Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Ways to Protect Yourself and your Partner in a Domestic Partnership or Unconventional Relationship

5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Partner

If you already live in a State that recognizes same sex marriages or domestic partnerships or other unconventional relationships, that State's laws can protect you and your partner should a disability or death occur. But not always.

Even in those States and the vast majority of other States that do not recognize these relationships, there are five ways you can protect yourself and your partner. Learning about these will help you protect yourself and your partner. What most people desire is to protect themselves and their partners against unwanted intrusion or interference from well-meaning family members or friends.

1. Beneficiary Designations and Insurance Policies

You can name your partner as a beneficiary in policies or work benefits. Doing so can prevent unwanted intrusion of others seeking to control those benefits. Also, you may want to review with your car and homeowner's insurance agent whether your partner should be added as a named insured on those policies.

You can also use beneficiary designations to allow control and pass property to your partner in the event of an untimely death. This is especially important if you are not doing any estate planning or a Will.

2. Durable Powers of Attorney

If you want your partner to be present with you during illness or incapacity and to have the legal authority to make decisions for your assets and your care, then the only way to accomplish that is by having appropriate Durable Powers of Attorney. While you can do these on your own, they are legal documents and it is usually better to have the guidance of a qualified attorney.

3. Asset Titling

How you own title to various assets, property and accounts can go a long way in protecting yourself and partner. For example, if you have an older bank account that still includes a parent on the title, then that account will not be available for your partner should something happen to you. Checking and confirming all titles is crucial to making your wishes happen.

4. HIPAA Authorizations

If you are not going to have Durable Powers of Attorney, then consider having your partner as your designated HIPAA Personal Representative. This will permit your partner access to you if you are incapacitated and if properly drafted permit your partner to make decisions for you. Again, this helps to avoid unwanted intrusion or interference by others.

5. A Will

If you want certainty about what will occur should you die unexpectedly than you should consider having a properly drafted Will. The Will can solve many problems for you such as who your Executor will be and cover how your want your property distributed. In States that do not recognize unconventional relationships, this can make all the difference between the result you want and immense heartache for your partner.

If you combine these five ways, you can ensure that you and your partner will create the result you want in the future. Let me know if you have any questions about any of these and how they might apply to your situation.

Thank you for your interest and attention.

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tax Reform: Tax the Rich or Class Warfare: Isn't it all Just Politics?

Tax Reform, Tax the Rich or Class Warfare: Isn't it all just politics?

The politicians are at it again, this time in the supposed effort to reform our tax system and reduce the deficit. But it all smells like politics all over again.

One side (I'm not even going to dignify each side with their desired labels in this column) says that high income earners should pay more than the 40% they pay now. The other side claims that constitutes "class warfare". To me, it's all politics.

By framing the tax reform discussion in the way the politicians have, they have created a no-win scenario for us all. Tax reform is not about giving rich people the business. It is also not about inciting emotions by pitting different income earners against each other. Tax reform has always been and should always be about simplifying the tax structure so it is understandable, simple to comply with and is not filled with hundreds of exemptions and give-aways to special interest groups.

Tax reform is not about fairness since that is a relative and subjective concept. What is fair to one group is the goring of another group's ox. Tax reform cannot focus on what is "fair" if it is to be accomplished.

Second, for real tax reform to occur, politicians MUST stop viewing our money as theirs. What we pay in taxes is our money going to the government. The system that we fund through our taxes is the system that we elect politicians to work out and decide on, not to bring our country to crisis and stalemate as they argue over their petty positions of power. In other words, asking politicians to work on tax reform is like asking irrational people to make rational decisions.

For tax reform to work, it has to occur outside of politics which today are ruled by emotions and irrationality. As long as politicians act irrationally, then it our mistake to expect them to make rational decisions. Perhaps it is simple as realizing that we don't have the right people in Washington doing the business of our country. At least, they have demonstrated they are wrong for the job over the last 3 years.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts and comments and join our conversation. When it comes to taxes, it is your money after all.

Bernie Greenberg