November 2012

Divorce Asset Analysis: Buried Treasures

You never realize how much junk you’ve acquired until you have to move. You find a dozen matchbooks with one match left each, an 8th-grade history paper you got an A+ on, that weed whacker you never returned to the neighbor who moved away two years ago, and the $2.37 in change that fell out of the couch. You had no idea you had so much stuff.

Divorce is kind of like that.

Couples are often stunned by how many assets they have, and yet when preparing fair divorce settlements it is essential that attorneys know about every single item of value. It’s easy to forget about that rainy day account because you haven’t touched it in years, or your grandmother’s ring that has great sentimental value but also a certain amount of tangible value, or the 5 shares of that fruit-named computer manufacturer your parents bought when you were born in the late 70s–I wonder if the company ever got successful.

Couples ignore the real value of these assets because, unless you are selling something, you don’t really care about its dollar value. However once you are embroiled in a New York state uncontested divorce these assets suddenly matter. Sure the wife might not want the husband’s collection of classic comics, but if they have value then he has to reimburse her for her share, ideally with some asset he has no sentimental attachment to.

It’s not only the expensive items that matter. A trinket here and a souvenir there and suddenly the couple has several thousand dollars worth of assets they wouldn’t have considered counting otherwise. No, the couple doesn’t have to document every pair of sneakers and cereal box prize, but they do need to make a realistic estimate of the net worth of all of their assets, especially easily-valued assets such as investments, loan receivables and pensions.

The same need for thoroughness applies to liabilities, but people are often more aware of what they owe than what they own, plus most debts show up on a credit history so these are easier to track.

Family law attorneys should prepare asset checklists to be completed by the client. Having the client do much of the work saves time and money in the long run, and people are better able to find their own assets than a stranger would be. Once the checklist is returned, the attorney can easily enter the information into divorce settlement software for fair property settlement calculation.

Easy Soft’s law practice management software may not be able to automatically inventory a client’s household for you, but it does takes a lot of the other drudgery out of family law practice. Less work for you means more clients and greater profits, so upgrade to Easy Soft family law software today here .

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Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Businesses print their own checks because it’s quick, easy and cheap. Financial applications such as Easy Soft’s legal billing and accounting software have the capability built in so you don’t have to mess with formats and spacing trying to set it up yourself. Although we try to make the process as painless as possible, there are a few ways you can make it even easier–and safer.

First of all we recommend you use Easy Soft checks. Yeah, everyone says “use only our proprietary stuff” but in this case it actually makes a difference. Low quality checks not only make your business look bad but can expose you to fraud and embezzlement. You can order the checks right from us with just a click and they are guaranteed to work with Easy TimeBill, our lawyer billing software. However, if you prefer to use another vender then be sure to look for these features.

Get the right check format. Our attorney time and billing software supports standard checks, which have three checks to a page, and voucher checks, which have a check and two stubs on each page. Standard checks are faster to print while voucher checks provide a better paper trail. Be very careful because some vendors sell checks for specific accounting packages that have a proprietary format, such as voucher checks with the check in the middle of the page instead of at the top of the page, and our software can’t print those correctly.

Insist on the best security features, especially when paying from trust accounts. Modern checks are very hard to forge as long as they have these features. Chemically reactive paper makes it nearly impossible to alter the check. The Padlock icon is a symbol of the Check Payment Systems Association and confirms the check incorporates at least three features to defend against alteration. Finally look for anti-photocopy features such as an Original Document security screen that won’t show up on a duplicate.

Regardless of the checks you use, we recommend you print the checks using magnetic ink. Although optical character recognition is common, many banking system still use MICR systems. The experts say MICR is dying out, but they’ve been saying that for years. For now, continue to use magnetic ink for faster and more accurate check processing.

Combine Easy Soft’s high-quality commercial check stock with our first-class attorney practice management software and you have a winning combination that speeds up your financial tasks and protects your practice from fraud.

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Putting A Price On A Person’s Life

Negotiation is a key element in a divorce settlement. Even the most amicable divorce–and the phrase “amicable divorce” is an oxymoron–everyone wants to get what’s fairly owed. However each party probably disagrees on the definition of fair. The Case Information Statement (NJ) is designed to present an unbiased view of each spouse’s needs and ability to pay so fair spousal and child support values can be determined.

However the NJ CIS form doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Government forms sometimes try so hard to standardize everything that important nuances are lost in the process. Part D is a key example. It shows the historic expenses of the family and the filer’s current lifestyle expenses but that’s not the complete picture of how the family’s expenses will change after the divorce.

This is why we have designed our case information statement software to allow attorneys to list more detail than what is required by the state form. It allows attorneys on both sides to supply a clear and compelling case for how many resources are available and how much support is required to ensure both parties and, more important, the children are provided for.

To use this software feature, go to Case Information Statement Part D and click the box marked “Show Individual Historical Expenditure”. Three more columns will appear to allow historical expenditures for plaintiff, defendant and children. The attorney can then document the client’s lifestyle more accurately, providing important information for use in alimony and child support negotiations. The full five-column form can be printed out as the “Lifestyle – Historical Expenditure” report for easy reference.

Hard data is a critical advantage in divorce negotiation. When the lawyer can show the court or the opposing attorney detailed figures about a client’s lifestyle, it is that much easier to get a fair settlement. Legal practice management software is an essential tool in providing the statistics needed to back up a spousal or child support argument.

Contact Easy Soft for more information on how our products can benefit your legal practice regardless of your legal specialty. Download a demo to check out our software or try it risk-free for 30 days after purchase.

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How to Keep Your Practice’s Balances In Balance

Maintaining a law firm’s accounts is more complicated than balancing a checkbook. A typical practice needs to monitor not just a single account but four critical balances: unbilled, unpaid, operating retainer and trust retainer.

The unbilled balance is the amount entered into the business’s records but not yet sent to a client. When someone in the practice works on a case, that person fills out a time card in the attorney time and billing software and the amount becomes part of the unbilled balance. This is also true of any expenses such as court fees or copying costs that are added to the matter. At this point your office knows the amounts but the clients don’t.

Once invoices are sent to clients, the amounts billed transfer from the unbilled balance to the unpaid balance. Anyone looking at this figure in the legal billing and accounting software knows the client has been notified of the obligation and the account is waiting on payment. Although the next step in the process–payment–is up to the client, the practice needs to monitor the unpaid amount and send reminders if the balance is more than 30 days old.

The two balances above are standard in any business but billing software for attorneys must track retainer balances as well. The operating retainer balance covers unpaid balances in the corresponding matter, allowing the office to cover appropriate costs immediately rather than waiting for client payment. The firm must monitor operating retainer balances and ask the client for additional funds to replenish the retainer if it falls below a certain critical level.

Trust retainer balances work in the same way as operating retainers, but trust accounts fall under more restrictive laws than other accounts. In particular, if a trust retainer falls to zero the firm must continue to make payments from the trust account even if the money must be taken from the practice’s own funds. Therefore it is especially important for the business’s financial stability to monitor trust retainers with law billing software to keep the balances positive.

These four balances are interdependent. A successful practice must not only monitor each amount individually but also must be able to see how the amounts relate to each other. Don’t leave your practice’s finances to chance. Use specialized law practice management software to supervise and manage your office’s financial future. To try it click here.

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Don’t Let Paperwork Jeopardize Your Short Sale

The real estate market seems to be improving nationwide but short sales are still a common transaction seen by agents. Job loss, illness and divorce may prevent a homeowner from being able to keep up mortgage payments and a short sale is a preferable alternative to a foreclosure. Short sales tend to be higher pressure transactions then other real estate deals due to the time frames and emotions involved and everyone wants to get it over with, so it is frustrating when the deal falls after months of waiting due to some error on the HUD-1 form.

Agents and buyers who were indecisive and lackadaisical during the short sale negotiations suddenly pore over the HUD settlement statement form like CSI investigating murder scene. Seemingly trivial problems such a $10 fee entered in the wrong category or a name spelled differently than as listed on the title suddenly become critical problems that threaten to torpedo the deal. Agents should always be careful when completing the paperwork but they need to be especially thorough when it is for a short sale.

Filling out government forms isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but Easy Soft real estate closing software eliminates much of the tedium. No longer do you need to enter the same information in several places. Type in the data once in the case file and the software will automatically fill it in on the closing form or any other documents generated. Since you don’t have to keep retyping the information you are less likely to make keying errors on the form.

Another advantage of using HUD settlement statement software is that the computer does the math for you. You don’t need to worry about entering the numbers wrong into the calculator or copying them incorrectly onto the form. Less human interaction means fewer chances for silly mistakes.

With a comprehensive, accurate and mathematically correct form in hand the buyer or lender will have no reason to object to the document or to hold up the short sale. The process proceeds more smoothly meaning fewer headaches for the agent, buyer, seller and lender. Everyone walks away from the table satisfied.

Contact one of the experts at Easy Soft to find out more about how our real estate products and law practice management software automate the tedious aspects of running your business, freeing you to focus on finding more clients and making greater profits. For more info, click here.

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Customized Documents Because Every Divorce Is Special

State governments want to put everyone into convenient little boxes so they can easily process any family law forms. Family law attorneys know it’s not that simple. Each divorce has unique features that distinguish it from every other case the practice handles. There are provisions within the law to customize government forms to fit the particulars of a New York state uncontested divorce but not all software is as flexible as attorneys need it to be.

EzSupport-NY comes with a full array of state form templates that automatically extract information from the case file so the data doesn’t have to be entered by hand. Information such as the names of the parties, custody designation and New York State spousal support amounts are automatically pulled from the case file and entered into the form. Any fields that cannot be automatically completed are highlighted in yellow on the screen so the attorney can easily locate and provide any missing facts and figures before the document is printed out.

The paperwork needed for a divorce doesn’t end with forms filed with the state of New York. With our software, attorneys can also print documents such as a case summary that includes all information relevant to the divorce settlement agreement. Tracking the details associated with a case can be intimidating but the task is made much easier when the information can be easily organized and printed out.

The templates included in the divorce software are designed to be easy to use by even the most inexperienced family law attorneys. However those lawyers who have been handling divorces for a number of years have their own way of doing things and don’t want to be tied down to rigid templates. That’s why we include the ability to customize existing templates or to create your own from scratch. The easy-to-understand field codes allow even non-technical users to quickly create documents that will automatically complete themselves as information is entered into the case file. You can even edit finished documents directly before printing them out.

Test drive EZSupport-NY or any of our other attorney practice management software titles before you buy. Download a demo and see how simple and flexible family law documents can be with our help.

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