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.”
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.
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.
Dartmouth Massachusetts Wills & Trusts Lawyer Answers Critical Question: Is my new spouse responsible for my debts in a second marriage?
The Living Together Law Center, Attorney Andrew Garcia, is an advocate for partners who are living together in committed relationships and for couples in second marriages. In this video, Andrew answers the critical question that many partners have about whether they are going to be responsible for debts incurred by their partner before they remarry or before they move in together.
Couples who are in second marriages and partners who are living together have legitimate questions and concerns about their responsibilities and their legal rights. For example, common law marriage is not recognized in Massachusetts and that seriously affects the rights of both partners in the relationship.
Get Trusted Advice from a Living Together Law Advocate
Trusted advice from an advocate who understands the worries and fears of cohabiting couples and couples in second marriages is what you’ll find at The Living Together Law Center.
Take the first step to getting your questions answered by contacting us now.
In recent news, Fox 25 reports that unmarried couples may soon be allowed to legally live together in Florida. A measure to get rid of a law that’s been on the books since 1868 making it illegal for unmarried men and women to cohabit is pending before the Florida State Senate.
Apparently, Florida, along with only 2 other states in the U.S. (Michigan and Mississippi), makes cohabitation between a man and woman a misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
A woman asks: I’ve been living with my boyfriend for 8 years. We live in a house here in Massachusetts that’s in his name only. We both work and I help pay the mortgage, the gas and electric, the cable and the food. He has a 10 year old girl from his first marriage and she spends time with us and we even do things together like going on vacation to Disney World.
But, the deed to the house is still in his name only. I’m worried about what would happen to me if he died. Who would get that house? Would I be out in the street?
Does this sound familiar? It should because at The Living Together Law Center, I see this situation all the time. Let’s break this state of affairs down and see where this woman stands.
Massachusetts law does not recognize common law marriage. So when couples who have been living together (or cohabiting) decide to break up or when one suddenly dies, there is no “rule book” that controls how property is split up between them.
Cohabitation agreements are written contracts between partners who are living together. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that it would recognize the benefits to be gained by encouraging unmarried cohabitants to enter into these written agreements called cohabitation agreements. A cohabitation agreement will govern a couple’s affairs when the relationship is terminated for whatever reason, including breaking up and death of a partner.