Protecting Your Identity
Today the opportunities for someone to steal your personal information are the highest in history, and as a result protecting your identity is something everyone should spend time doing.
The best way to avoid identity theft is to prevent it before it happens. There are a few easy precautions to take to insure your identity against fraudulent activity:
- Take note of to whom, why, and when you give out your personal information such as your Social Security number.
- Keep your bank statements up to date, and check in with the bank to ensure a thief has not changed your billing address.
- Use secure passwords online, guard and shred documents containing your information from your mail and trash, and keep your computer safe by updating your anti-virus software and not using automatic log-ins on the Internet.
If you learn that your accounts or identity have been compromised, report it IMMEDIATELY to your bank or creditor and attempt to lock your account from further charges. Keep all of the reports you filed with the police, creditors, and/or banks to protect yourself further in the event of a loss. Finally, give the FTC’s theft hotline a call and check your credit report to help you monitor and prevent any further losses. The Federal Trade Commission’s toll-free Identity Theft helpline: 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
If you are a grandparent, the laws in the state where your grandchild lives are in control of your grandparent visitation rights.
Originally under the law, a grandparent could not seek visitation rights to see their grandchildren. However, today some states allow grandparents to access the courts to seek visitation rights for their grandchildren. These laws only allow grandparents the right to ask for visitation, but do not immediately give the right to visitation itself. Courts allow grandparents to seek visitation usually when there is a divorce or death of the parents, where a parent is incarcerated, a child is born out of wedlock, or the child has previously lived with the grandparent. Most courts apply a standard which considered whether granting visitation will be in the best interest of the child. The courts will look to the following factors while making their decision: the mental and physical health of the parties involved; the preference of the child (if they are old enough to have one); and if there was a prior relationship between grandchildren and grandparents. Be careful before taking the case to court, as it can cause emotional hardship to the children as well as the families involved.
Estate Planning and Chronic Illness
For people with a chronic illness, it is so important to start the estate planning process sooner rather than later. A little preparation now can prevent a lot of stress later on.
Over 133 million people in the United States live with a chronic illness, and an even higher number of people have a loved one affected by chronic illness. Careful planning can help ensure you or your loved ones’ assets will be protected in the case of their condition worsening. Good estate planning practices involve five basic tips:
- Be specific in your wishes. The more specific you are with your attorney and loved ones, the better they can assist you in your times of need.
- To ensure your finances do not collapse in the event of hospitalization, try to automate as many of your accounts as possible.
- Create a list of all important medical and emergency contacts, including your health status, any medications you are taking, and contact information for important advisors such as your lawyer, banker, or household staff.
- Equip your agents, or your attorney so that they will be able to easily monitor you and your finances to make sure no one takes advantage of your illness. The more you tell these people, the more detailed you are with them, the better prepared they will be to help you.
- Meeting frequently with your attorney or other agent can help keep them informed and break up your tasks into smaller more manageable ones.
You will find that estate planning in advance can give you peace of mind in the future and allow for your speedy and uninhibited recovery.
Did you know the Law Offices of Gale and Vallance also does estate planning? If you would like to talk to Andrew or Mathew about protecting your assets, give them a call at 714.634.1414.
Do-It-Yourself Done Right
Before you begin renovating or remodeling your home, check with your local hardware store and building departments to make sure you have the right tools to complete the job safely and legally.
Autumn is a great time to think about making changes and updates to your home, but before diving into your DIY project, it is important to do a bit of research. First and foremost, be sure of your personal and physical capabilities. If you have never tried any home renovation before, it might be best to get some initial professional information at your local hardware store, and then determine if you need to hire a contractor or can continue yourself. Keep in mind if you are your own contractor, you assume all the legal and financial responsibilities of a professional contractor. Consider attempting a smaller project first if this is your first time renovating, and then moving on to larger projects after your initial small successes. In addition to renting, borrowing, or purchasing tools, check with your local building department to see what if any applicable permits are necessary to complete your project. Take note if you are in a community with a Homeowners Association with CC&R’s or a historical district of your town, you make have even more regulations to abide by. Finally, make sure any contractor you hire and your home itself has sufficient insurance to cover the renovation and any addition to the home in the future.
View the full newsletter in PDF form: Fall 2013 Newsletter.