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When to Update Your Living Will

June 8th, 2011

Be sure to review your Living Will periodically. Living Wills are easily modified to reflect changes in your health, finances, or perspective on end-of-life care. Even if your wishes don’t change, a Living Will should be regularly updated to take into account changes in medical technology. Consider updating your Living Will when you need to:

  • Change or set limits on medical care to meet your ability to pay
  • Respond to changes in medical technology
  • Respond to a change in health care laws
  • Respond to a changes in your health, including: decline, terminal diagnosis, possibility of surgery and hospitalization, or pregnancy
  • Designate a different person to make health care decisions for you
  • Move to a new state
  • Respond to changes in your beliefs and wishes concerning end-of-life care
  • Respond to the death of a loved one or significant other

Remember that new documents will generally supersede old ones - in other words, executing a new Living Will has the effect of revoking a prior Living Will.

Update your Living Will with LegalOut.

Article by RocketLawyer.

Living Will

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Chicago Tribune: Business Securing the future as life partners

August 20th, 2010

From the Chicago Tribune: Securing the future as life partners
If you don’t want to - or can’t - marry, it’s critical to stitch together some legal protections

By Jane Bennett Clark, Tribune Media Services
1:20 PM CDT, August 19, 2010

Julie Kurland and Marcia Diehl live in a Victorian home in Takoma Park, a leafy Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. The couple take turns walking their dog, Cody, past the 1920s bungalows and gabled Victorians that line the streets of their neighborhood. On Sundays they wander over to the farmers market and spend the rest of the day gardening or reading on their wide front porch.

It’s a routine that befits any contented couple. But Kurland, 46, and Diehl, 56, are not married, nor would their union be recognized federally or in all but five states. And while a California court case regarding the legality of same-sex marriage winds its way through the appeals process (likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court), there still remains this present-day reality:

Gay couples, and straight couples who’d prefer not to marry, lack the legal structure that protects married couples’ rights on everything from property division to end-of-life decisions. Instead, they must create their own framework.

“It’s much more important for gay couples to have their documents lined up,” said Kurland. “We have to be sure we have our t’s crossed and our i’s dotted.”

Regardless of who you’re partnered to, if you commit to each other without tying the knot, these steps will help you avoid being caught in legal limbo:

Powers of attorney: Diehl’s parents, who are deceased, never acknowledged her relationship with Kurland. Had Diehl suffered a health crisis that rendered her unable to make her own decisions, “they would have thought it was their privilege, not Kurland’s, to make the decisions for me,” said Diehl. In most states, spouses and blood relatives take priority over nonrelatives in the absence of a document that specifies otherwise.

Diehl and Kurland assigned each other a health-care power of attorney, a state-specific document (available free at doctors’ offices, hospitals and on the Internet) that lets each make medical decisions on the other’s behalf. They also gave each other a durable power of attorney, which conveys the right for each to make financial and legal decisions for each other. A durable power of attorney goes into effect as soon as you sign it or upon a triggering event. Consult a lawyer about the choices.

Put it in writing: As singles, “you only have rights to something in the other’s name if there is a written agreement,” said Frederick Hertz, co-author of “A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples” (Nolo, $34.99). A cohabitation contract, like a prenuptial, lets you formalize financial and living arrangements while you are together and spell out who gets what if you break up. Drawing up a contract can run a few thousand dollars for a simple agreement, to $25,000 for a complex one. Consult a lawyer.

Wills: Without a legal will, your estate will be divvied up according to state intestacy law, which generally favors spouses, children and other relatives, not significant others. To avoid leaving your partner in the lurch, spend the $300 or so necessary to have a lawyer draw up a will or do it yourself online.

If you are the biological parent and want your partner to raise your child after you die, be sure that you nominate him or her as the personal guardian. As with any guardianship, the court has to sign off on the nomination, but it generally respects the legal parent’s wishes, with one significant exception: The other legal parent — say, a former spouse — is willing and suited for the job.

Establish joint ownership: In some states, married couples or those with marital rights can title jointly owned property as tenancy by the entirety. Each spouse owns the entire property, and neither can sell without the other’s OK. When one spouse dies, the survivor inherits the property, avoiding probate.

Unmarried couples may own property two ways: tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common. With the first, you own the property 50-50. When one of you dies, ownership passes to the survivor automatically. You can sell or give away your half, but you can’t bequeath it to someone else. Some unmarried couples choose this setup to avoid the public process of probate or as backup to a will. Tenancy in common is more flexible: It lets you own unequal shares of the property, and, if you sell, you walk away with whatever percentage you contributed.

Keep track of gifts: Married couples in the eyes of Uncle Sam can give each other unlimited assets without tax consequences. But unmarried heterosexual couples and all same-sex couples are considered “legal strangers” for federal tax purposes, said Dana Levit, a financial planner in Boston and president of PridePlanners, a nonprofit financial-education group. That awkward status requires you to report gifts to each other of more than $13,000 a year (as of 2010). The excess counts against each individual’s $1 million lifetime federal gift-tax exemption.

Even if you’re not in the habit of writing each other fat checks, you could exceed the $13,000 limit by, say, putting your partner on the title to a house you own. Although most people never reach the $1 million limit, you lessen your risk by transferring assets incrementally, said Hertz. “Give early, often and in small amounts.”

Also be careful to document your contributions to any joint property owned as tenancy with the right of survivorship. Lacking evidence to the contrary, the IRS assumes that the entire property belonged to the first person to die and calculates the estate-tax obligation accordingly. Keeping separate bank accounts helps clarify who paid for what, said Carrie Aburto, a financial adviser at Aspen Wealth Management in Denver.

Minimize your taxes: As single filers (same-sex married couples, in states that legally permit same-sex unions, generally have to file as marrieds on their state taxes and as singles on their federal taxes), you can allocate your deductions to maximize the tax benefit. For instance, the partner who earns more income can pay the mortgage and deduct the interest, while the other partner takes the standard deduction.

“Taxes are one area in which it’s often good to be gay,” said Levit.

Likewise, if you have a child, one of you can claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return. Assuming that the same parent provides more than 50percent of the child’s support, he or she also can file as head of household, which usually results in a lower tax bill. Couples with two kids may be able to split the difference, each claiming one child as a dependent and filing as head of household.

As singles, you have a good chance that at least one of you will fall below the income limits for tax benefits or tax-preferred accounts. Say one of you has an income that exceeds the limit for contributing to a Roth IRA, (which in 2010 is $120,000 for singles; $177,000 for married couples filing jointly) and the other has earned income that falls below the limit, the one who earns less can still establish a Roth IRA.

Provide for your survivor: You won’t have access to spousal Social Security benefits, but each of you can still name the other as beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Nonspousal beneficiaries of IRAs and 401(k) plans can take distributions from an inherited retirement account over their lifetime.

As for life insurance, leave enough so that each of you will be able to live comfortably if the other dies first. These days, term-life policies come cheap. A 50-year-old woman in good health can pick up a 20-year term policy with $500,000 of coverage for about $700 to $850 a year. A healthy 50-year-old man can buy the same for about $950 to $1,200.

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Check out LegalOut’s affordable online solutions to start your estate plan - get started now for a piece of mind! Through our simple, easy-to-follow online tools powered by RocketLawyer.com, you’ll quickly and easily create affordable legal documents — all in the privacy of your own home.

Knowledge is the first step to protection. For more information visit LegalOut - Protection 101 or click on the legal documents below for more details:

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Who Should Consider Estate Planning in the LGBT Community?

November 11th, 2009

Who needs legal documents?
Everyone, but especially those in the LGBT community, considering the lack of rights afforded to this group by the state and federal government. In a crisis, it’s difficult to think clearly - making sure these important decisions and wishes are thought out beforehand will provide a valuable source of comfort, instead of stress. Estate planning can be used to create a strong legal structure that defines your wishes.

My state offers some legal protection to same-sex couples. Do I still need legal documents?
Yes, for several reasons. Should you require hospitalization and run into staff unfamiliar with the law, you’ll need your wishes and rights clearly defined in your legal documents. Or suppose you travel across state lines and have a medical emergency that requires hospitalization. The same rights you’re afforded in your own state may not apply there. In addition, because the federal government gives no recognition to same-sex relationships, the more proactive you are in defining your wishes - no matter where you live - the better.

I am single. Do I need legal documents?
Absolutely. No matter where you are in life, you’ll always benefit from taking control and being proactive about your protection. Plus, there’s never a wrong time to start planning your estate. Even if you don’t have a partner, you can designate the person you trust most to be your beneficiary and act as your agent in times of crisis.

I am in a committed gay/lesbian relationship. Do I need legal documents?
Yes. If you are in a committed relationship, you may want your significant other to be able to make medical and legal decisions for you, should you unable to make them yourself. You would like to plan for the future of your family to ensure they are taken care of when you are gone.

At a minimum, any basic estate plan should include the following documents (click the link to learn more about the document):

How does LegalOut work?
It only takes three easy steps to safeguard your rights:

1. Select the documents that are right for you.
2. Review your documents using our simple online tools.
3. Finalize your documents. We’ll give you clear instructions at every step of the way.

Safeguard your relationship, secure your financial, property and health care rights by taking action now with LegalOut’s estate planning legal documents.

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Advance Health Care Directive

October 2nd, 2009

An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to name a specific person to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself and provide instructions regarding your wishes and desires for health care, including what treatment is not desired.

Other names for advance health care directive include health care powers of attorney, durable powers of medical attorney, health care proxies and living wills.

An Advance Directive for Health Care or Living Will lets you:

  • Name a specific person to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself.
  • Plan for surgery or hospitalization.
  • Assist your loved ones with difficult decisions.
  • State your wishes so that it is more likely that they will be carried out.

Ensure your wishes are carried out in case something happens to you. In a time of crisis, the last thing you want is to have your loved ones try to guess your health care wishes.

Create your Advance Health Care Directive now>>

Recently the Human Rights Campaign published the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey of healthcare industry policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families. The goals of the HEI are: 1) to benchmark healthcare facilities on identified best practices and policies with respect to equal treatment of LGBT individuals and families; and 2) to share, implement and recognize these best practices with healthcare industry leaders.

To read more about the study and results click here.

Start now, create your Advance Health Care Directive for a peace of mind>>

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Obama says he, first lady have ‘living wills’ - Do you?

August 6th, 2009

President Obama discussed the importance of preparing a Living Will at an online forum on health care sponsored by AARP on July 28, 2009:

“The problem is right now most of us don’t give direction to our family members and so when we get really badly sick, sadly enough, nobody is there to make the decisions.

And then the doctor, who doesn’t know what you might have preferred, they’re making decisions, in consultation with your kids or your grandkids, and nobody knows what you would have preferred.

So I think the idea there is to simply make sure that a living will process is easier for people — it doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer or to take up a lot of time.

… But it’s actually a useful tool I think for a lot of families to make sure that if, heaven forbid, you contract a terminal illness, that you are somebody who is able to control this process in a dignified way that is true to your faith and true to how you think that end-of-life process should proceed.

You don’t want somebody else making those decisions for you. So I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will . I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one. Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible.” (For full transcript visit the White House Briefing Room)

A Living Will (also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive or just Advance Directive) allows anyone to indicate their wishes concerning the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures if they are in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery or are permanently unconscious.

Importance of a Living Will

  • Give direction to your family members or partner - in case you get badly sick your family can make decisions based on your preferences in an difficult time.
  • Achieve legal and emotional security that a legal document can provide in protecting your interests should something unexpected occur.

Create your Living Will - with our simple online interview.

LegalOut makes it easy to write your Living Will for a peace of mind - this do-it-yourself document is easy, fully customizable and inexpensive to complete.

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The Living Will

August 6th, 2009

Guest contributor, Paige Arden Stanley from the Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley L.L.C. and member of LegalOut’s attorney network, discusses the importance of creating a Living Will.

During a recent healthcare forum, President Obama revealed that he and the First Lady each have Living Wills (also called advance healthcare directives) but hoped they would never need to use them. Obama’s speech turned a white-hot White-House spotlight on an important subject that everyone, regardless of age, should think about, discuss and request assistance with preparation. Don’t be like the countless individuals who would prefer ignoring having such an important document, thus leaving it up to others to guess at, or feud about, your wishes and what you might have wanted in terms of life sustaining measures.

What A Living Will Is
Plain and simple: a Living Will is one of the single most important documents that anyone, especially single individuals and unmarried partners (including those in domestic partnerships) can have.

A Living Will is a document that outlines what one’s healthcare preferences are in the event he/she cannot make those communications because of some kind of incapacity, albeit from a brief temporary condition to a long terminal illness. Without a Living Will in place, family members and/or health professionals are left to decide your fate. And, it might not be at all what you would have wanted.

What A Living Will Isn’t
Contrary to popular misconception, a Living Will is not about death or dying. In actuality, it is about someone carrying out your wishes and taking care of you while you are still living, but for whatever reason, you are unable to take care of or make decisions on your own.

Who Should Have a Copy of Your Living Will
Having a Living Will is not enough. Make sure that your doctor, the person you’ve designated as your power(s) of attorney regarding such decisions, and any other immediate family members have copies too.  It is also a good idea to take the Living Will with you when you travel. And, last but not least, if you are going to the hospital, even for what may be a minor procedure, take your Living Will. Read more about your options for legal document storage >>

Questions to Ask
Here are a few of the questions your attorney will ask when assisting in preparing your Living Will.

  • Do you have a current Living Will?
  • Do your parents?
  • Do your siblings?
  • Do your friends?
  • Do you have any idea how to bring up the topic?
  • Who do you want to make decisions for you?
  • Do you want artificial life-prolonging measures? Which: Nutrition and hydration? CPR? Under what conditions?
  • Where do you prefer to recuperate?
  • Do you wish to donate your organs?
Paige Arden Stanley, Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley, L.L.C For further assistance, please contact Paige Arden Stanley, Esq. at Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley, L.L.C.

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