Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Royal baby boy arrives safe and sound

July 22nd was a momentous day for the British royals:  Queen Elizabeth became a great grandmother, Prince Charles and Camilla became grandparents, Prince Harry became an uncle, and William and Kate became parents.  

Outside the hospital, a town crier, decked out in traditional robes and an extravagant feathered hat, shouted the news and rang a bell. A car carrying the announcement drove from the hospital to the palace, where the news was greeted with shrieks of “It's a boy!” and strains of “For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.” A large crowd struggled at the palace gates to catch a glimpse of an ornate, gilded easel displaying a small bulletin formally announcing the news.

Most of us enter the world with far little less fanfare, although no less love and affection.  Once the baby is brought home and settles in, it is important for parents to begin thinking about estate planning. Too often, parents of young children neglect or postpone estate planning, saying they are too young, quite healthy, or cannot afford the expense. Another reason may be that estate planning deals with issues that people would prefer to ignore (death, property, marriage and family relationships).

But estate planning can be a very positive and important part of raising a family. Estate planning assures that certain things happen at death. Perhaps the most important benefit of having a Will is that it allows parents to designate a guardian for their children. This person will provide for the social training and physical needs of children if neither parent survives. If there is no Will nominating a guardian, the court must appoint one even though it cannot possibly know the values, lifestyle and child-rearing philosophy of the parent(s). It must make a decision based on state law and in the best interests of the children. It is often difficult to determine the children's best interests in a brief court hearing. An estate plan can also ensure that children will be financially supported and that they will have access to education and funds that will support them throughout their life.  

You don’t have to be royalty to plan for your child’s future.  A little bit of planning now can give you peace of mind about your new life as a parent.  Check out our estate planning page for more information or contact us if you would like to discuss an estate plan for your family.

Monday, July 22, 2013

BIA recognizes same-sex marriages for immigration purposes

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of Zeleniak, 26 I. & N. Dec. 158 (BIA July 17, 2013) held that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is no longer an impediment to the recognition of lawful same-sex marriages and the recognition of spouses under the INA if the marriage is valid under the laws of the state where it was celebrated.
The U.S. citizen petitioner, Oleg B. Zeleniak, filed an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the beneficiary, Serge V. Polajenko, as his (male) spouse on March 10, 2010. USCIS denied the petition on July 27, 2010, and the petitioner appealed the denial to the Board. In its first decision, dated April 18, 2012, the Board remanded the record to the Director with instructions to address two issues: whether the petitioner’s marriage is valid under the applicable state (Vermont) law and whether the marriage would qualifies under the INA absent the requirement of DOMA § 3. On remand, the Director determined that the marriage was valid under Vermont law but declined to consider the issue whether the beneficiary would be a spouse under the INA absent the requirements of DOMA § 3 (the controlling federal statute). Hence the Director once more denied the visa petition. The petitioner once again appealed to the Board.
In its most recent decision, the Board sustained the petitioner’s appeal and again and remanded the record to the Director for further consideration of the sole remaining issue which was whether the petitioner had established that his marriage to the beneficiary was bona fide. 
The Board explained that the Windsor decision removed DOMA § 3 as an impediment to the recognition of lawful same-sex marriages and spouses if the marriage is valid under the laws of the state where it was celebrated and the Court’s decision is applicable to various provisions of the INA, including, but not limited to fiancé and fiancée visas, immigrant visa petitions, refugee and asylee derivative status, inadmissibility and waivers of inadmissibility, removability and waivers of removability, and cancellation of removal. The Board further observed that the issue of the validity of a marriage under state law is generally governed by the law of the place of celebration of the marriage.