Life Planning: Per Stirpes, Per Capita, and Perfecting Your Final Wishes

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While all phases of life are accompanied by important decisions, those that come later—such as Life Planning–certainly require the help and advice of trusted legal counsel.

How will your spouse and children be taken care of after you pass on? What will happen to your property, bank accounts, or other financial interests you hold? Taking a little time to plan for these matters in advance will ensure that your wishes and the best interest of your loved ones are taken care of in your absence.

When many of us think of Life Planning, we first think of a will – who gets what when you pass away? It seems straightforward enough, but it’s not as simple as designating a few names and listing properties beside each. Life happens – you may pass away after one of your children or loved ones. Then what? If you leave your life savings to your daughter but she dies a few days before you, who would receive the money?

Consider our example above: Here we have a classic instance of two estate planning options – allocation of assets Per Stirpes vs Per Capita. Luckily, trusted legal counsel can help you sort through issues such as these.

So, below let’s consider our outcome based on a scenario where you (A for Adult) have three children:

B = Betty
C = Charlie
D = Debra

Your kids have a total of three grandchildren (B1, B2, D1)

What happens if your will grants equal shares to each of your three children (Betty, Charlie, and Debra), but two of these children (Betty and Debra) pass away before you do? What would your grandchildren receive?

Per Stirpes: Think of this is “by the stripe” or “down the line” allocation of assets. Grandchildren receive an equal portion of their deceased parent’s original share.

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  • Betty’s two surviving children each get one-half of Betty’s share (1/2 x 1/3 = 1/6th share each).
  • Charlie is living, so he gets his 1/3rd share.
  • Debra’s one surviving child gets Debra’s 1/3rd share.

As you can see, the grandchildren receive their share “by the stripe” or “down the line” based on what portion their deceased parent would have received.

Per Capita: This term more or less means “by the head.” This is more akin to simple division, once we account for the first generation.

  • Your living child (Charlie) will get exactly what you granted to him (1/3rd). Easy enough.

But what about the surviving grandchildren? Well, (similar to per stirpes) per capita allocation takes whatever interests your deceased children would have received, but divides it among the surviving grandchildren “by the head.”

  • Once Charlie gets his 1/3rd interest, 2/3rd of the assets remains left over for the grandchildren. This remainder is lumped together, then we split this remainder among the grandchildren “by the head.” The surviving grandchildren each receive an equal share (2/3 divided by 3 grandchildren = 2/9th share each).

While not overly complicated here, understanding these theories takes some time. And they can become a bit of a mess – especially based on an individual’s family structure, specific wishes, and the simple unpredictability of life. Without a doubt, a qualified Mississippi attorney will go a long way to helping you navigate these matters.

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If you aren’t confident that your life plans are where they should be, you’d be wise to contact an experienced Life Planning Attorney.

With more than 18 years of legal experience and focusing now almost entirely in all facets of Family Law, Wills, Estates, and Life Planning, Attorney Vangela M. Wade offers representation based on a flat fee basis for many uncontested cases and affordable consultation fees. This is a huge plus for anyone looking to smoothly and affordably resolve legal matters and/or planning their legacy.

Get in touch with The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Ridgeland, Mississippi to find out about our flat-fee solutions today.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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Caring for a Special Needs Loved One: Where to Start?

Special Needs Trust_Jackson MS Lawyer

Life planning takes many forms for many people. And while we most often hear of efforts taken to care for aging family members or minor children, family members with special needs – whether mental or physical – may also benefit greatly from a little advanced planning. So what steps should legal guardians take to ensure that a special needs child is taken care of after the death of a caretaker? What should a family member do to ensure that a disabled adult under his or her care will be provided for?

The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, is here to help.  We look forward to serving you in the Ridgeland, Metro Jackson, Central Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta areas.

First, know that contributions of assets to a disabled person – whether property or money –  may affect that loved one’s eligibility for certain public benefits, such as disability income or unemployment compensation benefits. In short, new income for the disabled individual may be treated as evidence of a reduced need for public assistance.

But what if you’d like to ensure that a disabled loved one is able to benefit from a portion of your estate when you are gone?

Consider a Special Needs Trust.

Set up with the help of an experienced attorney, a Special Needs Trust is established for the sole benefit of a disabled individual who is under the age of 65 by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court of law. This trust may contain assets contributed both by the disabled person and others, and is considered an “excepted trust” in that income and assets held in this trust are treated differently than others.  

Importantly, this excepted status means that a Special Needs Trust may also benefit the disabled individual without affecting his or her receipt of public benefits – IF it is created and administered in accordance with Mississippi Medicaid requirements.

Here are the basics:

First, to qualify as an excepted trust, the trust account must be established for a disabled individual, as defined in Section 1614(a)(3) of the Social Security Act.

Second, the Special Needs Trust must contain a provision which states that, upon the death of the disabled individual or termination of the trust for any other reason, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid will receive all amounts remaining in the trust, up to an amount equal to the total amount of Medicaid assistance paid to the disabled individual.

Essentially, the trust must repay any benefits the disabled individual received from the Mississippi Division of Medicare while also receiving financial benefits from the trust.

For example, let’s say a Special Needs trust is created and contains $100,000. Over the next few years, in addition to money from the trust, the disabled beneficiary also receives $20,000 in Medicaid benefits before his or her death. At the disabled individual’s death, the trust must transfer $20,000 of any remaining funds to the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to reimburse it for the benefits received.

As you may have noticed above, these trusts are meant to be established for individuals under the age of 65. This is not to say that payment of benefits will end after the disabled individual reaches the age of 65, but any new contributions added to the trust after the beneficiary reaches this age will not be eligible for the all-important “excepted status” and may affect the disabled person’s eligibility for public assistance benefits, as well as incur other liabilities.

Consider Your Estate Planning Structure

Thankfully, Special Needs Trusts are not necessarily required to “stand alone” and separate from your other estate planning vehicles. This means that the funds in a singular “Pooled Trust” – say, for the benefit of all of your grandchildren, only one of whom may be special needs – may incorporate a Special Needs Trust among any separate arrangements. In this way, your assets may earn investment interest and other financial benefits as a whole while being managed by a singular Trustee, say a loved one or your trusted attorney.

A Special Needs Trust may be incorporated into such a “Pooled Trust” so long as the Pooled Trust is established and managed by a non-profit entity that has been granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service and each beneficiary of the Pooled Trust is associated with a separate account.

Essentially, a Special Needs Trust may be created on its own for the benefit of a single disabled individual, or established as a specific part of a larger trust for the benefit of many loved ones. So long as you follow the rules, this trust can be structured as best fits the needs and desires of you and your family.

Needless to say, the information here is meant only to be a primer on the subject of Special Needs Trust, and does not incorporate every angle and element that can affect how your estate. If you think that a Special Needs Trust may be right for your specific situation, we implore you to contact an experienced and qualified attorney. It’s worth it!

Based in Ridgeland, Mississippi, The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, represents clients with a full range of quality uncontested matters in the Jackson Metro Area and throughout Central Mississippi. We’re able to offer a predictable schedule of flat fees for many of your legal needs.

To arrange a consultation, get in touch with Vangela M. Wade at 601.790.0043 or fill out our contact form.

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Emancipation of a Minor with Termination of Child Support

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The State of Mississippi is keenly interested in how and when child support payments are ordered, satisfied, and administered by the courts. After all, “the best interests of the child” are always paramount in the minds of attorneys and judges across the state. But what if an older child begins behaving as if they are on their own? What if the child seems to be living as an adult to the point where continued child support payments don’t seem fair?

At The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, we are no strangers to handling Family Law issues like these. Let’s review several scenarios in which Mississippi law may allow the termination of child support payments based on the emancipation of the child – that is, the child’s separation from the authority and control of the parent(s) or legal guardian.

First, we will address situations where Mississippi law itself may automatically end future child support obligations.

  1. Age – Simply getting older may terminate the legal obligation to pay child support. Under Mississippi Law, the parent responsible for paying child support is obligated to continue the payments, as ordered by the court, until the child reaches 21 years of age. At this point, child support obligations are terminated by operation of law.

But the law alone may also terminate child support obligations before the age of 21 in the following limited scenarios:

  1. Marriage – If the child lawfully marries, this action terminates child support obligations. Essentially, the child has started a new family and the child and new spouse are now responsible for their own care.
  2. Full-Time Military Service – Though less romantic than a new marriage, full-time military service may also serve to break a non-custodial parent’s duty to pay child support.
  3. Felony Conviction – If the child is convicted of a felony and sentenced to at least two years of prison as a result, child support obligations may be terminated by law.

And where the law itself does not end child support payments on its own, the courts may also take action to terminate these requirements in certain additional situations:

  1. Child Leaves School – This may end child support obligations if the child is at least 18 and is not disabled.
  2. Voluntarily Moves from the Home – If the child leaves the home of the custodial parent, establishes independent living arrangements, obtains full-time employment, and discontinues educational endeavors, the child may be deemed to be emancipated.
  3. Cohabitation – If the child moves in with another person without the approval of the obligated parent, payments may be terminated.
  4. Temporary Suspension – A court may order child support payments to be temporarily suspended if a child is sentenced to prison, but only until the child is released.

Keep in mind that all of these scenarios require that the court has not previously issued a child support judgement that is in conflict with these rules. For example, if parents agree that child support payments will continue until the child finishes college, the court will likely hold the parties to this agreement and refuse to terminate payment obligations.

And before you move to stop paying child support, know that emancipation of a child does not resolve the issue of any past payments which may be owed. Any existing payments must be satisfied in full.

If you’re beginning to feel like terminating child support obligations can be complicated, you are correct–the advice and guidance of effective and experienced legal counsel can help you navigate these important issues.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade in Ridgeland, MS is prepared to help you see whether the requirements of Mississippi law may apply in your personal situation, and if they do, The Wade Law Firm offers a simple, smart, and affordable flat rate fees for resolving your child support issues.

If you have questions about your personal situation, feel free to contact us at 601-790-0043 or fill out our short contact form to arrange an affordable initial consultation with an experienced Family Law attorney. We are zealous advocates for our clients, and we look forward to assisting you.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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Uncontested Legal Matters: Flat Fee Solutions from The Wade Law Firm

Uncontested Legal Matters | The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Ridgeland

At The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Ridgeland, Mississippi, we are here to help you with some of life’s most important legal issues. Whether you’re preparing for marriage with pre-nuptial agreement, dealing with the ramifications of a divorce, or planning the affairs of your estate to benefit your loved ones, we look forward to assisting you throughout your journey. And now we are happy to announce a new phase in our practice – a focus on uncontested legal matters.

Many legal proceedings take the form of contested issues, such as a sour divorce or a criminal proceeding. However, most people aren’t aware of the uncontested option allowing significant legal issues to be resolved with little or no conflict or lasting animosity.  Uncontested matters are essentially those that are resolved by agreement between the two parties, which are given the force of law by the relevant court.

SEE ALSO: The Difference Between Uncontested & Contested Legal Matters

Uncontested resolutions are of great advantage to all parties involved since they offer an economical and sensible resolution to serious issues. Attorney Vangela M. Wade, of The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, in Ridgeland offers representation based on a flat fee or many uncontested cases —a huge plus for those looking to smoothly and affordably resolve their personal legal matter.

So what sorts of legal issues may be resolved in an uncontested manner? Most matters eligible for uncontested resolution are Family Law matters such as:

For example, divorce is one of the most common. An Irreconcilable Differences divorce may be obtained in Mississippi when both spouses agree on the necessity of a divorce, the allocation of marital property, and other important specifics. By filing a petition together with the court, the divorce may be granted without the need for making inconvenient or embarrassing pleas before the court. Even more, this is an advisable choice particularly when children are involved. The benefits of uncontested resolution continue well-beyond divorce resolution. Putting enough issues aside to resolve a divorce in an uncontested fashion promotes an amicable parting of ways and avoids creating lingering animosity between the parties or their family members.

And since the issues surrounding child custody, division of property, and resolution of any debts may be harder to agree upon alone, The Wade Law Firm also offers affordable assistance through our mediation or negotiation services. With our trusted counsel serving as a mediator between the spouses, we are prepared to help you iron-out and final wrinkles to your case. Our fee for mediation or negotiation services will depend on the complexity and number of issues to be resolved and this rate will be agreed upon in advance, again bringing predictability and security to the resolution of your legal issues.

Again, proceeding on an uncontested basis saves time, money, energy, and peace of mind. In the interests of providing these advantages to you, The Wade Law Firm plans to concentrate exclusively on handling uncontested legal matters moving forward – bringing your value in our trusted legal counsel at each and every turn.

Choosing The Wade Law Firm, PLLC for your uncontested legal matters means affordable representation (contact us about our flat fees). In addition to saving money, you will be saving time and saving the troubles that come with appearing in court.

To get started with resolving your uncontested legal situation at a flat rate, get in touch with Vangela M. Wade at 601-790-0043 or fill out our short contact form to arrange a consultation with a Family Law, Wills, Estates and Life Planning Attorney with over 18 years of experience.

We are zealous advocates for our clients and look forward to hearing from you.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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Prenuptial Agreements in Mississippi

prenup mississippi

Divorces are on the rise throughout the United States and Mississippi. In fact, a study in 2013 by Bowling Green University found the divorce rate in Mississippi to be the third highest in the country. While that’s no reason to doubt your personal relationships or put such an important life decision as marriage on hold, it does have more and more brides and grooms to-be thinking about prenuptial agreements. At The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, we are here to help.

Often referred to as a “prenup,” these agreements are entered into before a marriage takes place, and is most well-known for resolving how any assets may be divided in the less-than-likely event of a divorce. But prenuptial agreements can also be utilized to decide how or whether spouses can sell or use each other’s property, or just about anything else the couple agrees upon. Once a staple of the “rich and famous,” a prenuptial agreement can be a smart idea for many couples – regardless of income.

So what makes for a valid prenup?

First, know that these agreements aren’t governed by any specific statute or law. Essentially, these agreements are treated like any other contract. That is, the spouses-to-be may enter into any agreement which is legal and does not violate any significant public policy of the State of Mississippi. But, to be enforceable, the agreement must be written and entered into by both parties prior to an anticipated marriage which then comes to fruition. Also, both parties will have to be mentally capable to understand and enter into the agreement at the time of its creation.

That said, there are some things that a prenuptial agreement cannot do. First, the agreement must be conscionable – containing provisions and agreements that are not immoral or unreasonably unfair to one or both parties. And in spite of the sneaky stories you may have heard regarding prenups, an agreement in which one or both parties don’t fully disclose their assets will unlikely be honored. These are not the place for “clever” hiding of assets in order to trick a new spouse out of property of financial interests which may be owed them.

Finally, child custody is not an issue that may be decided using a prenuptial agreement – it’s just too important. As we’ve covered previously on our blog, these matters are always decided “in the best interests of the child,” possibly in spite of the wishes of one or both spouses.

Once a prenuptial agreement is executed, it’s necessary to file the agreement with the Chancery Court. This will ensure that the agreement is available to the court and accepted as legitimate should it be needed later. As you may have guessed, the various important issues subject to a prenuptial agreement are issues you’ll want to address with the help of an experienced and trusted attorney.

Would you like to discuss whether or not a prenuptial agreement is right for you? Do you need help enforcing one or navigating related Family Law issues?

Get in touch with Mississippi Attorney Vangela M. Wade at 601-790-0043 or fill out our short contact form to arrange an affordable consultation. The Wade Law Firm, PLLC has been providing quality legal services for 18 years. We are zealous advocates for our clients and look forward to hearing from you.

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Adoption in Mississippi: Getting Started

adoption mississippi

Getting Started with Adoption in Mississippi

Have you or a loved one ever considered adoption? Adoption can be a great opportunity to improve the life of a child in need while building and growing your happy family. And we at The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Ridgeland, Mississippi are happy to help!

Like all Family Law issues in Mississippi, the rules and procedures for adopting a child are set out in the Mississippi Code; specifically, MS Code Title 19, Chapter 17. So, what are the basic first steps?

First, who can be adopted?

According to the law, anyone may be adopted, although adopting children over 14 years of age will require the child’s consent. Also, adoptions where the birth parents do not consent can quickly become more difficult and complicated.

Who can adopt?

Any adult over the age of 21 years old may adopt. This adult may be single or married.  Further, in April,  U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan issued a preliminary injunction against  a ban on adoptions by same-sex couples in Mississippi, describing the 16-year-old law as unconstitutional.  

Where should you start?

Adoptions in Mississippi are handled by the Chancery Courts of the various counties. Which county has jurisdiction over the matter will depend on a number of considerations, including: the county in which the prospective adoptive parent(s) may live, where the child was born, or where the child currently lives. Once the proper court is identified, the court will have jurisdiction to oversee the adoption proceeding if one of these scenarios exists:

  •       The child has lived in Mississippi for at least six months.
  •       If the child is younger than six months old, but has lived in Mississippi since soon after his or her birth.
  •       The prospective adoptive parent(s) have lived in Mississippi for at least six months and there is substantial evidence concerning the child’s care in Mississippi.
  •       Both the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the child are in Mississippi, and the child has either been abandoned or needs to be adopted, in emergency, to protect the child from mistreatment, abuse, and neglect.
  •       No other state has more appropriate jurisdiction over the adoption than Mississippi.

family life planning

Getting the ball rolling

Once the prospective parent(s) have identified the proper court, they will start the adoption journey by filing a petition with the court. With the proper documentation and absent any adverse findings by the State or opposition to the adoption by other interested parties, the judge may grant temporary child custody. After this six-month interim period, the judge may finalize a successful and unopposed adoption. In some cases, the judge may even grant the final adoption in a shorter period of time.

Adoption can be complicated

We’ve kept this blog relatively short and simple, but adoption is not always easy and includes numerous legal decisions. To serve the best interests of the child, many legal standards and important rules are included in the adoption process. In short, you’d be smart to hire an experienced Mississippi Family Law attorney.

If adoption is your future, get in touch with me, Attorney Vangela M. Wade at The Wade Law Firm in Central Mississippi. With more than 18 years of legal practice and knowledge of Mississippi Family Law, we’re committed to serving all of our clients with the utmost expertise, diligence, and care and are here to help you navigate through difficult legal matters.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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Family Law and Divorce: A Guide to Important Legal Terms

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At The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Central Mississippi, we know that legal notions of Family Law, as well as legal terms themselves, have developed and grown over many years. During that transformation, a specialized vocabulary has emerged which can make navigating Family Law disputes difficult to someone other than an experienced attorney. This is especially true for cases and disputes involving divorce. Could you benefit from knowing some basic vocabulary?

Have a look at the divorce terms below, which our colleagues at the American Bar Association have called, “The Language of Divorce.”

  • Action – The legal term for a lawsuit.
  • Alimony – Payment of support from one party to another for that ex-spouse’s financial support. This is sometimes called maintenance. Various forms of alimony include permanent alimony, temporary spousal support, and rehabilitative alimony.
  • Annulment – The legal ending of an invalid marriage, or ending of a marriage within six months after the marriage took place.
  • Child Support – Financial support for a child.
  • Common Law Marriage – A relationship between a man and a woman, recognized as a marriage although no license or ceremony was involved. Mississippi does not recognize common law marriage.
  • Marital Property – Property acquired during a marriage as a result of the spouses’ work and efforts together.
  • Contested Case – Any case in which the court must decide one or more disputed issues.
  • Custody – The legal right and responsibility awarded by a court for care, possession, and raising of a child. Distinctions are sometimes made between legal (decision-making) authority and physical custody.
  • Dissolution – The act of terminating a marriage.
  • Grounds – The reason for granting a divorce according to the law.
  • Joint Custody – The shared right and responsibility of both parents awarded by the court for possession, care, and raising of the children.
  • Joint Legal Property – The parents or parties share the decision-making rights, the responsibilities and the authority relating to the health, education and welfare of a child. An award of joint legal custody obligates the parties to exchange information concerning the health, education and welfare of the minor child, and to confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority.
  • Joint Property – Property held in the name of more than one person, often the parties to the divorce.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement – Often called a property settlement agreement or separation agreement, this written document detailing the parties’ settlement entered is into the court record.
  • Irreconcilable Differences Divorce a/k/a “No Fault Divorce” – A divorce granted without a party having to prove the other party’s marital misconduct, or “fault.” Both spouses must agree to divorce.  Generally, this is an uncontested divorce proceeding in which the parties have reached an agreement on all issues and do not request that the court resolves any disagreement. However, parties can agree to divorce and request the court to decide issues touching the children and property.
  • Order – The court’s ruling on a motion requiring the parties to do certain things or setting forth their rights and responsibilities.
  • Separate Maintenance – According to Bell on Mississippi Family Law  this relief is available to a husband or wife who is financially dependent on the other, and who is not substantially at fault in the separation. A separate maintenance award orders the payor to return home or provide support.  Mississippi law does not provide for legal separation.
  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) – This order of the court prohibits one party from doing something – for example, threatening or harassing the other party or disposing of property.

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While not an exhaustive list of divorce terms, we hope these brief descriptions will help you understand more about the legal issues involved in this important segment of Family Law practice. For Mississippians facing these issues, The Wade Law Firm, PLLC is here to help.

If you have questions about your personal situation or to arrange an affordable initial consultation with an experienced Family Law attorney, contact The Wade Law Firm in Ridgeland, Mississippi at 601-790-0043 or fill out our short contact form. From Family Law to Wills, Estates and Life Planning, we are here to help you navigate through difficult legal contested and uncontested matters.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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