■ Ruff Decision.
Divorce can become a dog fight, literally! Doreen claimed she and Eric had an oral agreement that the pooch was hers. The trial judge, clearly not a pet lover, held that pets are personal property but "lack the unique value essential to an award of specific performance." The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a brief amicus curiae urging the court to consider the best interests of the animal in making decisions. Fido was registered with the American Kennel Club as owned by both. On appeal the court considered the "special subjective value of personal property" and that specific performance is an appropriate remedy for personalty for which there is "strong sentimental attachment," and awarded Fido to Doreen. Houseman v. Dare, Sup. Ct NJ App. Div. Docket No. A-2415-07T2 3/10/09.
■ Rainy Day Fund Oversights.
Everyone needs a reserve; a rainy year+ fund is optimal. Mom told you to have one, but many folks seemed to have overlooked this basic. It is also interesting that many investors focused on asset allocation models and most of the discussions of asset allocation in the press never mentioned emergency cash funds. Having a separate pool of cash/near cash investments is really a critical component to appropriately determining an asset allocation model. Many investors are learning this concept the hard way. That cash reserve is proving essential for investors to be able to whether the storm of market decline and retain investments intact for that hoped for recovery. The rich need emergency liquid savings as much as anyone else, perhaps more so, because of the high cost of their lifestyles. Others relied on home equity lines and other borrowing capabilities in lieu of maintaining that emergency day fund. Those lines may no longer be available. When recovery occurs (Bill assured me it will) don't forget planning basics.
■ The Issue with Issue.
Jim (Father Knows Best) and Margaret Anderson are becoming the rare family model. CNN recently reported that: "Nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States in 2007 were delivered by unwed mothers." So when your will leaves assets to "issue", who are issue? If your power of attorney permits gifts to "heirs," who are heirs? While most folks don't like to delve into these definitional issues of issue, failing to do so will lead to growing confusion, problems and litigation. How should a child born out of wedlock be treated under your documents? Do you have personal, religious, moral or other preferences?
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