Last week, I shared the first part of this series, discussing some of the key steps for conscious co-parenting. In part two, we continue with the final steps.

Conscious co-parenting after divorce is a child-centered process, where both you and your ex-spouse agree to work as cooperative partners for the sake of your kids. This ultimately helps both you and your children adapt in a healthier way.

Such collaboration can be challenging, but last week I offered three ways you can successfully navigate the process. Here  are three additional ways to make conscious co-parenting work for you:

 4. Respect your co-parent’s time with the children

Conscious co-parenting is about demonstrating to your children that you still want the other parent in their lives.

It’s normal to miss your children when they’re away, but it will be easier and healthier for everyone if you don’t do anything that might stop your kids from having an enjoyable time when they’re with the co-parent. This means not scheduling children’s activities during the co-parent’s time, unless you’ve asked them first. It also means respecting their time together by not constantly calling or texting.

 5. Get outside support

When it comes to divorce, the experience is often painful and unsettling. The underlying emotions can be overwhelming if they aren’t processed properly, which can have negative effects on your parenting skills.

Given this, it’s crucial you have support systems in place to move through this phase of life. There’s no single solution, so try a few different supportive outlets to find the one(s) that most suit you.

Whether it’s therapy, support groups, trusted confidants, and/or meditative solitude, you should take this opportunity to practice self-care. For better or worse, our personal identities are often largely centered around our marriages, so it’s perfectly natural to go through a grieving process when they end. Just don’t let the grief become what defines you.

6. Use conscious co-parenting to achieve personal growth
While it may sound paradoxical, divorce can offer a perfect opportunity for personal growth. The steps discussed here can help you adjust to your new life in divorce’s immediate aftermath, but they can also allow you to better express yourself throughout your life overall.

Consciously choosing a cooperative co-parenting relationship is just the beginning. You can bring the same mindful focus to every other area of your life. Treating your co-parent in a compassionate, respectful, and patient manner can provide the foundation for how you deal with all of life’s relationships and circumstances.

By doing this, you can serve as a role model for your children, demonstrating how they can deal with adversity in their own lives. In fact, conscious co-parenting can provide them with an array of vital skills that will strengthen their ability to endure the trials and tribulations they’re likely face in the future.

From custody agreements to alimony payments, there are numerous legal issues that can arise when co-parenting, so be sure you have the legal support you need. And given the fact that your family structure has changed, you’ll want to update your estate plan as well. Please contact us today if we can be of any assistance.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

crystalball 91024Creating a will, trust, or any type of estate plan has always involved dealing with an uncertain future. Consider that just 20 years ago in 1997, the estate tax had an astonishing 55% rate with only a $600,000 exemption. Because of the low exemption and high rate back then, tax-driven estate planning was a mathematical necessity for a large segment of the population.

Fast forward to 2017. Not only do we now have a generous $5.49 million exemption and a lower 40% rate, we also have renewed emphasis and action from the President and Congress on repealing the estate tax, as evidenced by the September 27, 2017 Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. So what does this mean for you, as you’re planning for the future?

Estate Tax Repeal Means No Need to Plan…Right?
Nothing could be further from the truth! Although there was a lot of tax-driven planning in the past, in recent years estate planning has largely focused on preserving family unity, protecting assets, ensuring privacy, and effectively passing along financial and emotional legacies.

And, for those with high net worth, it’s also worth mentioning that estate tax repeal isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point either. The Unified Framework still must be crafted into legislation that and pass both houses of Congress before being signed by the President. Given the political division the country faces (and the likely stiff opposition to the President’s tax proposal from Congressional Democrats), this will be no small feat.

Today, the focus of estate planning has shifted away from death taxes to other concerns that affect most families. Good estate planners now work with clients to protect their families against costly, public probate, guardianship, or conservatorship court proceedings and also further their legacy goals.

You might be worried about some of these things happening to your family:

● A financially irresponsible child or grandchild wasting their inheritance simply because they lack the financial maturity to handle wealth.
● A divorcing spouse of one of your heirs taking advantage of family wealth.
● Family discord lurking under the surface that tears your family apart, especially after the death of the patriarch or matriarch.
● A lawsuit, judgment, or bankruptcy that causes your family to lose their inheritance.
● Alzheimer’s or another cognitive impairment affecting you or someone else in your family.

Luckily, we have well-developed, flexible legal strategies (such as lifetime asset protection trusts, standby special needs trusts, and robust incapacity planning, to name a few) for overcoming these issues. Although estate planning can’t necessarily repair a damaged family relationship, proper planning can help make sure it does not get any worse. But these strategies only work when you implement or refresh your will, trust, and estate plan.

So, there’s no crystal ball. Where should I go from here?
According to WealthCounsel’s 2016 Estate Planning Literacy Survey, about 74% of Americans find estate planning to be a confusing topic. So, you’re not alone if you’re unsure about your next steps.

If you don’t yet have a will or trust, now is the time to explore getting one. If you have an “old” will or trust, now is the time to talk with us about whether you need an update. Modern families need modern estate planning solutions, and we are ready to help you create a flexible estate plan that works now, and will work in the future, even if the current tax laws change (even though no one has the proverbial crystal ball).

Dedicated to building your wealth, empowering your family and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

trust 91024Although many people equate “estate planning” with simply having a will, there are many advantages to having a trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan. While there are other estate planning tools (such as joint tenancy, transfer on death, and beneficiary designations, to name a few), only a trust provides comprehensive management of your property in the event of your legal incapacity (not being able to make financial decisions for yourself) or death.

One of the primary advantages of a trust is that it provides the ability to bypass the publicity, time, and expense of probate. Probate is the legal process by which a court decides the rightful heirs and distribution of assets of a deceased through the administration of the estate. This process can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars (and sometimes hundreds of thousands) and take a year or longer to resolve. Or course, not all assets are subject to probate. Some exemptions include jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship as well as assets with designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance, annuities, and retirement accounts) and payable upon death or transfer on death accounts. But joint tenancy beneficiary designations don’t provide the ability for someone you trust to manage your property if you’re unable to do so, so they are an incomplete solution. And having a will does not avoid probate.

Of note, if your probate estate is small enough – or it is going to a surviving spouse or domestic partner – you may qualify for a simplified probate process. In California, if your assets are worth $150,000 or more, you will likely not qualify for simplified probate and should strongly consider creating a trust. The cost of probate should also be a factor in your estate planning as creating a trust can save your heirs both time and money, not to mention emotional stress. Moreover, if you own property in another state or country, the probate process will be even more complicated because your family may face multiple probate cases after your death, one in each state where you owned property – even if you have a will. But beyond all of that, probate is a court proceeding and a matter of public record. That means your loved ones will have zero privacy. A trust, on the other hand, creates privacy which helps avoid conflicts, legal challenges, and keeps assets and beneficiaries hidden from potential predators.

A common reason to create a trust is to provide ongoing financial support for a child or another loved one who may not ever be able to manage these assets on their own. Through a special needs trust, you can designate someone to manage the assets and distribute them to your heirs under the terms you provide. Giving an inheritance to an heir directly and all at once may have unanticipated ancillary effects, such as disqualifying them from receiving some form of government benefits, enabling and funding an addiction, or encouraging irresponsible behavior that you don’t find desirable. A trust can also come with conditions that must be met before someone receives the benefit of the gift. Furthermore, if you ever become incapacitated your successor trustee – the person you name in the document to take over after you pass away – can step in and manage the trust’s assets, helping you avoid a guardianship or conservatorship (sometimes called “living” probate). This protection can be essential in an emergency or in the event you succumb to a serious, chronic illness. So unlike a will, a trust can protect against court interference or control while you are alive and after your death.

Remember, trusts are not simply just about avoiding probate. Creating a trust can give you privacy, provide ongoing financial support for loved ones, and protect you and your property in the event you are unable to manage your own assets. Simply put, the creation of a trust puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your assets and your wishes as opposed to leaving critical life decisions to strangers, like a judge.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth, and securing your legacy,

Yan and Ella (1)Marc and Cade It was another whirlwind weekend at the Garlett household. Cade and Ella have taken up two new sports, basketball and fencing. They also had belt testing to advance to the next level of wushu. So our normally packed Friday night through Saturday night was pole to pole action. Sometimes it seems we may have too much going on with the kids. But Yan and I want to encourage our kids’ athleticism and self-confidence. It is one of those parenting lines we try to walk and are never quite sure which side we’re on.

We’ve also been trying to buy another investment property for a while. I feel like the market is changing. Inventory is low. Good deals are harder and harder to find. We’ve been putting offers out there but haven’t been able to get one accepted for quite a while. Then suddenly, out of the blue, this weekend we had three offers accepted all at once. So, a good chunk of our Sunday was spent physically inspecting each property and running and then re-running the numbers so we could whittle it down to one purchase – a lot of work but certainly a good position to be in!

Yet the highlight of the busy weekend (did I mention this weekend was busy?) was our time Sunday afternoon with Food on Foot, an organization whose motto is “Rebuilding lives one at a time.” This non-profit in Los Angeles is dedicated to helping the poor and homeless by providing meals, clothing, work training and job placement. We donated money to the program, then volunteered to help distribute food to people in need.

Yan was the driving force behind our family’s participation. And I must admit, left to my own devices, I’m sure I would have found something else to do with my Sunday afternoon, even if that something else was nothing else. But I’m so glad Yan made this happen. First of all, I love that she does things like this and pushes, pulls, and otherwise leads our family towards out-of-the-routine experiences. Secondly, I think it’s important that our children see up close and personal that not everyone shares the same comforts and privileges they possess, and I want them to observe, feel, and practice service to others. And thirdly, I was truly inspired by so many of the people I met there – from the other volunteers to the folks in the program who had hit rock bottom, lost literally everything, and yet hadn’t given up, wore big smiles on their faces, and were working incredibly hard to rebuild their lives.

I didn’t get a sense of entitlement from them. I didn’t get a sense of anger or resentment or victimhood. I did see them taking responsibility for themselves and their future. I saw genuine gratitude, appreciation, kindness, and compassion in them. I saw some of the best of humanity in these people who were living in barely human conditions. I saw hope.

I came away with a new perspective. I discovered an organization whose mission I support and whose methods I respect. I met people lifting themselves up by their bootstraps with joy in their hearts. I left humbled. I, who have everything, spend so much of my time thinking about just me and mine. Yet those I met, who have nothing, spend time every day focusing on how they can be of service to others. It’s part of the program and those successful in the program are so, in part, because they embrace and internalize that spirit of giving. I have a lot to learn from them, and I hope my children heard that simple but powerful message, too. It’s easy to make a difference in someone else’s life. It doesn’t just happen, however. We have to seek, recognize, and then act on the opportunity for kindness.

I am grateful for that reminder.
Marc Garlett 91024

sad childI know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising our children stops us all in our tracks. But we must. If we don’t, and something happens to us, a stranger will determine who raises our children – and your child’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met. It happens.

No one will ever be you or parent exactly like you, but you can’t let that stop you from naming a guardian. In fact, the guardian of your children would easily become the most important person in their lives and could be the difference between them surviving the tragedy of losing you and going on to be happy, healthy, and successful or not. And while the likelihood of your guardian actually having to take over is slim, the consequences of having a stranger make that incredibly important decision could be dire.

If you have not named a guardian and something happens to you – a stranger who does not know you, your child, or your relatives and friends – will determine who will raise your child. Anyone can ask to be considered, and the judge will have the authority to decide. Keep in mind, too, families tend to fight over children, especially if there’s money involved.  And fights can lead judges to order the child into foster care until the matter is resolved. On the other hand, if you name a guardian, all of that can be avoided.

How to Choose a Guardian

Your child’s guardian can be a relative or friend. Here are some of the factors to consider when selecting guardians (and don’t forget to select back up guardians, too).

  • How well the child and potential guardian know and enjoy each other
  • Parenting style, moral values, educational level, health practices, religious/spiritual beliefs
  • Location – if the guardian lives far away, your child would have to move from a familiar school, friends, and neighborhood
  • The child’s age and the age and health of the guardian-candidates:
    • Grandparents may have the time, but they may or may not have the energy to keep up with a toddler or teenager.
    • An older guardian may become ill and/or even die before the child is grown, so there would be a double loss.
    • A younger guardian, especially a sibling, may be concentrating on finishing college or starting a career.

Remember, it Doesn’t Count if You Don’t Document it

I know it’s not easy, but don’t let that stop you. I’m happy to talk this through with you and legally document your wishes. And know that you can change your mind and select a different guardian anytime you’d like – also – the chances of needing the guardian you’ve named are small; but, you’re a parent and your job is to provide for and protect your children no matter what, so if you haven’t taken care of naming legal guardians yet, stop procrastinating and get it done.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

Long-term care 91024The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may provide unpaid time off due to the serious health condition of an employee or an employee’s immediate family member. Only certain employers, however, known as “covered employers,” are required to comply with this law. Additionally, employees must meet certain requirements before they are entitled to the leave.

This article will guide you to know whether you are entitled to unpaid time off without risking your job.

Employer Requirements

Only employers who are considered “covered” under federal law must comply. Public agencies are all covered, as are elementary and secondary schools. However, private employers are only covered by the FMLA if all of the following apply:

  • Employed at least 50 employees
  • In 20 or more workweeks
  • In the current or preceding calendar year

If your employer doesn’t meet these requirements, you are not entitled to unpaid leave and if you take unapproved time off, your job could be at risk.

Employee Requirements

When FMLA leave is requested for an employee or an immediate family member, the qualifying health condition must be considered “serious.” This means that the affected person either requires inpatient care or a continuing course of treatment. In addition, an employee must meet the following requirements:

  • Worked for a covered employer
  • For at least 1,250 hours
  • In the prior 12 months
  • At a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
  • Does not qualify as a “key” employee

The Protections

Once these requirements are met, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as long as proper, timely documentation is provided. An employer may require an eligible employee to submit a certification from a health care provider to support the request for FMLA leave. The employer may also require additional medical opinions, at its own expense.

If the need for leave is foreseeable, the request for FMLA leave must be submitted 30 days in advance. If the need is not foreseeable, the request must be provided as soon as possible and practicable. An employer may require an employee to substitute paid leave to cover part or all of the 12-week period.

FMLA leave may be taken all at once, intermittently, or on a reduced schedule. For example, one employee may need to take off eight weeks after the birth of a baby; another may need to take leave from time to time for migraine headaches or cancer treatments.

The employer must continue existing group health care coverage during the period of leave. The employer may also request recertification at reasonable intervals. At the end of the leave, the employee must be placed in his or her former job or one that is substantially equivalent.

One of the ways we support our family of clients is by being the trusted legal advisor they can turn to no matter what comes their way. If you are not yet part of our client family and would like to have a trusted advisor by your side, consider starting with a Family Estate Planning Session. We will guide you to be more financially and personally organized than you’ve possibly ever been before. We will answer all your questions. We will empower you to choose the best path forward for your family. Your Family Estate Planning Session is complimentary when you mention this article.

Dedicated to your family’s wealth, health, and happiness,
Marc Garlett 91024

Yan088Last week was a tough one for my favorite little boy in the world (Cade, of course!). First of all, he had a double ear infection. Cade has allergies which often cause his ears to fill up with fluid and occasionally get infected. Last week’s infection was particularly bad. He had a fever the whole time, wasn’t sleeping well at night, and generally felt lousy every day. I took him to the doctor midweek and while there, also asked them to check his eyes because Cade recently said the letters were getting a little fuzzy during our nightly reading sessions together.

In fact, Cade struggled throughout first grade with reading and Yan and I think his ears filling up with fluid so often probably contributed to it. I wanted to see if his eyes might be playing a role in his difficulties as well. The pediatrician’s eye chart test was inconclusive (as it had been in the past) so we decided to take him to a specialist over the weekend. And lo and behold, the eye doctor’s tests were inconclusive, too! The doctor said Cade’s eyes were straining and trying to compensate for something but he wouldn’t be able to determine exactly what without dilating his pupils.

Cade was horrified (and inconsolable) at the thought of having drops put in his eyes. After 20 full minutes of begging, pleading, promising, bribing, cajoling, and even putting drops in my own eyes to show him there was nothing to be scared of, I finally had no option but to hold him down while the doctor administered the drops. The sheer terror in his screams interwoven with his soulful sobs were difficult for me to bear and I nearly called the whole thing off.

But we got the drops in, got Cade calmed back down (relatively speaking, at least), and eventually got on with the eye test. The doctor was able to determine that Cade is actually quite a bit far sighted – a condition which had gone undetected in previous school and pediatric eye chart tests. So now one hurdle overcome, the next one squarely in front: “But I don’t want to wear glasses!!” The torture Cade experienced with the eye drops was quickly replaced by his new panic at the thought of showing up for second grade – which starts next week – with spectacles on his face.

Of course Yan and I told him it didn’t matter if anyone made fun of him, that it’s what he has on the inside that counts, that we too both wore glasses when we were kids, etc … what he heard was “blah, blah, blah, blah, GLASSES, blah, blah, blah.” But after letting him pick out his own frames he seemed to be doing okay with everything. Of course when we receive the finished glasses next weekend, the battle is likely to pick right back up where it left off. We’re steeling ourselves for that fight but are hopeful this will all be a character building experience for him, enable him to focus less on what others think of him (and more on being comfortable with himself), and most of all-help him in school and with reading!
Marc Garlett 91024