• Wills – Your will is more than just a document that dictates who acquires your property upon your death. It can name the person who will carry out your wishes under the will. It can also limit court involvement in the administration of your estate, which can substantially reduce the cost of administering your estate. A will can also establish guardianship for your children, create trusts, and reduce, or even eliminate federal taxes.
  • Trusts – A trust is an arrangement that allows a third party (called a trustee) to hold property on behalf of another (called a beneficiary). While there are many types of trusts, they are used to provide an alternative to the probate system, protect certain assets from various liabilities (including taxes), and create restrictions on how a person may use certain property.
  • Powers of Attorney
    • Medical Power of Attorney – A medical power of attorney designates an agent who will have the power to make healthcare decisions in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself.
    • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney – Statutory Durable Powers of Attorney give another (called an agent or an attorney-in-fact) the ability to act on certain matters as if it was you. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney can also be used to appoint an individual to handle your affairs in the event that you become incapacitated or disabled.
  • HIPAA Releases – HIPAA releases allow you to designate an individual or individuals who can have access to your medical records. These are required before a physician can release any information regarding your health to anyone but yourself or immediate family. A HIPAA Release may be the only way for a person to obtain medical information regarding his/her same sex partner.
  • Directives to Physicians (Living Wills) – A directive to physicians instructs doctors on how to act after a person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness (that is, an incurable condition that will produce death within six months) or an irreversible condition (that is, an illness that may be treated, but never cured that renders a person unable to care for themselves). A person who signs a directive to physicians may authorize doctors to use every available life sustaining measure or only those measures which will allow a person to remain as comfortable as possible.
  • Guardianships – Similar to how a parent is legally authorized to make decisions on behalf of their child, a guardianships allows one or more individuals to make decisions on behalf of somebody who can longer take care of themselves due to that person being incompetent or incapacitated in some way.
  • Declaration of Guardianship – Although one parent can never divest the other parent of his/her parental rights by way of a Declaration of Guardianship, a Declaration of Guardianship can designate the person who will become the child’s guardian in the event that both parents are deceased. Assuming the designee is not legally disqualified, a court will usually honor a parent’s Designation of Guardianship.  This can avoid lengthy, divisive, and expensive court battles in the event both parents are deceased.
  • Disposition of Remains – The Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains designates the person(s) you wish to determine what happens to your remains in the event of your death. An Appointment of Agent to Control Remains can avoid family disputes and can help ensure that your wishes are carried out after you are gone.
  • Probate of Wills – In the case that the deceased leaves a will, probate is a process that provides a means for transferring legal title of assets, distributing property according to the wishes of the deceased, and providing a vehicle for creditors to be paid.
  • Small Estate Administration – Absent a will, it is sometimes necessary for the court to appoint a person to manage the deceased’s affairs. This generally occurs when the deceased leaves debts, numerous assets, and/or significant holdings that need court determination to distribute all funds according to law.
  • Affidavit of Heirship – Instead of going through the time and expense to fully probate a will, the beneficiaries of a will may instead be eligible to execute an Affidavit of Heirship to establish ownership of property. A lawyer can advise whether you must go through the probate process or whether an Affidavit of Heirship will suffice.

Same Sex Relationship Planning

  • Cohabitation Agreements – Cohabitation Agreements allow for unmarried individuals who live together to outline their respective rights, especially regarding property matters. It can also stipulate what will happen with their assets, children, pets, property, and income in the unhappy event that the relationship comes to an end.
  • Dissolution of Cohabitation Agreements – In the unhappy event that the relationship comes to an end, an attorney can help an individual go through the process of dividing up the assets, following the terms of the Cohabitation Agreement, and working to resolve any issues not covered by the Cohabitation Agreement.
  • Dissolution of Same Sex Relationships – Whether you have a Cohabitation Agreement or not, an attorney can help you in the dissolution of the relationship. An attorney can help you understand your rights and work to ensure that all assets gained during the relationship are divided appropriately. Even without a Cohabitation Agreement, same sex couples can have some protection under general property law; and we are here to help you through that.