can’t divide that into “13.5 shares.” You’d need to split it, 18-and-18, sell the odd share, and do a cash split off that transaction.
And that’s simple stuff, compared to determining the equal cost-basis of assets over time; you don’t just split the total amount; you must split it down to the individual-security level, since the embedded capital gains of each have changed over time, according to when they were purchased.
One more layer: By this point—after a lengthy and arduous divorce process, from which she’s still grieving—this woman is suffering from an acute case of decision fatigue. She’s burned out.
And it’s in this sorry state, that she’ll be calling you.
And it might be months after the fact. Possibly even years. And during that time, her indecision is, by default, bad decisions: she’s been paying the price of doing nothing.
So if all of this hasn’t convinced you to offload this burden to me, here’s one more element you might not have considered:
This same woman may well need help with updated estate planning in the near future. Do you honestly think she’d call you, after you either 1) dodged her calls, or 2) gave her financial advice which didn’t pay off? Trust me, she’ll go elsewhere.
But consider the opposite scenario: You’re the attorney who not only helped her with her divorce, but steered her toward someone who could hold her hand and help her get her financial house back in order. You’re a hero in her eyes. So naturally you’ll be her go-to choice for that future estate-planning—not to mention lots of referrals.