Estate Planning: Helping Protect Your Interests

Lessening the Stress of Travel for Travelers with Disabilities

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

Flying can be a frustrating experience for anyone, but for those with disabilities it is even more difficult. Knowing what rights a passenger with disabilities has is the first step to ensuring the next flight is as stress-free as possible.

Booking a Flight

When booking a flight, travelers with disabilities are generally not required to provide pre-flight notification with a few exceptions:

  1. Traveling by stretcher;
  2. Using an electronic wheelchair (or other device with special batteries); or
  3. Requiring connection to the airplane’s oxygen system during flight.

If none of these categories apply, the airline cannot deny travel for not being informed of a passenger with a disability’s travel plan. However, notifying the airline may ensure any desired accommodations are met with less stress on the day of travel.

Federal law has made provisions for people with disabilities who want to travel by airplane through the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986. The ACAA required the Department of Transportation to develop regulations to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of travelers with disabilities.
Note: While travelers with disabilities do have accommodations for air travel under the ACAA, they are not required to accept any or all accommodations.


Travel With an Attendant

Each airline determines whether an attendant is required, except in the following situations, which always require an attendant: Continue reading »

What You’ve Been Waiting for – Estate Planning for Your Google Account

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

Google is giving users an innovative tool for long-term planning of digital data and access to inactive Google accounts. Welcome to estate planning for your Google account.

As many families have experienced, the terms of service for most types of online accounts from most providers do not generally allow for the transfer of access to an account in the event of death. As more people begin to store important documents, photos, videos, and other items of sentimental value online, gaining access to the information has become an increasingly important issue in estate planning, according to Brett Watz with Mind of the Geek.

On Thursday April 11, 2013, Google addressed this issue head on by rolling out its Inactive Account Manager. This feature allows a Google user to designate a particular person (or persons) as manager of the Google account once it becomes inactive. This trusted friend or family member will receive access to the user’s emails, videos, photos, and documents in the inactive Google account for many of its services, such as Mail and YouTube. The user selects which data can be accessed. Note that it appears that this policy does not extend to information contained in paid Google services (see The Digital Reader’s post by Nate Hoffelder). Continue reading »

Knowing What the Patient Wants: Healthcare Directive, Living Will, and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

The issue of exhaustive yet routine and expensive medical treatment versus quality of life for patients at end-of-life has been a hot topic in the media recently. The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a series of articles including “Woman’s 6-month decline highlights end-of-life care quandary.” The June addition for Time Magazine featured “The Long Goodbye.”

Both articles focus on family members deciding how much care is appropriate and what happens when medical care results in a quality of life that the recipient of the care may not have wanted.

What is apparent from these articles is that end of life issues are difficult to discuss with family members. As a result, individuals often lack the motivation to consult with counsel to make sure that their wishes regarding their medical care – particularly at end-of-life – are expressed in writing.

An individual may end up receiving long, drawn out treatment and a quality of life they did not desire.

Healthcare Directives, Living Wills, and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

In both of the examples, the families were aware of the wishes of the family member to some extent, and had even taken some measures to make appropriate decisions regarding their care. Continue reading »

Social Security Survivor Benefits for Noncitizens

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

Co-authored by Misty A. Watson and Cliff Smith

Social Security survivor benefits can be an important component of your spouse’s financial security after your death. While the majority of U.S. citizens in the American workforce have survivor insurance protection for their spouses, noncitizens who are working in the United States are subject to different eligibility rules. Even if you are working in Social Security covered employment and your immigration status is fully legal, your spouse may not be able to receive survivor benefits after your death if these requirements are not met. Also, your surviving spouse may unknowingly forfeit survivor benefits upon leaving the United States. Read on to see if you are eligible and what your spouse will have to do to continue receiving benefits.

If You Are a Noncitizen…

The first question is whether you are currently covered by the Social Security program. In most cases, if you are working for a U.S. employer, even without authorization, the answer is yes. Among the few exceptions are people working under certain visa categories designated in § 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. These categories are designated by short alphanumeric codes, and they include the following:

  • H-1B temporary professional workers
  • H-2A agricultural workers
  • F-1 foreign students
  • J-1 cultural exchange participants

Second, if you received your Social Security Number on or after January 1st, 2004, you may need federal work authorization in order to be eligible for any kind of Social Security benefits, including survivor benefits. Does not make a difference when you receive your work authorization; even if you did not have it when you began working in the U.S., you may obtain it at a later date and still be eligible for benefits. Noncitizens admitted to the U.S. under a B visa or D visa are exempt from the work authorization requirement.

Continue reading »

iPad Apps for Autism

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

If you have someone with autism in your family, a tablet computer, such as an iPad or an Android tablet, may be a good investment.

Tablet computers offer numerous apps designed to help children with special needs, and apps specifically designed for people with autism can work wonders in helping them communicate.

St. Louis native Mark Bowers designed an app called Sōsh that helps young people develop social skills. According to the app’s website, Sōsh uses a methodology designed around the “five R’s” – Relate (connect with others), Relax (reduce stress), Regulate (manage behaviors), Reason (think it through) and Recognize (understand feelings). Continue reading »

Choosing a Guardian for Your Children

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

One of the most difficult decisions parents face when completing their estate plan is who should serve as guardian for their minor children. Here are a few common discussions regarding choosing a guardian: Continue reading »

Transfer on Death Deed Now in Illinois

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

On January 1, 2012, the Illinois Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act (Act) goes into effect. The Act permits owners of real property in Illinois to execute a deed which will allow for the property to be transferred to a designated beneficiary upon the owner’s death. If the property is owned jointly, the deed will transfer ownership upon the death of the second owner to the designated beneficiary.

The Transfer on Death Deed varies from its counterpart in other states in that it requires the deed to be executed with the formality of a Last Will and Testament. The deed must be witnessed by two witnesses, notarized, and the witnesses must attest that the person signing the deed is of sound mind. The deed requires certain language such as that it is not effective until the death of the owner and must be properly recorded before the death of the owner. Continue reading »

So You Are a Trustee

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

Your parent, aunt, grandparent, or friend has appointed you as trustee of their trust. You may have briefly glanced at the document 10 years ago when the trust was formed and never gave it a second thought until you get the call that the trust creator has become incapacitated or has died.

What do you do? What are your duties as trustee? What information are you supposed to give the beneficiaries? What are the steps to collecting assets? What bills do you pay? Are you supposed to file tax returns?

Serving as a trustee can quickly become overwhelming. Timing issues regarding notice to the beneficiaries and reporting to the beneficiaries your activities are often the most difficult for a trustee to know without the help of legal counsel. An accountant and financial advisor can also be valuable resources during the initial trust administration period.

Whether you are currently serving as trustee or know you will be serving as trustee in the near future, a consultation regarding your legal responsibilities as trustee is critical.

The duties of a trustee may include: Continue reading »

Lifetime Trust or Outright Distribution – How to Leave Your Assets to Your Beneficiaries

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

There are several ways you can leave your children (or other beneficiaries) your assets upon your death.

One option is an outright distribution. I call this the “here’s your inheritance” method. Upon your death, after payment of expenses and debts, your child receives their full share of the assets outright.

A second option is the staggered distribution method. This method gives your child a percentage of their inheritance at certain ages, dates, or events. A typical example is upon your child turning 30, he or she will receive one-third of their inheritance, at age 35 another third, and final distribution of the entire amount at age 40. In the meantime, your child would typically receive distributions of the principal and income of his or her share for needs such as a house down payment, educational expenses, or even a monthly stipend for living expenses. Another example would be an incentive based trust. With this trust, your child will receive 1/2 of his or her share if he or she graduates college and the remaining distribution if he or she maintains full-time employment for at least two years. Continue reading »

Being an advocate for your child with special needs

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson

Information and strategies abound regarding techniques that should be implemented by parents of a child with special needs to advocate for the child’s education rights, therapies, and treatments. Building a network of resources and support is vital to becoming a parent advocate.

A great tool is available from the Advocacy Group Autism Speaks. They have put together a 100 day kit to help families with a new diagnosis of autism.

Parents also must quickly learn how to navigate the complicated educational laws governing children with special needs. Wrightslaw and other disability advocacy websites offer families a plethora of information regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and a child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Continue reading »