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Can You Draft Your Own Will?

Posted on: 1/17/2022
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Posted on: 12/27/2021

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Can You Draft Your Own Will?
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 1/17/2022

BLOGPOST_DraftYourOwnWill01172022.JPGYes! The more appropriate question is rather, should you draft your own will and estate plan. The answer to that is much more complicated and depends on the complexity of your estate and your general sophistication and understanding of the legal documents. There is no law or rule requiring an attorney to draft your plan, but improperly organized estate and legal documents are one of the most common complications after a death in the family. Retaining an attorney is one simple way to avoid that risk.

Do you need a simple will or a more complex trust?

The first key to estate planning is recognizing whether a simple plan or a more complex tax and trust plan should be utilized. Oftentimes (but not always), those with foreign assets or beneficiaries and estates with greater than $2 million in value might benefit from comprehensive trust planning. Similarly, if your beneficiaries are disabled or have other complicating factors, a Revocable Living Trust might be appropriate. If not, a simple estate plan might be sufficient to meet your needs without breaking the bank.

What goes into a simple will?

The premise of estate planning is ensuring that – after some triggering event – your loved ones and the court have a plan of action. In the case of a simple last will and testament, in the event of your passing, you will answer the following basic questions:

1) Who will execute the will and acts as the personal representative?
2) Who will be the beneficiaries of my assets?
3) Who will become the guardian of my children if both parents have passed?
4) What will happen to my remains?
5) Do I have specific items that need to go to specific individuals?
6) Do I have any other requests for how my estate should be managed after I die?

Once these questions are answered, your attorney can draft up the documents to suit your needs. The will is then signed, witnessed by two independent individuals, and notarized. This document can be registered with the court, but most often is just kept in a safe place where your family can find it at your home or elsewhere.

Do I need a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is most of the most effective estate planning tools available. In essence, you are assigning one or more people to act as your legal decision-maker in the event you become incapacitated or are no longer able to manage your affairs. Most often, these are split into two separate documents: financial/property and healthcare. While you can make these documents as specific or general as you like, the main key for most people is to ensure that these documents appoint your chosen representative and grants them broad authority to run your life and sign on your behalf.

Are Living Wills / Advanced Healthcare Directives effective?

Horror stories are less prevalent than they used to be when discussing the fate of loved ones stuck in a coma or other persistent vegetative state. That is mostly thanks to the wide adoption of estate planning. These living wills state in many scenarios that – in the event you are in a persistent vegetative state and on life support – that you will be removed from life support and allowed to pass naturally if physicians agree that nothing else can be done to restore you to life. This is a very personal decision that allows you to choose now – instead of forcing the decision on your family during this difficult time.

Should you hire an attorney?

Ultimately, this decision is up to you. For small estates where the drafter is both competent and substantially understands the requirements of estate planning, it is possible to draft your own documents. Many people choose to retain counsel to avoid risk while expediting the process. The experienced attorneys at the law office of Magnuson Lowell, PS are well versed in estate planning. Feel free to call today for a free case evaluation.

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Disc Herniations After Car Accidents
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 1/10/2022



The human spinal column is one of the most important mechanisms in the body. Besides the bone that comprises the spine itself, there are 23 vertebral discs lining the spine granting us flexibility. As we age, these discs dry out, bend, and even rupture causing many of the back problems older adults experience. Trauma – like the forces of a car accident may have a significant impact on disc degeneration. After a motor vehicle collision, ensuring proper medical care will be key towards your recovery and insurance claim.

You can think of each spinal disc as a jelly donut. There is an exterior shell called the Annulus Fibrosus that surround the core called the Nucleus Pulposus. The outer layer seals the gelatinous inside to remain hydrated. In fact, at birth, about 80% of the disc is composed of water. Desiccation (disc dryness) occurs naturally over time, which leads to the exterior shell cracking and allowing the jelly filled Nucleus to escape. This is the basis of a disc herniation.

Not all disc herniations will cause pain though. Most adults have some spinal disc degeneration. Many adults may even have substantial herniation of their spine without any symptoms. When the gelatinous center of the disc bulges out of the shell it may impact, compress, and irritate nearby nerve roots. When these conditions are met, you may experience back pain, leg pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.

Car accidents involve substantial forces on the spine in both your neck and back as it is whipped back and forth between the seatback and the seatbelt. It is possible – if the forces are sufficient – for a “fresh” spine to herniate. More likely, however, aggravations of spinal degeneration will occur. In other words, a weakened spine that is already degenerated is more likely to herniate further. Alternatively, a disc bulge that already exists might squeeze further out and impact the nerves after a collision causing pain symptoms that didn’t exist before.

Often, conservative management with physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage may be sufficient to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerve roots to reduce or remove the pain. If the pain lingers (especially if there are nerve symptoms like weakness, tingling, and numbness), MRI imaging should be used to confirm proper diagnoses and allow for a new treatment protocol. These treatments might include epidural steroid injections to help relieve stress and pressure on the disc and even surgery to clean up the bulge and physically remove the impact on the nerve roots (called a spinal discectomy).

After a collision, spinal pain should be treated seriously. Obtaining medical treatment is only half the battle as auto and medical insurance companies will use their knowledge of these systems to manipulate the claims in their favor. Personal injury attorneys have the experience to push back against these insurance violations. The experienced litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS are available to help pursue your insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. Call today for a free case evaluation.

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Splitting Holidays as a Divorcing Couple
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 1/3/2022

BLOGPOST_SplittingHolidaysDivorce01032022_s.jpgHolidays are often a stressful time for functional couples. Planning get-togethers, dealing with extended family, and organizing events set tension at high. Adding in a separation or divorce, and suddenly the holidays might be unbearable. Setting boundaries is an effective way to manage the chaos of divorce. Establishing these same guidelines for the required holiday schedule is a must for effective family planning.

While divorcing, many parties will think that they will remain collaborative and cooperative forever and on every issue. Some couples might endure in that tradition, but more likely than not, there will be a dispute raised along the way. Parties can always remain flexible with each other regarding their Parenting Plan court order but having a fallback provision is always best practice to future proof.

Here are some ways to think about the big holidays for cases in dissolution.

1. Winter Holidays

The Parenting Plan will allow the parties to individually calendar exchange times for Christmas, New Years, and Winter Break (along with do-it-yourself provisions for other holidays). In some circumstances, these limited holiday exchanges might work well, and the parties should endeavor to make them as specific as possible.

If parties (1) live near each other and (2) have a reasonable relationship, splitting the break in half tends to be much easier. Husband might take from the end of school until December 25th at 1 PM, and Wife might take until school begins in an even year. In an odd year, the roles reverse to keep things fair. This allows equal time while the kids are off from school and removes the need for constant holiday exchanges.

2. Thanksgiving

The holiday being on a Thursday each year makes Thanksgiving a bit more predictable and exchanging for that one day is a distinct possibility. To make things easier, parties will off switch even and odd years and set the holiday in one of two ways. Party A might take from end of school until Friday morning, while Party B then gets until return to school. Alternatively, the Wife might get the entire break in odd years and give her ex-partner the break in even years.

3. Mother’s and Father’s Day

To keep this one simple, parties often find it easiest to give their soon-to-be ex-spouse “their” holiday every year. The question just becomes what day and time the exchange occurs.

4. Fourth of July

As always, splitting Independent Day even and odd years is acceptable while adjusting the date and time of exchange depending on the parties’ goals. Often, leaving the 4th of July as part of the summer schedule allows the parties to “claim” it each year if they want to celebrate while leaving flexibility if it is less important.

5. Miscellaneous Three-Day Weekends

Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and other three-day weekends are included in the Parenting Plan form. While you can switch them even and odd years, it is often easier to merely tack them onto whomever has the weekend associated with the holiday. Unless the specific holidays are meaningful to your family, this type of plan reduces conflict and exchanges.
No matter your family situation, there will always be disruptions and complexities involved. Holidays are no different. Sometimes Easter and Halloween might be disputed, and other cases might ignore holidays altogether. Understanding your goals and family traditions is important, so be sure to provide your attorney with all the relevant information. The experienced family law litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, PS are ready and able to help you protect your holidays. Call today for a free case evaluation.

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