The New Year is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Many people resolve to lose weight, hit the gym, eat healthy, but it is also important to consider other areas of your life. Bays Family Law encourages you to consider the following legal resolutions to protect yourself from unintended legal consequences.
Resolution 1: Execute a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney
If the unspeakable happens and you can’t communicate with healthcare professionals, a Living Will guides your loved ones as they make decisions about your care. A Healthcare Power of Attorney lets you pick who will manage your healthcare if you can’t do it yourself. These legal documents governing your care can be a great comfort to family members in a stressful situation.
Resolution 2: Get a Will (or update one)
It’s important for every single person to have a will. Why? Because your assets, your loved ones and your legacy deserve to be protected. A will can simplify the distribution of your estate and save your family the hassle of a lengthy and difficult court process. A will can provide a preference in naming the guardian of your minor child(ren). A will can protect a family member’s ability to qualify for public benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI).
If you already have a will, the New Year is a perfect time to update it. Experts say you should update your will every three to five years – sooner if you’ve had a major life change, like marriage, childbirth, adoption, or divorce. A will update doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated, and it can ensure that your estate planning documents are protecting you as well as they can.
Resolution 3. Get a Handle on your Financial Accounts
Create a list of your financial accounts. Include account numbers, account owner(s), and approximate balances. Give the list to a trusted professional and/or relative. Keep good records of income and expenses. Know how to access statements and other financial records. With rampant identity theft, this is a must. Check bank and credit card transactions regularly – Merchants and banks make mistakes. Review all statements right away line by line. If you don’t recognize any charges or fees, contact the financial institution right away so that the deadline to contest does not expire. Start using budgeting or financial management apps such as Mint.com, Youneedabudget.com, Quicken.com, or Countabout.com. And hang on to receipts. When cashiers ask if you want a receipt, always say yes. Some stores email receipts. Save those emails. If you get a paper receipt, don’t throw it away. Receipts are good for more than a store return. They help establish the value of property if you have a theft, flood, or fire. If you’re wrongly accused of something, a dated receipt may provide an alibi.
Resolution 4: Avoid Cheap Quickie Legal Forms Like the Plague
You can find almost anything online. That makes it tempting to write your own legal documents. Or buy them online for pennies. Google may be vast, but it doesn’t have a law degree or the experience of attorneys like those at Bays Family Law. Forms offered online for free or at very low cost are often defective and short sighted. Online companies sell documents that don’t satisfy Indiana’s legal requirements every day. Even the big companies. You don’t need a screwed up will that the court won’t recognize, a deed that doesn’t give you valid title, or a divorce agreement that doesn’t cover retirement assets or the time share in Naples. You’ll save money in the long run and avoid costly legal problems by retaining an attorney to listen to your personal needs and provide valid legal documents based on your specific circumstances.
Resolution 5: Think Before You Type
In this rapid-fire internet world, it’s easy to whip out a quick tweet, text, post or email. Immediacy really isn’t necessary. And it’s a bad idea if you’re stressed. We have seen many court cases tank because a witness/party was mean or snarky in a written communication. Resist the urge to instantly respond to every little jab. When you do respond, be kind and cut out the insults. Never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t be proud to share with your Sunday School teacher or your Grandmother.
Resolution 6: Talk to an Attorney about that Important Legal Issue
Do you have a legal question you’ve been wondering about for a while? Perhaps you’re getting married and thinking you could benefit from a prenup. Or your marriage is in trouble and you’re wondering if you’re heading to divorce. Maybe the school isn’t treating your special needs child very well. Top lawyers will listen to your situation and give helpful advice. For example, you may be able to save a troubled marriage by executing a Post-Nuptial Agreement. Or you may be able to position yourself better if the relationship doesn’t survive.
If you are interested in talking to the attorneys at Bays Family Law about your legal questions, please call us at (317) 769-0630 to schedule a consultation with either Donna or Jennifer regarding your legal issue.