Monday, June 24, 2013

The Importance of Having an Estate Plan.

By Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.

     There are many different tools available to an individual or married couple to aid in establishing your estate plan.  Relatively simple tools, such as simple wills, powers of attorney, beneficiary deeds, and more complex tools such as the revocable living trust can be used to pass your estate on to the next generations.

     You can also plan how to pass your estate through instruments or accounts that provide for the designation of a beneficiary for the payment of the principal and any accrued interest, such as life insurance, annuities or other financial and retirement accounts.     
    In Arizona you have the ability to designate an account in a financial institution as a “Payable on death” or “POD” account.  In this way you can pass the account to whomever you might designate as the “POD”, but not have to put that name on the account, allowing the individual access to the funds therein.
     Do not leave your estate plan to chance.  Unfortunately a family death often causes problems between siblings and other family members.  Meeting with an experienced attorney to help you find the right tools for your particular assets can help things run more smoothly.  Here at the Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter we have attorneys who can assist you with your questions, and help you determine the correct tools for your own personal circumstances.

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th Avenue, Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308

Monday, June 17, 2013

What is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, What Makes it Enforceable and When is One Appropriate?

By Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is an agreement made between two people that are planning to marry and which defines each parties rights when it comes to real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement and pension accounts, and debts. It may also include terms relating to Spousal Maintenance (alimony) and payment for the children’s college education.

In the state of Arizona in order to have a valid Pre-Nuptial Agreement the following must be true:

It must be in writing;
It must be signed by both parties;
It is effective once the parties are married;
The agreement was entered into voluntarily;
That there was full disclosure of any and all debts and assets; and
If there is no disclosure of property that this was done voluntarily,
and with the knowledge of both parties.

The determination whether or not you need a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a personal decision. Some of the factors to consider are:

How many times has the person been married;
Is there an significant age difference between the parties;
Does one of the parties have a significant amount of debt ;
Has either party filed bankruptcy more than one time in the past;
Does one party have more assets than the other;
If you own your own company; and
Does either party have an issue with drugs or alcohol.

The above list is not exhaustive, and includes just some of the reasons you may decide to protect yourself with a Pre-Nuptial Agreement.  At our firm we assist people in the preparation and review of Pre-Nuptial Agreements, so meet with us or an experienced family law attorney in your area to seek legal advice about whether or not a pre-nuptial agreement may be in your best interest.

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beneficiary Deeds as a Method to Avoid Probate in Arizona

By Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.

Many clients come to consult with me for advice on various methods of avoiding the necessity of the filing of a probate of their estate by their heirs.  Some choose to establish a Revocable Living Trust, while others choose other methods.

One such tool to avoid probate in the context of real property is the execution and recording of a beneficiary deed.  Such a deed provides that upon the recording of the death certificate of the grantor, the real property will thenceforth be titled to the designated beneficiary or beneficiaries.

The recording of a beneficiary deed does not transfer any right in the property to the designated beneficiary during the life of the grantor.  In other words, the grantor remains free to sell or otherwise transfer the property.  One drawback to simply titling the property as a joint tenant with a child is that that child has the right to transfer his or her interest in the property without your consent.  Also a judgment lien recorded against that joint tenant attaches to the property, and should you decide to sell the property such a judgment lien would have to be satisfied from the proceeds of the sale.

A beneficiary deed is the perfect solution to this dilemma. Please contact our office or an law office in your area to have one prepared. 

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th Avenue, Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What is a Parenting Coordinator and when should one be appointed?

     A Parenting Coordinator is a person that is appointed by the judge in family law matters with children to assist Parents when they are unable to agree on day to day decisions. These decisions included but are not limited to:

     •      Where the child or children will attend school;
     •       What after school activities the children will participate in;
     •       Disciplining the children;
     •       Exchanging the children for parenting time;
     •       Making medical decisions regarding the children.

     The Parenting Coordinator can help the parties reach agreements on the above issues and if agreement is not reached a report is prepared by the parenting Coordinator with recommendations for the courts review.  The court will either agree with the recommendations or schedule a hearing to address the issues. The Parents may file an objection to the recommendations after the court has made its decisions.  If it is a time sensitive issue the Parenting Coordinator can make a temporary binding decision, especially if there is a safety issue. The Parenting Coordinator may also obtain information from any person who has information that will assist the Parenting Coordinator in making a decision.

     Parents can request that a Parenting Coordinator be appointed to their case from the mental health roster if they foresee that disagreements may arise between themselves. The court may also appoint a Parenting Coordinator when the Judge observes the following situations:
    •    The parents consistently disagree and file multiple petitions regarding parenting time and legal decision (custody) issues;
    •     There has been or is drug abuse by one or both parents;
    •     Either of the parents has a mental health issue;
    •     If the child has special needs.

     When deciding if you need a Parenting Coordinator it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to discuss the pros and cons of requesting a parenting Coordinator in your case and whom to select as your Parenting Coordinator.

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.
18301 North 79 Ave
Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308