Posts

Planning for death is more than writing a will.

Image
Planning for your own death is more than writing a will and instructions on how you want doctors to treat you. You should take steps to provide information to your family and heirs to make administration of your estate easier. Anticipating potential problems can avoid problems and reduce the cost of administration of the estate.
Of course, the first steps in planning for your death is creation of an estate plan. The minimum step to be taken is creation of a Will. Some people may also need a trust to administer assets for the benefit of children or other incompetent heirs. When drafting a will you should also consider other end of life instruments such as a power of attorney, health care proxy (in some states a living will), and an anatomical gift document.
One of the most stressful events following a death is planning the funeral and burial. Funeral directors, like other sales people, may use high pressure tactics to increase the cost of the funeral. Funerals can be planned in …

Don't give in to peer pressure bullying negotiations

Image
Don't give in to peer pressure bullying negotiations.1
From the time that I started practicing law others have told me do act in a particular way or do things differently using the argument “that's how everybody else does it.” In most instances this advice was accompanied by an explanation based on law, facts, or logic. In many instances I accepted this advice and changed my behavior. If a logical argument exists to do things in a better way then I support the better way. In many instances the advice could be summed up as the difference between how things are taught in school and how they are done in the real world.
In a number of instances other lawyers have presented arguments to do something differently but without any basis in law, fact, or logic. I have always experienced these arguments in the course of trying to negotiate an agreement to resolve litigation. I have never accepted these arguments in the absence of logic. The argument of doing something because ev…

Separation agreements can't contract away bankruptcy protections

Image
I recently negotiated a separation agreement in a divorce in which the opposing attorney insisted on inserting a clause that on its face prevented the parties from receiving the benefit of bankruptcy laws if one of them filed a bankruptcy petition in federal court. The clause that she tried to insert was as follows:

"Each Party agrees that neither shall attempt in any way to discharge any obligations contained in this Agreement in bankruptcy proceedings, and that in the event that s/he does, any discharge in bankruptcy for any such obligations shall have no effect upon his/her responsibility as contained in the Agreement. The obligations of the Parties set forth in this Agreement shall survive and supersede any subsequent discharge in bankruptcy. The filing Party shall indemnify and hold harmless the non-filing Party from any and all losses suffered as a result of the bankruptcy proceeding, including costs and legal fees."
In my opinion, this clause is illegal in that it vi…

Prenuptial Agreements Should Address All Terminating Events For A Marriage

Image
 Every marriage will come to an end.   Some terminate by divorce and others terminate by death.   Eventually every marriage will end.  
Most people who want Prenuptial Agreements  (also called premarital agreements or prenups) want the agreement for protection in the event of a divorce.   However, a recent case in Massachusetts explained that a well drafted agreement should also address termination by death.  
In the case of Stacy v Stacy the husband and wife had a Prenuptial agreement that had the following language:  "a final and complete settlement of all matters relating to the interest and obligations of each [party] with respect to all future property matters, including but not limited to alimony, support, maintenance, property assignment, and the rights of the parties under G. L. c. 208, § 34, as amended, in the event of a divorce."  Apparently the agreement was silent on what was to happen if a spouse died.   
The husband died and the personal representative of his e…

Massachusetts new alimony law – Durational limits and prior divorce judgments

Image
In 2012 Massachusetts divorce law changed by implementation of an Alimony Reform Act. A recent case, George v. George, interpreted and explained a portion of the law known as durational limits.
Under prior law, alimony was awarded for life or until a material change of circumstances occurred. It made no difference if the parties were married for one year or thirty. An award of alimony did not have a termination date. The new law imposed durational limits for divorces less than twenty years in length. The longer the marriage, the longer the period of alimony. The George case addressed the issue of applying the durational limits to alimony awards that occurred prior to 2012.
Earlier cases had held that modification should be denied if the recipient spouse testified that property rights were given up in exchange for alimony. This argument is mostly rejected for marriages less than 20 years in length. The Court said that every person who receives alimony will make this argumen…

PLAY DATES, GUNS, AND OTHER SAFETY QUESTIONS

Image
This morning on the news there was a story about an 11 year old who was shot in the face. The shooting was accidental and the gun was legally registered and owned. One child was at another child's home and they found the gun and played with it. The expected result occurred. One child pointed the gun at the other and pulled the trigger.
Asking questions about child safety before sending your child to a neighbor's to play with your child is extremely awkward and potentially offensive. However, the safety of your child should be paramount. Asking safety questions before entrusting your child to the care of another adult should be routine. If you screen potential babysitters before hiring them then you should screen other adults as well.
Gun Safety. Experts indicate that onein three families with children have guns in the house. Not all of these households take appropriate measures to keep children safe from guns. It should be routine practice for parents to ask: “D…

The court didn't give me custody of my children. Am I a bad parent?

Image
In most custody cases, both parents are good parents who can take care of the children. A judge has to decide custody between two good choices. In most Massachusetts custody battles, custody is not decided on the basis that one parent is bad. The standard applied by judges is known as the best interests of the child standard. In other words, the judge has to decide which custody arrangement is better for the children.
Judges will frequently look at the following questions when considering custody: When the parties were together who was the primary custodial parent? Which parent has bonded better with the children? Which parent works more hours? Which parent prepares food, cleans the house, bathes the children, puts them to bed? Which parent takes time off from work for a sick child or doctor's appointments? Once the parties have separated, do both parents have adequate housing for the children and sufficient plans to care for the children? There are other facts that…