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5 Massachusetts Estate Planning Dos and Don’ts

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.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA (Defense of marriage act)

US Supreme CourtIn a landmark decision, hailed by equal rights advocates all over the country, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) that denied legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits that are provided to heterosexual spouses. Prior to the Court’s ruling, DOMA defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

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July Fourth is My Favorite Time of the Year!

July 4th has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I was a history major in college (S.M.U. to be exact – and, I’m talking about THE SMU that we know here in the SouthCoast – Southeastern Mass. University now known as UMass Dartmouth). As a history major, I was always drawn to the struggles of our Founding Fathers in forming this great nation of ours. To this day, I enjoy programs and books about that era and still enjoy learning.

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A Father’s Day Message. A Father. A Teacher. A Hero

My father is my hero. Truth is that I can’t tell you a heart-wrenching story of inspiration about my father. I can’t tell you that he’s rescued someone from the jaws of death. Or, that he’s helped underprivileged children overcome tremendous odds against them.

Manny Garcia. A father. A teacher. A hero.

What I can tell you about my father, though, is that he is a man of strong conviction. He is a man that never accepts defeat. He is a man that will rise to a challenge. He is a man that always thinks of his family first – my mother/his wife, his children (me included), his siblings, his nieces and nephews, his cousins…all of them.

My father was brought to this country by his family when he was 7. He came from a small village in the Azores. He lost his father at a very young age. He was the youngest of 4 children, but he grew to be a leader of them all. A stalwart.

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Naming Beneficiary

Here are 5 quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to you estate plan.

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.

Do have backup healthcare agents named.

  You may feel as though you only trust one person to “pull the plug on you when you are sick” or make clutch decisions for you in an emergency; But if that person is not available, you are going to need to have someone around to make those tough decisions for you.

Don’t add your adult child’s name to your bank account.  

A lot of elders will add their adult child’s name to their bank account for convenience and think that the kid will do the right thing and split the money with their brothers and sisters. Putting the name on the bank account can make them an outright owner of the money and they may just choose to not split the money with them after you are gone.

Do name guardians for your minor children

This one is a no brainer. It’s simple if you don’t name guardians yourself then a probate judge that knows nothing about your family and your values is going to make that decisions for you after you’re gone.

Don’t put off making a plan

Between jobs, kids, family etc. it easy to let days go by without one, but every time you step out that front door something can happen to you. If you do not create one your family and loved one will be left cleaning up the mess you leave behind.

Almost 50-60% of americans don’t have an estate plan. Make this the year you leave that percentage behind and get an estate plan.

For more information visit http://PhillipsGarcia.com

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Texting and Driving in Massachusetts

Since graduation season is among us we thought that it would be important to explain some of the relevant laws for children and parents during these celebratory times. In the next couple of days we will be touching upon alcohol related, driving, partying, and texting laws. Specifically, today we will explain the texting while driving law.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, Massachusetts has adopted a law against specific phone uses while driving, due to the surge of accidents and even deaths caused by texting, web surfing, and reading or writing e-mails over the phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Under the Massachusetts Law, as of September 30, 2010, reading or writing texts, surfing the web, and reading or writing e-mails are all considered a Civil Offense EVEN WHILE STOPPED AT A STOP SIGN.

The Penalties are as follows (FOUND ON THE COMMONWEALTH CONVERSATION WEBSITE)

Civil Offense-No insurance surcharge

(Operators cannot use any mobile telephone or handheld device capable of accessing the Internet to write, send, or read an electronic message including text messages, emails, and instant messages or to access the Internet while operating a vehicle. Law applies even if the vehicle is stopped in traffic.)

1st offense-$100

2nd offense-$250

3rd or subs offense-$500

The laws also state that a Junior Operator (driver under the age of 18) is prohibited from using cellular phones all together.

Ch 90/8M- Use of a Mobile Phone or Mobile Electronic Device by a Junior Operator

Civil Offense- No Surcharge

(Mobile electronic device includes mobile telephone, text messaging device, paging device, PDA, laptop computer, electronic equipment capable of playing video games or video disks or can take/transmit digital photographs or can receive a television broadcast. Mobile electronic device does not include any equipment permanently or temporarily installed to provide navigation, emergency assistance or rear seat video entertainment. Reporting an emergency is the only exception. Drivers are encouraged to pull over and stop the vehicle to report the emergency.)

1st offense-$100, 60 day license suspension & attitudinal course

2nd offense-$250, 180 day suspension

3rd or subs offense-$500, 1 year suspension

The above information is provided by the Massachusetts Transpotation Blog which you can find here. If you have any more questions regarding driving laws or would like to meet with an attorney at Phillips & Garcia Law please visit our website at www.phillipsgarcia.com or give us a call at (508) 998-0800. You can also email us at [email protected]

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Local Dartmouth Lawyer Andrew Garcia Takes on Bank of America in California Federal Court

Local Dartmouth Ma. lawyer Andrew Garcia of Phillips & Garcia Law is currently flying over the continental United States on his way to California Federal court to take on the largest American bank, Bank of America. Andrew’s trip is for a widely publicized illegal lock-out and trash-out case.

You can follow Andrew for updates on twitter.

Check out earlier discussions about illegal lockout and trash-out cases with Phillips & Garcia featured on the Today Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

For more information on illegal lockout, trash-out cases and how to protect your family check out our website here.  If you have a smartphone scan below.

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Dog Bites: “New Bedford police shoot and kill pit bull in South End attack:” Response

“New Bedford police shoot and kill pit bull in South End attack” CLICK THE LINK TO READ THE SOUTHCOAST TODAY ARTICLE

After recent dog biting incidents we have received many questions about dog laws in Massachusetts, specifically the “who is responsible?” question. As much as we love our pets, sometimes their behavior can become dangerous and cause injuries to strangers, ourselves or even our children.

It is important to understand such laws behind pet injuries, especially for the most common case: The Dog Bite.

Dog bites can be severe and permanent, sometimes requiring expensive plastic surgeries. Like any injury, dog bites can impact a person’s ability to work and even get through their daily lives. If not protected properly, as a pet owner, you can face enormous lawsuits resulting in bankruptcy.

In Massachusetts the dog owner is generally responsible for any injury caused by the dog even when it is on a leash or has escaped from a fenced in yard.

So, as pet owners, what can we do to protect ourselves? If you own a dog, you need a homeowner’s policy that covers injuries or property damage caused by canines.  It is important to know that some insurers reject policies for specific breeds and attempt to limit benefits to dog bite victims.

When encountering such cases, persistence and knowledge of the insurance industry is vital to turn a denied or reduces claim into a paid one. This is when we come in. Just give us a call or send us an email and we can answer all your questions and help you out.

For more information check out our site here or call us at (888)449-5343.