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Depp-Heard Trial Brings Up Postnups In The Worst Way. But They’re Still A Good Idea.

Depp-Heard Trial Brings Up Postnups In The Worst Way. But They’re Still A Good Idea.

Couples who didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement should get a postnuptial one as life changes.

Believe me, as a divorcée — and coach for women during and after the ordeal — I know that. We all take the plunge with dreams of unconditional love, a warm home and the financial security of being part of a couple. It’s just that marriages don’t last almost half the time, and being realistic about this is crucial. That’s why women — and men for that matter — who didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement should get a postnuptial one as life changes.

We don’t have to look far to see how marriages unravel. It’s playing out live on television during the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation case, in which Depp is suing his ex-wife Heard on the grounds that she defamed him when she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse. Heard has denied the allegations and filed a defamation countersuit against Depp for $100 million, claiming he is leading a smear campaign against her.

If a couple decides to reconcile after an affair, a partner can ask the unfaithful one to sign a postnup providing financial or other compensation if there is a repeat offense.

The couple didn’t have a prenuptial contract, and Depp claimed during the ongoing trial that when he brought up a postnuptial agreement, which is drawn up after a couple is married instead of before, it sparked a violent fight.

“I tried to calm her down and say that I was not out to screw her over or put her in a position that was uncomfortable. These were stock, normal things to do,” Depp testified about his discussion with Heard about a postnup, but he claimed the confrontation just escalated. In her testimony, Heard said she was the one who initiated a postnuptial deal.

Whoever’s idea it was, it’s safe to assume that a postnup wouldn’t have saved Depp and Heard from the acrimony of their post-divorce lives or kept them out of the courtroom. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been useful as they negotiated their split, or that it’s not helpful for other couples. While the prenup gets more attention, the mention of a postnup in the Depp-Heard trial could bring more attention to a tool many couples could benefit from.

The key difference between a prenuptial agreement and a postnuptial one is simple: timing. A postnuptial agreement is a legally binding document drafted after the marriage vows that addresses the terms of a divorce. Just like prenups, postnups can specify who walks away with what property following a death or divorce, as well as specify the amount of alimony. They also can safeguard who inherits family wealth or protect business property and income.

Too often, women aren’t secure when a marriage dissolves.

“None of us had protected ourselves in this way,” I thought on the drive home from a recent meeting of a divorced women’s support group I run. Not a single one.

We had all entered our marriages assuming our partner had our back, everything would work out and we didn’t need financial protection from the person who claimed to love us the most. We certainly didn’t require a “business-like” formal prenuptial contract when we were in love! As years passed and some women decided to stay home with the kids, they thought it was a joint decision with their husbands — never considering the personal consequences if the team split up.

“I’ve been taking care of the house and the family while he built his career in Manhattan, but now that we’re splitting, what do I do?” asked a woman at the meeting who is in her late 50s and had given up her career when she had children. She was far from alone.

When new issues and problems come up, a couple who don’t see a need for a prenup could find a postnup useful. One sadly common issue is infidelity. If a couple decides to reconcile after an affair, a partner can ask the unfaithful one to sign a postnup providing financial or other compensation if there is a repeat offense.

One woman I know, who asked that her name not be used out of privacy concerns, entered a postnup after her attorney suggested one following her husband cheating. She and her ex signed the agreement as they were thinking about reconciling because she wanted to be protected if it happened again. And it did.

“I am happy I had it,” she told me. “Divorces are emotional and such a difficult journey, so this is something that can alleviate some of that.”

She had two words for people who are considering a postnup but may be on the fence: “Protect yourself.”

I wish I had.

In a world where women’s reproductive rights could be taken away, our family court system is broken and women still earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn, when a woman sacrifices for the “team” (because she usually is the one who does) she absolutely must be compensated for that. This is especially important because “more than one in three families headed by unmarried mothers lived in poverty in 2019,” according to the National Women’s Law Center. If you’re a woman and think you’ll get a fair shake in divorce court that includes some kind of compensation for your selfless contribution to the family unit, think again.

“The family court system is awful. The one with the most money wins, or it comes down to the luck of who you get as a judge,” asserted Sandra Radna, a divorce attorney in New York. “It doesn’t always seem to be fair.”

That’s where a legal agreement that addresses developments that cropped up after starry-eyed lovers tied the knot comes in. “As soon as you give up financial control to your spouse, you give up your independence,” Radna told me. “And once you are put in that position, it’s hard to reverse it.”

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has seen an increase in couples signing postnuptial agreements these days. Half of divorce attorneys said they were drafting more of them in the organization’s 2015 survey. The most common issues covered were property division, alimony or spousal maintenance, and retirement accounts.

“One reason to have a postnuptial is to address something that had not been considered before,” Cary J. Mogerman, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a practicing attorney in St. Louis, told me. “It has to be something in which both parties have an interest. Some enter into an agreement like this to save an already troubled marriage where circumstances are putting pressure on the viability of that partnership.”

Read more related articles at:

Amber Heard claims Johnny Depp refused to sign a prenuptial agreement with her

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Disagree on Why There Wasn’t a Prenup Before Marriage

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Don’t Be Like Johnny Depp, Get a Prenup

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


financial advisor

7 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Financial Advisor

7 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Financial Advisor

Choosing a financial advisor is a major life decision that can determine your financial trajectory for years to come.

A 2020 Northwestern Mutual study found that 71% of U.S. adults admit their financial planning needs improvement. However, only 29% of Americans work with a financial advisor.1

The value of working with a financial advisor varies by person and advisors are legally prohibited from promising returns, but research suggests people who work with a financial advisor feel more at ease about their finances and could end up with about 15% more money to spend in retirement.2

Consider this example: A recent Vanguard study found that, on average, a hypothetical $500K investment would grow to over $3.4 million under the care of an advisor over 25 years, whereas the expected value from self-management would be $1.69 million, or 50% less. In other words, an advisor-managed portfolio would average 8% annualized growth over a 25-year period, compared to 5% from a self-managed portfolio.3


Hiring an Advisor Who Is Not a Fiduciary

By definition, a fiduciary is an individual who is ethically bound to act in another person’s best interest. Fiduciary financial advisors must avoid conflicts of interest and disclose any potential conflicts of interest to clients..


Hiring the First Advisor You Meet

While it’s tempting to hire the advisor closest to home or the first advisor in the yellow pages, this decision requires more time. Take the time to interview at least a few advisors before picking the best match for you.

Choosing an Advisor with the Wrong Specialty

Some financial advisors specialize in retirement planning, while others are best for business owners or those with a high net worth. Some might be best for young professionals starting a family. Be sure to understand an advisor’s strengths and weaknesses – before signing the dotted line.

Picking an Advisor with an Incompatible Strategy

Each advisor has a unique strategy. Some advisors may suggest aggressive investments, while others are more conservative. If you prefer to go all in on stocks, an advisor that prefers bonds and index funds is not a great match for your style.


Not Asking about Credentials

To give investment advice, financial advisors are required to pass a test. Ask your advisor about their licenses, tests, and credentials. Financial advisors tests include the Series 7, and Series 66 or Series 65. Some advisors go a step further and become a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP.

Not Understanding How They are Paid

Some advisors are “fee only” and charge you a flat rate no matter what. Others charge a percentage of your assets under management. Some advisors are paid commissions by mutual funds, a serious conflict of interest. If the advisor earns more by ignoring your best interests, do not hire them.

Not Hiring a Vetted Advisor

Chances are, there are several highly qualified financial advisors in your town. However, it can seem daunting to choose one. Do your research. Reach out to other professionals for referrals.

Read more related articles at:

Don’t make these 6 mistakes when choosing a financial adviser


Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

A Financial Advisor’s Role in Estate Planning

elderly and money

Social dissatisfaction predicts vulnerability to financial exploitation in older adults

Social dissatisfaction predicts vulnerability to financial exploitation in older adults

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC led the first study linking interpersonal problems to financial vulnerability over time.

Researchers who study elder abuse have long believed that when older adults face loneliness or relationship problems, they are more likely to fall victim to monetary scams and exploitation. But the field has only studied the link retrospectively, looking back in time to see whether a connection exists, and has yet to establish a firm link.

Now, a team of researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC has collected longitudinal data showing that an increase in interpersonal dysfunction, defined as loneliness or dissatisfaction with relationships, predicts subsequent vulnerability to financial exploitation. The results were just published in the journal Aging & Mental Health.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study showing that the quality of older adults’ interpersonal relationships has an impact on their financial vulnerability at a later time,” said the study’s senior author, Duke Han, PhD, director of neuropsychology in the Department of Family Medicine and a professor of family medicine, neurology, psychology and gerontology at the Keck School of Medicine.

The findings underscore that social connectedness, which is already known to enhance physical health and psychological wellbeing among older adults, may also be a key protector against financial abuse.

“This study points to a specific factor—social functioning—that could allow us to predict, and ultimately prevent, vulnerability to financial exploitation before it happens,” said Aaron Lim, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Han’s research lab and first author of the study.

A spike in vulnerability

The participants included 26 adults, aged 50 and older, with an average age of 65. At the beginning of the study, researchers evaluated each participant’s overall health, cognitive functioning, depression and anxiety symptoms and prior history of financial exploitation and controlled for these factors in their statistical analyses.

Then, for six months, the researchers collected data at two-week intervals. They measured each participant’s interpersonal dysfunction by asking how frequently they had argued with someone, felt rejected, felt lonely, wished their relationships were better and wished they had more friends. They also assessed participants’ vulnerability to financial exploitation during the past two weeks with questions such as “how confident are you in making big financial decisions?” and “how often has someone talked you into a decision to spend or donate money that you did not initially want to do?”

“When a person reported a spike in problems within their social circle or increased feelings of loneliness, we were much more likely to see a corresponding spike in their psychological vulnerability to being financially exploited two weeks later,” Lim said.

In addition to the effects within individuals, there was also a significant effect between participants: Those who had higher interpersonal dysfunction compared to other participants tended to report greater vulnerability to financial exploitation.

Preventing exploitation

The study’s results offer insight into how to counteract common financial scams that target older adults, including phishing emails, investment schemes and the “grandparent scam,” where an older adult receives a call from someone about a grandchild in urgent need of money.

At the individual level, Lim suggests that people watch for social upsets in their parents’ and grandparents’ lives—such as the death of a close friend or an argument with a family member—as risk factors for financial vulnerability in the immediate future. At the community level, organizations that support seniors can also provide additional opportunities for social connection.

Because the study’s sample was small, the results need to be replicated in larger and more diverse samples, Han said. The research team also plans to build on the findings with a follow-up study to investigate the connection between social dysfunction and actual incidents of financial exploitation, not just vulnerability.

About this study

In addition to Han and Lim, the study’s other authors are Laura Mosqueda and Annie L. Nguyen from the Department of Family Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Tyler B. Mason from the Department of Population and Public Health Science, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Laura Fenton from the Department of Psychology, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; Gali H. Weissberger from the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences, Bar-Ilan University; and Peter Lichtenberg from the Department of Psychology, Wayne State University.

This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging [1RF1AG068166, T32AG000037, K01AG064986] and the Elder Justice Foundation.

Read more related articles at:

Interpersonal dysfunction predicts subsequent financial exploitation vulnerability in a sample of adults over 50: a prospective observational study

Loneliness, social isolation, and financial exploitation can go hand in hand for older adults

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Social Interaction Study Highlights Loneliness and Isolation as Heath Risks for Elders

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.




When Your Loved One Has Dementia: 3 Questions For Family Caregivers

When Your Loved One Has Dementia: 3 Questions For Family Caregivers

Here are three important questions to ask if your aging loved one has been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

What Training Do I Need?

When a loved one in your care is experiencing dementia, the first thing to do is reach out to local healthcare resources for education and training. The temperament of people suffering from a form of dementia can change very quickly, turning hurtful or even violent. But there are ways to interact with them to help keep them calm. Contact their healthcare provider for suggestions or referrals.

Do I Have the Legal Standing to Care for Them?

Does your loved one have a will or living will in place? Do you have a healthcare power of attorney for them? These are documents that must be created and signed before their dementia progresses to the point where it totally distorts their thinking. The documents will allow you to care for them according to their original wishes and avoid strife within the family should disagreements arise. Contact an Elder Law attorney as soon as possible to craft these documents.

How Can I Get Help?

Caring for an aging loved one can be exhausting, but an aging loved one with a form of dementia is an even greater challenge. Start planning now for self-care. You can’t care for someone else if your physical and mental health are depleted. Find out about respite care options in your area to give yourself the rest you’re going to need.

Putting these measures in place now can ensure that you are prepared for the road ahead. You’ll create a support net for the future. Often, the entire family is in a more peaceful and understanding position emotionally, mentally and physically for the well-being of all with these areas of advance planning in place.

Read more related articles at:

20 Things to Remember If You Love Someone With Dementia

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Do Seniors with Dementia Show Signs of Financial ‘Symptoms’ Years before a Diagnosis?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

childrens inheritance

Don’t Want to Leave Money to Your Kids? You’ll Probably Change Your Mind.

Don’t Want to Leave Money to Your Kids? You’ll Probably Change Your Mind.

How much is too much to leave your children? You may be surprised.

The good news is that the vast majority of children with inherited wealth do lead productive lives and would not fall into any of the above descriptions. Their parents set expectations, provided guidance and encouragement, and set limits when the children were growing up. No surprise their children turned out just fine.

Parents also fear leaving their children a significant part of their wealth because it could ruin their drive to live a productive life, fearing they simply might not feel the need to work. Or that the children will feel that any financial success they achieve will not be meaningful compared to their inheritance. So, they choose to leave a relatively small inheritance, enough to help but not eliminate the need to work. But parents often greatly underestimate the amount their children may need simply as a safety net, let alone to enhance their lives. Further, parents may not be aware there are certain controls they can put on the money they leave to their children that can assuage fears about misuse.

As parents grow older, learn about these controls, and start to realize economic conditions are different, many end up changing their minds about how much money they want to leave their grown children. Coming to this conclusion earlier rather than later can have its benefits.

Here’s how to re-think leaving money to your children.

Determine your goals

If a parent’s concern is that they will harm their child by leaving them too much money, they need to determine what dollar amount will cause that harm. The answer depends on what they want their children to achieve with the money. Then consider the what-ifs. For example, assume a parent wants to leave their child $500,000.

  • What if the adult child has a health crisis or they have a baby with a disability, incurring significant costs to the adult child and/or preventing them from being able to work?
  • What if the market sinks and the $500,000 becomes $250,000?
  • What if despite working hard, they or their employer are put out of business by a competitor, regulations or shifts in consumer taste?

While $500,000 may seem like a lot, if you take into consideration all the possibilities, it can be dissipated quickly on non-frivolous expenses. On the other end of the spectrum, some parents ask where the limit is. When is the line crossed from “enough” to “too much”? They want to help their kids, but they don’t want to give them beyond what they could possibly need.

Parents’ goals and perspectives change over time, and financial plans change along with them.

Learn about controls and family conflict

Parents can put controls on the wealth they leave their adult children by using trusts. Parents can choose a trustee to manage the trust so the kids don’t have full access or control. The trust can help them get an education, buy a place to live and start a business, but they can’t just live off the trust and sit around doing nothing. These controls can be different for each child. If parents know one child won’t lose their drive no matter how much money they have but another child will spend it all in a week, the children can be given different, access, controls and rights over their trusts.

These differences could cause conflict in the family, so parents need to keep an open line of communication with their children to explain their concerns and why they set the trusts up the way they did.

Teach your children about money

It’s up to parents to teach their children how fortunate they are to inherit anything, and that responsibility comes along with having money. Used properly, wealth can provide a safety net for unforeseen circumstances (which always arise) and provide a better lifestyle than a child might otherwise attain with his or her own income. Used wisely, having wealth can impact the children’s own communities if used to create jobs by starting or growing a business. Parents can teach their children that while they have a comfortable lifestyle, they can also use their money to benefit the world around them.

Parents may fear that leaving their children money will end up doing more harm than good, but if parents teach their children from a young age how to properly use their wealth and set expectations, it’s less likely the children will use it irresponsibly. And if parents are still fearful their kids won’t use their money properly, they can place controls on what they give. But parents’ goals will inevitably change as they get older and situations change, so leave room for flexibility.

Read more related articles at:

Advice on Wills: Should Each Child Get the Same?

The Pros and Cons of Giving Your Children Their Inheritance Early

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Preparing Children for Inheritances in the Future

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


Estate vs Succession planning

Succession Planning vs. Estate Planning – Why They Are Both Important

Succession Planning vs. Estate Planning – Why They Are Both Important

Vancouver Business Journal

One of the biggest misconceptions is that estate planning and succession planning are one in the same
Succession plans are critical to the sustainability of a business. Even the most successful closely held business owners find succession planning more difficult than other critical business decisions. One of the biggest misconceptions is that estate planning and succession planning are one in the same.Succession planning directly relates to the actual business itself. It is the strategy that will enable it to continue to operate smoothly and effectively as it is passed onto future generations, partners, or successor owners. Estate planning relates to all the assets in an individual’s estate including any ownership interests in closely held businesses.

For succession planning, important questions to consider when developing your succession plan include:

  • Is the business viable into the next generation? If so, do family members not currently in the business intend to join the business and what is their vision? How do their individual visions align with the current vision of the business and other family members interested in the business as well?
  • Should the business be sold to provide liquidity for future financial security?
  • Who will take over running the business if not sold and are they properly qualified and appropriately trained to do so? If not, can they be and how so?

For business success, it is important to promote training and leadership preparation inside the organization and to keep in mind the future needs of the business.

Business succession planning should solidify the continuity structure for your business, whatever your wishes may be, while estate planning allows the opportunity to carry out your wishes for all of your assets (business and otherwise) during your lifetime, during a period of incapacity, and after your death.

Important questions a business owner should consider when developing an estate plan include:

  • What are the individual’s sources of wealth (all types of assets) and their potential estate tax exposure?
  • How does the individual define financial security and how much of their current wealth is below or in excess of that amount?
  • Are any insurance and investment portfolios owned? Can they be used as liquidity to pay estate tax liabilities?
  • What is the plan for final health care directives, funeral costs, and a distribution of the assets?

Estate planning also has the capability of reducing exposure to estate and other taxes, arranging for professional investment management for yourself or future generations, and bypassing probate.

Not surprisingly, conversations about ownership, wealth, and responsibility of the family and key business personnel could be awkward and can lead to disagreements within the family and/or owners. Without consideration of a complete plan that includes both a succession plan for the business and an estate plan, serious financial and emotional consequences can affect your family business.

For example, if the issue of estate equalization among all family members is a priority of the business owner, the succession plan and the estate plan must be coordinated. If the estate plan leaves the business to those children who are involved in the business, then the plan must provide how the uninvolved children will receive their “share” of the estate. If the estate is subject to estate taxes and a plan has not been made to provide liquidity for payment of taxes, the results could leave the uninvolved children with no assets while the involved children receive the business; or the business may have to be sold to pay the taxes and the business owner’s succession plan is thwarted.

Lack of a succession plan can result in (i) unclear direction for the business without a known leader; (ii) loss of employee faith in company leadership; (iii) power struggles among middle management; (iv) family units broken apart over disagreements; and (v) a potential loss in value due to a key person discount when surviving shareholders go to sell the business.

Lack of estate planning often results in (i) unforeseen estate tax liability; (ii) probate court costs; (iii) delay in distribution of assets and resolution of the estate; and (iv) potential litigation costs associated with the disagreements among living family members.

If you own a business, both types of planning are essential to help to streamline the transfer of your assets, to maximize family harmony, and ultimately to protect the legacy you’ve worked hard to create. The old adage “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” perfectly applies to business succession and estate planning.

This article summarizes aspects of the law.  It does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney client relationship.  For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.

Read more related articles here:

Estate Planning vs. Succession Planning – What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

Legal Corner: What’s the difference between a succession and an estate plan?

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Business Succession Planning: 5 Ways to Transfer Ownership Of Your Business

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Pets, elderly

Why It Is A Good Idea For Seniors To Have Pets

Seniors And Pets

Are you wondering how you are going to care for your pet as you age in place? Are you wondering if you should adopt a pet as you age in place? This guide will help you decide on the best choice for you. Studies have shown that owning a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. In the case of senior citizens, “just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke”.

Pet Adoption for Seniors

Senior dogs and cats are better for the elderly because they are more calm, quiet, and less maintenance

If you are mostly immobile, a cat may be the best option because you don’t have to walk them. A small dog that uses pee pads or a caged animal may also be a good option. Senior dogs and cats are better for the elderly because they are more calm, quiet, and less maintenance. Be sure to have the pet checked out by a veterinarian. A pre-existing illness or disease could drain your bank account or make you sick. For those seniors who want a dog, there are many reasons to be wary of jumping into pet adoption too quickly. The lack of mobility and inability to drive to and from the vet, groomer, or pet store worries them. The initial costs are usually high. They also worry that if and when there comes a point when they can no longer care for the dog, that the dog might be taken to a shelter and eventually euthanized. Many seniors feel like their worsening health condition is a burden, and a pet might possibly add to that.

There are numerous reasons for adopting a pet. From companionship to security, pets can provide seniors a better quality of live and improve aging in place. Finding the right pet for you or your family member is easy, and the benefits can be far-reaching.

Finding the right pet for you or your family member is easy, and the benefits can be far-reaching.

pets infographic

Matching Older Dogs with the Elderly

Pets for Seniors in Illinois created an adoption program that matches senior dogs and senior cats with senior citizens. They worked out solutions to the issues that seniors have with pet adoption, and the program is very successful. The program pays for most of the adoption fee, chooses calm and housebroken older dogs, and provides support every step of the way. If the animal is not a good fit, the organization will take back the pet and refund any fees. Other humane shelters around the nation are trying to replicate this model.

Pet Therapy for Seniors

Ask your doctor, physical therapist, or social worker about any pet therapy programs in your community.

Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when some Alzheimer’s patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping those with Alzheimer’s connected and occupied.

“Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets,” (Byrne, 2015). Pet therapy has shown to improve appetite, social interaction, brain stimulation, and tactile activity. The unconditional love of a dog brings healing and meaning to a sometimes lonely stage in life. Ask your doctor, physical therapist, or social worker about any pet therapy programs in your community. Just because you give away a pet or choose not to take one into your home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit with other family pets or receive pet therapy. There are pet therapy home visit services all over the country. Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Therapy Dogs International are volunteer-run organizations with outposts all over the world. A local volunteer will come to your home and bring a trained service dog that is very well-behaved. The dog can play, cuddle, and perform commands during a half hour or one hour session.

Service Dogs for Seniors

Service dogs are trained to perform life-saving tasks, like retrieving medication, calling 911, opening the door for EMT and first responders, running to get help or barking for help after identifying an emergency, and laying down on their handler’s chest to help them cough or breath better.

For seniors with disabilities, a service dog might be the best option. “The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2011 defines service dogs as those trained to do work directly related to a person’s disability. Emotional support animals and dogs used as crime deterrents are excluded from this definition. A service dog is expected to accompany a person with a disability at all times”. Service dogs go through extensive training to remain calm and help their owner with mobility issues.

Service dog skills include: opening doors with a strap, pushing doors closed, helping their handler dress and undress, helping those in wheelchairs sit up straight & place feet and arms on footrests and armrests, preventing falls, and retrieving wheelchairs and walkers. It’s amazing the tasks these dogs can do! In an emergency situation, service dogs are trained to perform life-saving tasks, like retrieving medication, calling 911, opening the door for EMT and first responders, running to get help or barking for help after identifying an emergency, and laying down on their handler’s chest to help them cough or breath better.

For hearing impaired owners, service dogs are trained in alerting their handlers to the presence of other people or particular sounds, retrieving dropped objects, carrying messages, and warning that an unseen vehicle is approaching. For visually impaired owners, service dogs are trained in avoiding obstacles like moving vehicles, signaling change in elevation, locating objects on command, and retrieving dropped objects. Find the right service dog for you. Pets often increase the amount of exercise pet owners get versus non-pet owners. More exercise isn’t always a good thing for older people with injuries and susceptibility to falls. There are also some nonprofits in existence that will help elderly folks care for their pets when walking their dog multiple times a day or cleaning out the litter box is too burdensome. Look to see if there is one in your area.

The Cost of Pet Ownership

Elderly people give up their pets for several different reasons. In some cases, it may be necessary to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a pet.

It is important to make sure you have the funds to adopt a pet. Puppies have been known to cost upwards of $800 in their first year for healthcare, food, toys, and everything else that goes into pet care. Are you able to spend over $500 a year on your dog or cat? If not, a bird or fish might be a better option. In some cases, it may be necessary to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a pet. Elderly people give up their pets for several different reasons. They might not be physically able to care for them anymore, they might not be allowed to have a pet in their assisted living facility or nursing home, they might rather spend their time traveling, or they might actually be relieved to no longer have the responsibility.

What you don’t hear about very often are the dangers of owning a pet as a senior citizen. “Over 86,000 people per year have to go to the emergency room because of falls involving their dogs and cats, and these fractures can be devastating for the elderly,” said Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Seliger, 2012). If you think about it, you might know someone (maybe yourself) who has fallen trying to care for a pet.

Some doctors studying seniors and their pets believe that the death of an animal can affect an elderly person’s depression in a more severe way.

Some studies even find that the more attached an elderly person is to their pet, the more depressed they are. This could very well be a correlation, not causation, but it is something to consider if you are prone to depression or mental illness. Some doctors studying seniors and their pets believe that the death of an animal can affect an elderly person’s depression in a more severe way. Life can be isolating as you age, and the death of pet could add to this stress. Other studies have found that if you have a strong social network, having a pet makes no difference in your happiness level. These opposing studies create conflicting views on the subject, so it is wise to just do what’s best for you.

You know yourself better than anyone, so be honest about whether keeping your pet or adopting one is a good idea or not. Create a pros and cons list. Many doctors believe that the benefits outweigh the risks, but they might not for you. See if you can find a co-caretaker for your pet. Is your mobility good enough to not fall when picking up a dog that is running circles around you? Is it hard for you to bend down to their level to clean up after a cat or dog? Asking a loved one or volunteer agency to take care of the more physical aspects of pet care can alleviate stress and susceptibility to accidents. If you don’t have a close family member or friend to do this, you might have to give away your pet. This is a hard decision, and your doctor and family can help you make it.

The downside of pet ownership is a difficult subject to breach because no one wants to give up their beloved pet. Again, designating a trusted family member, neighbor, or friend to come check on you and your pet’s well-being is a great idea. If you have a grandchild or child whom bonds with your dog or cat, they might not mind coming over to let the dog out, or scoop out the cat litter. Don’t put yourself in danger of breaking bones simply because you are too proud to ask for help. Having a plan B and/or a pet helper may prevent injuries that lead to surgery, months of rehabilitation, and a lot of emotional stress.

How to Care for Your Pet While Aging in Place

Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors who care, or a nonprofit that provides assistance to aging pet owners.

Although, pets can do wonders for an elderly adult, the pet’s needs are important to keep in mind as well. In some cases, an elderly person may forget to medicate or feed their pet. They may get to the point where walking their dog is difficult. For these reasons, choosing a designated family member or in-home health aide that is willing to check on the pet and help take care of it would be ideal. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first and foremost (Remember the oxygen mask metaphor? You can’t take care of someone if you don’t care for yourself first). Some older folks go without food or necessities because money is tight, and they love their dog too much to let them suffer. Don’t be that person! Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors who care, or a nonprofit that provides assistance to aging pet owners. Veterinarians are good resources for finding pet care assistance.

Your well-being should be top priority. Have a succession plan for your pet. If you are an aging pet owner, create a succession plan you are comfortable with early on. Designating a god-parent or guardian for your pet in case you become ill or unable to care for the pet, is the humane, smart path to take. This designated guardian could be a family member, friend, neighbor, or trusted pet adoption agency.

If you do decide to give up your pet for adoption, an “open adoption” is best. Meet with your designated guardian beforehand, so that they can bond with your pet and see if they are really right for ownership. And, make sure that you will be allowed to visit your pet if you are able. If a family member or home health aide moves in to be a caregiver, they might not be able to take care of both you and your pet. A rambunctious, needy pet or a pet with multiple medications and a high maintenance routine may be too much work. Caregivers may not be willing to perform these tasks on top of other caregiving duties. This is a decision you will have to make together. Euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. Some older people believe that putting their animal down is the best option because the animal is so bonded to its owner that it would be too depressed to bond with a new owner. This is not normally the case. There are many options for adoption, foster care, and shelters that can take care of your pet.

Keep your pet for as long as possible, but don’t be afraid to start the succession plan when you need to. Taking away a pet may cause an elderly person to deteriorate mentally and physically, so make sure to allow regular visits with the pet. Many older folks look forward to these planned pet visits.


Owning a pet while aging in place is certainly not for everyone. Ask your veterinarian, family members, and doctor if this is the right decision for you and your health. If you are healthy enough or your caregiver is willing enough to care for a pet, the rewards of pet ownership can be life-changing. An aging dog, cat, or even bird could be the best medicine and your best friend, all in one.

Read more related articles at:

10 Reasons Older People Need Pets

The Healing Power of Pets for Seniors

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

5 Things You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pets After You Die

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Special Needs

Know the Laws That Protect Your Child With Special Needs

Know the Laws That Protect Your Child With Special Needs

Review ACD program changes

Discover how the comprehensive policy changes to the Autism Care Demonstration can benefit your family member with autism spectrum disorder.

You want to be an effective advocate for your child with special needs. The first step is to understand the laws that are in place to protect children with special needs. Federal laws regulate special education services and make sure schools provide accommodations for children with disabilities. Almost all states now have anti-bullying laws on the books, as well. By understanding these laws and your child’s rights, you’ll know better how to ensure your child receives fair and equal access to their education.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Enacted in 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with qualifying disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education. The law outlines the special education benefit, including individualized special education services. States have different procedures for implementing the law, but they all must be consistent with the IDEA. In accordance with the six basic principles outlined in Part B of the IDEA, schools must:

  • Provide free and appropriate public education. Schools are required to provide an education at public expense, under public supervision and direction.
  • Conduct an evaluation. Schools must gather the information necessary to help determine the child’s educational needs and guide decision making about appropriate educational programming.
  • Produce an individualized education program. To ensure that the child’s individual needs are met, schools must create a written statement of the educational program designed for the child.
  • Provide the least restrictive environment. Children with a disability are entitled by law to receive an appropriate education designed to meet their special needs. They must be educated with their nondisabled peers unless the nature of the disability is such that they cannot achieve in a general education classroom, even with supplementary aids and supports.
  • Offer opportunities for meaningful participation. Schools must provide opportunities for parents and students, when appropriate, to get involved throughout the special education process.
  • Implement procedural safeguards. Procedural safeguards ensure that children’s and parental rights are protected and establish clear steps to address disputes. Procedural safeguards guarantee that parents can participate in meetings, examine all educational records and obtain an individual educational evaluation.

The IDEA’s Part B also establishes the educational requirements for children with a disability from ages 3 to 21. To further explore how this legislation helps to safeguard your child’s rights, visit the IDEA website, which covers such topics as discipline, early intervention services, identification of specific learning disabilities, individualized education programs, dispute resolution and much more. To learn about due process in disputes about special education services, see the fact sheet, Resolving Concerns With a Child’s Special Education Services.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. The ADA defines an individual with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Title II of the ADA “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including public elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools, regardless of whether they receive federal financial assistance. Title II requires that qualified individuals with disabilities, including students, parents and other program participants, are not excluded from or denied the benefits of services, programs or activities of a public entity, or otherwise subjected to discrimination by a public entity, by reason of a disability.”

At the Department of Justice’s ADA website, you’ll find the full text of the ADA and additional information about the act, including lists of questions and answers about child care centers and the ADA and the Amendments Act of 2008 for Students with Disabilities Attending Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of people with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds. Public school districts, institutions of higher education and other state and local education agencies may all be recipients of these funds.

Section 504 helps children with disabilities access school services by requiring schools to provide accommodations and modifications. But, unlike IDEA, it does not provide for an individualized education program. Even if a child does not qualify for special education services under the IDEA, he or she may qualify for special accommodations under this law. For example, a child who must use a wheelchair but does not require special education services could receive accommodations under Section 504.

The regulations implementing Section 504 in the context of educational institutions appear at 34 C.F.R. Part 104. This comprehensive list of more than 40 common questions and answers about Section 504 and the education of children with disabilities further explain how this legislation protects your child’s rights.

Anti-bullying laws

The federal government’s anti-bullying website defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among youth that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is likely to repeat. Making threats, spreading rumors, physically or verbally attacking someone, and deliberately excluding another person from a group all constitute bullying. In recent years, bullying has become the subject of increased media attention, particularly as technology and social media websites have given rise to “cyberbullying,” occasionally with tragic consequences.

Every state in the nation addresses anti-bullying. Using an interactive map at the StopBullying website, you can research your own state’s laws and policies and find out more about the 13 key components of state anti-bullying legislation, including specification of prohibited conduct, development and implementation of local education agency policies, and training and preventive education.

The website also includes guidance prepared especially for kids, including “Facts about Bullying,” “What You Can Do,” and more than a dozen “webisodes” (cartoons that portray bullying situations and show kids how to address bullying) with accompanying quizzes.

School policies

Your school may have a policy related to discrimination, harassment or bullying. Familiarize yourself with your school’s policy by reading the parent handbook or policy manual. If you can’t find any information in the parent handbook, ask your school for a copy of its policy.

For more detailed information on the range of laws protecting children with disabilities, you may be interested in the Department Of Justice’s Guide to Disability Rights Laws.

What to do when you have concerns about school implementation

The Resolving Concerns With a Child’s Special Education Services fact sheet outlines the steps parents and guardians can take if they disagree with their children’s school on any issue involving the special education program.

Read more related articles here:

IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA: Which laws do what

Also, read one of our previous posts here:

What Happens When Your Child with Special Needs Turns 18?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

Baby Boomers

Keeping the “Boom” out of Baby Boomers’ Estate Planning

Keeping the “Boom” out of Baby Boomers’ Estate Planning

The term “Baby Boomers” was coined following the impressive increase in the number of children born after World War II. Those born between 1946-1964 are considered baby boomers and are now quickly approaching the retirement age. With every generation, the life expectancy is longer than previous generations. If you are a baby boomer who has already started saving for retirement, then congratulations! If you are like most people who keep pushing out your retirement date while still saving for the future, the time is here to craft your estate planning documents.

Making up a little more than one-fifth of the population, baby boomers have a significant amount of wealth they need to plan for. In 2019, the youngest boomers will be turning 55 and their wealth is predicted to continue to grow over the coming decades. At present, boomers are among the first-generation facing retirement without the safety net of a reliable pension plan.

As baby boomers get older and accrue more wealth, their primary goals evolve from accumulation to preservation of current assets. Although many individuals do not consider themselves “wealthy,” wealth is measured by the things we may take for granted. For example, owning a home, a vacation home, a car, a life insurance policy, pension plans, retirement plans, savings accounts, or brokerage accounts, all constitute “wealth” that needs to be protected with pro-active estate planning. Estate planning not only covers what happens to your possessions, but it will also shape your end-of-life care and who is going to make decisions on your behalf.

Baby boomers helped create a generation of status and have been raised with a certain lifestyle. Consequently, they need to ensure their family can maintain their current lifestyle once they have passed away. Currently, many boomers are dealing with the passing of their parents and learning lessons about the importance of having an estate plan, but even with this experience, nearly half of boomers have yet to consider estate planning for themselves. According to studies, approximately 42% of baby boomers do not have an estate plan in place. Additionally, many baby boomers are snowbirds who are also residents of other countries or states where they own assets. In these cases, the need for estate planning is even more crucial, otherwise the decedent’s family will need to go through the probate court process in numerous states. The probate court process is not only long and tedious but can cost upwards of three percent of the value of the entire estate, not to mention court costs and filing fees.

How to Start your Estate Planning

It may be difficult to speak with your family about death and the end-of-life decisions that need to me made, but without this conversation, an unexpected death can throw your family into financial chaos.

The first agenda item is to have an informal conversation with all family members present. It is best to communicate your wishes while you are in good physical and mental health to avoid any confusion, misinterpretation, or undue influence coming from the closest caregivers.

Second, get an idea of what you want to leave to each family member (beneficiaries). This includes concrete dollar amounts as well as your home, other real estate, vehicles, watercrafts, antiques and any sentimental possessions. Keep in mind that you if you have any beneficiaries who are irresponsible with money, or who are receiving government benefits, you will want to give them their inheritance through a Trust rather than a Will. A Trust can dictate special terms such as age, amounts, as well as preserve any precious government benefits they may be receiving.

The last agenda item involves meeting with a licensed attorney to give the best recommendations on how to achieve your goals. The attorney’s proposal will involve a variety of estate planning techniques which often consist of the below:

  • Living Trust (also known as a Revocable Trust)
    Living Trusts are used in place of a Last Will and Testament. After the Trust is created, assets are then transferred into the Trust. Trusts are used to by-pass probate. This means that upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to your beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through any court process. Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy. These types of Trusts are fully revocable: the creator can change any terms or completely revoke (cancel) the Trust. Trusts are private documents that, unlike Wills, do not become a part of the public record.
  • Last Will and Testament
    A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) although losing in popularity to a Living Trust, can still provide crucial financial organization. Wills are used to designate the beneficiaries who should receive your assets upon your death. Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will. If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), you can appoint a Guardian who will care for them in case of your death. This reduces lawsuits that arise over custody in cases of sudden or unexpected death.
  • Durable Power of Attorney
    A crucial legal document that functions while you are alive and allows you to select a person (the “agent”) to “step into your shoes” in case of your sudden mental or physical incapacity. The agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions and conduct transactions on your behalf. The Power of Attorney document ends when a person passes away. At which point, the Trust or Will should kick in to dictate the terms of how to distribute your estate. Note that if you created this document prior to October of 2011, it is time to update it as the laws in Florida have changed.
  • Health Care Surrogate & Living Will
    Also known as a Health Care Proxy, allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you can no longer make them yourself. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility.

Baby boomers have shaped this generation. Now they need to shape the financial future of their loved ones by proactive estate planning. Transitioning money from one generation to the next doesn’t have to be difficult.

Read more related articles at:

Some Things to Chew On Estate Planning Considerations for the Baby Boomer/Sandwich Generation


Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:


Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


Cryptocurrency And Estate Planning: What Digital Investors Should Know.

Cryptocurrency And Estate Planning: What Digital Investors Should Know.

Cody Barbo

Digital assets have been around for quite some time, but they seem to be dominating headlines again this year. In part, you can thank high-profile figures such as Elon Musk for promoting cryptocurrency, or music artist Grimes for selling $6 million in NFTs.

What’s clear to me is there’s a new wave of people who are making significant money by trading digital assets. What’s not clear to me is whether these individuals will be prepared to pass on these digital assets in future years. Don’t let your assets be inaccessible if anything unexpected were to happen to you.

What Is Cryptocurrency, And Why Has It Been So Popular?

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be used to buy online goods and services. Part of cryptocurrency’s appeal is the technology that backs it. Blockchain is a decentralized system that records and manages transactions across many computers and boasts that it’s very secure.

As of June 24, the total value of all cryptocurrencies was $1.35 trillion, according to CoinMarketCap. There are many cryptocurrencies out there, but the most popular ones include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin and now Dogecoin.

Many supporters think cryptocurrency will be a main currency in the future, and they’re opting to buy it now. They also like that central banks have been removed from the process, so the value of cryptocurrency won’t be interfered with by central banks.

What Is An NFT?

NFTs are another digital asset class quickly gaining popularity. NFT stands for non-fungible token, which means each is one of a kind. They’re supported by blockchain technology and can be anything digital, such as artwork or music files. Right now, NFTs are mostly being used as a way to buy and sell digital art. For example, an artist could sell their original digital artwork to a buyer. The buyer is the owner of the exclusive original, while the artist might retain proprietary rights to feature the artwork or make copies of it (however, any copy won’t be the original.) The popularity of NFTs is centered around the social value of fine art collecting in the digital space.

Three Reasons To Have An Estate Plan If You Buy Bitcoin

1. Not subjecting your loved ones to probate. Even if your loved ones knew you had cryptocurrency accounts, and even if they knew where you stored your password, that wouldn’t be enough for them to get access to your accounts. Without a proper estate plan, your digital assets may be put through a lengthy, expensive and legally tenuous probate process.

2. Blockchain technology. Another major consideration for creating an estate plan for your cryptocurrency and NFTs is blockchain technology. You need a private key to access each of your assets, typically in the form of a long passcode. A solid estate plan that includes that information can help you have peace of mind knowing that your investments can be passed on to loved ones if anything were to happen to you unexpectedly.

3. Decentralization. Cryptocurrency is decentralized by design. Central banks are removed from the process, and it’s secure because its processing and recording are spread across many different computers. The flip side of this decentralized system: There is no governing body overseeing the affairs of cryptocurrency. Laws will likely take decades to catch up, so right now, it’s like the Wild West. Because the laws surrounding cryptocurrency are complicated, and in some cases nonexistent, it’s important that you take the security of your investments into your own hands.

As someone who already appreciates technology, you’ll find there is a new generation of online estate planning platforms that can help you set up a trust or will. These agencies are pivoting quickly to bring digital assets to the mix.

Put Your Plan In Place

For cryptocurrency, I recommend including a step-by-step guide explaining to your loved ones how to access your assets. Because it’s so complicated, it’s also best practice to include instructions for your executor to hire an estate attorney who has experience dealing with cryptocurrency.

Read more related articles at:

Estate Planning with Cryptocurrency

What Holding Crypto Means for Your Estate Plan

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

What Assets Should Be Included in Your Trust?

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.


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