Your family members are some of the most important people in your life. You’re there for each other, financially and emotionally. Yet the ties holding families together also represent challenges, including legal ones. At some point, these difficulties can call for the guidance of a lawyer.
While involving legal professionals in your family affairs might make you sweat, their assistance can be invaluable. When crises strike, relationships change, and planning for the future becomes overwhelming, lawyers are there to help you navigate the situation. Below, we’ll take a closer look at four ways legal professionals can assist your family.
1. Advocating for Your Elders’ Rights
As your family members age, their daily living and healthcare needs will increase. These needs could exceed your capacity, prompting you to seek out assisted living or nursing home options. Although nursing homes and similar facilities provide necessary services for elders, these environments aren’t without flaws.
Sadly, these facilities are places where elder abuse and neglect can take place. No one wants to suspect or confirm it’s happening to their relative. And the realization can be upsetting, overpowering your ability to think clearly about what to do next. Being unfamiliar with elder abuse laws and how to stop or prevent mistreatment are additional obstacles.
In these cases, seeking help from nursing home abuse attorneys is one of your best recourses. They can advocate for your loved one’s rights and let you know what your legal options are. Elder abuse lawyers will explain your state’s laws and help you file a claim. They can also advise you on what to look for in a nursing home and how to spot neglect. Legal professionals protect your family members’ rights during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.
2. Handling Child Custody Matters
When parents divorce or live in separate households, it impacts the lives of their children. Where they’ll live and how they’ll split their time between parents are some of the most pressing questions. Discussions about child custody and visitation rights don’t have to turn into legal battles, but they often do. Even when there’s an amicable split in the family, talks about who gets the kids usually call for legal intervention.
Establishing custody arrangements protects parental rights, preserves child-parent relationships, and looks out for children’s best interests. Statistics show kids of divorced parents increasingly find themselves in joint custody arrangements. The chance of shared physical custody after divorce has increased from 13% to 34%. These percentages represent child custody arrangements following divorces from 1985 to 2010-2014.
The data shows custody decisions aren’t always as cut and dried as they used to be. Each parent can have mutual but competing interests in raising their child. Legal professionals are there to mediate potential disagreements so they don’t get out of hand. For children who often feel torn between divorced or legally separated parents, a smooth process minimizes the negative impacts. Ultimately, lawyers help you understand how best to navigate these sensitive situations.
3. Mediating Disputes
Changes in family relationships like divorce aren’t the only source of potential intra-family disputes. Family businesses, contested wills, and guardianships are additional examples. Say your family owns and operates a business. The line of succession and who gets what percentage of the profits could spark arguments.
For example, if the CEO is one of your parents, who will take over when they retire or pass away? If you’re an only child, the answer might seem straightforward. Either you’ll take on CEO duties or sell the business. But what if another relative challenges this assumption? Legal professionals can ensure proper documentation prevents these scenarios and advise whether certain precedents apply if there aren’t any documents.
Contested wills and guardianships are other common sources of family conflicts. Siblings may want to take each other to court over the division of a deceased parent’s assets. A parent might also leave behind a child who isn’t of legal age and needs someone to assume guardianship. While wills can dictate parents’ wishes, there are cases where siblings challenge these documents’ legitimacy. Lawyers can facilitate amicable agreements, saving families from going to court.
4. Assisting With Estate Planning
Surprisingly, most Americans do not have an estate plan. Only 33% have established estate documents, such as wills and healthcare directives. It means the majority of households are vulnerable when a death or disability happens. Without a will, assets may not remain in the family. In addition, there may be a question of who can make healthcare decisions on a family member’s behalf.
Not keeping estate documents up to date presents other dilemmas for families. You might have a will, but what if it says your ex-spouse is the executor of your estate? Is this still the person you want to oversee the division of your assets? Lawyers are there to draft and amend estate planning documents so your family isn’t left with unnecessary headaches.
Legal professionals also advise you on what estate planning documents you need. Ultimately, they can’t make your estate decisions for you. However, they can guide you on what legalities to consider. States with common-law marriages are one example. In this scenario, you may need to take additional steps to protect your assets and dependents according to your wishes.
Legal Assistance for Your Family
Images of families don’t usually include a lawyer seated at the table. Nonetheless, there are instances where they should be. Elder advocacy, child custody arrangements, family disputes, and estate planning are some of the top reasons to seek legal assistance. Without it, you can leave your family members’ best interests at risk.