No Child Left Behind, A Thing of the Past?

The separation between federal and state government has always been a critical part of the way our country functions. The same can be said about education. The No Child Left Behind act was a bit of controversial legislation under president George Bush that many teachers have taken issue with. Now Arizona educators may have more of a say in what the requirements for their state will be.

Thanks to

Arizona was one of seven states granted a temporary
waiver Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education from provisions of
the No Child Left Behind Act.

Federal officials
said the decision to grant a one-year “flexibility request,” a renewal
of a previous waiver, was done to let Arizona “continue implementing its
plans to promote innovative locally tailored strategies” to help
students, close achievement gaps and improve teaching, among other

A state official welcomed Thursday’s announcement.

“I think flexibility from the onerous requirements of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act is important,” said Charles Tack, referring
to the formal name of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tack, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said there are “some expectations within that piece of
legislation that would deleteriously impact our schools if they were
kept in place.”

Arizona was one of three states,
along with Arkansas and New Hampshire, to get a one-year extension
Thursday. The other states, Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi and
Wisconsin, were granted three-year extensions Thursday.

The letter to Arizona
said a one-year extension was being granted “in light of continuing
civil rights concerns” over the state’s program for teaching
English-language learners. If the state took further action to address
those concerns over the next year, the federal department would consider
another extension of the waiver.

Tack said Arizona officials had only intended “to apply for the one
additional year. The key for us was to get something in place that our
schools could work with.”

“Our priority was to make sure that for the upcoming year that our schools were not going to be adversely impacted,” Tack said.

In announcing the extension, the federal department cited Arizona’s
efforts under the previous waiver to apply “research-based stratgies” to
improve its lowest-performing schools. It also pointed to the state’s
move to allow intervention in underperforming schools to “fit the
context of the school and community,” including online school

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a prepared statement that flexibility for states, coupled with a push for reform, has led to “remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes.”

It comes as Congress is debating a reauthorization and revamping of the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Act.

Duncan has urged Congress to pass a bipartisan renewal that would
give schools the resources they need, account for changing schools whose
students are not meeting standards, address funding for schools with
many low-income students, and more.

The department will work with states to transition to a new act if Congress reauthorizes the law, a release said.

Tack said that help would be welcome, but that’s not what the state is focused on right now.

“We don’t know where this is going to end up depending on how
Congress acts or what a possible new administration wants to see out of
either ESEA or its replacement,” Tack said.

“For us, it’s a matter of, ‘Let’s get our schools taken care of right
now,’ and then keep working with what the federal government as we need
to,” he said.

– 30 –


What are the Benefits of a Living Trust?

Many people are relatively familiar with the idea of a will, which leaves all of your assets to who you so choose after you pass away. However, most people don’t realize that you can also create a revocable living trust that allows you to control your assets while you are alive and acts similarly to a will. There are other benefits that include, minimal probate, less taxes and much more. A living trust can actually save you and your would be beneficiaries, a lot of money if it is done right by a legal professional. To get a consultation be sure to call RD Smith Law Offices.

A revocable living trust is a popular estate planning tool that you can use to determine who will get your property when you die. Most living trusts are “revocable” because you can change them as your circumstances or wishes change.  Revocable living trusts are “living” because you make them during your lifetime.  Lawyers sometimes call this “inter vivos.”

Revocable Living Trusts Avoid Probate

Most people use living trusts to avoid probate. Probate is the court-supervised process of wrapping up a person’s estate.  Probate can be expensive, time consuming, and is often more of a burden than a help.  Property left through a living trust can pass to beneficiaries without probate.

Learn more about probate in Nolo’s Probate FAQ.

The Trust Document

A living trust document is a written document, signed by the trust maker and a notary public. The document must list the property in the trust, name a trustee, and name who gets the property when the trust maker dies.

The trustee is the person who will take care of the property.  While the trust maker is alive, the trustee is usually the trust maker and then a successor trustee takes over after the trust maker’s death.

Transferring Property Into the Trust

After the trust document is made, the trust maker must transfer any property he or she wants covered by the trust into the trust.  For many items, this requires simply including a list of property with the trust document. However, titled property (like real estate) must be retitled in the name of the trust.  This is usually not complicated or difficult, but it must be done correctly or the titled property could end up in probate.

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Having A Will and Knowing What it Does Are Two Different Things

Many people have some sort of planning done for their estate when they pass. They have either a living will or some sort of other directive that allocates their assets to the proper parties. Many people however, do not take the time to update their wills, which can be catastrophic. For one, most people who have created a will may have done it years ago, which not only gives you plenty of time to forget exactly what your will entails but also can leave out family members or other individuals that were not in your life previously. Many kids don’t know anything about their parents wills and it turns out their parents actually don’t know that much about their wills either and this is a serious problem. Check out this article about Tom Brokaw and his daughter on a TED talk in 2012. 

By: Academy Guest
Blogger, Randi Siegel, President of DocuBank Posted in

“Unfortunately, I
don’t know a lot about my living will. In fact, I’m not even sure where it
is at this point.


Academy’s Steve Hartnett recently pointed out in a blog post that
Documents May Be the Most Important Thing We Do
. But how effective
are these documents on their own? Clearly not very, if Tom Brokaw is any

a 2012
TED talk between Brokaw and
his daughter, Dr. Jennifer Brokaw, it is quickly made clear that Mr. Brokaw’s
wishes aren’t exactly as in order as he had thought. “You know I have a living
will, and your mother does as well,” he begins. But his daughter replies that
she knows nothing about his living will.
The audience responds with
laughter and applause while Mr. Brokaw chuckles and looks a bit abashed. And in
response, he comes clean and admits: “Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about
my living will. In fact, I’m not even sure where it is.”

brief exchange reveals volumes: an advance directive was created, but was not
shared with close relatives and is certainly not available in an emergency. As
Dr. Jennifer Brokaw observes, just creating an advance directive is frequently
not enough; an actual conversation with loved ones goes a long way toward
making sure clients actually get their desired results.

New York
Times’ Paula Span

recently reported on numerous cases of advance directives being forgotten or
misplaced, and thus not available at the hospital. Or the family was unaware
that a directive even existed while the document was overlooked in the chart by
medical personnel. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

solution is twofold. Clients need:

    • Instant,
      electronic access to their advance directives
      . Of course Mr.
      Brokaw and everyone else should share copies of their advance directive
      with loved ones and physicians. But as Span points out – this isn’t
      enough. Many people don’t have the capacity for thinking about a legal
      document when they’re rushing to their loved one’s side in a medical
      emergency. Or they may be alone in a crisis. The answer: store advance
      directives electronically. This could be in an online registry or mobile
      app. These services, which are operated by both private and not-for-profit
      organizations, offer a variety of options with different levels of service
      and features. A handful of states also operate their own registries. Many
      also include valuable emergency contact and medical emergency information.
      With electronic access, people don’t have to worry about where they may
      have put their documents – they will always be accessible to hospital
      staff from a website or via fax or email simply by carrying their
      registry’s wallet card.
    • Talk with loved

      about their goals for care and for living with illness.
      The Conversation

      is a good resource to help clients with this. Some registries also assist
      and prompt clients to have this discussion with family members.

takeaway from Tom Brokaw: don’t just draft your clients’ advance directives.
Make the documents work for your clients as intended. Consider registering
clients’ directives and also giving them the tools they need to talk with loved
ones about their wishes.

Randi J.
MBA, is the President of DocuBank (, which ensures
that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000+
enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives
registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of
digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning
professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning
conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries.
A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society
of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is
active in health education and public engagement related to advance care
planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National
Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for
Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing
contributor to the Academy blog.

Guest Blogger

American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.

9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300

San Diego, California 92123

Phone: (858) 453-2128


Is Your Data Secure?

Wifi is an often essential part of communication. At RD Smith, we understand how important it is to be connected, especially when it could influence your case. It is all too easy now for hackers to get your personal information when you are browsing via mobile web, making it very important to have apps that help you keep your data your own. IPVanish is one such app that allows you to surf the web and do so safely. With IPVanish, it hides the IP address and makes sure your surfing experience is fast, easy and secure.
A few other examples are OpenVPNConnect, Pure VPN and SurfEasy.

What Happens to Your Digital Assets After You’re Gone?

One of the major hurdles of estate planning is that many people do not realize how many assets they actually have. In the digital age, everyone has digital assets that also should be discussed when drafting a will. Do you want your social media to continue after you have passed? Is there information in your email that you don’t want family members to know?

What’s going to happen to your Facebook account when you die? Or all the songs you’ve downloaded from iTunes? 

As digital assets become more common for all of us, it’s important to incorporate them into estate plans. Unfortunately, as was recently explored in a Denver Business Journal article featuring WealthCounsel, that’s not always easy to do. 

According to a 2013 McAfee study, the average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. That value includes purchased movies, books, music and games as well as personal memories, communications, personal records, hobbies and career information. Of those surveyed by the study, 55 percent said they store assets that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or repurchase.

Unfortunately, those assets are increasingly at risk of being lost when the account owner dies. Many digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can often make it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them. Additionally, state and federal laws could put friends and relatives who try to log on to your accounts at risk of violating anti-hacking and privacy statutes.

Initiatives are under way to put more consumer-friendly laws in place regarding digital assets. Until then, though, it’s important to incorporate detailed directions and information surrounding your digital assets into your estate plan. Here are four steps to take now: 

Check out the steps at:

There’s An App for That!

This expression is becoming redundant. There is an app for absolutely everything it seems. There are some that are rooted in frivolity and fascination with the fact that we can make apps but there are others that actually prove incredibly useful. There are some financial apps that are coming into circulation that can help you with everything from creating expense reports to managing your personal expenses and everything in between.

This popular app collects all of your financial information and puts it in one, easy-to-view place. “It’s reliable and it works quickly,” says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance. “It categorizes all my transactions automatically, lets me know when I’ve overspent in a certain budget category and gives me real-time updates on available cash and credit card debt.”
Created to provide “expense reports that don’t suck,” according to the Expensify website, the Expensify app is geared toward business travelers looking to keep track of mileage, receipts and other expenses on the go. The app organizes expenses into categories set by the user, syncs credit and debit cards and generates eReciepts for purchases under $75.
Many banks have their own mobile apps, Schrage says, and they make a handy tool for consumers. These apps often include ways to transfer money between accounts, pay bills and deposit checks on the go. “You can research your account history . and most [bank apps] are free,” he adds. Some also include branch and ATM locators for times when mobile functions aren’t enough.
Made for mobile couponers, this app includes a daily updated coupon database and a widget to deliver daily deals directly to your phone. It also provides a barcode scanner to compare prices and allows users to simply show the coupon on their phone at the register. And for social savers, there’s a share option to text and email coupons to friends.
To see the other five apps click:

How to do Disinheritance Right

Disinheritance is a bit of an ugly subject for some. When planning your estate, it is important to remember that this is YOUR will and these are things that YOU have worked hard for. The point of a will or planning what to do with your estate is to make sure that it is divided the way that YOU see fit. If you do have to disinherit someone, here is how to do disinheritance right.


Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died last year at age 82. He left one son, Moises de la Renta. He also left behind his second wife, Annette, and her three children

from a prior marriage.

One might expect Oscar to leave a substantial sum to his only son, Moises. However, Oscar chose to leave most of his $26 million estate to his second wife, Annette. Moises is one of the beneficiaries of a trust with less than 1/4 of his estate. The other beneficiaries of that trust are Annette and her three children. There is a “no contest” or “in terrorem” clause which completely disinherits Moises if he contests Ocsar’s will.

Oscar and Moises had a falling out a decade ago when Moises attempted to start his own fashion line. Oscar’s estate plan demonstrates the best way to disinherit someone.

First, you would include a “no contest” or “in terrorem” clause. Such a clause provides that, in the event of an unsuccessful legal challenge by that person, they receive nothing. (Note, such a clause is not valid in some states.) Some practitioners and clients simply choose this route. However, then there is no disincentive for a challenge to the plan. If the heir challenges unsuccessfully, they receive nothing. However, if they do not challenge, they also receive nothing. The second element of a successful disinheritance is a minor, but substantial inheritance. That way, if the heir challenges, they have something to lose.

In this case, if Moises challenges, he would no longer be a beneficiary regarding the trust with Vs of the estate. While being one of several beneficiaries of a trust with only 1/4 of the estate is far less than what his intestate share would be, he would have to think twice before risking that by challenging the plan.

Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.

Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc. 9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128


For assistance drafting your will, be sure to visit:

IRA’s Now Vulnerable to Creditors

Estate planning is something that everyone should be doing, not just for yourself but for your loved ones. IRA’s have been a huge part of what many people leave for loved ones. Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, they are now not protected from creditors, becoming a new consideration when planning your estate.
In a major decision, the Supreme Court ruled this past June that inherited IRAs are not considered protected retirement funds-and are thus subject to creditors’ claims if the beneficiary files for bankruptcy.
In the case of Clark v. Rameker, Heidi Heffron-Clark argued that a $300,000 IRA she inherited from her mother in 2001 qualified as a protected retirement account. As such, she contended, the account was exempt from the claims of creditors after Heffron-Clark and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
However, under U.S. tax code regarding inherited IRAs, Heffron-Clark was required to withdraw a minimum amount of money from the account each year, even though she is not yet retirement age. Given this, the court decided the account was not a protected retirement fund because the beneficiary wasn’t using it as one.
Why does that matter?
The Clark v. Rameker decision means that, in the case of bankrupt estates, inherited IRAs will now be considered assets-fully available to satisfy creditors’ claims. If you pass a retirement fund down to a child or grandchild, that inherited money will no longer be protected if your beneficiary must file for bankruptcy.
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What is an Annulment? How is it Different from Divorce?

There is a lot of misinformation out there about what an annulment is and how it effects matrimony. We have all seen movies where two people get married in Vegas on night and wake up the next morning surprised to find rings on their fingers but what other situations are acceptable for annulment? Check out this article on the basics of annulment in Arizona.

Annulment is a frequently misunderstood legal concept, because popular culture and religion have presented differing and often inaccurate views of what an annulment is in terms of family law.

This article focuses only on “civil annulments,” not “religious annulments,” which can only be granted by a church or clergy member and have no legal effect on your marital status.

Annulments and divorces are similar in the sense that they make a determination about marital status. But the vital difference between them is that divorce ends an existing, valid marriage, whereas annulment simply declares that what everyone thought was a marriage was never actually a marriage at all. In the eyes of the law, an annulled marriage never really existed.

There are a number of possible situations when you can ask an Arizona court to annul your marriage:

  • One of the parties was married to someone else (bigamy).
  • The parties are related by blood.
  • One of the parties was a minor at the time of the marriage, and did not obtain the consent of a parent or guardian.
  • One or both of the parties lacked the mental capacity to get married.
  • One of both of the parties lacked the physical capacity to get married.
  • One or both of the parties were intoxicated at the time they married.
  • One or both of the parties lacked the intent to enter into a marriage contract.
  • The parties failed to obtain a proper, official marriage license.
  • The parties used a proxy (substitute) instead of marrying each other in person.
  • One of the parties perpetrated a fraud to get the other party to consent to the marriage.
  • One party used force (legally known as “duress”) to get the other party to agree to marriage.
  • The parties have not had sexual relations or one party refused to have intercourse.
  • One of the parties misrepresented his or her religion.
  • One of the parties concealed his or her prior marital status.
  • One of the parties secretly planned to evade a premarital agreement.
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What Estate Planning in the U.S Looks Like

Estate planning is often a topic that people want to avoid. It is an unfortunate part of reality that can have catastrophic effects on the remaining family members and friends if not addressed properly. It is something that so few Americans actually take the time to do and it there is a huge misconception about when planning should take place. Take a look at Richard Eisenberg’s opinion on our “ostrich approach” to estate planning.

Incredibly, 51 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills, according to a survey released today by Rocket Lawyer, a website that offers low-cost legal services.

Worse, 62 percent of those age 45 to 54 – and 67 percent of women that age – haven’t drafted wills. (These numbers are slightly better than for Americans in general; Rocket Lawyer says 64 percent of the public doesn’t have a will, up from 57 percent in 2011, but that figure includes people in their late teens and 20s, so I don’t take it quite as seriously.)

I’m fairly certain I don’t need to tell you what happens after you die if you don’t have a will, but I’ll do so just in case.

If you die without will – or, as lawyers call it, “intestate” – there’s no guarantee who will inherit your assets. Generally, if you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children will then inherit your assets. If you had minor children, the state will choose their guardians. If you were single and childless, your state will likely determine which of your relatives will inherit your financial assets and property.

What’s more, without a will, your estate will go into probate, a costly, slow-moving process the courts use to sort things out.

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