Go to Walmart for Bananas, Not Estate Planning

Did you know that the best-selling item at Walmart is bananas?  It’s true, and has been for several years.  So the next time you need a great price on your favorite yellow fruit, go ahead and head for Walmart.

But steer clear of the world’s largest retailer when you need a will or other estate planning documents.

While not available in the U.S. (yet), Walmart has been selling wills for $99 in several Canadian locations.  You can also get powers of attorney at the boutique law shop called Axess Law set up in Walmart.  And in our opinion, that’s not just bananas, it’s nuts too.

Creating an estate plan is something you do to leave a legacy of care and love for the people who matter to you the most.   Working with an attorney who understands your goals and wishes for your family, and can articulate those in a well-crafted estate plan, is a much better alternative than relying on a one-stop shopping experience, be it at Walmart or through online legal websites with standard forms that can’t begin to know what you truly want and deserve for your loved ones.

Having the caring guidance of a Personal Family Lawyer® will ensure that your estate plan takes advantage of the ever-changing state and federal laws as well as reduces the potential for family feuds.

If you’re the parent of minor children, your attorney will help you create a valid will (and if you work with a Personal Family Lawyer®, a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®) that ensures the well-being and care of your children; without one, a judge will make that decision for you (or your kids could even be taken from your home temporarily).

Even if you don’t have minor or dependent children, you have stuff that will have to be handled after you are gone and a $99 will is likely only going to make it worse for the people left to clean up the mess.

Estate laws vary by state, which is another good reason to have a Personal Family Lawyer® guide you.  The probate process can be lengthy and arduous; your attorney can help you and your family stay out of Court, saving time, money and stress.

Finally, many life circumstances – remarriage, divorce, new children – impact your estate plan, so be sure you review it annually and keep it updated when things change.  Having a Personal Family Lawyer® who knows you and your family makes it much easier to keep your plan on track, so it will always be just what your family needs, when they need it.

If you would like more information about creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today at 832.408.0505 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk and find out how to best protect your family.

Why You Should Get Estate Planning Off Your To-Do List

There are many goals most of us want to accomplish in life, and some of the most important ones center on family and money. Here is what a thoughtful estate plan can help you accomplish that involves both:

Control health care decisions. Most people will die in a hospital or care facility, and many will lack important decision-making capacity for their own care. You can name the people responsible for health care decisions if this should happen to you through an advance medical directive as part of your estate plan.

Control your finances. By assigning a durable power of attorney in your estate plan, you can save your family from the expense and emotional trauma of having to go to court to take control of your finances via a conservatorship in case you become incapacitated.

Plan for your long-term care. Most of us will require long-term care at some time during our lives, and it can be expensive – even financially devastating for many families. An estate plan will help you take the necessary steps to plan for your long-term care so it doesn’t fall to your family.

Keep peace in the family. By determining where your assets will go and having the right beneficiaries named on retirement and bank accounts, you will help ensure family harmony and fend off any potential inheritance fights.

The process of estate planning is ripe for procrastination since so few people understand it or – more commonly – wish to contemplate their own demise. Yet it still remains one of the best things you can do to protect your money, your health and your family.

Here are 3 tips to get estate planning off your “to-do” list:

Consider your children. Estate planning helps you protect your children throughout their lifetimes. When they are young, you need to appoint a guardian if something should happen to you. When they are older, you want to have the financial capacity to send them to college. When you are gone, you want them to enjoy a legacy that includes passing on your values as well as your assets.  Only estate planning can do this for you.

Review beneficiary designations. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other financial vehicles all require you to complete a beneficiary form to designate who will receive the assets upon your death. With no form, state law will govern, and your assets may go to those you never intended to receive them, or worse, go to your estate and be depleted by taxation. Be sure you have beneficiary forms on file for your accounts and that they are reviewed at least annually for any necessary updates.

Consider your own health. If you become incapacitated, who will be making your health care decisions for you? Do you want your life to be prolonged via life support no matter what? Whatever your wishes are for your own health, they won’t necessarily be followed unless you have executed a Living Will or assigned powers of attorney to see to these matters.

Make this the year you create your estate plan – or, if you have a plan that hasn’t been reviewed in the last two years, to update your estate plan. It’s a gift that will keep giving to you and your family.

The best way to learn about estate planning for your family is to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Don’t wait! Give us a call today at 832.408.0505, we love to hear from you.

 

Is Your Family “Too Young” to Need an Estate Plan?

Young families face different estate planning needs and challenges than those who have had a long life behind them. While established families may be concerned about what will happen to their family when they pass on, young, growing families can be more focused on what is happening to their family in the present. And you even may find it hard to justify planning for an “estate” you haven’t yet established!

But here’s the thing … if you have children or anyone else you care about, you may not have an “estate”, but you do need estate planning if you want to ensure your loved ones wouldn’t be stuck in Court and/or conflict, if anything happens to you.

Here are a few estate-planning issues important for young couples to consider as soon as they start a family:

The Care and Custody of Your Children

If you die or become incapacitated before your children reach 18, they will need a legal guardian. To ensure your children are only ever in the care of people you want and choose, you need to name both temporary and long-term guardians for your children.

Identifying friends or family as the “godparent” of your child isn’t enough. You need to legally document your choice. And, naming just one person or a couple won’t cover it either. Name at least 3 options, in case back-ups are needed.

Also, ensure that you have not just named legal guardians in your Will, for the long-term.

If something happens to you and your child is home with a babysitter, or at school, you want to also name local people, friends or family, who would immediately be able to be called upon by authorities. And, those people need to have legal documentation on hand to step in and make immediate, short-term decisions for your littles.

We recommend a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® to ensure there are no gaps, for even a minute, in the care of the people you love most.

The Management of Your Children’s Inheritance

Remember, when you die, the assets left to your minor children will need to be managed by someone at least until they turn eighteen. If no one is identified for this task, the court steps in and appoints “professionals” to take over the role, which can cost your children their entire inheritance.

And, it’s totally unnecessary. With just a bit of prior planning, you can keep your loved ones out of the Court system entirely and give total control to the people you know, love and trust.

The Authority to Make Decisions for You

Finally, no matter what your age is, or how big or small your assets are, you want to put in place the documentation that appoints the people you would want making decisions for you if you cannot make your own decisions.

Once again, the focus here is on keeping the people you love out of Court during what would be a hugely stressful time for them.

Estate planning is a key part of growing up, and showing up for the people you love. So, yes, you may be a young family, but once you’ve become a family, you’re not too young to plan well to make things as easy as possible for the people you love.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will help you make the very best financial and legal decisions throughout your life, and for the beyond.  Far from being a morbid task, estate planning can give your young family the peace of mind, confidence, and security you desire when it comes to the future well-being of all members of your family.

We, at GP Schoemakers, PLLC, don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to find out how to protect your family.

Leaving Without a Plan: Prince Didn’t Leave a Will & Here’s Why You Should

Even after death, celebrities are highly publicized for their mistakes, many of which we make ourselves. April 21, 2016, superstar musician Prince suddenly died, leaving no will, and the management of his substantial estate fraught with legal complications and added costs.

It’s easy to assume that the wealthiest among us have all their ducks in a row, but it’s hard to judge someone—even a celebrity—for neglecting something like the creation of a will. Until you stop to seriously think about what will happen when you die, creating a will can seem like an unnecessary and morbid task, certainly not something you casually check off your to-do list. Nevertheless, the importance of having a will simply cannot be stressed enough. Below are just a few of the reasons why everyone should have a will, no matter their wealth, age or health.

You can name the person you want to manage your estate in your will. You will get to choose someone you trust and make sure they have all the knowledge they need to ensure your wishes for your estate are carried out.

You can decide who your beneficiaries will be. You can also disinherit those who would normally stand to inherit from your estate if you choose. Your wealth and possessions are yours; a will provides a legally enforceable way to ensure they go to the right people.

You can ensure your minor children will be raised by the people you want, for the long-term. If you have minor children, you should name a legal guardian and include provisions for their care in your will. But, don’t rely on a will alone because it won’t address the immediate care of your children if something happens to you, it won’t provide for your children’s care in the event of incapacity and it won’t ensure someone you would never want to raise your kids could not.

You can leave gifts and donations to your favorite charities or people you love beyond your legal family. Without a will, your estate would pass to the people designated to receive it under the law, and that may not be who you would want to receive everything you own. Creating a will ensures you get to choose who gets what.

Important as they are, a will can only do so much. For example, a will does not keep your family out of court.

And, a will does not ensure your kids will never be taken out of your home, if something happens to you.

And, a will does not keep your family out of conflict.

A will is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan that will protect and enforce your wishes when you die.

If you are ready to take the right steps toward making informed, empowered and educated decisions for the legal and financial future of the people you love, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will walk you step-by-step through the creation of an estate plan that will protect what you value most. Our Family Wealth Planning Session™ helps you protect and preserve your wealth for future generations. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you and what you want to leave behind.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, esq. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

 

When Duty Calls: Navigating the Sandwich Generation with Ease

The average age of parents raising children in the US continues to rise, leaving many middle-aged Americans in a category commonly referred to as the the “sandwich” generation.

This growing population of professionals are often still raising kids at home when they become responsible for the care of their own aging parents. The stress and financial strain of managing the affairs of both children and parents can become overwhelming. The following tips can help make this challenging life stage manageable and more enjoyable.

Assess the Financial Situation

Taking time to thoroughly understand the financial picture for your own household is imperative as you step into a role of responsibility for your aging parent. Prepare for the inevitable and avoid surprises by working with a professional to consider how your role in the care of your parent will affect the plans you are making for your family’s financial future. Take advantage of our Family Wealth Planning Session process, a comprehensive planning process that ensures your legal, financial and insurance needs are covered appropriately.

Plan Ahead

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying that, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning for your family’s future means preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. As you move through helping your aging parent with important Estate Planning decisions, take time to be sure your own wishes are legally binding as well.

Be sure to include:

  • Medical power of attorney – appoints a person to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so
  • Durable power of attorney – designates a person to make financial decisions if you are unable to do so
  • Living will – expresses your wishes for end of life decisions
  • Will – carries out your wishes in the event of your death
  • Kids Protection Plan – designates a legal guardian for your minor children in the event of your incapacitation or death

Pay Attention to Red Flags

Even if your aging parent is still quite capable, work together to assess their financial situation carefully and be on the lookout for signs that anything is falling through the cracks. Common red flags are:

  • Frequent calls from creditors
  • Forgetfulness when it comes to bills and deadlines
  • Unopened mail

Utilize professional legal and financial support when necessary and communicate clearly so everyone knows who is responsible for what.

Practice Good Self Care

Stress is one of the most common consequences of caring for two generations at once. Balancing the responsibilities of raising children and caring for aging parents with relaxation and play is vital over the long-haul. Remember that adequate rest and good nutrition will provide you with the extra energy you’ll need when times get tough. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to do it alone! As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we are ready to assist you when duty calls.

Now is the perfect time to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we’ll review your current financial situation in light of your future responsibilities. With our assistance, you’ll gain the confidence of knowing you’re making the most empowered, informed and educated legal and financial decisions for yourself and the ones you love.

We, at GP Schoemakers PLLC, don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Defining the Legal Relationship Between Grandparents and Their Grandchildren

Raising a grandchild (or even spending a lot of time with your grandchild while his or her parents work) can be fraught with legal and financial complications. Lacking many of the inherent rights parents have, grandparents who are responsible for the care of their grandchildren may encounter unexpected legal challenges.

Even if you are your grandchild’s full-time caregiver, consider obtaining certain legal rights so you can avoid unnecessary complications and instead focus on raising a happy and healthy child.

If you are raising your grandchild, don’t assume you can make legal decisions on your grandchild’s behalf. Without legal custody, you do not have the authority to make important decisions such as where he or she will go to school. If you are responsible for your grandchild’s care, it’s critical to establish a clear relationship in the eyes of the law.

The legal rights you need will depend entirely on your role in raising your grandchild. Does he or she live with you? Are you the sole caregiver? What role do the parents play? Are you financially responsible for your grandchild?

Answering these questions will give you a good starting point for seeking the legal rights and protections you need and deserve, which might include:

Physical or Legal Custody

If you have full-time custody for your grandchild, do you have a custody order? If not, you may want to consider getting one. Physical custody gives you the right to have your grandchild live with you. Legal custody gives you the right to make important decisions pertaining to education and medical care. Your grandchild’s parents may still retain some rights if you have custody.  Also, custody orders are subject to modification if and when circumstances change.

Legal Guardianship

If you care for your grandchild regularly, make sure his or her parents have named both short-term and long-term guardians, so that if anything happens to the parents, you are able to immediately step in and make legal decisions for your grandchild.

Adoption

Adopting your grandchild would terminate his or her parents’ parental rights. You would become your grandchild’s legal parent, which is preferable in cases where the parents pose a risk to the child or when the child’s parents are deceased or no longer in contact. Adoption is permanent.

Power of Attorney

If you do not have custody, your grandchild’s parents could give you Medical Power of Attorney, which provides you with the temporary authority to make specific decisions around the health care of your grandchild. The parents can specify what decisions you can make and can revoke Power of Attorney at any point. Power of Attorney does not revoke the rights of the parents.

Educational or Medical Consent

Some states will grant non-custodial grandparents the rights to enroll their grandchildren in school and seek medical treatment. Speak with us to see if these are options in your state, if you would like to ensure you can make educational and medical decisions.

Even something as simple as enrolling your grandchild in school can be difficult if you don’t have the proper legal authorization.

If you’d like to simplify decision making while raising your grandchild (or even just full-time caregiving for your grandchild), meet with a Personal Family Lawyer® for guidance. We can help you obtain the rights and protections that will help you raise a happy and healthy grandchild. Our Family Wealth Planning Session™ guides you to the empowered, informed, and educated legal and financial decisions you need for the love of your family. Before the Session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own, when something happens to you.

At GP Schoemakers, PLLC, we don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session, we look forward to meeting you!

 

Spring Cleaning For Your Legal and Financial Affairs

Spring has officially sprung and that means it’s spring cleaning time. Shake out the rugs, clean out the cupboards, and get your legal and financial affairs in order.

For plenty of folks, it’s easy to know what to do when it comes to home organization, but the idea of legal and financial ordering can be complex and confusing.

This article will give you a few places to start:

  1. Review Your Beneficiary Designations

Request updated beneficiary designation forms from your life insurance account and retirement account custodians. Look at the form and identify whether you have a minor designated as either a primary or contingent beneficiary. If you do, those assets will be tied up in Court, unnecessarily, and may not be available to the people you’ve named to care for your children.

Consider designating your life insurance and retirement accounts to be distributed to a trust for the benefit of your heirs, providing Court and creditor protection, and ensuring your children do not inherit money before they are properly prepared.

  1. Update Your Family Wealth Inventory

Your Family Wealth Inventory is where we document the assets that you own, so that in the event you become incapacitated or when you die, your family will know how to find what you own.

Without an updated Family Wealth Inventory, your assets could be lost to the state department of unclaimed property. There’s currently FOUR (4) billions of dollars of assets in our state department of unclaimed property because most people do not leave a clear record of their assets at the time of their incapacity or death.

  1. Consider If You Need to Name New Guardians (Long or Short-Term)

Review your guardian nomination designations. Have you named guardians for both the short-term (local) and the long-term (people you would trust to raise your kids fully)? If so, do they need to change? Is there anyone you would wish to exclude? Does the ID card for your wallet need to be updated? This is the time to check.

  1. Check Out the Title to Your House

Get a copy of the deed to your house and make sure that your trust is listed as the owner on the deed, if you want your house to stay out of court in the event of your incapacity or death. If you see your personal name on the deed, and there is not a trust listed, you can be sure that would result in your house having to go through the court process of probate in the event of your death. If you don’t want that, now is the perfect time to spruce up your planning.

  1. Come In and Meet With Us For a Family Wealth Planning Session

Last, but far from least, this is the perfect time of  year to come in and meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, whether you’ve done planning in the past or not.  We will have a 2-hour working meeting that will get you more financially organized than you’ve likely ever been before (unless you’ve already done planning with us) and give you the confidence of knowing you’ve made the most empowered, informed and educated legal and financial decisions for the people you love.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

Call our office to schedule a time for a private conversation about your family wealth via a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to ensure your legacy of love and financial security for your family.

(Re)Defining Family: Estate Planning for the Post-Nuclear Family

Blended families, unmarried couples, assistive reproductive technology (ART) and same-sex unions and marriages challenge the traditional concept of “family” as it’s been known for legal purposes up until now.

Significant changes in the way we define family culturally means more families are left without the valuable protection they need, in the event of a death or incapacity of a loved one.

As these legal definitions and our personal situations expand, so do the priorities of the modern estate plan.

No longer is estate planning just for the wealthy, who wish to save money on their taxes; it’s for all of us who want to ensure our legal system recognizes the one’s we love.

For example, if you are in a life partnership (or more than one), married in the eyes of your community, but not married in the eyes of the law, your partner would have no legal right to see you or make decisions on your behalf, if you were hospitalized.

Even if you are married, your spouse or partner would not be able to access your financial accounts, without court intervention, without proper legal planning in advance. And, if you are not married, the Court is unlikely to give a non-legal spouse access and would instead appoint a professional fiduciary before allowing your unmarried partner access.

If you are part of a blended family (meaning one or both spouses have children from a prior relationship) or have children who aren’t biologically both yours and your spouse’s (or non-spouse partner), you need to include provisions in your estate plan that clearly define the inheritance rights of all children, biological or not.

It is vitally important that you clearly define any legally established relationships between you, your spouse (or non-spouse partners and loved ones) and your children, biological or otherwise, to ensure your wishes will be carried out in the event of your death or incapacity. If you do not do this, your kids could end up in the care of someone you would never want and taken out of the home of the non-biological parent they are living with.

Whatever your family’s configuration may be, estate planning is your chance to safeguard the people you love and your assets on your own terms and according to your own definitions. With the uncertainty of the current political and social climate, developing a carefully crafted plan tailored to your family’s needs is more important than ever.

If you need help crafting estate-planning instruments that adequately protect your family and your wealth but are flexible enough to be relevant as our legal definitions of family change, start by coming in to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects and preserves your family’s values, as well as your assets. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment™ to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you and what you want to leave behind and ensure that none of your assets are lost to the Court or government processes that don’t really serve your desires.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Sessio.

Does Your Parent Need Help With Finances? Start Here

Caring for an aging parent is a common challenge for Baby Boomers, and now even Gen-X’ers and Millennials. And, stepping in to help manage your parents’ finances, without eroding their sense of independence and privacy, can be tricky.

Many aging parents are reluctant to ask their children for help with their finances. It means a loss of control, a trading of places from them taking care of you to you taking care of them, and can signify a loss of power that feels too frightening for your parents.

Nevertheless, you may be wondering what you can do when your parents start needing help.

A pile of unpaid bills, threatening calls from creditors or repeated instances of credit card fraud or financial scams are good indicators that your parent needs help managing his or her finances.

Financial caregiving is easiest when you already have a plan in place. You may be in a good position to make educated decisions about their finances, but without the proper information and legal authority, your options are limited.

If your parent needs help, the first step is to make sure you know what they have, where it is, and how you can access it, if necessary.

Next, you want to make sure you know what bills are due, when and that their bills are being paid on time.

Unless you have the legal authority to manage your parents’ finances, you will need their help in getting access to their account and setting up auto-bill pay for them.

When you are ready, the first place to start is with a heart to heart conversation about whether your parent is ready for help and what that help could look like.

Then, if your parent is ready to help, you can ask him or her (or them) to legally designate you as either the Trustee of their trust or financial power of attorney holder, if they do not have a trust. And, be sure you are also designed as medical power of attorney, so you can make important care-giving decisions for your parent(s) if he, she or they cannot.

If your parent needs or wants help with finances, he or she may also need help with health care or the management of their estate. You can address these issues by working with one of our Personal Family Lawyer® members who will help you develop an estate plan that considers your parent’s best interests. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we work with your family to ensure you have the authority required to help your parent with his or her finances.

This is also an opportune time for you to consider your own long-term financial planning. If you are ready to take a step toward financial peace of mind, begin by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment that will get you thinking about what you own, what you want to leave behind and how you want your finances to be managed if you need help. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll help you establish a plan for your finances to ensure you have a plan in place when you need it down the road.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Estate Planning After Marriage Equality: What All Couples Should Know

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples nationwide finally enjoy marriage equality. And, whether you are legally married in the eyes of the law, or not, there are important additional legal planning steps you need to take to ensure your wishes are honored in the event of your disability, or your death.

Marriage affords certain legal rights – and responsibilities – that domestic partnerships, civil unions and simply living together with or without a written agreement do not. By, ensuring your estate planning documents are up to date, you can safeguard your surviving spouse’s federally protected rights. And, if you are not married in the eyes of the law, for whatever reason, you can use estate planning to replicate many of the marital rights, as well.

A significant concern of many same-sex couples is whether one spouse will retain beneficiary rights if the other spouse dies. Unfortunately, before marriage equality, it was often the case that same-sex partners were deprived of certain rights that opposite-sex spouses enjoyed. These rights pertain to assets such as retirement accounts, social security benefits, and insurance policies.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires same-sex spouses be treated equally in the event one spouse dies.  This means ERISA governed retirement plans such as 401Ks are handled just as they would be in any marriage; the surviving spouse is the automatic beneficiary of the plan. Retirement accounts not governed by ERISA may have different rules, so check with your individual plan regulations. The Social Security Administration treats all marriages equally, and so the SSA’s rules and restrictions apply to married same-sex couples.

This means that if you want your 401k to go to anyone other than your surviving spouse, you need to take specific action, beyond merely naming another beneficiary.

Marriage offers many important rights.  And, sometimes, creates a reality that you may not have intended. Conversely, if you are partnered, but not married in the eyes of the law, your life partner could be cut out of your affairs are the end of your life, or in the event of a disability.

Regardless of marriage equality, it is still critical to understand exactly what will happen to the people you love and everything you own and care about, when something happens to you, under the State’s plan for you. . That’s what our Family Wealth Planning Sessions are all about — you making informed, empowered, educated decisions for the people you love.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.