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Harrisburg Divorce & Estate Planning Blog

Pennsylvania veterans' benefits: What is SMC?

Veterans who have been disabled in the line of duty are able to collect certain benefits from the government. The problem with veterans' benefits is that people may not understand them or know how to access them. This week, this column will address one type of veterans' benefits, Special Monthly Compensation, in the hope that doing so will help disabled veterans residing in Pennsylvania get the funds they need to live their best lives following their military service.

What is SMC? Special Monthly Compensation is money paid to qualifying disabled veterans on top of their regular disability compensation. This is a tax-free benefit, but it is only offered to those individuals who have suffered the loss of certain extremities or organs.

Have questions about trusts?

If you are new to estate planning, you probably have a lot of questions about what you really need to protect yourself, your family and your assets. The truth is, there are a number of ways to approach the estate planning process. What works for some Pennsylvania residents may be more or less than what you need. A great example of this is trusts.

What does a trust accomplish? Do I need one? What kind are there? You may be asking these and various other questions about trusts, as you should.

Fathers' custody rights: The case for Mr. Pitt

Brad Pitt is one of the most famous men in the world. He is an acclaimed actor and activist. He is also the father to six children -- one adopted and five biological. Sadly, his relationship with the children's mother failed to work, and now he finds himself fighting to protect his rights as a father. He is not alone in his fight, as numerous men in Pennsylvania and elsewhere also find themselves battling to protect their fathers' custody rights.

According to a recently released story, Pitt wants more time with his children. The visitation time granted him in his current custody plan with Angelina Jolie does not give him a lot of time to maintain a strong bond or grow a healthy relationship with each of his children. It sounds like a judge is siding with him.

The pitfalls of a do-it-yourself divorce

In the age of Google and DIY divorce websites, many couples today are considering the option of a do-it-yourself divorce. While free "legal" advice and forms are available on the internet, more people have a false sense of confidence they can obtain the best results by not retaining a family law attorney. However, this has not been my experience.

Downloading a form to handle your divorce to save money may sound great in theory, but in reality, it can create a number of costly problems. This is true even when both parties agree on everything.

A power of attorney doesn't grant the agent unlimited power

Making sure a person is designated to make important decisions regarding one's health and financial well-being when one cannot do it for him or herself is an important part of the estate planning process. This can be accomplished with a power of attorney. Some Pennsylvania residents may have concerns about granting an agent too much power, but the truth is, an agent is only allowed to do so much.

There are two different types of POA: financial and medical. It is possible to assign one agent to both or different agents to each -- whichever one believes is best for his or her circumstances. A POA can do a lot. For example, a medical POA has the right to make all decisions regarding what treatments the principal will or will not receive, which doctors the principal will see and where the principal will live if long-term care is required.

Pennsylvania Veterans' benefits: Mortgage life insurance info

Pennsylvania residents who have served in our nation's armed forces are guaranteed certain benefits for their service. Many Veterans' benefits are not well understood. This week's column will shine some light on one benefit in particular that is meant to help service member families, and that is Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance.

VMLI is designed to help the family members of veterans pay off home mortgage loans in the event of the service member's death. There are certain eligibility requirements that one must meet to access this benefit. These eligibility requirements are:

  • The veteran utilized the adapted housing benefit
  • The title of the home is in the veteran's name
  • The veteran still had a mortgage on the home at the time of his or her death
  • The veteran applied for VMLI before his or her 70th birthday

Have questions about a power of attorney?

Who will handle your financial affairs if, for some reason, you no longer can? Who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated? Without a power of attorney in place, important decisions that will affect your life could be left up to the court or whomever the court decides to put in charge of your care. Not many Pennsylvania residents would be happy about that.

What is a power of attorney? What can it do for me? When should I think about getting one?

What kinds of trusts are available?

Pennsylvania residents who are preparing their estate plans likely have a lot of questions about their options and what protections they actually need. While there are plenty of people who can probably get by with just having wills, others may want to consider trusts. What kinds of trusts are available?

There are a number of trust types out there. The most commonly used are revocable and irrevocable trusts. Both of these can protect one's assets and ensure they are passed on to beneficiaries, but they go about it in different ways. A revocable trust is something that the trust owner can change at any time, and the assets in the trust are still considered personal property. With an irrevocable trust, assets placed in the trust now belong to the trust, and the trust owner cannot change the trust document or take assets out of the trust -- except under very special circumstances.

Pennsylvania fathers' custody rights after divorce

When it comes to child custody following a divorce, fathers and mothers are supposed to be treated equally under the law. Children no longer get placed solely in their mother's care unless there is a valid reason for doing so. In Pennsylvania, fathers' custody rights do exist.

What custody options are available for Pennsylvania fathers? When going through the divorce process, if children are involved, part of the divorce settlement will include a custody order. Either parent may seek sole or joint custody. Parents do have the ability to work out an agreement on their own, but if they cannot, the matter will be settled by a judge.

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