When we are flooded with emotions, and dealing with various logistical issues all at once, it is important to keep a to-do list to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. While clients that are separating can count on their attorneys to help them with “big-ticket items” like addressing issues of child support, custody, alimony and property division, there are the “little details” that people should keep track of on their own, especially if they want to keep fees down. Here is a list of some things to work on over time when making a transition into 2 homes:
1. Call insurance companies to divide policies, get new rates as an individual;
2. Go to DMV to retitle cars, change your address;
3. Personally make the necessary trips to your banks to close the joint accounts;
4. Make a list of the household furniture, etc. and identify what you want;
5. Update beneficiary forms and wills;
6. Change your emergency contact forms;
7. Notify lenders, the Post Office and all contacts of your new mailing address;
8. Alert the utility companies and mobile phone carriers;
9. Inquire into splitting synagogue and country club memberships;
10. Get quotes from movers, storage places, track down rental options, etc.
Some clients require a lot more hand-holding and want attorneys to follow up with them each step of the way. Others are much more self-sufficient, and they are keenly aware that there is a price to pay for having an attorney involved each step of the way. I like to remind people that it is like being in a taxi cab with an attorney– the meter starts running the second you call, send an email, or want anything done on your behalf. Often, clients find themselves in sticker shock after they receive the first bill because they fail to realize that each call, email, or letter reviewed was being logged.
We all need help during transitions, but the key is to pick the right assistance for the right task. Calling an attorney just to vent about the other person is not the wisest use of a client’s money. It comes down to a simple cost-benefit analysis– before hitting “send” or forwarding an email to your attorney, you should really ask yourself, is this worth $30 or more? A half hour call to vent to a friend versus calling an attorney could easily save a person $100 or more. Especially in a time of economic crisis, I urge everyone to 1) think twice before involving an attorney over something minor, 2) use lists to prioritize tasks and 3) call on friends for moral support.