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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.

    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 to Reduce the Cost of Long-Term Care Insurance

    A person who turns 65 today has a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care at some time in their remaining years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On average, women will need 3.7 years of long-term care and men will need 2.2 years of care. Only 20% will need care for longer than five years.older couple

    If you don’t have the financial resources to pay for this long-term care yourself – either for a nursing home stay or in-home care – you will likely consider long-term care insurance to fill the void. While annual premiums can vary according to your age and health status, they can be fairly expensive.

    Here are some tips to reduce the cost of long-term care insurance:

    Buy young. Since premiums rise as you age, purchasing a long-term care policy when you are younger can mean cheaper premiums. Just be sure you are aware that premiums can increase as you age, so be sure to discuss this with your insurer.

    Shorten the benefit period. Lifetime policies are the most expensive, and since statistics show that most of us will not need long-term care for more than five years, you can save thousands of dollars in premiums if you buy a short-term policy.

    Lengthen the elimination period. Most policies have a 30-90 day waiting period before coverage begins. If you can make this period longer, your premiums will be cheaper.

    Reduce daily benefits. If you can pay for some of your long-term care needs yourself, you can reduce the daily benefit amount on your policy, which will result in lower premiums.

    Share the care. If you are married and both of you are buying long-term care insurance, a shared care policy could provide you both with more coverage for less money. A shared care policy provides a pool of benefits that are shared between you and your spouse, so if you buy a 5-year shared care policy, the two of you would have 10 years of benefits. If your spouse only uses 3 years, you would have 7 years of benefits to use.

    Take the deduction. Your long-term care insurance premiums may be deductible. If they meet the requirements for “qualified” long-term care expenses, they can be deductible, with the amount depending on your age and tax year. For 2014, the long-term care premium deductibility limits are $1,400 for those more than 50 but not more than 60, $3,720 for those more than 60 but not more than 70, and $4,660 for those over 70.

    To learn more about long-term financial planning for your golden years and other elder law issues, call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today at the Meier Law Firm to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session.

    The “Talk” You Need to Have With Your Parents ASAP

    lauraanddadI noticed at our annual neighborhood football game this year that the conversations have changed. Yes we still talked about the kids, the husbands, the ex-husbands, and all the new places we need botox, but this year we started talking about new things I thought were still years away. One friend was talking about having to spend the upcoming holiday at her parents’ new condo because they had recently downsized from the family home. Another friend was talking about how the upcoming holiday would be tough because it would be the first one without her dad, who had unexpectedly passed away earlier this year.

    Now that we are getting older, life is changing, not just for us, but for our parents too. You may be wondering just how prepared your parents are for these life changes, and how that impacts you. It’s not comforting thinking you’ll be the one dealing with lawyers, courtrooms, and taxes if your parents pass on without having their affairs in order. But how do you bring up the subject to your parents without making it awkward, or mistakenly appear as though you’re just waiting to get your inheritance?

    It’s time to have “the talk” with your parents. Here are 5 easy ways to approach your parents’ medical, financial, and estate planning with them without making it as awkward as they did when they had that “other talk” with you many years ago:

    1. Change the topic. Who wants to talk about their own death?  No thanks. Instead of asking your parents about their will or trust, instead ask them about their emergency plan and how you can help. Because emergency planning encompasses so much more than who gets moms ring when she goes, parents are more willing to go there, and estate planning will naturally play into the discussion. (Warning: Be prepared to see your dad’s water storage or indulge him when he shows you how to live off powdered mix for three days.)
    2. Try sharing, not asking. We’re all adults now, and just because your parents are older does not make their estate planning any more urgent than your own. Every adult needs basic planning such as a will and trust, especially if you have little kids or have purchased a home. It is best to get your own house is in order before you go asking your parents about theirs. Plus, by having your own family emergency and estate planning done, you can share your experience with them rather than ask questions about a topic you have only read or heard about.
    3. Don’t pry. Ask practical questions rather than personal questions and you’ll find your parents will be more willing to talk, and you’ll still be adequately prepared to respond to a family crises. While it is your business to know who you need to contact in an emergency, such as your parents medical decision makers or estate planning lawyer, it is less your business to know who dad is leaving his office furniture to or which sibling he chose to be in charge of distributing the family money. Respect your parents’ privacy.
    4. Request a family meeting. Most parents with adult children wish to avoid a family meeting because they’re afraid it will open up a huge can of worms or tear the family apart. They fear a family rift or blow up will occur if family members become too emotional, fearful, paranoid, or unforgiving. Having a structured family meeting facilitated by an objective third party (like a family trust attorney) can actually keep discussions on track and allow family to resolve their differences rather than wait to air their grievances in a courtroom.
    5. Give it a rest. It’s frustrating when parents refuse to get their medical, financial and estate planning in place, especially when you know you’ll likely be the one who has to hire the lawyers, go to court, deal with siblings, and sell the family home when they go. If you have tried encouraging your parents to make their planning a priority and are met with procrastination or resistance, just let it go (at least for a good while). It’s better to keep the peace then get angry with them. Chances are they have had to let a few things go with you so look at it as returning the favor.

    For more great tips on how to protect your family members and get your medical, financial, and estate plan in order, contact your Newport Beach family estate planning firm.

    Laura K. Meier, Esq. is a family trust attorney and mother of four young children. She is the author of Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan. Laura and her husband, Joshua D. Meier, Esq. run a business and estate planning law firm together in Newport Beach, CA.

    Consider Your Estate Plan Before You Travel

    We are fast approaching the holidays, when travel is the busiest and careful planning is necessary to nab the best airfare or book that New Year’s beach cottage before it slips away.  One thing that is probably not on your travel to-do list is estate planning, but it should be so you can travel with peace of mind. travel

    Here are some tips to pack away your worries before you board that flight:

    Complete your estate plan.  If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to complete your estate plan.  If money is a consideration, then start with those the most important items: a will, power of attorney and advance health care directives.

    Update an existing estate plan.  Has something changed in your life since you last updated your estate plan?   A birth, a death, a marriage, a divorce?  Each of these triggers your need to update your estate plan.

    Establish guardianship for minor children.  If you have ever gotten a nagging fear about what would happen to your children if something were to happen to you, then use that fear to follow through on naming a guardian for raising your minor children.  If you have young kids, there is never an excuse for you to neglect this important step.

    Review beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance and other assets must be kept current or your assets will not pass to them upon your death.  If you have minor children, you will need to set up a trust and name the trust as beneficiary so your assets can pass without court intervention.

    Review/update incapacity documents.  Two very important health care documents – a durable power of attorney for health care and a HIPAA Authorization – will determine who can make medical decisions for you and who has access to your medical records in case of incapacity.  Be sure you have these documents before you travel and that the person/people named are still valid.

    Review/update insurance.  Does your life insurance coverage still meet your family’s needs?  If not, it is time to update your insurance policy before you hit the road.

    In addition, you need to be sure you have an organized file of all your accounts and estate planning documents and you need to tell your family where they can locate the file if and when it becomes necessary.

    The time to create a plan that spells out how you will pass on your values, beliefs and your money to your children is now.  You can begin by calling your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Attorney today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

    The Final Log-Off: What Happens to Your Data When You Die?

    Take a moment and consider how much of your life you live online. If you are like most of us, you bank, pay bills, make purchases, connect with friends and communicate with just about everyone you know online. Think about all the digital assets you have accumulated – account information, passwords, email, photos, videos, etc. What happens to all of it when you die?

    Since you will not be around anymore to need this information, you may not care what happens to it. But chances are pretty good that your loved ones will care. There have been many stories of families trying to get access to a deceased family member’s photos and emails on social media sites – in fact, there have been so many requests that most of these sites have policies in place for family to gain access or deactivate online accounts:  Internet security

    Google. Last year, Google unveiled its Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to choose whether to name a beneficiary for their online account activity on all Google sites (which includes YouTube) or to delete it after a set amount of time passes during which the account is inactive.

    Facebook. Facebook allows family members to request that a decedent’s account be deleted or provides them with an option to “memorialize” the decedent’s page so it stays up, but is essentially frozen in time. Facebook requires you to provide a death certificate or a published obituary to accomplish this.

    LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides an online form to remove a deceased member’s profile page from the site. You will need to furnish the member’s name, email address, the URL to their LinkedIn profile and some other information as well as a link to their online obituary.

    Twitter. You must email Twitter a request to delete the account of a family member who has passed and mail them a copy of the death certificate, the obituary as well as a copy of your ID and proof that the decedent owned the account if his or her Twitter handle is different from their given name.

    Yahoo. You can have an account deleted by providing Yahoo with paper copies of the death certificate and the document appointing you are the executor of the estate or personal representative of the deceased along with a letter furnishing the Yahoo ID of the decedent and your request that the account be deleted. Yahoo will not transfer or preserve any data in the account.

    But why make your loved ones jump through hoops to deal with your digital assets when you can take care of it yourself with these three simple steps:

    List all your digital assets. You may already have a list of all your online accounts and passwords (who can remember them all?) so you’re halfway there. Add to that a list of documents on your computer as well as photos and other data that may be stored on backup or thumb drives.

    Decide on keep or delete. Review your list and decide which items are worth preserving and which ones can be tossed. Not everyone wants their family to have access to all their digital files, so decide which files are worth preserving and which files can be deleted. Then tell your family.

    Designate a digital executor. If you have already named an executor in your estate plan, you may want the same person to handle the disposition of your digital assets. If not, then designate someone in your will to handle this task. Do NOT include your accounts and passwords in your will! These are public documents and can easily be stolen by identity thieves.

    To review an existing estate plan or create one for yourself and your family that includes the management of your digital assets, call your Newport Beach Estate Planning attorneys at the Meier Law Firm today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session.

    No More Reasons for Delay in Implementing These 5 Estate Planning Essentials

    Last year’s uncertainty about the future of the estate and gift tax caused many people to put their estate planning on hold, even though estate and gift tax planning is only a teeny tiny piece of estate planning.  Now that the clouds have lifted and Congress has given us clarity, there is simply no reason for anyone to delay in implementing these five estate planning essentials:family on beach

    Will.  Look around you right now.  Everything you see has to be distributed in the event of your death.  Your Will names the person you want to handle it all and can also indicate who you want to receive it all.  If you don’t have a Will, a Judge decides who is in charge of your affairs and State law provides who receives everything you own.  Take control now by getting your Will in place today.

    Kids ICE Plan.  If you have minor children at home, you need a comprehensive set of documents to ensure they are taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what.  Not just for the long-term, but also in the immediate term if and when something happens to you.  A Kids Protection Plan® does just that.  Only a licensed Personal Family Lawyer has the skills, training, and resources to create a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan for your family, so call us today if you do not have one in place already.

    Advance Medical Directive.  Also known as a health care proxy, durable power of attorney for healthcare or living will, this document provides the legal right for the person of your choice (your representative) to make healthcare decisions for you in case you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.  Plus, it also lets that person know HOW you want decisions to be made if you cannot make them for yourself.  Without an Advance Medical Directive in place, your family could have their hands tied when it comes to ensuring you get the best care possible, in the way you would want.

    Power of Attorney.  In the event you cannot communicate, your Power of Attorney will allow your family to gain access to your financial accounts so they can pay your bills and manage your financial affairs. Without this in place, they’ll face an expensive, long and public court process to take matters into their hands.  Don’t leave your family in that position, handle this today.

    Trust.  If you own any property that would go through the probate process (a home, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, business assets, investment real estate, and other investment assets), you’ll want to make sure to have a Trust set up as soon as possible so your family isn’t stuck dealing with an expensive, unnecessary, long, and totally public Court process in the event of your death.  A revocable living trust puts the people you know, love and trust in control without having to go to Court.

    If you’re ready to do the right thing by your family, call our office today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session!

    How To Leave Your Home To Your Kids

    Many parents want to know the best way to leave a home to their children. Before you make a plan, you should first be sure that your children actually want the property. We have seen too many parents take on unnecessary financial hardship in order to keep a home as an inheritance their children do not truly want.home

    That said, here are some of the most common ways to leave your home to your kids:

    Will. You can leave real estate to anyone in your will. Once the will has been probated, your children will receive title to the property.

    Trust. Using a trust is a convenient way to transfer property without having to go through probate. Title is transferred automatically upon a triggering event — in this case, the death of the original property owner.

    Joint tenancy with right of survivorship. This method allows you to add your children to the property title while you are still alive. When you pass, the children become owners of the property as surviving joint owners.

    Transfer on death deed. This allows you to name a beneficiary for your property without giving a present interest in it to the beneficiary. Upon your passing, the beneficiary takes title.

    Life estate. You can transfer title to the property while you are still living, and retain the right to live there during your lifetime. After your death, the beneficiary owns the entire interest in the property.

    There are pros and cons to each of these options.  Deciding on the best option for you and your family should be done with the assistance of a Personal Family Lawyer®.

    If you’d like to learn more about estate planning, call our office today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session.

    The 4 Key Life Skills Your Children Need to Have Before They Inherit

    Inherited wealth need not be “an albatross around the neck of the children” as Sting so succinctly put it recently when asked if he was leaving his wealth to his children.

    His children will not see much of his millions, but not all wealthy parents feel the way he does.  Many a great family fortune has been built by successive generations of the same family – and many lost as well. The difference is that successful families develop skills in the next generation for respecting, protecting and growing inherited wealth. family walking

    Covie Edwards-Pitt, the author of a book called Raised Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, says there are four critical skills children must develop before they receive an inheritance from parents or a trust. She interviewed scores of successful inheritors to identify theses four skills, which are:

    The ability to earn their own money and live off what they make. Children raised with wealth feel they are the most successful when they earn enough on their own to support themselves without the family money.

    The ability to set and pursue their own work goals. Children of wealth who are encouraged to find work they enjoy are much more likely to find satisfaction in that work if they are taught that it takes time and perseverance to reach this goal and that they should focus on learning from every job and give it their best.

    The ability to develop self-worth that is separate from family wealth. Children who develop a core identity based on their own accomplishments and the choices they make in life are much happier and more successful.

    The ability to be resilient and bounce back from adversity. Family wealth can cushion many blows, but the most successful inheritors are those who were allowed to experience and navigate failure on their own.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

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