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    Category Archives: Marriage

    Important Reasons to Review Your Estate Plan

    Nearly 2.5
    million Americans die each year, and many haven’t signed the basic documents
    needed to protect loved ones. But let’s say you took this important step. How
    often do you need to revisit your estate plan?

    Estate
    planning is not a single event, but rather a lifetime process. As long as
    you’re living, your life, your interests, and your plans are changing, growing,
    and adapting; you simply need to keep the paperwork current.

    It’s a good
    idea to review your estate planning at regular intervals. But there also are
    certain life events that could trigger the need for review and updates. Forbes points out three of them in their
    recent article, “When Should You Redo Your Will? The top
    three events listed in this article include changes in the law, impending good
    fortune, and financial setbacks.

    Essentially,
    you really need to adjust your estate plans whenever your life or finances
    change. Another recent Forbes article
    offers the “5 Life Events That Require An Estate
    Planning Review
    .

    Their handy checklist says you
    should review your estate plan when:

    1. You get married.
    2. You get divorced, or your spouse dies.
    3. You purchase or refinance a home.
    4. You open new savings, bank, or investment accounts.
    5. You have new children or grandchildren.

    Contact Meier Law Firm to discuss all of your estate planning needs.

    Reference: Forbes
    (August 9, 2012) “When Should You Redo Your Will?

    Forbes
    (August 13, 2012) “5 Life Events That Require An Estate
    Planning Review

    First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage (or is it the Prenup?)

    Prenuptial agreements are increasingly becoming an important part of estate planning.”…“So should the recently engaged rush to sign a prenuptial agreement? Not necessarily.”…[and then again]…“Even if you exchanged rings long ago, there's still time to set the financial terms of your marriage.”

    Summer is the official “I do” season as couples across the country exchange marriage vows. However, given the dismal marriage success rate, many of those exchanging nuptials (not to mention their respective parents) are also pondering their exit strategies in case things don’t work out.

    Single life can be complex on its own with its own hopes, debts, investments, family members, obligations, and health concerns. Marriage, on the other hand, can be a uniquely tricky institution. When you multiply single life by two in a manner legally recognized by IRS agents, insurers, and in-laws, then everything becomes compounded.

    Estate planning can be a complex adventure, too, especially if you are blending families with children from a previous marriage. In addition, issues regarding family inheritance, family businesses, farm and ranches, can require careful navigation. Now that you have a special someone in your life worth keeping, it may be worth mitigating concerns early and intelligently through prenuptial agreement planning.

    If you recoil, or simply want to know more, then a recent article in WealthManagement.com will be worth your time. The article is titled “Debunking the Pre-nup Myths,” and, as the title promises, it may help you and your intended get a more accurate handle on the subject.

    On the other hand, even if you are familiar with the world of prenups, The Wall Street Journal offers some practical premarital counseling of its own in an article titled “Easing the Sting of Divorce.”

    Finally, even if there’s already a slice of wedding cake resting in the freezer and all is happy and well, there’s the less frequently discussed option of the postnuptial agreement. This matter was taken up in another article by The Wall Street Journal titled “Spouses Turn to Postnups.”

    Ultimately, the relevance of any of these approaches varies depending upon your unique needs and objectives, along with those of your partner. This is not a do-it-yourself project. Be sure to engage appropriate independent legal counsel to represent your respective interests to avoid potential conflicts of interest and unnecessary litigation down the road.

    Before you tie the knot, contact Meier Law Firm to discuss all of your estate planning needs.

    Reference: WealthManagement.com (June 12, 2012) “Debunking Pre-nup Myths

                    The Wall Street Journal (June 15, 2012) “Easing the Sting of Divorce

                    The Wall Street Journal (June 16, 2012) “Spouses Turn to Postnups

    Estate Planning For Couples Can Be Complicated

    How married couples structure their estate plans can make the difference between whether a family stays connected or gets blown apart after the first spouse passes away. Things can be even more complicated and volatile in blended families – when there are step and half siblings and stepparents in the mix.

    One thing about life in the new millennium … it is complex. Whether it is finances, taxes, gadgets, or relationships, nothing is as it was in the “good old days” (whenever that was, if ever). So it is with estate planning for the modern family, how ever you define “family.”

    So how should married couples plan for their estates? Separately or together? This issue was explored recently by Forbes in an article titled “Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?” Indeed, this question is one worthy of your consideration if you are married.

    On the surface, married couples would seem to face fewer challenges when it comes to estate planning. Nevertheless, the applicable laws make a great number of assumptions that may not be applicable to you, your spouse, and your family. For instance, the interests of married persons might not so neatly dovetail as their love lives, as in the case of blended families.

    In the blended family context, couples may disagree about how distribute their assets, and even to whom assets should be distributed. To make matters even more difficult, in the absence of a clear-cut premarital agreement, there can be considerable rancor regarding ownership of the separate (let alone marital) assets.

    One fundamental consideration at the outset is the question of separate representation. In other words, are the latent difficulties or possible misunderstandings so substantial that each spouse ought to secure independent legal counsel? While this may, at first blush, invite confrontation, it need not.

    A single attorney representing both parties after full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and written waivers may be the most appropriate solution for a couple. As the article highlights, however, each case (just like each couple) is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

    Reference: Forbes (April 10, 2012) “Estate Planning For Couples: Should It Be A Solo Or A Duet?

    Married Couples and Long-Term Care Logistics

    There’s another layer of rules for families in which the person hoping to get government help paying for long-term care has a spouse who is still living independently. States are treating such “well” spouses in dramatically different ways.

    Marriage is a unique economic and legal institution. Indeed, when it works out, marriage also means a happy lifetime of living with another. Of course, because life lasts longer and health wanes differently between persons, those unique economic and legal parts to marriage can translate into difficult times later in life.

    Against the backdrop of the in sickness portion of the vows, one difficulty that arises was addressed recently in a Wall Street Journal article titled Long-Term Care and Couples: Who Pays?. That difficulty is the phenomenon of the “well spouse,” the “ill spouse,” and Medicaid.  Practically speaking, if one spouse becomes chronically sick and needs long-term care, will the other spouse be driven into poverty?

    Marital assets, whether owned by the husband or the wife, are part of the equation when it comes to determining Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid is the joint federal/state government program to provide means-tested health care assistance to those who qualify.

    With both federal and state coffers bleeding red ink (with a few state exceptions), Medicaid money is tight, especially in terms of long-term care coverage — whether married or single. As the Wall Street Journal article notes, however, some states are treating the “well spouses” more generously than others regarding how much wealth they may retain while the “sick spouses” are receiving taxpayer support through Medicaid.

    I recommend reading the original article. Also, consider purchasing long-term care insurance so Medicaid does not become part of your future. In any event, a consultation with a qualified Elder Law Attorney would be prudent to evaluate your options.

    Reference: The Wall Street Journal (April 2, 2012) “Long-Term Care and Couples: Who Pays?




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