Tag: Law

Wills & Trusts - the Basics , , , , , , , ,

“Estate Planning” Isn’t Just for the Rich and Famous. It’s for Everyone.

Massachusetts Estate Planning

Massachusetts Estate Planning Isn’t Just for the Rich and Famous

My wife, Nancy, and I were at a favorite ‘watering hole’ here in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, recently and we started a conversation with some great people sitting next to us. Naturally, the topic of what we all did for a living came up. When I said that I was an “estate planning” lawyer and that I prepared wills and trusts for people, they said, “yeah, we really need to do our wills, but we keep putting it off.”  They then asked, though, “isn’t estate planning just for really rich  people?”

In response, I told them that they weren’t alone by putting off doing their wills. According to an April 2014 Forbes article, 62% of Americans between the ages of 45 to 54 hadn’t drafted their wills. So, a majority of us clearly haven’t done our plans.

Then I answered their question and said, “no, estate planning isn’t just for the rich and famous, it’s for just about everyone.”

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Finances & Kids, Healthcare Decisions , , , , , , ,

College Students Need Their Medical Wishes Legally Protected Too

college students need medical wishes legally protectedMost parents don’t realize that their college aged students need their medical wishes protected too. Here’s some surprising news to most parents – when your child turns 18 they become legal adults. That’s right, they are no longer minors in the eyes of the law AND their parents are no longer legally in charge of them.

This means that if something awful happens to a college kid, (i.e., a bad car wreck, an accident on or off campus at a party, a trip to the hospital) and they cannot communicate for themselves, then there’s no one who is legally entitled to find out medical information, to make medical or legal decisions, to talk to insurance companies or to find out other information about them.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA (Defense of marriage act)

US Supreme CourtIn a landmark decision, hailed by equal rights advocates all over the country, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down a section of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) that denied legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits that are provided to heterosexual spouses. Prior to the Court’s ruling, DOMA defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

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Second Marriages and Relationships , , , , , , , , ,

How Do We Define the “New American Family?”

Not long ago, the traditional American family typically consisted of a husband, a wife and two to three kids (think “Leave it to Beaver”). But, the growing incidence of separation, divorce, remarriage and unmarried hetero and same-sex couples living together with kids has changed the landscape of how we as a culture define a family.

Noted Indiana University sociologist, Brian Powell, set out to determine how Americans’ definition of what constitutes a family has changed over the last decade. Not surprisingly, what he found was that we’ve been moving away from the traditional “Leave it to Beaver” idea of family to arrive at a view of the “New American Family” which comes in many different forms.

Powell’s findings revealed that almost 100% of people consider a husband, wife and kids as a family. Yet, he also found that over 83% of people consider cohabiting heterosexual couples with kids to be a family and that now over two-thirds of Americans agree that same-sex couples with kids are a family.

Take the kids away from the “family equation” and those percentages drop drastically. For example, only 39% of people consider a cohabiting hetero couple with no kids to be a family even though that cohabiting couple might consider themselves a family.

In the end, though, when it comes to defining a family all that may matter is how people view their own living arrangements. Whether you’re a traditional family, blended family, domestic partnership or single parent, over 60% of people now agree that if you consider yourself a family, then you are a family.

Regardless of how it’s defined, the “New American Family” faces many different legal issues in this day and age. From designating health care agents, to drafting wills that protect everyone, to choosing guardians for kids, all families are faced with these challenges.  So like the old program “All in the Family,” our blog is dedicated to tackling the legal issues facing our New American Family.

Healthcare Decisions , , , , , , ,

Healthcare Proxies: Massachusetts Young Adults Need Their Medical Wishes to Be Legally Documented Too.

Here’s a tip for families of college students and college students themselves – if your college student is over the age of 18, then they are legal adults. That’s right, they are no longer minors in the eyes of the law AND their parents are no longer legally in charge of them.

This means that if something awful happens to a college kid, (i.e., a bad car wreck, an accident on or off campus at a party, a trip to the hospital) and they cannot communicate for themselves, then there’s no one who is legally entitled to find out medical information, to make medical or legal decisions, to talk to insurance companies or to find out other information about them.

Bottom line: if something happens to a college student, their family is shut out of the process and the only way to be able to make decisions is to go through the time and expense of the Probate Court.

Yet there’s a simple way to avoid this: put in place one of the most important legal documents that a young adult needs: a Healthcare Proxy. 
Far too many people assume that their families would make the choices they would want in an emergency. 
But it’s not enough for young adults to just tell their parents about their wishes.  Instead, they need to clearly document their preferences in legally executed documents. The truth is most young adults will need the help of a trusted person in medical or legal emergencies. But to do that, it is critical that they choose someone to make legal and medical decisions for them before they are ever caught in a position where they cannot.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is on April 16th and it’s an important reminder for every adult, young or old, to appoint someone to make medical decisions and possible end-of-life care choices. So in honor of National Health Care Decisions Day, we encourage all families with young adults to legally nominate someone to make difficult medical decisions for them when they are not able to.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about healthcare directives, talk to your attorney and get something in writing before an unforeseen emergency strikes. If you don’t have an attorney and would like to schedule a meeting with us, just fill out the “Contact Form” on our website.

This April 16th let your young adults’ voices be heard, even if they can’t speak for themselves.

Finances & Kids, Second Marriages and Relationships , , , , , , , ,

Why would a bank approve a Massachusetts short sale? 2nd Marriage Estate Planning Attorney

Ep. 4 of “2nd Marriage Estate Planning

Will a Massachusetts bank approve a short sale? Andrew Garcia of Phillips Garcia Law answers this question in the 4th installment of “2nd Marriage Estate Planning.”

Watch our previous episodes involving short sales and estate planning on our channel or website.


Finances & Kids, Second Marriages and Relationships , , , , , , , ,

Should I short sell my Massachusetts home?

Episode 3 of “2nd Marriage Estate Planning” where Andrew Garcia continues to answer a viewer’s questions regarding her debt due to a short sale in Massachusetts. Does her debt now lie on the shoulders of her new husband as well? To find out the answers to these questions watch our mini-series “2nd Marriage Estate Planning.”

Episode 1 – What is a short sale?
Episode 2  – What happens during a short sale?

Finances & Kids, Wills & Trusts - the Basics , , , , , ,

Massachusetts Probate Court to Lose 20% of Judges: What’s that mean for me?

Before the end of 2011, 20% of judges in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court will be stepping down. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports.

So what does this mean for me?

With significantly less Probate and Family Court judges, the Probate process will slow down dramatically, leaving your assets in probate for an extended period of time and in the hands of the remaining overwhelmed judges.

How do I pass down my assets to my children without being affected by the Probate Court?

Set up a Trust! Setting up a trust is the safest way to make sure your assets get to your children without entering Probate.

Why a Trust and not a Will?

A Will “comes to life” when you die and passes your property on through the Probate Court System. A Trust, or “living trust,” “comes to life” when your your still alive and after your death while avoiding Probate Court.

Who can help me set up a trust?

We can! At Phillips Garcia Law we specialize in protecting families by helping them legally pass down their assets in the safest and most precise way possible. Contact us using the Contact Form, call us at 508-998-0800, or email us at [email protected] As always, you can find out more information on protecting your family and creating Trusts at our website, www.phillipsgarcia.com.

Uncategorized , , , , , ,

Texting and Driving in Massachusetts

Since graduation season is among us we thought that it would be important to explain some of the relevant laws for children and parents during these celebratory times. In the next couple of days we will be touching upon alcohol related, driving, partying, and texting laws. Specifically, today we will explain the texting while driving law.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, Massachusetts has adopted a law against specific phone uses while driving, due to the surge of accidents and even deaths caused by texting, web surfing, and reading or writing e-mails over the phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Under the Massachusetts Law, as of September 30, 2010, reading or writing texts, surfing the web, and reading or writing e-mails are all considered a Civil Offense EVEN WHILE STOPPED AT A STOP SIGN.


Civil Offense-No insurance surcharge

(Operators cannot use any mobile telephone or handheld device capable of accessing the Internet to write, send, or read an electronic message including text messages, emails, and instant messages or to access the Internet while operating a vehicle. Law applies even if the vehicle is stopped in traffic.)

1st offense-$100

2nd offense-$250

3rd or subs offense-$500

The laws also state that a Junior Operator (driver under the age of 18) is prohibited from using cellular phones all together.

Ch 90/8M- Use of a Mobile Phone or Mobile Electronic Device by a Junior Operator

Civil Offense- No Surcharge

(Mobile electronic device includes mobile telephone, text messaging device, paging device, PDA, laptop computer, electronic equipment capable of playing video games or video disks or can take/transmit digital photographs or can receive a television broadcast. Mobile electronic device does not include any equipment permanently or temporarily installed to provide navigation, emergency assistance or rear seat video entertainment. Reporting an emergency is the only exception. Drivers are encouraged to pull over and stop the vehicle to report the emergency.)

1st offense-$100, 60 day license suspension & attitudinal course

2nd offense-$250, 180 day suspension

3rd or subs offense-$500, 1 year suspension

The above information is provided by the Massachusetts Transpotation Blog which you can find here. If you have any more questions regarding driving laws or would like to meet with an attorney at Phillips & Garcia Law please visit our website at www.phillipsgarcia.com or give us a call at (508) 998-0800. You can also email us at [email protected]