Month: April 2014

Estate Planning 101

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a way to prepare yourself and your family for what happens after your death.  Estate planning is also a way to plan for unexpected incapacity. There are a wide variety of estate planning tools that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create, depending on your needs.  You can easily prepare for both by creating a comprehensive plan.

Planning for the future is crucial.  Planning ahead allows you to determine who will inherit your property after your death, while reducing the amount of taxes your estate will have to pay.  In the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently, an estate plan you can provide protection for you and your family if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Planning for Your Death

Your estate plan should consist of two parts, one that provides for the payment of your debts and one that designates who will receive your assets after those debts have been paid.  The most common estate planning tool used to accomplish this is a Will or Last Will and Testament.  This legal document is essentially your written instructions as to how you want your estate to be handled after your death, and who you want to manage it.

Planning for Mental Incapacity

Planning for incapacity requires a two-part plan as well.  When certain life situations such as medical conditions or severe injuries result in incapacity, someone needs to be able to take care of you and make decisions when you cannot.  One part of an incapacity plan should deal with your personal and health care.  The other part should address your financial affairs.  In the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated and you do not have a plan in place, a court will appoint a guardian to make these decisions.

If you any questions or concerns regarding estate planning in Alabama, contact our firm either online, or by calling (205) 533-7476.


Custody and Relocation

I Have Sole Custody, Can I Move Out of State?

As the custodial parent, you have significant rights with regard to your child.  Most likely, a visitation order has also been entered allowing the non-custodial parent certain visitation rights.  What happens when the custodial parent decides to move out of state?  The rules vary depending on the law of the state where you custody order was entered.  In Alabama, there are certain requirements that must be met.

Look at your Court Order

When courts award either joint physical custody or custody to one parent and visitation to the other, the Order should include instructions on what to do if one parent wants to move out of state.  Usually, the first step is for the moving parent to send notice, by certified mail, to the other parent.  This allows the non-moving parent to notify the court if they object to the move. This may not be required in all cases, such as where domestic violence was involved.  However, if your court order does not waive notice, you must provide the other parent of your intention to move.

More than 60 miles or out of state

Yes, if you intend to move more than 60 miles away from the other parent, regardless of whether it is out of state, you must provide notice.  Also, if you want to move across state lines, regardless of the mileage, you have to give notice.  Notice needs to be given at least 45 days before you move.  If you must move unexpectedly, you need to give as much notice as possible, and you will most likely need to explain to a Court why you could not give 45-day notice.

What information is required in the notice?

The notice should include your new street address and mailing address and new telephone number.  You also need to provide the contact information for the child’s new school, if applicable.  You should provide the date you intend to move and the reasons for the move.  If changes need to be made to the custody or visitation schedule, which is likely for longer moves, you need to suggest appropriate changes to the schedule.  Indicate that the non-moving parent must make any objection within 30 days.

Can the other parent stop me from moving?

It depends on the situation.  There are many reasons a non-moving parent might object.  The most common reason for objecting is the increased distance between the parent and the child because of the move.  If the other parent files a timely objection, the court will have a hearing and decide whether you should be allowed to move the child.  The court will require you to show that the move is best for your child.  If you are unsuccessful, but insist on moving, the other parent may be awarded custody.  Some reasons for moving that may benefit the child could be:

  • being able to get a better-paying job
  • better school
  • safer area for your child
  • better family network for you and the child

It is also important to show you are not moving just to make it harder for your child to spend time with the other parent.  If you have questions or needs assistance with child custody and/or visitation, please contact our firm either online, or by calling (205) 533-7476.


Adoption and Parental Rights

What are a birth mother’s rights and obligations regarding adoption?

Adoption can be a wonderful opportunity for an adopting family and for the child who needs a new home.  But it can also be a frightening and traumatic process for the birth mother who has decided to put her child up for adoption.  Understanding both your obligations and your rights as a birth mother during the adoption process can make a difference.

Starting the process

A birth mother has the ability to start the adoption process at any time after conception.  She also has the right to choose the parent(s) who will adopt her child.  This choice, too, can be made at any time after conception.  She can also choose to sign the necessary consent forms, either before or after birth.  If the consent forms are signed before birth, she should do so before a probate judge.  After the birth of the child, the consent forms can be executed before a notary.

After the birth of the child

Contrary to what some people believe, a birth mother who has decided to give her child up for adoption is allowed to hold the baby after the birth if she desires to.  Usually a questionnaire is given to the mother so that she can indicate what she wants to happen, including the extent of the connection she wants to have with the child in the hospital. In Alabama, the adoptive parents are allowed to pay for medical, legal and living expenses of the mother, if those expenses are reasonable. The birth mother can only change her mind if she has not yet signed the consent forms.

What about birth mothers who are minors?

Alabama does not require the parents of either the biological mother or father to give consent to the adoption, regardless of the age of the biological parents. However, an attorney will be appointed to explain the consent form and discuss the minor child’s decision before they will be allowed to sign the consent.

If you any questions or concerns regarding the adoption process in Alabama, contact our firm at (205) 988-5570 for a free case analysis and consultation.