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New York Family Law Blog

Estate planning mistakes can be avoided with careful preparation

It is estimated that less than half of all adults have documents in place that state how their heirs will be provided for after their demise. For those with minor children, only around 35 percent have undertaken estate planning. Unfortunately, without these vital documents in place, the state will determine how New York residents' assets and property will be disbursed after they have died.

Once one has decided to draw up estate plans, the next issue is ensuring that they are crafted correctly. According to financial planners, there are several common errors that can be made during the planning process. The first is to have no plans in place. If there is significant wealth involved, then the lack of plans could cost heirs in the form of estate taxes. In addition, not having either a power of attorney or a health care directive in place could mean that one's business cannot be conducted or health care wishes will not be carried out.

Supreme Court in another state affirms same-sex parentage rights

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 that recognized marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples did not address every family law issue. Recently, the Supreme Court in another state has followed similar rulings in New York that have affirmed the parental rights of same-sex residents. The most recent case addressed the questionable rights of anonymous sperm donors.

Recently, a decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court concerned whether a same-sex spouse could be given legal recognition to her former spouse's child that was conceived and born during their marriage. The couple had wed before 2015; therefore, their union was not legally recognized in their state. They divorced after the Supreme Court ruling, and the question of validity was no longer an issue. However, the mother's former spouse was still seeking legal parental rights to their child. 

Proposed changes that may have helped reduce EB-5 fraud rejected

A handful of lawmakers worked to propose changes to one visa program that is continually up for elimination. The proposed changes were offered in an effort to reduce the numbers of EB-5 fraud allegations while helping to bring stability to the program. There have been many New York projects that have been completed based on investors who have benefited from this visa.

The most recent budget passed by Congress included provisions for extending the EB-5 visa through September of this year. However, there have been no changes to the program though some congressional leaders attempted to bring reforms. There were many that feared such changes would bring an end to the program altogether.

Is it time for your same-sex spouse to apply for a green card?

Since the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country, many more New York couples decided to take the plunge and enjoy all of the federal benefits afforded to any married couple. For some, this includes making use of federal immigration laws that allow same-sex spouses who came from another country to seek a green card and eventually citizenship.

Even with the uncertain times in which immigrants currently live here in the United States, a non-U.S. citizen still has rights regardless of sexual orientation.

Some adoption agencies refusing same-sex adoption candidates

The decision to adopt is never one that is entered into without much thought and preparation. No matter whether the potential parents are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, the end goal is to provide a child in need with a loving and nurturing family. Though New York has its own laws regarding same-sex adoption, there are still agencies that oppose these parents.

Recently, it came to light that two adoption agencies in particular are actively opposing applications from parents who are in a same-sex relationship. Both agencies claim that such adoptions run counter to their deeply-held religious views. One, which is operated by Catholic Social Services, claims that it was forced to shutter one of its sites after it was being forced to violate its religious beliefs and allow gay parents to adopt. In reality, the agency elected to close rather than allow these parents to provide a home for a child.

Estate planning is not one and done; reviews can prevent problems

Many people dread the idea of contemplating what happens after they have passed. However, even if one has settled on his or her final wishes and has a plan in place, this is not a one-and-done task because plans often need updating whenever there are changes to tax laws or one experiences major life changes. New York residents who need assistance with estate planning may wish to consult with professionals.

First and foremost, it is recommended that all estate planning includes a will and advanced directives for medical and financial decisions. Furthermore, these documents may need to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they reflect one's current situation and that the individuals who were chosen as executors and heirs still reflect one's current wishes. In addition, if these plans do not include instructions on how to distribute personal effects, then this leaves open the possibility of loved ones contesting the estate plans. 

Man faces charges of EB-5 fraud over false investment opportunity

For many foreign nationals, the dream of obtaining a visa to live in the United States seems to be nearly impossible. Though there are a variety of visa programs, quotas and other restrictions make the process difficult at times. Unfortunately, there are times when an opportunity seems to present itself but ends in disappointment when a developer winds up facing accusations of committing EB-5 fraud. Though there are many projects in New York that have come to fruition through this investment visa, not every opportunity is a sound investment.

Recently, a developer was charged with committing wire fraud when he attempted to secure investments from foreign nationals through the EB-5 visa program. This particular visa allows investors the opportunity to apply for a green card, provided that they meet the minimum investment requirements and the project meets the federal guidelines -- including providing employment opportunities for citizens. This particular individual purportedly touted a new business venture that could convert carbon materials into electricity and other fuel sources.

Calls for changes in immigration law and same-sex families

The State department has been accused of being slow to respond to the changes in the marriage laws that gave legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples. According to those committed to reforming the immigration laws regarding same-sex families, the federal agency has refused to adapt some of its laws regarding how citizenship is conferred to children born abroad. There are likely many New York residents who have struggled to obtain coveted documents due to outdated regulations.

Two civil suits have been filed against the State Department in response to its regulations. According to the federal agency, the Immigration and Nationality Act states that a biological connection between a parent and child must be present before a child can qualify for a U.S. passport. However, the courts have seemed to dispute this theory in light of a few rulings concerning previous challenges.

Update: U.S. Supreme Court refuses same-sex paternity case

In January of this year, it was reported in this blog that a woman had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case of paternity rights for a divorced gay couple. The justices recently announced that they were declining to hear this case, though they did not provide any additional comments as to why it was refused. Though New York has laws regarding paternity rights in matters relating to artificial insemination as well as same-sex marriages, the decision may be seen as a victory for gay and state rights.

The case concerns a former couple who wed in 2008 and decided to have a child through artificial insemination in 2010. They filed a joint parenting agreement and also drafted mirror wills that recognized each other as the legal parent of their son. In 2011, the biological mother of the child left the relationship and claimed she was the sole parent of the child.

Same-sex couple estate-planning issues: What if you get sick?

After winning the right to marry in 2015, many same-sex couples gained rights previously only available to married couples of the opposite sex. Tax breaks, health insurance and many other benefits of marriage made life easier for numerous couples overnight.

However, many same-sex couples make the mistake of assuming that just because they are married that their spouses automatically have the right to make health care decisions on their behalf should they not be able to at some point in time. This may not always be the case, and it may be a good idea to prepare for that possibility.