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Estate planning is important with or without kids

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all proposition for Minnesota residents. There are a number of factors that make the process unique for each individual, and one of them is whether or not the person has children. In cases where a person is making an estate plan and has children, he or she will commonly make a number of bequests to the children and in some cases will name one of the kids as executor of the will. In cases where the person does not have children, the decisions might be more difficult, but the estate planning process is just as important.

An important point in any estate plan is incapacity. Many people choose to establish durable powers of attorney or advanced health care directives to take care of financial, medical and legal decision-making in the event they become incapacitated. These instruments allow people to decide who will make important choices on their behalf. Without them, not even their spouses are entitled to make certain decisions on their behalf.

Paying for a child's college education after divorce

The College Board reports that college costs have been rising at least 3 percent each year, but many families in Minnesota may still lack a financial plan in case of divorce or the death of one spouse. Divorce can make paying for college even harder, but there are steps parents can take to protect their children's education.

Unfortunately, the more immediate expenses of spousal and child support often must take precedence over saving for college. Parents' responsibility for a child's college expenses in divorce differs from state to state, but in Minnesota, a parent cannot be compelled to pay for a child's college education. However, this does not mean that as part of a divorce agreement, parents cannot address the issue of how much each will pay toward the child's education. Divorce agreements often include a time limit of five years on how long parents will contribute toward college.

Misdemeanor cases clog courts and burden poor defendants

Misdemeanor charges in Minnesota may not impose harsh penalties like felonies, but they still carry serious consequences for many people, such as imprisonment for up to one year and fines. A legal scholar and author who has researched the effects of misdemeanor convictions said that court fees, fines and short-term incarceration often lead to job loss as well as restrictions on housing, student loans, welfare benefits and professional licensing.

After studying crime statistics from the FBI and other sources, she estimated that 80 percent of criminal dockets involve misdemeanor cases. This amounts to roughly 13 million cases annually nationwide. The huge volume overwhelms public defenders with limited resources and forces them to avoid litigating constitutional violations. She concluded that the system often makes the accuracy of misdemeanor convictions questionable and punishes innocent people.

Is divorce mediation the right choice for my situation?

A typical litigation process for divorce can be stressful and expensive. While it is a necessary part in dissolving some marriages, many couples may benefit from an alternative type of dispute resolution. Mediation is one litigation alternative that is available.

In mediation, a neutral person, called a mediator, will help facilitate you and your spouse reaching an agreement on the parts of your divorce that you do not already agree on. The mediator will likely meet with each spouse independently before meeting with you both together. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on a particular issue, you will not be forced to agree, and you can still take that issue to court to be resolved.

How alcohol impacts a driver

In 2016, 111 million people reported driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, only 1 million people were taken into custody for impaired driving in Minnesota and throughout the country. When a person drinks alcohol, it can have a variety of effects on his or her ability to drive safely. For instance, after only one or two drinks, there is a slight loss of judgment. There may also be a decline in the ability to multitask or process information visually.

When a person has a blood alcohol content of about .05 percent, he or she may start to lose his or her inhibitions. It may also be harder to steer or react to emergency situations on the road. Generally speaking, it is a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content greater than .08 percent. At this point, it may be difficult for a driver to maintain a proper lane or speak without slurring his or her words.

Why an estate plan might need an update

Minnesota residents who have not looked over their estate plan for a few years should do so. Estate plans should be reviewed about every three years, but there are also certain situations that should require a review even if less time has passed.

For example, an estate plan needs to be reviewed after a person moves to a new state because of the potential for changes in state law that could affect it. Furthermore, people should also make sure they have taken sufficient steps to establish residency in the new state. Families may go through changes such as deaths, births, divorces and marriages, and these could also mean the estate plan needs a revision. People's assets or liabilities may change over the years as well. They may acquire or sell an asset, and the estate plan may need to reflect that change.

Managing divorce issues with children during the holidays

The end of a marriage can be a challenge for Minnesota couples with children during any time of the year. The stress that sometimes goes along with post-divorce co-parenting can be even greater during the holiday season, especially with the increased shuffling of kids back and forth between homes. This increased contact also boosts the odds for unexpected dilemmas and conflicts. Having a clear playbook for dealing with divorce during the holidays when children are involved may make things easier for everyone.

Holiday-related issues can be even more impactful for newly separated families adjusting to different dynamics for the first time, although long-time divorced parents can be equally affected. Regardless of the recentness of a divorce, people are encouraged to focus on what's best for their children by putting aside lingering feelings of anger and resentment. If this is difficult, individuals may benefit from support from friends, other adult family members or a therapist. Taking such steps may reduce the risk of parents letting personal animosity interfere with decisions about how their children spend the holidays.

Renowned artist's death puts spotlight on estate planning

While many people in Minnesota may be fans of Stan Lee's comic book art and creative work, they may not want to emulate his estate planning choices. The 95-year-old man passed away in November 2018, survived by his 68-year-old daughter. In 2017, his wife of 70 years passed away, and earlier in the year, he reported that $1.4 million was missing from his savings. Lee has also admitted that he had untrustworthy financial planners early in his career.

One challenge may be that when seniors most urgently need an estate plan, they are often less able to create one. People at very advanced ages may begin to suffer from cognitive decline, sometimes to the extent that it can lessen their abilities to make informed and clear choices. This can leave estate planners vulnerable to fraud and abuse, but it can also lead them to distrust close friends and family with no ill intentions. These situations can highlight the importance of moving forward with an estate plan at a younger age.

Are there alternatives to jail in Washington County?

Facing a criminal charge can be scary enough, but facing jail time can be even scarier. If you have been charged with a crime in Washington County, however, you may be eligible for a jail alternative, such as a diversion program. Many Minnesota counties have programs to help divert low-level offenders from serving jail or prison time. The following programs might apply to your situation:

Reasons and procedures for temporary custody

Temporary custody may be granted in cases in Minnesota when parents are going through a divorce. However, the orders that are initially put in place as temporary custody orders may become permanent once the divorce is final. A court attempts to make a decision regarding custody based on the best interests of the child.

Temporary custody orders might also be put in place if a parent is temporarily incapacitated, such as through hospitalization, or if a parent is accused of abusing the child. A parent who is unable to care for a child financially might grant temporary custody to a relative. There might be other situations in which a parent is unable to take care of a child for a time, such as an absence caused by work responsibilities. Temporary custody could be granted to a grandparent or a godparent, friends or other family members.

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