The Legal Insider

June 2014

5 Legal Tips When Getting Married

When planning to get married, legal considerations are probably the last things on your mind. How can you think about something abstract like the law when you have a wedding cake and a honeymoon to worry about?

The following 5 tips unfortunately will not help you with the wedding cake. However, when the cake is all gone and the honeymoon is over, you will be happy to have carefully considered these legal issues:

1. Get a Prenuptial Agreement:

You should consider discussing a prenuptial agreement with your partner if you:

  • Own a business
  • Own real estate
  • Have children from a previous marriage
  • Make substantially more money than your partner
  • Are pursuing a degree in a lucrative field
  • Are an artist
  • May receive a large inheritance

A prenuptial agreement determines how property will be divided upon divorce or death. While a prenuptial agreement may seem unromantic, marriage is a contract. If you and your partner do not decide the terms of your marriage, the state will.

To increase the enforceability of the agreement, you and your partner should consider retaining separate attorneys and execute the agreement at least one month before the wedding.

2. Understand Local Marriage Laws

Sometimes, couples choose to marry in other states or in exotic locations. If you do not follow the marriage laws in the place where you are getting married, your home state may not recognize your marriage. If you decide to marry out-of-state, make sure you follow the necessary laws to ensure that your marriage is valid.

3. Choose Your Married Name

Before applying for your marriage license, choose the name you will use after you marry. In many states, you can list your desired name on your marriage license. After you marry, remember to update your name on all forms of identification, bank accounts, credit cards, and other accounts.

4. Use Written Contracts

If you hire a wedding planner, use a caterer, or book a venue, always put the material terms of the agreement into a written contract, signed by all parties. This will give you legal recourse if one of your vendors does not provide the services they agreed to. Written contracts can also minimize surprise costs.

5. Be Specific with Gift Giving

Depending on your stateís marriage laws, wedding gifts may be community or separate property. Sometimes, a gift giver may wish to give a gift only to one spouse. By expressly giving a gift solely for the benefit of one spouse, the gift stands a better chance of being characterized as that spouseís separate property.

Estate Planning for the 21st Century

Estate Planning is one of the oldest legal services attorneys offer to the public. However, this field of law has undergone changes over the centuries to keep up with client demands. The 21st century has brought to following changes to estate planning:

1. Pore over Wills

Estate planning today is marked by an increasing amount of will substitutes. Life insurance, payable on death deposits, and living trusts have made wills less important. However, decentralizing the estate into different pieces means the executor will have a more difficult time finding all the documents. More importantly, the client might forget about certain property. The pour-over will acts as a catch all, transferring any leftover property into trusts upon the clientís passing.

2. Digital Estate Planning

Today, people spend most of their time online. Facebook holds personal photographs. Banks have switched into online banking. Some personal blogs are worth a lot of money. Passwords are essential keys for the executor to access digital property. Although some states provide executors or family members legal access to the decedentís internet files, state law is hardly a foolproof method. It is better to use a will to store all the passwords an executor might need to get online.

3. Power of Attorney

Medicine is in a weird place. Doctors have the ability to keep people alive, but not the ability to keep us conscious. Until medicine can save the mind in addition to the body, clients need to appoint a speaker in the event they fall into a vegetative state. With all the publicity over brain dead patients, it might be a good idea to decide how you want your body treated if your family finds you hovering between life and death. The Power of Attorney is necessary if you wish to avoid the medical and legal limbo which might arise as a result.

How to Easily Create a Living Trust

Many people create wills in order to distribute their property after death. Simply having a will, however, is not ideal, since a will forces your property to go through probate.

Probate can tie up your property for months and in some states can be quite expensive, costing up to 5% of the total value of your estate in court fees. An easy way to avoid the hassle of probate is to create a living trust.

What Is a Living Trust?

Living trusts are trusts that you create while you are still alive. They can help you avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, and are great for long term property management. Although they have a number of advantages over the will, they are as easy and as cheap to create as a will.

How Can I Create a Living Trust?

To create a living trust, you simply need to prepare a Declaration of Trust, which can be found online or in books, and include the following information:

  • The name of the person creating the trust, known as the settlor.
  • The name of the trustee, who is the person managing the trust. Some people also include the name of a successor trustee to act as a backup in case the trustee is unable to manage the trust.
  • The name of the person or persons who will be receiving the property, known as the beneficiary.

Although it is extremely easy to quickly print out an online trust form and fill it out, that does not guarantee that the trust will be valid. It is always best to consult with an estate attorney, especially if you have a complex estate. An estate attorney can ensure that your Declaration of Trust is properly prepared so that it will hold up in court.

Should I Fight My Traffic Ticket?

Successfully fighting a traffic ticket can be difficult since courts usually favor the police officerís statements. Sometimes just paying the ticket and forgetting about it ends up being more beneficial and less costly. However, it can be a good idea to fight a ticket for a major traffic violation, since the ticket could cause your insurance premiums to rise.

Here are several factors that can help you determine whether it is worth the trouble to fight a ticket:

1. Understand the law and the reason you were given the traffic citation

Many police officers do not know the law themselves. In addition to the possibility that the officer made a factual error, he or she may have also made a legal mistake by giving you a ticket.

2. Show up to court to contest the ticket.

Everyone has a right under the Confrontation Clause to confront their accusers. If the police officer does not show up in court, the driver will automatically win.

Other Tips that could help you fight and beat a traffic ticket:

  • Check your ticket for major errors that misidentify the circumstances of the violation.
  • Postpone your ticket to increase the odds of an officer not showing up.
  • Hire a criminal defense lawyer for assistance fighting the ticket.

3. Consider going to traffic school if the option is available to you.

Paying a ticket would be considered as an admission of guilt that you did violate the law. Many jurisdictions give you the option to attend traffic school in order to have your fine reduced or dismissed. Sometimes these requests can be made through the court from a judge or prosecutor.

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