Legal Documents Everyone Should Prepare

This year both my parents retired due to health problems. Since then, I have taken up the role of caregiver; handling everything from their finances to their health. In order to act on their behalf I helped them execute several documents which allow me to make such decisions for them.

Ideally, executing documents allowing someone to act on your behalf in case of an emergency or incapacitation should be part of your retirement/estate planning. Unfortunately, most people plan for retirement and Medicare, but overlook planning for an emergency or incapacitation. No one wants to think that they will ever become incapacitated but it happens, especially as people live longer due to medical improvements.

The following documents are needed to legally permit someone to act on your behalf in case of an emergency. The documents listed allow a specified person to make either financial or medical decisions on your behalf. It is highly recommended you contact a probate attorney specializing in estate planning and/or elder law for more information about each document.

1) Durable Power of Attorney – authorizes a specified person the right to make financial decisions on your behalf; if you are currently able to make your own financial decisions, you can opt for a “springing” power of attorney which only takes effect when you are deemed unable to make such decisions–it “springs” into effect once you are deemed incapacitated

2) Health Care Proxy – authorizes a specified person the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so

3) HIPAA Form – allows medical providers to keep a specified person informed about your health status and treatment

4) Revocable Trust – put your assets in a revocable trust and give a specified co-trustee power to use the assets according the rules you specify in the trust

5) Will – draft a will stating what should be done with all your assets not in the trust after you die

If these documents aren’t prepared ahead of time, when there is an emergency, a family member will have to get a court to deem you incompetent and assign you a legal guardian. Obtaining a court order declaring a person incompetent is both costly and emotionally draining on the family. As such, it is highly recommended you prepare these documents while you are still competent. Doing so will ensure the person you want handles your affairs and will make it easier on your family.

Bahin Ameri is a Houston-based real estate attorney. The focus of her practice is on real estate law and business law. She handles a variety of cases including contract/lease disputes, property disputes, and small claims. Bahin also handles business formations, applications for state benefits, and homestead exemptions. Her clients include homeowners, small business owners, landlords, tenants, and individuals seeking state benefits.

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What Defines A Legal Marriage

In the case of any future litigation or legal proceedings, it is crucial to be sure that your marriage and marriage ceremony is performed legally. Your legal marriage is crucial for taxation purposes, parental responsibility and proper handling of property. Each state has specific regulations for what constitutes a legal marriage and what it takes to get a marriage license.

For example, the state of North Carolina, as one example, recognizes applications for marriage between a man and a women only and also has particular requirement for the ages of the people seeking marriage. Any unmarried person that is at least 18 years of age may be legally married. Additionally, a marriage will have grounds for annulment if one of the parties was not unmarried at the time of the second marriage. There are several other conditions that can make a marriage eligible for annulment, but these qualifications often vary based on state laws.

Additionally, minors cannot be married except in very specific circumstances. First, no person under the age of 14 may be legally married under any circumstances. If a person is between the age of 16 and 18 they may be married, dependent on the signed consent form of a legal guardian or parent.

Also, an unmarried person between the ages of 14 and 16 may be married upon the consent of the court ruling in the best interest of the person and the consent of the parent or legal guardian. In order to legalize a marriage, it must be performed by a legal magistrate or ordained minister of a religion. This is in order to ensure a credible witness for a legal marriage.

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Five Tips on Completing I-9 Forms and E-Verify When Hiring Minors or Handicapped Persons

When completing the Form I-9 or E-Verify, one of the most misunderstood special circumstances employers run into is what to do for employees who are handicapped or under the age of 18. To help you ensure I-9 compliance and problem-free E-Verify, here are five best practices to follow when processing employees who either:

1. lack certain identity documents because they are disabled or too young, or

2. require the assistance of a preparer, parent or guardian to complete the form.

Keep the following scenarios in mind when completing I-9 forms for these types of hires. Also be aware that there are exceptions to some of these rules if the employee will be subject to E-Verify.

1. Lack of an Identity Document. The US government has acknowledged that persons under 18 years of age may have difficulty in producing a List B document that establishes identity, since many such persons are ineligible for a driver’s license, and state-issued ID cards are restricted by many states to persons who are 18 or older. As such, there are unique exceptions as to what documents an employer can accept from a minor for completing Section 2 of the Form I-9. Specifically, in lieu of one of the customary documents on List B, employees under the age of 18 are allowed to present one of the following special documents:

• School record or report card

• Clinic, doctor or hospital record

• Day-care or nursery school record

E-Verify Implications: Per the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), E-Verify employers may only accept a List B document that bears a photograph. This mandate supersedes the exceptions above. Therefore, when a minor is unable to produce a standard List B Document an E-Verify employer can only accept a one of the three exception documents if it has a photograph.

2. Parent or guardian attestation. Alternatively, in lieu of presenting any document for List B, or a document that evidences both identity and employment eligibility under List A, the employee under 18 years of age can have his or her parent or guardian complete Section 1 of the Form I-9, vouching for the employee’s identity. In this case, the employee must still produce a document evidencing employment eligibility under List C, such as a SSN card or on original or certified copy of a Birth Certificate. In these cases, complete the I-9 as follows:

• A parent or legal guardian must complete Section 1 and write “Individual under age 18″ in the space for the employee’s signature;

• The parent or legal guardian must complete the “Preparer/Translator Certification” block;

• Write “Individual under age 18″ in Section 2, under List B; and

• The minor must present a List C document showing his or her employment authorization. You should record the required information in the appropriate space in Section 2.

E-Verify Implications: E-Verify employers may not accept “Individual under age 18″ as a List B substitute since it does not meet the E-Verify photo requirement.

3. Placement by a nonprofit organization. Similarly, if a person with a disability, who is placed in a job by a nonprofit organization, association, or as part of a rehabilitation program, cannot present a List A document or an identity document from List B, complete Form I-9 as follows:

• A representative of the nonprofit organization, a parent or guardian must complete Section 1 and write “Special Placement” in the space for the employee’s signature.

• The representative, parent or legal guardian must complete the “Preparer/Translator Certification” block;

• Write “Special Placement” in Section 2, under List B; and,

• The employee with a disability must present a List C document showing his or her employment authorization. Record the required information in the space in Section 2.

E-Verify Implications: E-Verify employers may not accept “Special Placement” as a List B substitute since it does not meet the E-Verify photo requirement.

4. Sensory, physical or language barriers. If the employee does not fall under scenario 2 or 3, but is unable to complete the Form I-9 due to a sight impairment or other physical limitation-or even a language barrier-Section 1 of the form can be completed by a preparer/translator, and signed by the employee with the preparer’s assistance. Under these circumstances, the preparer’s attestation does not substitutes for a List B document because the employee is not minor or receiving special placement assistance.

5. Applicable laws restricting employment. Finally, federal and many state laws restrict the ages, hours and occupations in which minors may be employed. Accordingly, consider consulting with an experienced attorney familiar with the Federal and State labor laws to determine what restrictions apply to your area or industry.

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Child Guardianship Clause in Your Legal Will Forms

Generally, the wills are intended for a single person with or without children and for a married person with or without children. By way of using pre-assembled will forms, you can easily type in what you would like to fill out as they are already formed with pre-defined layout and necessary fields. These pre-assembled will forms are intended to be used as simplified worksheets for you to prepare your own personal will without having to do further research on what to specify on the form. You need to fill in the forms by hand then re-type according to the instructions.

Child guardianship clause will only be present in this type of pre-assembled wills that relate to children. With this clause you can designate your choice as to whom you wish to take care for any of your minor children after your death. You may delete this clause in case none of your children are minors,

It is an important matter who you will choose to be the guardian of your children in your will. Generally, your spouse will be appointed by the probate or family court, regardless of your designation in a will, If you are married. But even though you are married, it is always a good idea to choose your spouse as first choice and then provide a second choice. This will cover the contingency case where both you and your spouse die together in a single accident.

Obviously your choice should be a trusted person who you feel would provide the best care for your children in your absence. However, you need to be aware that the court is only guided, not bound, by this particular choice in your will contrary to most people’s belief. The decision from the court in appointing a child’s guardian is bases upon what would be the best interests to the remaining child. But in most cases, a parent’s choice as to who should be their child’s guardian is almost universally followed by the courts. Additionally, you will grant the guardian of broad power to take care for and manage your children’s property. You will also provide that the appointed guardian not be required to post a bond in order to be appointed.

Make sure to identify clearly the guardian and alternate guardian by full name at any cases. You can fill out the space provided for an identification of the relationship of the guardian by simply putting a descriptive phrase like “my wife”, “my brother-in-law”, or “my best friend”. It does not necessarily mean that the guardian should always be related to yourself personally.

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