Wife liable for husband’s ‘last-minute’ credit card charges

A Florida woman told her husband that she was planning to leave him after 27 years of marriage. Just days before she officially filed for divorce, however, the husband charged more than $13,000 to the couple’s Discover credit card to cover costs their daughter was incurring as she started college.

During the divorce proceeding, the wife argued that she had never intended to pay for the daughter’s college expenses, and that the husband had engaged in a sneaky maneuver to try to force her to share these costs. A judge agreed with her and ordered the husband to pay the entire $13,000. [Read more…]

Sperm donor may have to pay child support

Anyone who is thinking of having artificial insemination using a sperm donor – or of acting as a sperm donor himself – should talk with a family law attorney to fully understand the possible legal ramifications of the decision.

That message is underlined by a recent ruling from a court in Kansas.

The case involved a couple who found a sperm donor through an ad they placed on Craigslist. The donor – who never intended to play the role of father – signed a contract with the couple stating that he would assume no financial or any other parental responsibility for the child. [Read more…]

Can injury and disability payments be split at divorce?

Payments that relate to one spouse’s injury or disability can be very difficult to divide at divorce, because it’s not clear if they should “belong” solely to the injured spouse or to the couple.

Two recent cases from Pennsylvania show the kinds of questions that can come up.

The first case involved a man who was injured while he was married, but didn’t settle his personal-injury lawsuit until after he and his wife had separated. The man argued that since he didn’t get any money until after the split, the settlement should belong to him alone. [Read more…]

Income other than salary can affect alimony

A wife’s alimony payments could be increased when her ex-husband started receiving significant income in addition to his regular salary, says the Ohio Court of Appeals.

The husband was a highly paid executive with JP Morgan Chase who was transferred to Singapore. As a result of the transfer, in addition to his regular salary, he received a $149,500 bonus, a $104,300 housing allowance, a $25,300 “foreign assignment pay differential,” a $7,200 long-term incentive bonus paid out as dividends, and a $12,300 travel allowance. [Read more…]

‘Cohabitation agreements’ can be useful for unmarried couples

If you’re living with a romantic partner and you don’t have any immediate plans to get married, you might want to consider signing a “cohabitation agreement,” also known as a “domestic partner agreement.”

Cohabiting couples often enjoy many of the trappings of marriage, such as combined finances and property. But it’s important to realize that you have none of the legal protections of marriage, such as equitable distribution of property or support payments if you ever break up.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract designed to protect both you and your partner in the event that you don’t stay together, and enforce the promises you’ve made to each other in the relationship. [Read more…]

Divorce can be even harder when children have special needs

Divorce is emotionally difficult for everyone, and this is especially true when children are involved. But when a couple has a child with special needs, it can become even more complicated.

For instance, many parents argue over child-rearing decisions, such as where the children attend school, the activities in which they participate, and their religious upbringing. But when a child has special needs, it’s even more important for the parents to find a way to make decisions together, because there are simply more decisions to make – including special school programs, medical treatments, and many other concerns.

Custody can be difficult. A “typical” custody arrangement might find a child shuttling back and forth between parents on a regular basis, in order to keep both parents in the child’s life and maximize each parent’s time with the child. But this arrangement doesn’t always work well for special-needs children. [Read more…]

Real Estate Pulse

A look at recent trends affecting real estate and the law

Mortgages for ‘do-it-yourselfers’ are spiking

There’s been a big increase recently in a special type of mortgage for people who are buying land and then building their own home on it.

These “hybrid” loans function as construction financing during the building phase. Essentially, they act as a line of credit, which borrowers can tap each time they need to make a construction payment. During this phase, borrowers must pay interest on the loan, but they don’t have to make any payments toward the principal. [Read more…]

New rules for reverse mortgages

The federal government has tightened the rules for reverse mortgages, making it harder for some seniors to get these types of mortgages and reducing the amount of a home’s value that can be tapped.

Reverse mortgages allow elders who are house-rich but cash-poor to use their housing equity. Homeowners who are at least 62 years old can obtain a loan that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner moves, sells, or dies. The homeowner receives a sum of money from the lender, usually a bank, based largely on the value of the house, the borrower’s age, and current interest rates.

Homeowners can get the money in one of three ways (or in any combination): a lump sum, a line of credit, or a series of regular payments, called a “reverse annuity mortgage.” Seniors sometimes use the loans to pay for home care while they remain in the home. [Read more…]

Flood insurance rates are reduced by Congress

Most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t protect owners against flooding. For this reason, many people in flood-prone areas obtain insurance through the federal government’s flood insurance program.

This year, flood insurance premiums had been scheduled to increase dramatically for many people. But Congress has just passed a law that will eliminate or delay many of these increases – a move that not only will save homeowners money, but will also make it easier to put many properties on the market.

Here’s the background: For decades, flood insurance rates were held artificially low for many homeowners. The government in effect subsidized premiums by “grandfathering” many homes that didn’t meet revised construction standards or that were included in a newly redrawn flood zone. [Read more…]

Mary Hart

Atty Hart represented us when we recently purchased a house. She exhibited best professionalism anyone would expect. Professional, knowledgeable, and very responsive, she answered questions with clarity, patience, and in a timely manner. In particular, Mary is a warm and easy-going person. We had great experience working with her in the past couple of months and would recommend her without reservation.

~Y. Ma, a Real Estate client

Be careful if you want to make changes to your will

If an estate plan isn’t kept current, it can become useless. You always want to make sure your will is up-to-date with your wishes, your financial circumstances, and current tax and other laws.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that changing a will is not a “do-it-yourself” process. Generally, any changes to your will must be made with the same formalities as the will itself, including witnesses and signatures.

In the past, some people have tried to make changes to their will by simply crossing out some parts and writing in others. Not only are these changes unlikely to be legally effective, but in some circumstances they can result in the entire will being declared invalid. At the very least, they can result in a lengthy and expensive court proceeding to sort out your wishes. [Read more…]

Adult day care can provide a much-needed break for caregivers

Caregiving is hard work, and it’s easy for caregivers to become exhausted. Adult day care centers provide care and companionship in a group setting to seniors who need supervision during the day, allowing their caregivers to go to work or take a much-needed break.

There are about 4,600 such programs in the U.S., according to the National Adult Day Services Association. They typically operate Monday through Friday during business hours, and are often affiliated with another facility, such as a nursing home, home care agency or medical center.

Adult day care centers can offer a variety of services such as counseling, exercise, assistance with medication, social activities, physical therapy, and educational programs. Social activities can include crafts, games, gardening, book clubs, field trips, music, pets, and parties. Often the service includes a meal, and some centers provide transportation.   [Read more…]

Your advance medical directive won’t help if no one can find it

An advance medical directive gives instructions on the kind of medical care you would like to receive should you become unable to express your wishes yourself, and it often designates someone to make medical decisions for you. This is an extremely important document – but it won’t be of much value in an emergency if it’s tucked away in a safe deposit box or in a file cabinet where no one can easily find it.

It’s a good idea to carry a card in your wallet or purse saying that you have a directive, and how medical personnel can access it.

For instance, if you routinely carry a cell phone or tablet with you, you could upload your directive as a file on your device. [Read more…]

Median private nursing home room is now $87,600 a year

The median cost of a private nursing home room in the U.S. is now $87,600 a year, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year, according to a study by the Genworth Financial insurance company.

The median cost of a semi-private room is $77,380, up 2.6 percent.

For assisted living facilities, the median rate is now $3,500 a month, according to the study. The national median rate for home health aides is $20 an hour, up 1.6 percent over last year. [Read more…]

Many still unaware that Medicare covers chronic conditions

A lot of health care providers still don’t know that the law has changed, and that Medicare now covers many skilled nursing, home health care and therapy services even if they simply maintain a person’s health and don’t improve their condition.

Although the government launched an educational campaign about the change earlier this year, a large number of providers are still in the dark and are refusing to provide treatment on the grounds that Medicare won’t cover it, according to a report by the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

The change is very important for seniors who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, arthritis, or the effects of a stroke, among other conditions. [Read more…]

Five common myths about Medicaid and long-term care

Medicare gets a lot of news coverage, but its cousin Medicaid remains something of mystery to most people. The Medicaid program is the largest single source of funding for nursing home care in the U.S., but there are many myths about exactly who qualifies for it and what coverage it provides. Here are five common misperceptions, followed by the real story:

1. I don’t have to worry about Medicaid, because Medicare will cover all my nursing home expenses.

Actually, Medicare’s coverage for nursing homes is quite limited. Medicare covers only up to 100 days of skilled nursing care per illness. That means that after about three months, Medicare’s coverage runs out. [Read more…]