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    High School Graduates—When to Hit the “Pause” Button Now That You’re an Adult!

    Congratulations on graduating! What an exciting time. Before you head off to college with all the love, words of wisdom, and memories your family and friends have provided you, make sure you know when to hit the “pause” button to ensure your very best start to adulthood.

    1. Pause Before Signing Any Legal Agreement.
      When I was 18, I stopped off at a car dealership with a sorority sister and test drove a Jeep Rangler. The salesman told me he could get me the best deal, and even ran some numbers on paper for me to review. The first red flag was when I said the monthly payment seemed too high, and he instantly crossed it out and wrote in a lower number. Then he began pressuring me to sign, reminding me it was my dream car. Long story short, I remembered my dad warning me about people who become “upside down” on their car payments, where they owe more than a car is worth. I got up and left. Remember, before you sign any legal agreement, whether for a car, an apartment, or a new job, run it by someone first, like your mom or dad, or an attorney, who has had a lot of experience and can spot traps you might not see yet. The smartest people in the world use advisors and experts all the time to guide them, and you should too. This will save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run!
    2. Pause Before Taking out Student Loans or Choosing a Major
      The other day I was talking with a father of a high school junior. They are touring our country’s top universities, including Yale and Harvard, which is very exciting. I mentioned how Forbes Magazine recently named Harvey Mudd as the #1 college with the best return on investment, meaning their graduates were actually coming out of there with high paying jobs awaiting them. Many of us parents have not yet shifted our thinking when it comes to evaluating universities. We are still caught up in prestige, rather than return on investment. Similarly, many college students don’t research whether their major will actually help them obtain a high paying job when they graduate. This leads to astronomical student loans with little ability to pay them off. Many young adults now have to live at home with their parents and significantly delay buying a home and starting a family because of this. Make sure before you choose a major, or take out student loans, that you hit the pause button and make sure it will set you up for the life you want.
    3. Pause Before Moving In With a Partner or Getting Married
      It’s tempting to want to move in with a partner or get married, especially when it may save you money or entitle you to health insurance or other benefits. Plus, it’s natural to want to be around the person you love. The good news is there will be the right time and the right season for all of this. The bad news is that statistics show that when you cohabitate or marry before you have hit other important milestones, like finishing your education, beginning a career, and the ability to distinguish one’s immaturity from permanent character flaws, you can end up with heartache, misery, and financial ruin that can impact your entire life, or even worse, the life of a child born from that relationship. Take time to talk with couples ahead of you who have solid partnerships, and find out from them their successes and regrets, and definitely hit the pause button before making any major relationship commitment too soon.
    4. Pause Before Leaving Home Without a Medical Directive and Financial Power of Attorney
      Up until now, your parents have probably handled most of your financial and medical decisions. Now that you are an adult, they can no longer do this for you unless you legally authorize them to. I heard of one mom who received a call that her college aged daughter was hospitalized. Because the daughter had not filled out a medical power of attorney authorizing her mom to talk with her doctors in an emergency, the hospital could not tell the mother anything about her daughter’s condition. This mother had to fly three thousand miles in sheer panic to get to her daughter, not knowing if she was dead or alive. Make sure you complete a medical power of attorney so your parents can help you in an emergency and talk with your doctors if you’re seriously hurt. You may also want to complete a financial power of attorney so your parents can continue to help you with your finances until you gain more experience and are ready to give it a go alone.
    5. Pause Before Talking With the Police or School Officials If Something Bad Has Happened
      School officials and police officers are here to help you and protect you. However, if you become involved or connect to something bad that has happened, even if you know you did nothing wrong, you need to remember these very important words and say them to the authorities: “I want to talk with my attorney.” Those magic words can help protect you from consequences that could jeopardize your entire future. Be a broken record if you must. Keep saying it until you have a lawyer with you and advising you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 If you ever need help, or find yourself in a tough situation, we are here to help! Call your Newport Beach Family Trust Attorneys and we can help you make sure you are safe and protected. We are a family estate planning law firm, and can help you obtain a will, medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and other important legal documents you should have now that you are an adult. We can also help you if you need life insurance, start your own business, or need a contract reviewed. Save our number in your contacts and remember to call us if you ever need to talk to an attorney: Meier Law Firm 949-718-0420.

    How You Hold Title To Your Home Really Matters

    You probably remember being asked how you want to take title to your home when you were finalizing the escrow process. Making sure you properly hold title to your home is critical to preserving favorable tax treatment and avoiding a long and expensive court-process when you pass away.

    Here are the options for taking title to your home, and the pros and cons for each option:

    Sole Ownership. This means only you would own the home and be on title, so that won’t work if you want to make sure the home automatically passes to someone else upon your death.

    Tenants in Common. This means you and another person would each own one-half of the home, and either of you could give your half away to someone else without the others permission. Plus, if one of you passes away, the other person would have to go through a long and expensive court process known as probate to get rights to the other half of the home.

    Joint Tenancy. This means you and another person would each own one-half of the home, and if one of you passes away, the other person automatically has all rights to the home. The downside is that owning the home this way can trigger negative tax consequences following a death, plus the home still ends up in probate after the survivor of you passes away.

    Community Property with Right of Survivorship. This means you and your spouse own the home together, and if one of you passes away the surviving spouse automatically has all rights to the home. Plus, you would have very favorable tax treatment following a death. The downside though is the home still ends up in probate after the second spouse passes away.

    Revocable Living Trust. Having Josh or Laura Meier prepare this legal document for you, or amend and restate your outdated trust, allows you to own your home in trust and have it automatically pass to a surviving spouse or whoever you choose. Tax treatment is favorable following your death, and the trust allows you to completely avoid a long and expensive court process known as probate, saving tens of thousands of dollars and avoiding unnecessary turmoil for your loved ones.

    Keep in mind that even if you originally took title in the same of your trust, sometimes it can inadvertently come out of trust during a refinance.

    If you would like a free copy of your deed for your California Property, call our friendly Meier Law Firm Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson at (949) 718-0420 and mention this article. You must contact us before June 1, 2017 for this free service.

    Or, to set up a revocable living trust for your family, and hold title to your home the best way, call your Newport Beach estate planning attorneys, Josh and Laura Meier at (949) 718-0420 and request a planning session to get started.

    Why Your Old Trust May Lock Your Family Into Nightmare Scenario!

    Last week, I was talking with a couple at my son’s baseball game, when the wife mentioned that they had set up their revocable living trust up back in worried couple2005. The couple said they were concerned it needed to be updated.

    Aside from the major life changes they’d had since then, including having more children, and moving out of state, there was a larger red flag that went up for me when I heard the date of the trust.

    Basically, for many years, including 2005, the common structure for trusts for married couples was called the A/B Trust. This meant that upon the death of the first spouse, the trust was divided into two sub-trusts: Trust A for the surviving spouse, and Trust B for the late spouse.

    The main reason for this mandatory split structure was to mitigate estate taxes, a likely problem for couples back then because the amount of money the government would allow you to pass at a death without triggering estate tax was significantly less than it is today. Due to changes in law and changes in the tax exemption, the need for the A/B Trust as a tax avoidance strategy became less necessary.

    The other problem is that for the assets and real property put in Trust B, the family will not receive a “step-up” in basis for capital gains tax purposes upon the death of the surviving spouse. This means the beneficiaries of a Trust B can be stuck with significant capital gains tax on assets or real property if there was significant appreciation between the death of the first spouse and the death of the surviving spouse.

    There are however some benefits of having an A/B Trust, such as asset protection for the late spouse’s assets and real property in Trust B, and a guarantee those assets and real property will only pass upon the surviving spouse’s death to the beneficiaries the couple had chosen together.

    New laws and planning techniques such as the Clayton Election Trust, now afford couples many benefits of the A/B Trust without the negative tax consequences, or at least provides them a choice between realizing tax advantages versus asset protection depending on what’s right at the time. Talk to your Newport Beach Family Estate Planning Lawyers about replacing your old A/B trust with a Clayton or Disclaimer trust today. It literally may save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run!

    Meier Law Firm is now offering a free trust review of any trust as long as you contact our office by May 1, 2017 to schedule your appointment.   Be sure to mention this article to receive the free review.  Call (949) 718-0420.

    10 Things Parents of Children With Disabilities Need To Know When They Enter The School System

    Article written by Melissa Amster, Esq.

    1. The district must provide your child with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) FAPE means that all special education and related services must be free, meet the child’s unique needs, are at an appropriate setting, and provided in connection with the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
    2. The district must educate your child in the most Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) that is possible.
    3. The district must assess your child in all areas of disability.
    4. The district must provide an assessment plan within 15 days of parents’ request for an assessment. District must conduct assessment and hold an IEP meeting within 60 days of receiving the signed assessment plan.
    5. The parents should request a copy of the assessments to be provided to them 5 days before the IEP. Parents should notify the school if they plan to bring an advocate or attorney to the IEP or if they need an interpreter or other accommodation within a reasonable amount of time prior to the IEP. Parents should the notify school 24 hours prior to the IEP if they wish to record the IEP.
    6. Eligibility does not drive services, needs and goals drive services.
    7. IEPs should happen at least once a year, within 30 days of parent’s request, after an assessment, or when a student is not making progress.
    8. Parents have a right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), if the parents disagree with the district’s evaluation.
    9. The district only has two responses to a parents’ IEE request: either fund the IEE in a reasonable amount of time or file due process against the parents.
    10. If parents have a disagreement with the district, their main recourse is an administrative hearing called Due Process. If the student is successful, then the district pays the attorney’s fees. The vast majority (about 90%) are settled with a settlement agreement in which the district pays the student’s attorney’s fees.

    Article written by Melissa (Meira) Amster, special education attorney and mother to five children, including a daughter with Down syndrome. After her daughter was born, Attorney Amster realized how difficult it is to advocate for a child with a disability. Amster Law Firm seeks to help parents through all aspects of special education process and the regional center system. Learn more at

    Contact your Newport Beach family trust firm for more information on how special needs planning can help your family.  Call Meier Law Firm (949) 718-0420 today.  Visit

    5 Things You Can Do To Stay Out of Court

    Haleh Rashidi

    Full article written by guest writer Haleh Rashidi, Esq., Family law attorney and mediator

    The other day I had a consultation with a new client and not once, not twice, but three different times during the consult she mentioned that she had wished she could have foreseen that she and her husband would be separating and heading towards divorce. She repeatedly said she would do so many things differently if she had any inclination this could happen to her. This got me thinking; no one can truly foresee the future and for the most part we do not have control over many things that happen in life (i.e. death, divorce, illness).  But instead of dwelling on the things we cannot control we mortal beings must do everything in our power to minimize the issues that could arise from unexpected events.  There are various ways that a family can minimize the risks of battling their family members in court. Here are the top 5 things you and your family can do to stay out of the court.


    Make sure you have a good and secure estate plan in place with someone that you are in contact with often and is there to ensure your estate plan is up-to-date with your changing life.  Having a good estate plan will ensure there is no family members dragging one another to court in order to battle over an estate (or more importantly guardianship of children and access to their funds!) since it will be written-out and secure well before any deaths occur.


    Open communication with family members is about what your expectations are before a marriage, during the marriage, and before any deaths occur.  It is much better to speak to your family members and get a pre-nup or a post-nup in place than battling your expectations in court or not having an estate plan in place and then realizing your expectations after your family members’ death will not be met.


    This is not taboo but imperative that family members, whether it is married couples, siblings or parent and children, seek counseling. When communication is broken and cannot be repaired without professional help, counseling may be the only solution. This is one area where cultural taboos against counseling are hard to overcome (“I am not going to counseling… you are crazy!”). But those are the same cultures where it is easy to see when the familial norms have broken-down (the daily get-togethers become weekly, then monthly, then ….).


    We all want the fairytale lives but in reality couples do separate and do get divorced sometimes even after exhausting their attempts at counseling.  Hiring a good family law attorney or a mediator can save you a ton of money and headache.  Lawyer-assisted mediation is using a non-adversarial neutral family law attorney to sit down with both husband and wife and resolve family disputes and help in creating settlement.  If you or your spouse have specific disputes when divorcing (i.e. spousal support/alimony, child support, child custody, or division of assets) that cannot be resolved with mediation then consulting an attorney that is experienced and has your family’s best interest in mind is the way to go.


    Last but not least, we should all do our homework and make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into.  This could be whether were dating and thinking of getting married to someone or making a decision about having a child with someone, or in case of death who we want as the guardian for our children.  If we are honest with ourselves from the get-go then we have a better chance at happiness and staying out of court.

    Full article written by guest writer Haleh Rashidi, Esq.—Family Law Attorney and divorce mediator practicing in Orange County and Riverside County.  Haleh’s career as a family law attorney started in the chambers of the Honorable Elizabeth Sichel, Riverside County Superior Court Family Law Judge.  Working for Judge Sichel gave her invaluable insight into how judges decide cases and hence how to win a case. Haleh is a graduate of UCLA and Southwestern University School of Law.  Learn more at


    How One Person’s Estate Plan Impacted the Entire United States

    When you set up your will or trust, you probably remember being asked who you want to leave your money to when you pass away. You were 200px-Johns-James_Smithson-1816also likely asked where you would want the money to go if those people were no longer living.

    A man named James Smithson had to consider this question when he wrote his Last Will and Testament in 1826 in London. He wrote in his Will that his estate would go upon his death to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, and then to Henry’s heirs. However, Smithson included a contingency clause that stated that if Henry were to pass away without any heirs, then the money would then go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge ….”

    Eventually Smithson passed away, and his estate went to his nephew Henry as directed in Smithson’s Will. However, when Henry passed away, he did not have any heirs, which meant that the estate then passed to the United States to establish the Smithsonian Institution.  Located in our Nation’s Capitol, today the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. And to think, it all came about because of a contingency clause in one man’s estate plan.

    If you have a special cause or passion, talk with your Newport Beach estate planning attorneys to learn more about how you can include these causes in your estate plan. You never know just how much of an impact one gift can make. Call (949) 718-0420 to schedule a planning session with a Meier Law Firm attorney today to learn more about how you can make a difference.

    5 Must Do’s Before 2016 Ends

    Most of us are so focused this holiday season on what gifts to buy the kids, or where we’ll be spending Christmas Eve, that the more importanthappy-single-person things that benefit us most end up on the back-burner.  It’s good to take time this holiday season to focus on the fun, but not at the expense of tying up loose ends that matter most in the long-run.

    Here are 5 Must Do’s for any family before the year comes to an end.

    1. Review Your Finances. For most of us during Christmas, we are so busy swiping our card and checking our bank account balances that we forget to be checking our investment accounts, health saving accounts, retirement accounts, and emergency funds.  Take time to meet for an hour with your financial advisor and your accountant to review your financial performance this year and discuss strategies for starting 2017 off right.
    2. Update Your Beneficiaries. Did you get married this year or have a new child?  Did a relationship end?  Did you set up a family trust?  Every person should take time to review who their beneficiaries are on their current policies and make sure it reflects their current wishes. You should also double check to make sure all of your banking and investment accounts, and your home, are properly titled in the name of your trust (especially if you refinanced this year).
    3. End Whatever Is Not Working For You. Take time to look at where you have been spending your time, who you are spending it with, what services you are using, where you are spending your money, and what is and is not working for you. There is no need to drag into 2017 what did not work for you in 2016. (Family members excluded course!!)
    4. Prioritize Your Health. The Christmas season is full of holiday cheer, and full of holiday carbs. The best quote I heard was from a personal trainer who asked a crowd in December ‘Do you want to be a Fat Santa or a Buff Elf’?  His point was, don’t wait until the new year to get healthy and fit.  One of the best ways we can combat the stress and foods of the holidays is to take a walk, do some yoga, or lift some weights. When we feel better physically, we feel better mentally.
    5. Let it Go. Most of us were offended or wronged by someone this year. It may even be a family member we now have to sit across from at the Christmas Dinner table. Whatever it was or whoever it was, no matter how bad it hurt, give yourself the best gift this holiday season and let it go. Enjoy the holiday season knowing that you may have been wronged, but you are giving yourself a free pass to feel at peace.

    One of our roles as your trusted Newport Beach family trust attorney, is to not only help you set up and update your estate plan, but to make sure you have all of the support and resources you need to be the best you this Holiday Season. We are happy to refer you to the best financial advisors, accountants, therapists, spiritual advisors, personal trainers, and life coaches—whoever you need to end this year with the best possible outcome.  Call your Newport Beach Family Trust Attorneys today at (949) 718-0420 for guidance and referrals, and to make sure your family trust reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

    Family Financial Traditions

    With the holidays right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to celebrating our favorite family traditions.  But have you ever familybackbayoutingthought about having family ‘financial’ traditions? Most of our initial exposure to money management comes from our family upbringing. For parents who model good money management, they are passing on family traditions that go well-beyond Christmas morning pancakes.

    Don’t Just Give Your Kid an iPhone or Car

    The greatest motivator there is for a teenager is freedom and their path to that freedom is first an iphone, and eventually a car. When we just buy our kids an iphone or car, rather than supporting them to learn to earn money to pay for these things, we overlook one of the greatest opportunities we have for helping our kids to become self-sufficient.

    If you have an extra phone or car available for your child, consider requiring them to pay for the monthly data bill, or for the car’s gas and insurance.  By requiring our kids to contribute, we prepare them for a life of independence, which is a far better gift than any material item.

    Play the Stock Market With Your Kids

    Introducing children to the stock market is not a far-fetched idea. There is plenty of information available that can be understood by kids. First off, children are very aware of products — toys and games like the CashFlow Board Game, for example. They can be introduced to the fact that the companies that make these toys are owned by people like their parents, who hold shares of stock. From there, they can be shown the daily stock prices and how they change. As they grow older, your children can begin making small stock purchases and become comfortable with investing.

    Family Vacation Saving

    Family vacations are usually looked back on fondly and may even be considered family traditions. Saving during the year, by children as well as parents, for an annual vacation can also be part of that tradition and help teach good money management techniques.

    Whether it be from jobs kids have like grass cutting or babysitting, or just from allowance savings, it will serve children well later in life to have learned the value of setting money aside for a deferred pleasure.

    Charitable Giving

    Teaching kids to be charitable helps them become aware of the needs of others.  Introducing kids to putting money in the pot at church, or donating clothes to the local homeless shelter, gets them in the habit of giving from an early age.

    If you give to charity regularly, you may want to consider setting up a private foundation that can be used to consolidate your giving plus be used to educate your children about investing (all of the assets of the charitable foundation need to be invested) and giving.

    Estate Planning

    Involve your children in your estate planning as soon as they are old enough to understand. They will feel secure knowing you’ve planned well for what would happen to them, if and when something happens to you. Have them meet your lawyer, tell them about who would be their guardian, or how they will receive their inheritance and when. And, begin to talk now about how you can increase the overall family wealth you have and how you want to be cared for by them at the end of your life.

    Early Entrepreneurship

    Supporting your children to think like entrepreneurs can be one of the greatest gifts you give them. As the world shifts, we are moving into a new economy in which reliance on traditional jobs no longer provide the security they once did. Technology will replace many of the jobs people relied on in the past and the only real security going forward is resourcefulness, creativity and community, all of which is learned via the path of entrepreneurship.

    One simple way to encourage entrepreneurship for small children can be as simple as setting up a lemonade stand.  For older children, encourage them to babysit or tutor as a way to make money.

    For more financial and estate planning guidance, contact your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Law Firm. We help families secure their future through proper estate planning.  Call our Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson, at (949) 718-0420, to receive a free copy of Laura Meier’s #1 best-seller Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan, when you schedule a planning session with a Meier Law Firm attorney.

    Emergency iPhone Health App Can Save Your Life

    Have you given any thought to how emergency medical care providers know who to contact or what to do if you are in an accident? Some people wear wristbands that contain important health information, such as drug allergies. But there’s an even better tool located in something many of us already carry every day—our iPhones.

    The Health App

    The iPhone, manufactured by Apple Inc., comes with a free Health app which allows users to track details of their health. From the Health Dashboard, a user can track daily steps, weight, and heart rate. Even nutrition and sleep patterns may be managed using the app.

    But setting aside all that fancy stuff, Health is a great app for ensuring medical personnel, such as of emergency room staff and paramedics, have critical information for both treatment and contact purposes.

    Users can create an “emergency card” that others can access directly from the lock screen. Even if a passcode is required to unlock the phone, the emergency card can be accessed simply by pressing the Emergency button on the lock screen. Users can choose the information that is displayed, and the information input into the emergency card is not shared with other apps.

    How to Get Started

    Click the icon that looks like a white square containing a red heart. The Medical ID card should open. Click the “Edit” button in the upper right hand of the screen and input the information you want to be available from your “Lock” screen, such as the following:

    Birth date;

    Medical conditions;

    Medical notes;

    Allergies and reactions;


    Blood type;

    Organ donor information;

    Height and weight; and

    Emergency contact information.

    With the Health app, you can arm your emergency health care providers with critical information, potentially saving your life and ensuring your loved ones are contacted in the event of an emergency. So why not take a few minutes to take advantage of this valuable, free tool today?

    Medical Directives

    It’s also critical to make sure your medical wishes are legally documented. Contact your California Estate Planning Lawyers today to ensure your wishes are known, and your family has someone to turn to during an emergency. Call Meier Law Firm today at 949-718-0420 and ask for Bonnie Johnson.  Bonnie can provide you important information regarding our plans and services and help you determine your next best step toward protecting yourself and your loved ones.

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