Janssen Law, PLC

Des Moines Law Blog

When should you create an estate plan?

It can be difficult to justify the financial and emotional costs of estate planning under the age of thirty. It may be difficult to know what you want, the options available to you or just where to start.

There can be several significant benefits to starting this process while you are young instead of waiting until you receive your AARP card in the mail or until you have significant assets. However, there is also wisdom regarding your assets that comes with experience and time.

Debtor deems proposed Chapter 13 repayment plan unfeasible

Even in the face of overwhelming debt most in Des Moines would likely say that they would want to repay their creditors. The common perception of many that file for bankruptcy is that they simply are looking for a way of getting out of paying their bills. Yet the discharge of debts only comes with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy; those filing under Chapter 13 create a payment plan with the court to pay back their creditors over several years. Creditors in these cases are allowed to review proposed payment plans to determine whether they are feasible and offer feedback regarding their own interests. 

Sometimes, that feedback may be that a plan (as proposed) will simply not work. Such is the case in the ongoing ordeal of actress Lindsey Lohan's mother. Reports say that she is over $1 million in debt yet brings in an income of just over $2200 every month. She recently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and submitted a proposed repayment plan for approval, yet one of her creditor's rejected it. Its reason for doing so was two-fold: first, it stated that she failed to account for the total amount that she owes in the plan. Second, it believes that in her current financial situation, repaying the debt in a timely manner is impossible. 

The benefits of adding a living will to your estate plan

Estate planning is an important endeavor for Iowa readers and residents, regardless of income and estate size. This process allows you to decide what will happen to your assets, money and all types of property after you pass away, but there is more you can do with your estate plan. In addition to a basic will, you may benefit from the protections provided by a living will. 

More than just your financial security, a living will can allow you to express certain wishes you have about medical care you may need in the future. Through this and other related estate planning documents, your loved ones will clearly understand what kind of care you do or do not want in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Life is unpredictable, and having a living will can give you peace of mind. 

Will you lose your home if you file for bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy protection is something many Iowa residents do when they need to dig themselves out of debt or get a fresh financial start. If you count yourself among those considering doing so, you may be wondering how filing will affect other aspects of your life, and whether you will have to surrender your home at some point during bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the Washington Post, filing for bankruptcy does not automatically mean you are going to have to say goodbye to your house, condo or what have you. Instead, whether you will have to give up your home depends on several circumstances, such as the type of bankruptcy case you file. Most people facing situations similar to yours end up filing either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcies are typically for lower-income earners, while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy helps people who have the ability to pay back at least part of their debts restructure them to make them more manageable.

3 ways to reduce estate tax

As someone currently working on your Iowa estate plan, chances are, one of your main objectives involves leaving as much of your hard-earned assets behind for your loved ones as you possibly can. While there are various methods you can rely on to accomplish this, one method involves minimizing the amount of taxes your loved ones will have to pay on your estate. At Janssen Law, PLC, we are well-versed in the various methods you can use to reduce estate taxes, and we have helped many clients accomplish these and related goals.

According to U.S. News & World Report, one way you can reduce the amount of taxes assessed on your estate involves placing your assets into a trust. Unlike assets you leave behind in, say, a traditional will, assets you enter into a trust do not come into play when determining the entire value of your estate. In other words, you can leave your loved ones assets in a trust and know that, by doing so, you are reducing the amount of taxes owed on the estate.

What criteria are used to determine alimony?

If you are going through a divorce in Iowa, you probably will come to the point where the court will consider alimony or spousal support. In determining whether you will receive support, the court will look into several factors about your relationship and marriage.

According to the Iowa Legislature, the court considers the current finances of you and your ex-spouse. It will look into each of your earning capacity. This may include checking into your educational backgrounds and work histories. The court will consider who worked during the marriage and how finances were handled. It will also think about the standard of living during the marriage and how well each of you can maintain that after the divorce is final.

A walk through the adoption process

At Janssen Law, we understand that, for Iowa families seeking to adopt a child, the process can involve a maelstrom of emotions, including excitement and confusion. To further complicate the matter, depending on the type of adoption that you are seeking, the steps of the process will look slightly different. For example, some of the steps in the process of adopting a child previously unknown to you are not required if you are adopting a stepchild or a close relative. In other cases, the court may combine some of the steps that would ordinarily happen separately.

Two of the most important steps in the traditional adoption process include the home study and the termination of parental rights of the biological parent(s). The purpose of the home study is to evaluate the home environment where the child will be living, as well as to gauge whether you and your spouse, if applicable, will be suitable parents. The home study is typically one of the first steps taken to adopt a child, although it is usually not required in cases where the adoptee is a close relative.

Could I declare bankruptcy on my student loans?

Your student loans would probably not be eligible for discharge, regardless of whether you intend to pursue it through bankruptcy or another means of debt relief. That does not mean it is impossible to handle student debts. There might some avenues available to you if you are truly unable to address your loans, such as proving to an Iowa court that you have a unique situation.

Unfortunately, overwhelming student debt is far from unique; total discharge is, therefore, extraordinarily rare. Your other options could include prioritizing your debts or deferring your loans. Please read on for a brief explanation of these two alternatives.

No kids? You still need an estate plan.

Having kids may have never been in the cards for you. You may have known from an early age that you did not want to be a parent, or certain circumstances later in life may have made it impossible to have kids. Whatever the case, you accepted and enjoyed your life even though you never took on the role of a parent.

Because you do not have kids to pass assets on to or to name guardians for, you may think that you do not need to go through with estate planning. However, taking this step is still important even if you do not have children. You may still have wishes for your assets, and without a plan, they could up in the hands of an undesired person.

When are guardianships in Iowa terminated?

A guardianship over a person in the state of Iowa may be necessary for a host of reasons. A minor child may need a guardian in lieu of a parent due to the death of a parent or the inability of a parent to care for the child. A disabled person might require a guardianship to make critical financial and personal decisions. However, not all guardianships are permanent. Some guardianships come to a natural conclusion, while others may be terminated if certain factors come into play.

According to Iowa law, a disabled person can be released from the authority of a guardian when the court determines that the individual is no longer incompetent. The ward can petition a court to end the guardianship. Once the petition is filed, the court will set the date for a hearing. At the hearing, the ward will present evidence of his or her competency. The court will then hear from the opposing side. The opposing side must provide convincing evidence that the ward is still incompetent and requires a guardian.

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