April is National Autism Awareness Month in the United States. It’s a time of year that is dedicated to educating the public about the special needs and challenges facing those individuals living within the autism spectrum disorders (“ASDs”). ASDs are a group of developmental issues that are shown to affect social, communication and behavioral functioning.
According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, the disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, reflecting a 30% rise in the rates of the developmental disorder over the course of the 2 years before that. Trends also show that autism remains almost five-times more common among boys than girls.
“Behind each of these numbers is a person living with autism,” according to Liz Feld, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks. “Autism is a pressing public health crisis that must be prioritized at the national level.” (Source: CBS News.com).
Beyond ASD, though, there are many local families with a child with special needs. In honor of Autism Awareness month, I’ve dedicated this blog post to all of our Massachusetts families who face the daily challenges and rewards (because we can never forget about the love and joy each special person brings into our lives) of living with a family member with special needs.
Add Estate Planning To Your List of Resolutions This Year
The New Year means tax season is beginning. Here in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, like every other part of the country, we begin collecting our tax forms and looking for all possible deductions. Estate planning goes hand-in-hand with tax season as you’ll see in a moment.
The New Year also is a time for making resolutions. I usually resolve each year to try and live a healthier lifestyle. I promise myself I’ll get around to losing that extra 10 pounds. My wife and I agree to save a little extra each week for retirement.
While many people focus on getting organized for the New Year, estate planning is an equally important personal finance goal that should make every adult’s “to-do list.”
Massachusetts Estate Planning Isn’t Just for the Rich and Famous
My wife, Nancy, and I were at a favorite ‘watering hole’ here in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, recently and we started a conversation with some great people sitting next to us. Naturally, the topic of what we all did for a living came up. When I said that I was an “estate planning” lawyer and that I prepared wills and trusts for people, they said, “yeah, we really need to do our wills, but we keep putting it off.” They then asked, though, “isn’t estate planning just for really rich people?”
In response, I told them that they weren’t alone by putting off doing their wills. According to an April 2014 Forbes article, 62% of Americans between the ages of 45 to 54 hadn’t drafted their wills. So, a majority of us clearly haven’t done our plans.
Then I answered their question and said, “no, estate planning isn’t just for the rich and famous, it’s for just about everyone.”
More couples are living together than ever before. Most, though, aren’t prepared for when tragedy or unexpected issues happen. In this post, Dartmouth, Massachusetts attorney, Andrew Garcia, reveals the 3 life events that most cohabiting couples simply aren’t prepared for and how that lack of preparation can leave each partner financially crippled.
First Life Event: Breaking Up
Judge Judy is famous for cautioning that when you live together “you’re playing house.” Since Massachusetts doesn’t recognize common law marriage, she’s basically right: there’s no rule book for when you break up.
Attorney Andrew Garcia of The Living Together Law Center offers 5 quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to your Massachusetts estate planing.
Don’t name your minor kids as beneficiaries on your insurance policy.
If something happens to you before they turn eighteen then a court is going to have to appoint someone to manage the money for them, and even worse when they do turn eighteen, they have instant access to everything you have left.
Massachusetts doesn’t recognize common law marriage no matter how long a couple has lived together. Since common law marriage isn’t recognized, there are no laws that require that property be automatically passed on to a surviving partner after the death of the first and there’s no guarantee that one partner will be in charge of making medical decisions for another.
If you’re living together in Massachusetts, it’s critical that you have your legal affairs in order in case the unthinkable happens. Attorney Andrew Garcia of The Living Together Law Center identifies three reasons why cohabiting couples should prepare an estate plan in 2016:
Reason #1: When You Die Your Surviving Boyfriend or Girlfriend Doesn’t Automatically Get Your Property
When a person dies without a last will and testament, Massachusetts law controls how property passes on. This is called the “law of intestate succession” or the “laws of intestacy.”
Massachusetts law says that when a person dies without a will their property will pass on to a surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, then it passes to surviving children. If there are no surviving children, then to surviving parents, siblings and so on.
One person that the law does not include is a surviving boyfriend or girlfriend. So, a surviving cohabiting partner is not guaranteed to receive any property from a deceased cohabiting partner.
Most parents don’t realize that their college aged students need their medical wishes protected too. Here’s some surprising news to most parents – when your child turns 18 they become legal adults. That’s right, they are no longer minors in the eyes of the law AND their parents are no longer legally in charge of them.
This means that if something awful happens to a college kid, (i.e., a bad car wreck, an accident on or off campus at a party, a trip to the hospital) and they cannot communicate for themselves, then there’s no one who is legally entitled to find out medical information, to make medical or legal decisions, to talk to insurance companies or to find out other information about them.
Americans have become more accepting of couples living together before marriage and same sex relationships according to government survey results released yesterday. The same survey shows, though, that Americans have grown less comfortable with divorce.
In an article reported by The Republic in Columbus, Indiana, the government asked thousands of teens and younger adults what they thought about changes in U.S. family relationships. The results released Thursday indicate a drastic shift in attitudes over a decade about cohabiting, same-sex relationships and divorce.
My Boyfriend and I Have Been Living Together for 7 Years. Are We Married?
This is an excellent and very common question. It’s a widespread misconception that if a couple lives together for 7 years or more in Massachusetts then they are considered married under common law. Massachusetts, however, does not recognize common law marriage. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived together for 7 years, 10 years or 30 years. Under Massachusetts law there is no common law marriage.
What Does This Mean to Me?
What it basically means is that no matter how long you’ve lived together in a relationship there are no real legal protections for you and the contributions you’ve made to the relationship if you break up or if one of you dies.
Dartmouth, Massachusetts Living Together Law Center attorney, Andrew Garcia answers the question: When can my child get the money in the UTMA custodial account I created?
Many parents create UTMA accounts for their kids when they are young. In fact, raise your hand if you’ve created an UTMA custodial account for your minor child? (UTMA, by the way, stands for the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 201A).
I know that many of you have because I see it all the time in my Family Legal Planning practice. And, the question that always comes up is “when” can my child get the money in that custodial account?Well, the answer generally is when he/she turns 21.