Surprise Legal Issues Blog

What's a charitable remainder trust?

A charitable remainder trust can be an excellent estate planning tool for certain individuals who want to receive tax saving benefits and want to donate a large amount of wealth to a charity. The charitable remainder trust allows you to bequeath assets to a charity after you die, but while you're alive, you'll get to benefit from those assets while profiting from some important tax breaks.

How charitable remainder trusts operate

Johnson & Johnson to pay $4.7 billion in talcum powder suit

A St. Louis court has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay almost $4.7 billion after 22 women claimed they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder-containing products. According to the lead counsel representing the group of women, six of the women died as a result of ovarian cancer caused by asbestos found in Johnson & Johnson's products. The women who died had used Johnson & Johnson products for over 40 years.

The verdict and massive monetary award were decided by a St. Louis jury, which decided to award the women a total of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages. The jury decided the case in favor of the women based on the testimony of medical experts who stated that the known carcinogen asbestos can be found in Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower line of products. The lawyers also showed that talc particles and asbestos fibers had been discovered in many of the plaintiffs' ovarian tissues.

One step in the bankruptcy process is the 341 meeting

When you file for bankruptcy protection, you will attend the 341 meeting as required under the Bankruptcy Code.

A court-appointed trustee assigned to your case will preside over the hearing during which you will answer questions under oath about your bankruptcy petition and financial circumstances.

The difference between legal and physical child custody

When a parent is in the throes of a child custody dispute, the process will activate a lot of strong emotions and fears. No one wants to think about the idea of not being able to live with his or her children full time. However, that's exactly what could be on the line in the average child custody disagreement.

Ultimately, the court will award different types of child custody to one or both parents, or the parents will settle their custody disagreements out of court. Either way, it's important for parents to understand the various types of child custody so they know what to strive for.

Single mothers can demand child support by proving paternity

Are you pregnant but the father is denying responsibility? According to state law, the biological father of your child is legally required to contribute financially to the cost of raising your child by paying child support. As such, it's your right to step forward and file the appropriate paperwork to prove paternity in court. If you need to do this, keep reading.

Paternity blood testing became possible in the 1970s. This allowed parents to establish paternity with 95 percent accuracy for the purposes of demanding child support payments. This revolutionized the family law system and was a major step forward in women's rights. Unmarried women no longer needed to worry about bearing the full financial burden of raising their children in cases where the father refused to admit responsibility.

2 ways to protect the continuity of your family after you're gone

The people who take the time to prepare their estates in ways to benefit their heirs and family members tend to be the glue that keeps their families together. Whether you're a matriarch, a patriarch or a loving sister or brother, you want what's best for the people you leave behind -- and you especially want to maintain good and loving relations with one another after you're gone.

Nevertheless, there is always the danger of family infighting and disagreement after the death of the "glue" that kept them together all these years. Here are two strategies that can help you reduce the potentially damaging effects on family relationships that your death could have:

Who gets to keep the family dog during a divorce?

In the case of a contentious divorce – where the spouses can't agree on anything – it may be particularly difficult for one spouse to give up the family dog in the name of diplomacy. In these situations, family court judges will face the next-to-impossible task of rendering a fair ruling on the issue: Who gets to keep the family pet in a divorce?

Part of the problem with this question involves the fact that dogs and other pets are not treated like children in a divorce. If the disagreement involved a child, the judge may offer a 50-50 custody split so the child spends half the time with one spouse and half the time with the other spouse. Although pet custody decisions like this may be possible in some states, in the state of Arizona, pets are still considered property and/or assets and they will be divided accordingly. This means that if you get to keep the dog, perhaps your soon-to-be ex will get to keep the much-loved oil painting that use to hang over your fireplace.

Can I terminate my ex’s parental rights?

Like most single parents in Arizona, you have disagreements with your ex-spouse over many things, from discipline and rules to helping the kids with homework and even safety issues. It is understandable to want to be the only parent making the decisions without interference or conflict with your ex. The thought of having your ex’s parental rights terminated may sound like an ideal solution, but it is important to understand that terminating rights can be complex, and the law allows few valid reasons for doing so.

The termination of parental rights removes a parent’s legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, as well as visitation rights and other privileges that parents have, explains FindLaw. Usually, the courts will terminate rights without the parent’s consent only when the child’s safety or well-being is in jeopardy. The following examples may clarify when you might be able to petition the court to remove your ex’s parental rights:

  • Your ex was physically, verbally or sexually abusive to you or the children while you were together.
  • The children routinely express fear or anxiety about visiting their parent.
  • Child Protective Services investigated and believe the children would not be safe in the other parent’s home.
  • A debilitating accident or mental or physical condition makes it impossible for your ex to care for the children.
  • Your ex has abandoned the children or expresses no desire to see, care for or support them.
  • Alcohol or substance abuse creates an unstable and unsafe environment when your children are visiting.

Do I still need an estate plan with the new exemptions?

The federal estate tax exemptions have doubled in 2018 up to $11.2 million for every person. This means that -- unless you're very wealthy -- you probably won't have to worry about federal estate taxes applying to your estate and all of your wealth will passed to your heirs without any hangups. However, this does not mean that you don't need to have an estate plan or an estate plan review.

There are a lot of old wills and trusts out there that were made under the previous estate planning rules and regulations. These older wills and trusts may require an update. Failure to update them could lead to unintended consequences. For example, some estate plans are set up to pass all exempt assets to one person, and leave the nonexempt assets to another person. However, exempt assets in 2001 were $675,000, and they've steadily increased until the $11.2 million they are today. This means that under the above example, the kids would receive everything. The plan clearly would need to be adjusted.

Create your estate plan while you are mentally capable

Planning your estate is something that must be done while you are still mentally able to make decisions. This doesn't have to be a difficult process. Instead, you just need to set your goals for the estate plan and we will work with you step by step to get it all set up.

There are many different components that you can use in your estate plan. We can start off with planning for the assets that don't already have a plan in place. Some assets, such as bank accounts, are governed by the "payable on death" designations. These don't need to be covered in the will at all.

  • MCBA | Maricopa County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Arizona
  • ABA | American bar Association | Defending Liberty Pursuing Justice
  • Oregon State bar
  • NACBA | National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
  • NACA | National Association of Consumer Advocates
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The Dodds Law Firm, PLC, is located in Surprise and serves clients throughout the West Valley area. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, call 623-208-6098 or toll free at 877-827-9906. You can also contact us online.

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