Author: Thyden Gross and Callahan LLP

Who Won This Argument?

by James J. Gross

“Alice is mad at Wayne,” said my wife as we were driving to work together yesterday.

“Oh?  What did he do to make her mad?” I asked.  Alice and Wayne are friends of ours.

“He told her that it must be nice to go out with her friends for lunch while he works to pay for it all.”

“Was he serious or joking?” I said.

“Joking, but in a mean way.  He’s always making little digs at her like that.” my wife replied.

“Did he say it in front of her friends?”

“Yes.  She wrote him an email telling him how much it hurt her,” my wife responded.  “I told her to send him the article on how much it would cost to replace a stay at home mom with private services.”

“It sounds like what he is really trying to say is they need to sit down and work out a budget and agree on how their resources should be allocated,” I said in my most reasonable lawyer voice.  I was trying to find some middle ground to stand on.

“No!” said my wife.  “He calls it his money, but it is really their money.  She gave up a successful career for him.”

“Perhaps he is just using the wrong words to express himself,” I answered.  “What he means is he earns the money that belongs to both of them and he would like to share in the decision of how it is spent.”

“She doesn’t spend any money!” exclaimed my wife.

I told her, “But you just said she went out to lunch with her friends.  Maybe he would like that money  to go into their pension plan.”

‘Their pension plan is fully funded.  He makes lots of money and she spends very little of it,” my wife explained.

“Well, your view is that he’s the bad guy, but I see both sides of it.”

Readers, what do you think?

 

Read This Before Renovating Your Home

by James J. Gross

Who knew that you could risk divorce by renovating your home? It seems the stress of making design and decorating decisions in sync can lead to bickering and put strain on marriages. Difficulties in renovating their own home, led Adi Tatarko and her husband, Alon Cohen to start a design and decorating website called Houzz.com.

“We started running surveys in the early days and got feedback from our community, and that was so prominent. And 12% did say, we did consider a divorce during that process,” said Tatarko, as reported by John Patrick Pullen.

She said it was easier running Houzz together than it was renovating their home together.

Women Are Happier with Less Attractive Husbands

by James J. Gross

A man should be taller, older, heavier, uglier, and hoarser than his wife.” ― E. W. Howe

Is your wife more attractive than you?  Don’t worry.  She’s probably happier that way.

A study by Florida State and Southern Methodist Unversities found that the wives with more attractive spouses felt pressure to obsess over their execise and diets.

Women with less attractive husbands, on the other hand, tested as happier and more appreciated.

Tabloid Calls Divorcing Princess a Gold Digger

by James J. Gross

Gold digger: a woman who becomes or tries to become romantically involved with a rich man in order to get money and gifts from him.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

A Belgium tabloid has called Princess Tessy of Luxembourg a gold digger after she filed for divorce from Prince Louis.  What do you think?

The couple met while they were serving in the army in Kosovo. They have been married for 11 years and have two children.  The Princess spent her time raising the children and working for charities in Britain on behalf of young women and teenage girls.

She filed for divorce on the basis of the Prince’s unreasonable behaviour.  Her attorney said she made a fair and sensible proposal for a settlement and it was rejected.  The terms of the proposal are restricted by the court.

The Princess lose the title of princess and royal highness once the divorce becomes final.  She also stands to lose the home in London, where she lived with Prince Louis and raised their children.

 

Special Needs Trusts

by Michael F. Callahan

The Problem 

If you are disabled or elderly  you may not qualify for certain government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid , because your income or “countable assets” are too high.   Generally your home, furnishings, vehicle and certain other specific types of property are not counted, while  bank and financial accounts and the like are counted.

If you are already qualified, and your countable assets increase, you can lose your benefits.  For example, a parent or grandparent leaves assets to a loved one receiving government benefits and this disqualifies the loved one from receiving the benefits.  This can happen when the onset of disability is after the Will or other planning is done, or if the effect of the inheritance on government benefits is simply not addressed.  It can result in the recipient having to “spend down” the entire inheritance, i.e. pay out-of-pocket what the government benefit used to pay for.  When the entire inheritance is gone, the recipient is again eligible for benefits, but in the meantime  the entire inheritance has been wasted.

The Solution

Set up a special needs trust.  Special needs trusts, also called supplemental needs trusts, are trusts  designed to permit the beneficiary to enjoy the benefits of the assets owned by the trust without those assets being counted when qualifying for SSI or Medicaid.

A trust is an arrangement under which one person, the trustee, holds legal title to assets for the benefit of one or more other persons (the beneficiary or beneficiaries).  The trust agreement will contain  directions regarding administration, investment and distribution of trust assets.

First-Party Self-Settled Special Needs Trusts

Trusts funded with the disabled person’s own money are called first party special needs trusts.  They must meet strict requirements of federal law.  The trust must be irrevocable and established before age 65.  The trust must be for a disabled person and the trust assets can only be used for that person’s  benefit.  The trust must include a “payback” requirement.  That means any assets in the trust at termination, often at the death of the disabled person, must be paid to the state up to the amount of government benefits provided.  These trusts are often used when a disabled person comes into money, for example, upon settlement of a personal injury suit.

Third Party Supplemental Needs Trusts

Third party supplemental needs trusts are the solution to the inheritance problem.  Rather than leaving assets outright, the parent or grandparent leaves them to a trustee who receives them with the instructions to provide for the loved one’s needs – those that the government program does not cover – generally anything other than food and shelter.

It is important that the trustee has some discretion and is not required to distribute any income or principal to the beneficiary.  Also, the disabled person cannot have the right to demand payment of any income or principal of the trust from the trustee.  The trustee’s discretion and the beneficiary’s lack of a right to demand distributions are what keeps the trust assets from being countable resources under the SSI and Medicaid rules.

So long as the trust document provides trustee discretion and does not entitle the beneficiary to demand distributions, the trust can be very flexible otherwise.  These trusts are not subject to the strict federal requirements applicable to self-settled trusts.  For example, there can be other beneficiaries and their need not be a pay-back requirement.  Because the future is uncertain, every Will should contain  supplemental needs trust provisions that are triggered whenever a gift would be made under the Will directly to a person eligible for government benefits such as SSI or Medicaid.

Conclusion

Government benefits can be very important for the safety and security of the disabled and the elderly.  However, they are not very generous.  Through proper planning, a parent or other donor can ensure that their gift enhances the recipient’s quality of life and adds to  government benefits, rather than eliminating or reducing the government benefit.

 

Therapy

by James J. Gross

“Why don’t men want to go to therapy?” my wife asked me as we rode to work together.  Shes works in an office three blocks away from mine.

“John Grey, in Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus,” I told her, “says that women solve their problems cooperatively with friends, while men solve their problems alone.  To ask for help would be a sign of weakness in a man.”

“That’s idiotic,” she retorted.  “We are all on the same planet, which is Earth.”

“Yes, but we have evolved differently.”  Rob Becker in Defending the Caveman says that prehistoric women would gather spices, fruits and vegetables, and had to communicate and trade information with one another.  Prehistoric men, on the other hand, had to be silent while stalking the woolly mammoths.

“If women have a better idea,” said my wife, “men ought to try it.”

“Men are not  just women in men’s clothing,” I replied, “They are different.”

When I got to my office, my first appointment was in the waiting room.   I escorted her to my office.  “What seems to be the problem?” I asked.

“My husband doesn’t want to go to therapy.”

Don’t Touch That Thermostat!

by James J. Gross

So goodbye, goodbye
I’m gonna leave you now
And here’s the erason why
I like to sleep with the wiodwopen
And you kee0 the window closed
So goodbye
Goodbye
Gooobye

It turns out that thermostat settings are one of the biggest causes of conflict in marriages.  The wrong setting can cause one spouse to be too cold or too hot, and result in talks of divorce.

It’s not just mental either.  Scientists say that women have a lower body mass to surface area, slower resting metabolism and less muscle mass than men.  Therefore, they may feel more comfortable with warmer temperatures.

Financial considerations might come into play as well.  In the summertime, you can save between one to three percent on your air conditioning bill for each degree you set the thermostat over 72 degrees.