Happy New Year to y’all! We, here at the Cardwell Firm, pray for good fortune and blessings to all of you in 2020.

On January 1, 2020, all Mississippians were impacted by the enactment of the Mississippi Guardianship and Conservatorship Act (commonly referred to as the “Guard and Protect (GAP) Act”).

“Well hold on just a minute there Bub, I’ve got no need for a guardianship or conservatorship! Doesn’t that have sumthin’ to do with kids, or old folks?”

Well, yes indeed it does. If you are interested in a very informative synopsis of the GAP Act, its features, and how it differs from the old Mississippi law concerning guardianships and conservatorships, please visit my friends over at the Land Title Association of Mississippi (LTAMS) here:

Dad reading a book to toddler

The new and improved GAP Act will go a long way towards curbing fraud and exploitation of Mississippi citizens that need the utmost protection (children and our elders). It is the result of a two year intensive study of the Mississippi Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship (established by our MS Supreme Court) and featured some of the best leaders and minds in this field.

However, with greater accountability and oversight, comes greater cost. And by cost I mean legal fees. The old version of guardianships and conservatorships were by no means inexpensive due to the cost of pleadings and court appearances. Operations under the new GAP Act are still in their infancy, but court costs also went up on January 1, 2020. Attorneys will be required to dedicate more time to each guardianship and conservatorship, and, accordingly, they will cost more.

But this isn’t a summary or overview of the new GAP Act. This is to instruct you how to minimize the impact that the new GAP Act may have on you, my dear fellow member of the body politic. That’s right, this blog post is intended to SAVE YOU MONEY and TIME.

“How’s that, Bub? I still don’t see how this affects me.”

Tough sell, I get it. Alright ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I am human adult residing in Mississippi? (If Yes, Proceed to #2)
  2. Am I married? (If Yes, you need this; If No, proceed to #3)
  3. Do I have living parents, kids, childless aunts/uncles, etc.? (If Yes, you need this).

In conclusion, you or someone you know/love really needs this information.

Alright, let’s dispense with the suspense. What you NEED is a combined durable and medical power of attorney. If you make this your mission, should you choose to accept it, you will likely never need a guardianship opened to manage your person and medical needs; nor will you need a conservatorship to manage your financial affairs. Oh, you will also need someone trustworthy to appoint as your attorney-in-fact (so that a court does not later have to step-in and regulate). We can customize your combined durable and medical power of attorney so that it only take effect once you are declared (by medical doctors) incapable of making decisions on your own. And/Or you can name a successor attorney-in-fact so that you are covered in case something happens to your first choice.

If this information was for you, then please understand that, with a little advanced planning, you can cover yourself for the remainder of your life, and save yourself and your family thousands of dollars avoiding a future guardianship or conservatorship.

So like the title says, avoid the GAP, get yourself an attorney-in-fact!

A Resolution for Peace of Mind in 2017

With 2017 upon us, it is a good time to evaluate your familial affairs. You may also be pondering, should I get a gym membership? Should I call my parents more? Or should I take a few simple steps to ensure that my spouse and children are secure in the event of the unexpected?

The answer to all of the above, of course, is a resounding yes. The gym membership is a no brainer (pot, meet kettle); your mom and dad would always want to hear from you more often (we have text messages now so there is no excuse); and in all likelihood, your family status changed in 2016.

“But, why do I need a Will? I don’t own anything I could even give away, so why spend money protecting it?” A Last Will and Testament does not just determine who gets your sweet mixed CD collection (yes, we, like you, still cling to a few keepers) or determine who gets to lay claim to your Beanie Babies collection (millennials). A Will also can be instrumental in determining who raises your children should you be unable to. That’s pretty important, right? Not to mention, your Will can save a lot of time, headache, and attorneys’ fees by waiving a formal accounting of your estate, and allowing your Executor to serve without bond (you have a hard enough time getting your brother Tommy to go halvsies on a meal; you think he will be thrilled about posting bond to administer your estate?). Not to mention, if you don’t have a Will, the Court has to determine your heirs if your estate is ever probated. That means additional publications, additional court appearances, and additional time from start to finish. Do them all a favor and make it easy for them.

“Alright, I hear you on the Will; it makes sense and all, but I KNOW I’ve got at least a few more good years in me, so I can put that off until 2019 at least.” We hear you. We’ve been there ourselves. You are hardheaded and invincible. Some days we still hear the whispers of youth as well. So, skip the Will (*DISCLAIMER: this next bit goes against all sound and reasonable legal advice, but its not like we can sign the Will for you, and this is a free country…so…) and make sure that the deed to your house lists you and your spouse as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety. If you don’t see those magic words in your deed, and you are married, and you actually like your spouse, then you have a problem. Trust us, this will save a LOT of headache in the future. You want your 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter to each own a 1/3 interest of your house? Well that’s what might happen unless your deed lists both you and your spouse as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety. Having your deed titled this way can also be an avenue to circumvent probate in the event one spouse continues on in this cruel, cruel world. Have you checked? Are you good? We’ll wait. Come on now, it will take less than 5 minutes to make certain. If so, you can stop here. If you have life insurance and your deed is properly titled, you can check bare minimum estate planning off your bucket list. IF NOT, you might want to give us a call. We can fix you up lickety split.

Ok time for the bonus material. So you earned your bare minimum estate-planning badge. Great. Another inexpensive estate planning tool, and it’s not newfangled, is to have a Power of Attorney drafted. This concept may be more useful as your parents hit their golden years, but quite honestly, it’s really a good idea for younger folks as well. A Power of Attorney grants unto the person of your choosing (don’t pick Tommy unless you have no other choice) the right to act in your place in the event you are unable to. Let’s say you wake up one morning and decide to go on a 6-month spirit quest down the Appalachian Trail. Sounds delightful, right? Well before you embark, it might be in your best interests to grant Power of Attorney to someone. You know, in case, something important comes up while you are centering yourself. The great thing about a Power of Attorney is that you can think of it like a blank canvas. It can be for a limited amount of time (6 months sounds about right here). You can grant or leave out whatever powers you so choose. Going back to our example, maybe you want to grant Tommy a Medical Power of Attorney in case you experience severe cholera whilst hiking the Trail. That way he can authorize your medical treatment in the event you are found severely dehydrated in the Georgia foothills. BUT, maybe Tommy has a bad habit of sneaking off to the horse races in Shreveport, so naturally you don’t want to grant him carte blanche access to your finances in the form of a Durable Power of Attorney. “But dude, I can double your money. I’m practically the horse whisperer of Jones County.” No thanks, Tommy. No thanks.

Our flat fee pricing for estate planning is listed on our website HERE. Don’t need a whole package? No worries, we have you covered. We can tailor your needs to your budget and promise we will not “upsell” you on the more expensive options (though you might get a side eye if its justified; don’t be like Tommy). We are here to help you achieve simple peace of mind and prosperity in 2017.

Merry Christmas!!

As we celebrate the many joys inherent in the holiday season, we at the Cardwell Firm are truly blessed to advocate for and represent our clients. We wish you all, your families, and also your family pets a very Merry Christmas. In the spirit of Christmas, we encourage you to spread joy and generosity. A random act of kindness to a stranger, a helping hand to someone in need, and even offering shelter or sustenance to an animal in need, are all acts that will continue to make this community special and will allow you to have a positive impact on the life of another. We love each and every one of you (even the knuckleheads), and only hope that you disseminate the love and Christmas spirit to all. Merry Christmas!