Tag Archives: Patricia Tichenor

Pets are Family Members Too

Pets are Family Members Too - NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Pets are Family Members Too
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

When setting up a trust or will, many people overlook the fact that their pets are members of the family too. We know that their lifespans are generally not as long as humans, so we don’t think about what might happen to them should they outlive us.

As such, their long-term needs must be considered in the event that you are unable or unavailable to care for them due to disability or death — especially considering that some pets, such as parrots, can outlive their owners by many, many years.

In Virginia, you can include provisions in your Will or Medical Power of Attorney, or even create a separate Pet Trust document to provide for your pets. Items to be considered include daily caretaker roles, instructions for medications and vet care, special feeding instructions, final burial instructions (such as whether you want your pets at death to be cremated and placed near your grave), etc. Consider leaving a stipend to support your pet, directives that your regular vet continues to provide medical care for your pets, provisions for continued payment of premiums for pet insurance, and much more.

Keep in mind also that pets need immediate care in the short term should anything happen to you, so line up one or two friends or family members who can serve as temporary caregivers. Make sure they know how to access your home and have instructions on how to properly care for each of your pets along with the name of your veterinarian. Carry an “alert card” in your wallet providing their names and contact information.

Unfortunately, many pets end up in kill-shelters following the disability or death of a pet owner due to there being no plan in place for the pets, rather than the pet being placed with a friend, family member or even a no-kill animal foster or rescue facility.

Our pets are precious and beloved members of our family and are perhaps more vulnerable than any other family member to mistreatment or lack of proper care in the occurrence of their owners’ disability or death. Don’t let the unimaginable happen to your pet. Set up provisions for their care now, before disaster strikes.

To create legal directives for the ongoing care of your pet, contact the attorneys, Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi, of the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We can teach you more about how we can create or update your estate plan in order to help you protect this very important member of your family.

Why Parenting Agreements Are So Essential

NOVA-Estate-Lawyers_Why-Parenting-Agreements-Are-So-Essential

Why Parenting Agreements Are So Essential
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Even though you are divorced or divorcing your significant other, you both will remain tied together as parents for the rest of your lives. That means that working together for the best interest of your child or children, no matter what your own differences are, as the Honorable Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill wisely reminds parents in his courtroom: “You are getting a divorce from each other…you are not getting a divorce from your children.”

One way to help ensure a better outcome for your offspring is to establish a written parenting agreement. In this agreement, you lay out the terms for sharing parental rights and duties and how each parent will maintain a strong bond with and play a significant role in your children’s lives. Typical agreements include terms about where the child will live (physical custody), visitation schedules, legal custody, schedules for holidays, birthdays and vacations, contact with other relatives, and how changes to the agreement will be handled.

Avoid the Judge
It is almost always best for parents to work out a parenting agreement for their children outside the courtroom. If, however, an agreement cannot be reached, a judge may be called upon to make a ruling. Delegating these important decisions to a judge who knows very little about you or your children, even after hours of court hearings, is rarely in your children’s best interest.

Consider the Child’s Point of View
Unless a parent is truly unfit, parenting agreements should not be used to marginalize one parent’s role in favor of the other. Keep in mind that, until your separation and divorce, your children have had the opportunity to see each parent on a daily basis or during weekends. You must consider how to limit the impact the divorce will have on a child’s interaction with each parent and avoid alienation of either parent, whether directly or indirectly.

Limit Legal Labels
Consider using ordinary language in your agreement rather than lawyer-speak or labels. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to refer to one parent as “the primary physical custodian” while the other is merely “the visiting parent.” Instead, you could use the term “parenting time” when referring to the time each of you will have with your children, even if it is necessary to identify just one of your homes as the “home base” for purposes of school registration and attendance or claiming your children on tax returns.

Be Flexible
Create a framework that allows for flexibility with each other. Ask yourself: “If I was the one being asked to agree to this parenting schedule, would I think it was fair and in the best interests of the children?” As children grow up and develop interests, remain flexible to changes in parenting schedules; you may not be able to keep to the original “typical custodial/visitation schedule.” Consider also including a “Right of First Refusal” that allows for a parent who misses schedule parenting time to make up dates – assuming that the missed parenting time was due to circumstances outside that parent’s control that caused a need for rescheduling.

Many divorcing parents are able to work out parenting agreements between themselves. Others rely on legal counsel or working with a mediator. As a last resort, a few must submit to a judge to determine division of parental responsibilities and visitation. The resulting decision of a judge can and often does frustrate both parents as being not ideal for themselves or their children – not to mention the thousands of dollars spent to obtain that decision from a judge that could otherwise have been spent on the needs of your children.

Whether you draw up your own agreement, or have questions regarding a parenting agreement, we welcome your contacting at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. for guidance. Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are here to assist in drafting an agreement that balances the concerns surrounding your divorce while ensuring your children best interests are not harmed in the end. Please contact us today.

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

When people talk about retirement income planning, they are most often referring to the assets they have in their IRA and 401(k) plans, and how they will withdraw that money, transfer it, or move it from place to place.

What they need to be careful of, however, is doing it properly. If done incorrectly, it could cost a person dearly in taxes. Here are some points to remember:

Remember Required Minimum Distributions

When taking IRA distributions, a minimum withdrawal is required once a person reaches an age that is six months past his or her 70th birthday. The penalty for not taking enough out is substantial: it can cost 50% on the under-distributed amount.

Defer Taking Inherited Money
When inheriting money, one might be tempted to take the money in cash, but that is not the best solution. It is better to spread out distribution of that money over a term of several years. This will ease the potential tax burden and create a stream of income.

Heed Deadlines when Transferring Money

When the lure of a higher interest rate or can’t-pass-up opportunity arises, people should be careful about how they transfer their assets. If they transfer funds themselves, by taking a distribution from one savings plan and rolling it into another, they must complete the transaction within 60 days of the distribution or risk a 20% mandatory withholding on the amount withdrawn, a penalty for early liquidation of the account. This penalty is collected by the retirement plan administrator and sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, funds can only be transferred once per year.

A better way to transfer money is to have it sent via direct transfer from one investment company to another. This method carries no withholding, no amount limits, and is a much-more hands-off procedure for a casual investor who is looking for a better return.

Contact Your Attorney

To avoid making costly mistakes with your retirement income, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning issues, like Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. Contact us today.

–excerpted from MarketWatch, “Tax Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Retirement,” Andrea Coombes, Feb. 21, 2012.

Divorce 101 in Virginia

Divorce 101 in Virginia

Divorce 101 in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Nobody likes divorce, but sometimes getting a divorce becomes a necessity, and apart from the emotional impact divorce imposes on families, there are a number of legal issues that need to be addressed. This is why it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney, like the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C, from the start of the separation and divorce process. Here are some of the basic topics to consider, or what we call Divorce 101:

Grounds
To get a divorce in Virginia, grounds, or the reason the court should grant a divorce, need to be established. There are five grounds in Virginia that include: adultery or sodomy outside marriage; conviction of a felony; desertion and cruelty; one-year separation (with minor children); or six-month separation (no minor children) with a signed Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.

Legal Separation
In Virginia, “separation” occurs when at least one spouse forms the intention to permanently separate from the other spouse and ceases to act as a married couple with his/her spouse to the spouse and the rest of the world around them. When this occurs, they are considered separated even if they have not yet signed a formal separation agreement. This typically can include living in separate bedrooms and possibly separate parts of the marital home and living as merely a roommate. It can but does not require that one spouse physically move out of the marital home. Upon separation, spouses should not engage in activities that could be construed to be them acting as a married couple, such as taking vacations together, expecting on spouse to cook or clean, etc.

Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is a contract between the parties that spells out each person’s rights and responsibilities during the separation through the divorce, and should include issues surrounding child support, custody and visitation; spousal support; and division of debts and marital property. The separation agreement aids in determining the terms of your separation and divorce, otherwise, a judge may decide them. It is in the best interest of all parties to outline an amicable separation agreement as soon as possible.

Child Custody and Visitation
To determine child custody and visitation, the courts look at the best interests of the child or children, taking into account a number of factors including: safety; maintaining meaningful and positive relationships with parents; minimal disruption to the child’s life; relationships with parents, siblings and family members; and a child’s preference if they are old enough to express an opinion. Parents are encouraged to work out a custody and visitation schedule and submit it to the judge.

A variety of visitation options can be considered, including “bird-nest” co-parenting. This allows the child(ren) to remain in the family home while the parents rotate in and out like birds alighting on the nest. When not living in the home, the alternate parent must reside in a separate residence. This approach works best with co-parenting agreements and with both parents living in close proximity to the family home.

Property Division
Since Virginia is not a community property state, each spouse does not automatically receive one half of the other spouse’s property. Instead, property is classified as “marital” or “separate.” Separate property refers to property acquired prior to the marriage, inherited or gifted, or proceeds from the sale of separate property. Marital property refers to property titled in both spouse’s names, and non-separate property acquired during the marriage. Property divisions can be outlined in the separation agreement, otherwise, the courts may divide property.

Spousal Support
The courts will generally not award spousal support to the party who has committed adultery so long as that adultery is proven by clear and convincing evidence to have taken place within less than 5 years from the date of separation and the non-adulterous spouse has not engaged in a sexual relationship with the unfaithful spouse after learning of the adultery. If denying spousal support could result in severe harm (sometimes called “manifest injustice”) to the spouse seeking it, even an adulterous spouse will be entitled to spousal support.

Contact Your Attorney
This post outlines the very basic elements of Divorce 101, but since each divorce is unique, it is always wise to contact an attorney. Each party should engage an attorney separately; we do not and cannot represent both sides in a divorce issue.

At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C, attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law issues, including separation and divorce, please contact us today.

Child Custody and Relocation

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C Virginia

Child Custody and Relocation
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

When two parents divorce, the issue isn’t just between the two; it involves the children. Mistakenly, many couples think that once the custody issues have been settled it will be smooth sailing from then on. That is not normally the case because many other issues can crop up as life’s circumstances change.

One of the more complicated issues we encounter at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor is when one parent wants or needs to relocate out of state because of a job offer or marriage to someone who lives in another state, or a parent who will work outside the state where the existing custody order is issued.

A parent who wants to relocate must establish that the relocation independently benefits the child. There is no “unity of interests” approach in Virginia; just because a move benefits a parent does not mean it will automatically be deemed to benefit the child.

No court can prohibit a parent from moving. If he or she wants to move, it is a matter of their constitutional rights to associate with and live wherever and with whomever he or she likes. However, courts do retain the right to control whether the child moves along with that parent.

Factors a Court Considers in Relocation Impact
There is no simple black or white solution. To consider whether the relocation is in the child’s best interests, the courts look at these factors:

If the relocation will substantially interfere with the non-moving parent’s ability to maintain a strong bond with the child as it exists at present, the judge may not agree that it is in the best interest of the child to be relocated with the moving parent. Courts also consider the reason the relocating parent wants to move with factors that include being closer to extended family, employment opportunities and economic advantages.

Courts can also take into consideration the existing relationship between the remaining parent and the child. If there is little or no contact, judges are more likely to side with the relocating parent and the non-relocating parent will have less success in blocking a child’s relocation.

It should be noted also that under Virginia law, the burden of proving that the relocation will be in the best interest of the child lies with the relocating parent.

If it is deemed that the move is in the best interest of the child, modifications to the existing custody arrangement need to be put into place. These can include weekends, summer vacations, or other variations that allow longer visitation times in exchange for the reduction in frequency as not enabled by the farther distance.

Contact Your Attorney
At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law and estate planning to assist people with family law issues. If you are seeking to relocate with your child or attempting to block a parental relocation,  contact us today.

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