Family Matters

Thursday, June 24, 2021

When a Will and a Contract Conflict

A Last Will and Testament devises one’s property after their passing. Great weight is given to this document; Wills have formalities that other documents don’t, hinting to its importance. But what happens when a devise in a Will contradicts a formerly executed contract? 

This issue was litigated recently in Ohio. In this case, Twila entered into a partnership agreement in 1986 with her husband and another couple. The partnership agreement contained a provision that stated: “To protect and preserve the family character of this Partnership, each of the undersigned partners agree to have prepared and to execute a last will and testament so as to ensure that his or her interest in this Partnership will, upon his or her death, pass to and vest in his or her surviving spouse.
Read more . . .

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Estate Planning Awareness Week: The Importance to You and Your Family of Having an Estate Plan

In 2008, Congress recognized the need for the public to understand the importance and benefits of estate planning by passing House Resolution 1499, which designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Nevertheless, according to a 2019 survey carried out by, 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust despite the fact that 76% viewed them as important. Many of the respondents said this was due to procrastination, but many others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets.

Why should you have an estate plan?

An estate plan can provide significant peace of mind by ensuring your assets are protected, plans are in place in the event you become ill, and your property is passed down according to your wishes.
Read more . . .

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Your Estate Plan – It’s Not Just About Your Assets, It’s About Your Legacy

What’s most important to pass on to the next generation? A recent survey by Age Wave Consulting asked Americans aged 45 years and older this question.  The results may surprise you in that the number one ranked answer was not “financial assets or real estate.”  The number one ranked answer was actually “values and life lessons” from 74% of the respondents.  The lowest ranked answer was "financial assets or real estate," while ranked in between were “instructions and wishes to be fulfilled” and “personal possessions of an emotional value.”

Traditionally, legacy planning has focused on the legal documents and financial techniques needed to transfer tangible assets.
Read more . . .

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day – remembering my father and thanking all those that have served

My father has been deceased for over 12 years now, but rarely a day goes by when I do not think of him. With Veterans Day being November 11, I thought it appropriate to thank him for his service to our country and to thank all veterans.

My father, Royce A. McCarty, Sr., served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

Read more . . .

Friday, August 25, 2017

Tough Decisions!

My fiancé is the type of man that every woman dreams of.  He has been taking care of his mother for the past 10 years.  His sisters come to visit once a month or so, and his brother, who lives out of state, comes to visit twice a year. 

Now, he has been faced with the decision of moving her into a retirement home where he can get a little assistance with this heavy chore.  This was not easy for him.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It's time to "put" my mom in assisted living

This was submitted to us by a client.  It’s a very touching story that needs to be shared.  If you have a story that you would like to share, please submit to

 It is time to “put” my mom in assisted living

For the last two years my mother has traveled between the homes of her children.
Read more . . .

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cyber security. What can we do to protect ourselves?

Every day we hear about people losing money and having their privacy violated by criminals who steal financial information.  And the criminals don't just go after the "big guys."  They go after small businesses and individuals too. So, even though it may seem like a lot of work or a hassle to protect yourself, it's well worth it.

Local computer guru Brian Enseleit has helped us put together some suggestions for you.
Read more . . .

Monday, August 5, 2013

A family wedding

In our estate planning Jon and I don't limit our attention to physical objects and money. Those assets are certainly part of the legacy our clients want to pass on and protect for their loved ones.  But more and more we've also been helping our clients identify and pass along the other kind of legacy: their history and wisdom.  The stories.  I got a chance to experience the value of that kind of legacy Saturday.

Becky, Hannah and I went to my cousin's wedding in Shelby. First came an incredible hail and rainstorm just as everyone was arriving at the church.  Then we enjoyed a beautiful ceremony and a big reception.  We got to see many family members and make new friends.  It was just what a wedding should be.

We brought my mom.  She's 91 and doesn't hear that well, so several of us left the party and found a quiet spot where she could talk to Harold, the bride's grandfather.  My mom was babysitting him 75 years ago when she met my dad. My mom had Harold's little brother down on the kitchen floor giving him a licking.  My dad walked in the back door and didn't know what to think.  I love that story!

I've heard most of the stories many times through the years. They didn't make much of an impression on me when I was young, but now I really appreciate them.  And I enjoy retelling them myself, so they weren't all new to Hannah.  But that was the first time she got to hear them like that.  And it was undoubtedly the first time for her 13 year-old cousin from Colorado. 

As I reflected back on the day, I realized that the highlight was the quiet chat with my mom and Harold.  A chance to enjoy and witness the passing on of my family's legacy.  That's worth a lot.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Your graduate needs to sign healthcare documents - this summer.


It's the time of year for graduation ceremonies.  My daughter, Hannah, is graduating from the University of Montana law school on May 25th.  It sounds like most of the family will be in Missoula to enjoy the spectacle.  Becky and I could not be more proud.  

You may have a child or grandchild graduating from high school or college too; hope you can make the ceremony.

Of course, there will be many changes for the graduate, starting with where they'll end up.  It may be college or it may be a job a long ways away. That raises an issue.  What happens if the graduate gets in an accident or is really sick when far away?  Who back home can find out what's going on and make healthcare decisions?


Unless the graduate signs healthcare documents before leaving home.

You probably have heard of "HIPAA."  It's the federal law that covers confidentiality of healthcare information.  If a college student is injured or ill, the law restricts with whom the hospital staff can discuss the student's health problem.  Johnny is in the hospital in Missoula - or Boston - and no one at home can find out what's going on, much less make healthcare decisions for Johnny.  

So, what should Johnny - or Sue - do?  Sign a healthcare power of attorney where he or she designates who can make healthcare decisions if the graduate is unable to do so.  That will usually be parents.

The graduate should also sign a "HIPAA release," an authorization for release of confidential healthcare information.  In this document the student specifies who the hospital nurse can talk to when a family member calls from home trying to find out what's going.  This will usually be parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The graduate should also consider whether he or she wants to sign a living will and a financial power of attorney.

Summer is a busy time, especially for the graduate.  Hopefully yours can find the time to get these important documents signed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Loved Ones Becoming Adults

That special season is upon us again, graduation season.  Each year I really enjoy watching the seniors beam with pride as they leave high school behind and take off to enjoy the rich years of college.  Whether your son or daughter is a Grizzly, a Bobcat, a Duck or any other mascot, they should be aware of the new responsibilities that go along with their new found freedom.

 The State Bar of Montana has developed a good guide to turning 18, which is available on the State Bar website at  This gives an overview of legal issues that young adults may be facing.  Parents of young adults should also be aware of the changes that affect their rights.  Once your child turns 18, legally, they are their own person.  You may want to consider having your child execute a HIPAA Authorization and a Power of Attorney.  This will ensure that you can obtain medical information for your child and can still help manage their affairs, if needed. 

 Typically, this is the first time a young person has to deal with legal issues like contracts for loans and leases for apartments.  At a minimum, they need to read what they are signing and be aware of what they are putting themselves on the hook for.  As the parent, you may be asked to co-sign on loan documents or leases.  I am not advocating whether or not this is a good idea, but you should be aware of the benefits and risks of that.  By co-signing, your child may receive better terms or rates, which may allow them to build a credit history.  However, if you co-sign, you are making yourself responsible if your child cannot pay.  Also, for a lease, you would be on the hook for any rent or damages.

 You could say now that your child is leaving high school, the true life lessons will be taught.  Good luck on molding your children into responsible adults!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Naming a Guardian for your Minor Children

This is one of the most personal and difficult decisions my husband and I ever had to make.  The thought of somebody else raising our children was hard, and there were so many factors we had to go over.  We worried about everything, including who would have the time, the energy and the ability to take on our children.  We worried about the impact on the children of moving to an unfamiliar community and the importance of maintaining current relationships to help necessitate a sense of stability in their lives.  All of the considerations stacked up and were overwhelming.  What finally made us take the plunge and pick someone was that I knew what would happen if we did not make our wishes known.

I think it is important that everyone know the implications of naming and not naming a guardian for your minor children.  You name a guardian for your minor children in a Will.  By doing so, that person (or persons) is not bound to accept the appointment, but legally has an easier time establishing the guardianship and has priority under the law.  This can mean a smoother transition for your children, and may avoid family fights over who should get the children.  If a guardian is not named, a Judge will decide who will be the guardian, and use their discretion to determine whose appointment would be in the best interest of the minor.  Call me selfish, but I think I can make a better decision on who should care for my children than someone who has never met them.


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