As you prepare for 2019 there are seven legal issues you should address before its too late.

We spoke with Attorney Jonna Spilbor before the holidays about some of the common legal issues that people seem to ignore at their own peril.  According to Spilbor, finally making sure your paperwork is in order is one of the most important New Year's resolutions you can make.

So, here is a quick list of action items that Jonna shared with us that she calls her "Legal Checkup." See how many of them you still need to take care of in 2019.

  1. Getting married?  If so, you will want to make some decisions about your designated beneficiaries on things like your life insurance, retirement accounts and pay-on-death bank accounts.
  2. Getting married for a second time? I have one word for you…PRENUP.  If you are getting married and this isn’t your first rodeo, consider protecting your assets from a second divorce with a prenuptial agreement.  If that’s too unromantic for you, then consult with an attorney before you say “I do, again” for advice on how to keep your separate property, separate.
  3. Getting divorced?  The tax laws pertaining to the payment of “maintenance” (formerly known as alimony) will be changing in 2019, which means the payment of maintenance will no longer be tax deductible.  If your divorce will not be all sewn up by December 31st, you will want to consider creative alternatives to equitable distribution, and/or have a really good accountant on speed dial.
  4. Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, and Powers of Attorney – one big mistake made by healthy people, is they believe they will always be healthy.  While I wish you all a long and happy life, the lawyer in me knows all too well that busses can jump curbs and space junk can fall from the sky.  This is why everyone – young, old, and optimistically immortal -- should have all of the above!If you already have these legal protections but the person whom you designated as your agent died, divorced you, or voted for Hillary and therefore you two do not speak anymore, you’ll need to pick a new agent and draft an updated version..

    What’s the difference, you ask?  Here’s the difference between a “living will” and a “health care proxy” – in a nutshell, a living will is an advanced directive that allows you to call the shots in the event your are to ill too make decisions about what kind of care or end of life directives you want for yourself, such as a “do not resuscitate” order, etc.  A health care proxy designates someone you trust to make those big decisions for you. A Power of Attorney allows you to legally stand in another’s shoes to do all sorts of things like, buying and selling property, paying bills, doing banking and much more even if that person is alive and well.

  5. Your “Last Will and Testament” – I always say, a Will is a great way to keep from rolling over in your grave – especially if you have people who will want to fight over your stuff when you are pushing up daisies (like your biological children and your new wife, for example).  Many people draft Wills to let their loved ones know they are loved.  Sometimes a better plan, is to let your loved ones know you love them while you are still alive.  To do this, sit down with an attorney or qualified estate planner to go over all of your “stuff” and make a plan that may include changing title or ownership on certain asset to avoid the probate process altogether.While you’re at it, know this:  If you were to require long-term care (a nursing home, for example) and you have stuff that you’d like to leave to your loved ones, the state will also want you to use your assets to pay for your care (go figure) and will look back for five – count ‘em, five – years to determine what assets you actually own that can be handed over to pay for your care.
  6. Life Insurance and business insurance – if you have minor children, life insurance is a must.  In fact, if you have children and do not reside with their other parent, a child support court or divorce court will require you to have life insurance for the benefit of the kids for as long as you are also obligated to pay support.Business-owners like myself should also have life insurance to protect their staff and co-owners in the event you kick the bucket and want your business to live on.  Don’t forget to also protect yourself in the event you live but a key employee gets eaten by a python while vacationing in Bora Bora and needs to be replaced.  Here again, as important people come – or go — from your life, update your policies accordingly.
  7. Your Rap Sheet – as a reminder, New York recently passed a law that allows you to seal certain prior convictions.  If you have lived with a conviction on your record for ten years or more, you can now clean it up!

For more information, you can reach Jonna Spilbor on her webvsite or at 845 436-3193.