November 2011 Newsletter




The most festive time of year is here. It is a time for family gatherings, gift exchanges, and of course, delicious food. For the past three years, the office has donated the cost of cards and postage to the Abington Food Pantry instead of sending holiday cards and greetings to our families, clients, and colleagues. This year we have decided to once again make a donation to the Abington Food Pantry. The Food Pantry serves the Abington community providing food and toiletry items for those in need. We hope our donation will help others who need assistance at this time.


Paula, Rachel, Melaney, and I wish you and your families Happy Holidays, and hope the New Year brings health and prosperity to everyone.



The Alimony Reform Act of 2011, defines general alimony as "the payment of support from a spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time, under a court order." The current alimony law provides no definitive guidelines, and as a result alimony orders varied from judge to judge. The new law provides for durational limits regarding alimony payments according to the length of the marriage, but also specifically identifies that the amount of alimony shall generally not exceed the recipient's need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross income established at the time of the order being issued.


Under the new law, alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient, or the death of either spouse. Additionally, pursuant to Section 49(d) of the Act, general term alimony shall be suspended, reduced, or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient spouse has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three (3) months. This is in contrast to the present law which has no such prohibitions. As a result, an individual could be receiving alimony and also have the economic advantage of a shared living arrangement. While cohabitation will suspend, reduce, and perhaps terminate under the then existing order, the new law indicates that alimony may be reinstated upon termination of the recipient's common household relationship.


At the present time, a paying spouse may be obligated to pay alimony for an indefinite period of time, often well after he/she has retired. The issue of a continued obligation to pay alimony after a spouse has retired has been a major source of concern for many years. The new law addresses this concern through Section 49(f) which states that "once issued, general term alimony orders shall terminate upon the payor attaining the full retirement age." The payor's ability to work beyond the full retirement age shall not be a reason to extend alimony, unless the court orders a different alimony termination date for good cause shown, and/or grant a receiving spouse an extension of an existing alimony order for good cause shown. "Full retirement age" is the payor's normal retirement age to be eligible to receive full retirement benefits under the United States Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program, but does not mean early retirement age, if it is available to the payor. However, the court may set a different alimony termination for good cause shown. In such a situation the court shall (emphasis added) enter written findings of the reasons for such deviation.

Melaney's Corner


Melaney Hodge

At some point in time, a friend or relative may ask you to serve as an executor or a trustee. The proposition may seem flattering, and it is because the request indicates the person trusts your judgment to handle their affairs after they pass. But buyers beware, serving as an executor or trustee comes with certain obligations and responsibilities which can get people into trouble resulting in civil liability.


Serving as an executor or trustee requires fiduciary duties, including loyalty and prudence, among others. Numerous issues may arise in connection with your fiduciary obligations, such as when you are a beneficiary in addition to the trustee/executor. If there is any discretion in distributing funds, other beneficiaries may accuse the fiduciary of self-dealing. Likewise, conflicts may arise when the obligations to the beneficiaries conflict with the obligations to the settlor (the person who establishes the trust/will). In addition, you may be unprepared to handle the investment and property management requirements of your position.


The settlor can take certain actions to prospectively deal with problems. It is common practice for settlor's to appoint an institutional fiduciary, such as a bank, in addition to a friend or relative. That way the institutional trustee/executor can handle the business responsibilities while the friend or relative may ensure the settlor's wishes are executed. In addition, the settlor can make certain provisions limiting a fiduciary's liability; however, certain restrictions do apply.


There are also things that you can and should do to avoid any trouble. First and foremost, consult with a lawyer, particularly one specializing in estates. The settlor appointed you given your personal relationship, not your legal prowess, and an attorney can guide you through the process. Next, you should consider delegating your responsibilities to professionals. Prior laws prohibited fiduciaries from abdicating their authority, but now it is encouraged and, in some instances, required.


Again, it is an honor to be asked to serve as an executor/trustee and it is a worthwhile position. Nevertheless, make sure to do the research before you jump to saying yes.

Issue: 28

scales of justice

In This Issue
Happy Holidays!
General Term Alimony
Melaney's Corner
Join Our Mailing List
Need a Speaker?
Questions?  Comments?
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If anyone has a topic that would be of general interest, please do not hesitate to contact the office and let us know what items would be of general interest to the readers of this newsletter.
Susan C. Ryan, Esq.
Law Office of Susan Castleton Ryan, PC
(781) 982-8850

This newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date with changes in the law.  For help with these or any other legal issues, please call our firm today.
The information in this newsletter is intended solely for your information .  It does not constitute legal advice, and it should not be relied on without a discussion of your specific situation with an attorney.