Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Planning for the Care of Your Pet: How to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan


If your pet is beloved as a family member, you likely want to ensure that he or she will be well cared for in the event of your incapacity or death. 

Without explicitly stated wishes, these furry family members could end up without a home of their own, if you die or become unable to care for them.

To prevent this tragic outcome, include planning for your pet in your estate plan. Here are a few important issues to consider when planning your estate with your beloved pet in mind.

Who will get ownership of your pet?
Pets are property and not people. Because of this legal distinction, an agent must be named in your estate plan to take ownership of your pet or arrange for your pet to have a loving home. In absence of a legally enforceable document stating your wishes, your pet could suffer the fate of many when their owners pass on: an animal shelter.

How will that person provide for your pet?
Pets require food and medical care. These costs can be significant if your pet has a health condition or is aging. Money can be set aside for your pet with specific directions about how those funds can be used and by whom.

How will your pet be cared for?
You may want to consider leaving instructions on how your pet should be cared for, as well as consider financial incentives for the person you’ve named to care for your pet to care for your pet pursuant to your wishes. This is especially important if your pet has any health conditions, is aging or is an exotic animal. Detailed instructions (and the money to carry them out) will ensure your pet’s new guardian can provide the same quality of care you provide now.


To ensure all your loved ones are cared for when you die, it is necessary to create a comprehensive estate plan that will ensure all your wishes are carried out, even if you don’t consider yourself financially wealthy. If you are ready to take that step toward peace of mind, begin by coming in to meet with us.  As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you create a comprehensive estate plan that will protect your assets, your wishes and all your loved ones, furry friends included. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Future of Finances: How to Teach Your Kids to Be Money Savvy

Part of being an enlightened parent is being thoughtful about how we teach our kids about adult life. Of course you want  to prepare them to make good choices as an adult, especially when it comes to finances. And, you may either feel not equipped, or you may be concerned about passing on your own bad habits.

So, how do you teach kids about smart financial decision-making? What lessons should you teach? Is leading by example enough? Raising a child to be money savvy doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you have valuable lessons to pass down. But it will take a little reflection on your own financial know-how and a commitment to make passing on these aspects of adult life conscious, rather than doing it unconsciously, as happens in most families.

Kids look to us to learn about life and they pick up far more from us about what we do then from what we say. Accordingly, we can best teach our children to be money savvy by modeling the habits we want them to take on for themselves and by involving them in the process. A good place to start is by being transparent about your financial habits when the opportunities arise. 

For example, you could have a monthly financial meeting and include your kids, and each month review your household income and expenses, like a business owner would when reviewing their profit and loss each month.

And, when you do your estate planning, involve your kids in the process by having a family meeting once the planning is done to explain the planning and introduce your child to us, as your personal legal advisor who they can turn to in the future, when needed.

Modeling sound financial decision-making for your child is an excellent opportunity to take a deeper look at your own financial habits. This is a good time to take an honest look at your finances to make sure you are on track to meet your goals.

Assess your financial health and consider taking steps now to secure your financial future. Practice what you preach and know that your children are watching, so make sure you are modeling habits you’d be proud for them to develop as they enter adulthood.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Defining the Legal Relationship Between Grandparents and their Grandchildren

Raising a grandchild (or even spending a lot of time with your grandchild while his or her parents work) can be fraught with legal and financial complications. Lacking many of the inherent rights parents have, grandparents who are responsible for the care of their grandchildren may encounter unexpected legal challenges.

Even if you are your grandchild’s full-time caregiver, consider obtaining certain legal rights so you can avoid unnecessary complications and instead focus on raising a happy and healthy child. 

If you are raising your grandchild, don’t assume you can make legal decisions on your grandchild’s behalf. Without legal custody, you do not have the authority to make important decisions such as where he or she will go to school. If you are responsible for your grandchild’s care, it’s critical to establish a clear relationship in the eyes of the law.

The legal rights you need will depend entirely on your role in raising your grandchild. Does he or she live with you? Are you the sole caregiver? What role do the parents play? Are you financially responsible for your grandchild?

Answering these questions will give you a good starting point for seeking the legal rights and protections you need and deserve, which might include:

Physical or Legal Custody
If you have full-time custody for your grandchild, do you have a custody order? If not, you may want to consider getting one. Physical custody gives you the right to have your grandchild live with you. Legal custody gives you the right to make important decisions pertaining to education and medical care. Your grandchild’s parents may still retain some rights if you have custody.  Also, custody orders are subject to modification if and when circumstances change.

Legal Guardianship
If you care for your grandchild regularly, make sure his or her parents have named both short-term and long-term guardians, so that if anything happens to the parents, you are able to immediately step in and make legal decisions for your grandchild.
 
Adoption
Adopting your grandchild would terminate his or her parents’ parental rights. You would become your grandchild’s legal parent, which is preferable in cases where the parents pose a risk to the child or when the child’s parents are deceased or no longer in contact. Adoption is permanent.

Power of Attorney
If you do not have custody, your grandchild’s parents could give you Medical Power of Attorney, which provides you with the temporary authority to make specific decisions around the health care of your grandchild. The parents can specify what decisions you can make and can revoke Power of Attorney at any point. Power of Attorney does not revoke the rights of the parents.

Educational or Medical Consent
Some states will grant non-custodial grandparents the rights to enroll their grandchildren in school and seek medical treatment. Speak with us to see if these are options in your state, if you would like to ensure you can make educational and medical decisions.
 
Even something as simple as enrolling your grandchild in school can be difficult if you don’t have the proper legal authorization.

If you’d like to simplify decision making while raising your grandchild (or even just full-time caregiving for your grandchild), give us a call for guidance. We can help you obtain the rights and protections that will help you raise a happy and healthy grandchild.

Monday, August 07, 2017

What Happens to Your Body When You Die? The Choice Can Be Yours.

Many of us are too afraid of death to carefully consider what happens to our bodies after we die. Unfortunately, failing to plan for that event can leave your wishes unattended to and your family grief struck and unsure how to honor your wishes. And the larger truth is that facing your death proactively creates a better life now.

There are many options for disposal of the body when you die, including burial, cremation, and donation to science. These are difficult decisions to consider, especially if you aren’t familiar with the standard body-handling practices used in our society today.

A humorous—and possibility lighthearted—way to learn about these practices is to read Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (New York, Norton, 2003), which explores the how and why of what happens to bodies when people die.

In Stiff, Roach takes us on a journey—albeit an unconventional one—to see what happens to human cadavers. From surgical practice to crash test dummies, donated—or unclaimed—bodies make significant contributions to many fields of research. But let’s say donating your body to science is not what you had in mind. Roach also touches on the other options we have such as traditional grave burials and cremation. And within those choices lie other choices such as the type of casket, where the body will be kept prior to funeral proceedings, and how ashes are distributed.

Stiff provides an entertaining and educational look at death and the practicalities surrounding it, which leads to the important issue of including your wishes in your estate plan. Most people don’t want to leave their loved ones with so many unanswered questions. Creating a comprehensive estate plan ahead of time is a way to ensure your family members are not left with such a burden.

You get to decide what will happen to your body after you die, but to ensure your family can carry out your wishes faithfully, you will want to work with a lawyer to clarify your choices in your estate plan.

You have many options including:

Donate your body to science. You can even specify a particular medical school, university program (called Willed Body Programs) or research organization you want to receive your body. Roach reviews many uses for human cadavers such as crash test dummies, surgical practice for medical students, ballistics testing, transplant experiments, and research on decomposition. You can also specify if you want to designate specific organs to go to science, Roach explains. This is something to consider for those with diseases or disorders that researchers can learn from.

Grave burial. You can specify where you want to be buried, how you want your body transported, what kind of casket you want, and how you want your burial proceedings to take place. You might need a permit if you want your body to cross state lines or travel internationally to arrive at your grave plot. If you haven’t already purchased a grave plot, now is a good time. You might also want to specify what you want printed on your gravestone.

Cremation. You can specify who will handle your cremation and who will receive your ashes. If you want your ashes brought to a particular place, used for a certain purpose (e.g. as fertilizer to grow a plant) or held in a special urn, those wishes should be clearly stated in your estate plan. While cremation can be economical for both the surviving family and the funeral director, Roach explains, many are not comfortable with the thought of their body being converted to ashes and bone fragments, and some religions even frown upon it. Consider your options, and discuss them with your family.

You might also want to include a provision regarding your funeral proceedings in your estate plan. The cost of funerals can be staggering, and the event itself can be a logistical nightmare for the family member struggling to grieve, honor your memory, and make significant decisions. Including specific provisions for your funeral can alleviate some of the burdens your loved ones will face.

When you die, your family will be left with many decisions and many tasks to carry out. It can be a confusing time leaving family members vulnerable financially or emotionally. Including specific instructions in your estate plan can ensure they are not left having to make difficult decisions at a time when they already have so much to deal with. Your family will also need the contact information for any organization(s) that will be involved in this process. Including provisions for details such as your grave plot, casket, funeral proceedings, and accounts you have set up to cover those costs can reduce the financial and emotional strain on your loved ones significantly.

Your estate plan should ensure your loved ones will be taken care of when you die. If you are ready to take the next step toward protecting your wishes and providing for your loved ones both emotionally and financially, start by sitting down with us. We will walk you step by step through creating an estate plan that will protect what you value most.