The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas LLP (TLGNWA) is a full-service law firm assisting individuals and businesses in a wide range of practice areas. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the U.S., and during this time, TLGNWA wants to help those who have survived such abuses and those who work to support them. The firm will offer free estate planning for survivors of domestic violence and those who work in agencies supporting survivors of domestic violence throughout October 2020.
Teresa Mills, Chief Executive Officer of Peace at Home Family Shelter confirms the need for these services, “Estate planning is important for everyone, but for survivors of domestic violence it’s also about safety. It could be harmful for surviving family members if estate decisions are left up to chance. We are thankful for the continued partnership of Law Group of NWA and their new initiative to provide estate planning services free of charge for survivors of domestic violence in our community and those who work to support them.”
Domestic Violence is Rampant in Arkansas and the U.S.
The unfathomable truth is that domestic violence–stalking, psychological aggression, physical abuse, and sexual assault—is very common. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates about 1 in 4 women and close to 1 in 10 men will experience some form of violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. In Arkansas alone, the CDC reports 36% of adults have been survivors of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
Issues to Consider When Leaving an Abusive Relationship
There are many issues individuals should consider when they leave an abusive relationship, particularly if they have mingled their finances or need to seek a divorce.
“Individuals surviving abusive situations have a lot to consider, from their finances to new housing and schooling for their children,” said Law Group Founder, Kristy Boehler. “On top of it all, they need to consider legalities like their will, medical powers of attorney, and beneficiaries on accounts and insurance policies. Getting everything sorted out can be challenging, especially without thoughtful legal advice. We want to make sure individuals, whether or not they’re parents, can effectively reevaluate their estate planning as they move forward from abusive relationships.”
Do You Have a Will? Every adult, especially those with children or property, should have a will. This document allows you to name someone as the executor of your estate and decide how your property is passed down. If you are legally married, you can specifically name someone other than your spouse to handle your estate. Unfortunately, due to Arkansas law, your spouse has the right to inherit property whether or not you leave behind a will if you were married for at least one year. Our legal team can do our best to ensure your wishes are followed if you pass away before a divorce is final.
Do You Have a Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy? If you become incapacitated while still married to an abusive spouse, that person would have the right to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. If this is not what you would like, drafting the appropriate documents can help avoid this situation. The Law Group can draft powers of attorney and a healthcare proxy that give a friend or other relative the power to act on your behalf if you’re unable to decide for yourself.
Do You Have a Life Insurance Policy? If you have a life insurance policy that names your abuser as the beneficiary, this may be an area where professional counsel could make a difference. You might wish to name a child, parent, close friend, or another relative as your first and secondary beneficiaries.
Is Your Abuser Named on Your Accounts? Commingled finances can be extremely complicated to separate, whether or not you were married. If your abuser is named on any bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, or retirement accounts, this is another area where these are the areas where professional counsel could make a difference.
Free Estate Planning for Domestic Violence Survivors and Workers
If you are leaving or recently left a domestic violence situation or help others to do so, TLGNWA wants to help you get your legal affairs in order.
“We will provide wills, powers of attorney, and healthcare proxies at no cost, and we can provide these services in English or through a Spanish translator,” said Law Group attorney Lauren Yupangco. “Our goal is to help you gain your freedom and a safer future away from any financial, emotional, or physical abuse.”