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Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Family Legal Blog

Advance directives and health care decisions

Estate planning allows individuals to make end-of-life decisions ahead of time by creating wills and advanced directives. While a will generally includes information on funeral arrangements, inheritances and guardianship of minor children, an advance directive focuses on health care. By creating an advance directive, Pennsylvania residents may make their health care preferences known in writing. If an injury or illness leads to incapacitation, medical personnel and family members may follow the instructions in the advance directive to approve or decline certain treatments.

The AARP states that there are typically two kinds of advance directives: a living will and a health care power of attorney. Each one includes different information, so the AARP recommends that individuals create both rather than just relying on a single form. In general, a living will allows a person to state his or her decisions about end-of-life procedures and other medical treatments. For example, an individual may state that he or she accepts antibiotics or dialysis but does not want to use a mechanical ventilator.

What if a trustee takes money from a trust?

When a person creates a trust, they may pick another person to act as a trustee and oversee that trust. That person is not the beneficiary. Instead, they work to administer the trust. Their goal is to work for the beneficiary, in a sense, within the rules of the trust itself.

For instance, imagine that a parent creates a financial trust for a child who is a minor. They do not want to turn over all of the money to the minor immediately, but they want to know that the money gets used to provide for the child if they pass away. It is then the trustee's job to use the assets in the trust appropriately, always putting the beneficiary first. This is known as a fiduciary relationship.

Is it possible for shared custody to be a positive experience?

Establishing when you and your spouse will be in charge of caring for the children the two of you share as your divorce is ongoing in Pennsylvania, can be one of the trickiest parts of finalizing the details of your separation. While the two of you may have been used to co-parenting under the same roof, now that your marriage has ended, both of you are moving forward with independent lives. 

Working together with your spouse to create an agreement that will allow both of you to maintain personal boundaries, interests, responsibilities and obligations is only one part of the process of arranging child custody. You also have to take into consideration what is best for your children in terms of the location of you and your spouse and how that impacts your children's schooling, extracurricular activities and ability to maintain friendships and relationships with people in their lives that are important to them. Coordinating these often-conflicting contingencies may make the process of finalizing a child custody plan difficult at times. 

Preparing an estate plan with your small business in mind

Your effort to begin planning your estate long before you ever anticipate needing its implementation is crucial to your financial health. An estate plan that you have carefully crafted to meet your lifestyle and personal desires can be equally as beneficial to your surviving family members. At Beroes Law Center, we are experienced in helping people in Pennsylvania with many different backgrounds to develop an optimal plan for their future. 

While there are a host of interesting dynamics that could influence your decisions as you begin planning your estate, one factor would be if you own a business. Because operating a business will require a significant amount of money and probably contains a healthy portion of your assets, it must be accounted for when planning for your future. Understanding your company's role and influence as you plan your estate can help you to make confident decisions that will provide long-term security for you and your family. 

You may need a financial advisor during your divorce

Some couples in Pennsylvania divorce with high assets and some with high debts. Whichever of these two financial situations are true of a divorcing couple, they may need to consider working with a financial advisor. In fact, MarketWatch recommends “breaking up” with the financial advisor used as a couple. Each individual may need to hire their own.

If there is a dependent spouse in the marriage, then the need for a financial advisor increases tenfold. This person may have no means of making an adequate living for themselves at the time of divorce. It may take some time to rebuild momentum in their career.

New and upcoming changes to PA child custody laws

According to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Act 21 of 2018 allows grandparents to fill in as legal guardians in certain situations. One of the biggest reasons for this in the state is the sweeping effects of the opioid crisis. Statistics from last year claim that 103,000 children in Pennsylvania live with a relative other than their parents. Meanwhile, 88,000 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren.

The change in law makes it easier for grandparents to seek temporary or permanent custody of children. However, many grandparents are still unaware of this. To help educate more of these guardians about their rights, the PBA and more than two dozen county bar associations launched a campaign.

Requesting a child support modification

The court orders you to pay child support when your marriage ends. They base it on your income and the child's needs. For the first few years, you make every single payment.

Then your financial situation changes. Maybe you start a new family and have additional expenses. Maybe you lose your job and see significant income changes. Whatever happens, it's clear that you cannot make the payments that the court ordered back when your marriage first ended. Now what?

Women can no longer expect alimony even as homemakers

It is natural for a woman who gave up her career to tend to the home to believe she will get spousal support after a divorce. After all, she lost a significant amount of income and perhaps gave up her peak earning years in Pennsylvania to care for the family. Even without a family, she may have followed her husband across the country or around the world for his work, making it almost impossible for her to hold down one of her own.

However, Forbes notes that stay-at-home moms should no longer expect alimony, regardless of the circumstances. Many states are revisiting their old laws on spousal support, many of which have not been updated since earning potential has increased for women in the workplace, and since some women have out-earned their partners. Today, three-quarters of women participate in the workforce and there are more women with college degrees than men.

Planning for child support during a divorce

When couples divorce in Pennsylvania, many are able to work out amicable arrangements without court orders. The non-custodial parent agrees to make regular contributions to expenses and parents work out who gets the children at various times of the month or year. However, this is not always the case.

For other couples, a child support order may become necessary. Forbes notes that the amount of money the noncustodial parent will need to pay as child support may depend on the income of both parents. The court may also factor in the following considerations:

  •          Who pays for school expenses, childcare and health care
  •          Percentage of time the children spend with each parent
  •          Amount of money also being paid for spousal support

Parents who remarry risk disinheriting their children

When parents remarry in Pennsylvania, they may accidentally disinherit their children if they do not update their financial accounts and estate planning documents. This can happen on both sides, since the spouse remarrying may have kids of their own as well.

CNBC notes that failing to update account beneficiaries is one of the most common ways parents disinherit their children. For starters, whatever remains in the 401(k) will go the current spouse unless they agree to let someone else become the beneficiary.

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