Tag: Family

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How Do We Define the “New American Family?”

Not long ago, the traditional American family typically consisted of a husband, a wife and two to three kids (think “Leave it to Beaver”). But, the growing incidence of separation, divorce, remarriage and unmarried hetero and same-sex couples living together with kids has changed the landscape of how we as a culture define a family.

Noted Indiana University sociologist, Brian Powell, set out to determine how Americans’ definition of what constitutes a family has changed over the last decade. Not surprisingly, what he found was that we’ve been moving away from the traditional “Leave it to Beaver” idea of family to arrive at a view of the “New American Family” which comes in many different forms.

Powell’s findings revealed that almost 100% of people consider a husband, wife and kids as a family. Yet, he also found that over 83% of people consider cohabiting heterosexual couples with kids to be a family and that now over two-thirds of Americans agree that same-sex couples with kids are a family.

Take the kids away from the “family equation” and those percentages drop drastically. For example, only 39% of people consider a cohabiting hetero couple with no kids to be a family even though that cohabiting couple might consider themselves a family.

In the end, though, when it comes to defining a family all that may matter is how people view their own living arrangements. Whether you’re a traditional family, blended family, domestic partnership or single parent, over 60% of people now agree that if you consider yourself a family, then you are a family.

Regardless of how it’s defined, the “New American Family” faces many different legal issues in this day and age. From designating health care agents, to drafting wills that protect everyone, to choosing guardians for kids, all families are faced with these challenges.  So like the old program “All in the Family,” our blog is dedicated to tackling the legal issues facing our New American Family.

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Five Estate Plan Dos & Don’ts

Have an estate plan? Well if you don’t, your among good company. About 50%-60% of Americans don’t even have a will.

So here are 5 quick Dos and Don’ts when it comes to estate plans.

  • Don’t name your minor kids as beneficiaries of your insurance policy.  If something happens to you before they turn 18, then a court will have to appoint someone to manage their money for them. And, even worse, when they turn 18, they’ll have instant access to everything that’s left.
  • Do have backup Health Care Agents named. You may feel you only trust one person deciding whether to “pull the plug” or make clutch decisions in an emergency, but if that person’s not available because their taking a dream vacation in Barbados, you need to have someone around to make those tough choices.
  • Don’t put one of your adult kid’s names on your bankbook because it’s convenient. A lot of elders will add an adult child’s name to their bank accounts for convenience and think that they’ll  “do the right” thing when they’re gone and split the money amongst the other siblings.  But, putting their name on an account can make them an outright owner of the money and they may choose to not split the money with their brothers and sisters after you’re gone.
  • Do name guardians of your minor children. This one’s a “no brainer.” It’s simple, if you don’t name guardians yourself, then a Probate Judge who knows nothing about your family and your values will make the decision for you after you’re gone.  And, you may not like that decision.
  • Don’t put off creating a plan. Let’s face it, between jobs, kids, family, soccer practices, homework, dance recitals, life is busy. It’s easy to let the days slip on by without one. But, every time you step out of the front door, something could happen to you.  I know it’s not what you want to think about, but strokes, heart attacks, auto accidents, even criminal violence, can happen. If you haven’t planned something, then your loved ones will be left cleaning up the financial mess you leave behind.

Make this year the year that you leave the other half of Americans behind and get an estate plan done.

Andrew Garcia, Family Legal Planning Attorney

Don't leave your loved ones with a financial mess. Get some Family Legal Planning in place before it's too late.

The Family Legal Planning system at Phillips & Garcia has been designed to help busy families get their estate planning done in a convenient and affordable way. To schedule your complimentary Family Legal Planning session with Attorney Andrew Garcia just call (508) 998-0800 or email him at [email protected]