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U.S. News Archive
November 01 - November 06, 2001



This page contains news for the period November 01, 2001 through November 06, 2001.  

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Sunday, November 4, 2001

More single parents and others are preparing wills

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Americans are reordering their financial priorities in the wake of Sept. 11 attacks by writing wills and putting their estates in order.

Attorneys and financial planners around the country have reported a surge of requests for wills since the attacks. Demand for life insurance also has climbed.

''I've never seen anything like this,'' says Sherwin Simmons, a Miami attorney who specializes in estate tax planning and has been in practice for 47 years.

The closest comparison, he says, was the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when ''everybody was scared to death'' and interest in obtaining wills temporarily rose.

While it's too soon to document it, anecdotal evidence suggests this increase is deeper and will be much more enduring, particularly with no end in sight to the war on terrorism.

Nearly two months after the attacks, a check with estate planning experts in several states found demand for wills still significantly above pre-Sept. 11 levels. Interest was highest among young couples and the middle-aged, including the nation's 76 million baby boomers, although some said it was evident across the board.

Before Sept. 11, people typically sought wills for one of three reasons, according to New York attorney Amy Holtzman, who specializes in wills and estates: They were about to have an operation or a child or take a long plane trip.

The World Trade Center attacks brought home the fact that everyone is vulnerable, she says, as those who died were from all walks of life. ''People identified with that, as opposed to victims of other crimes. These were just ordinary people, and it's very, very hard to differentiate yourself.''

Financial and estate planners have long cautioned clients without wills and prospective clients about the risk of unintended consequences. Dying without a will, or ''intestate,'' means your property will be split up among survivors according to the laws of your state.

That means a single person's assets go to the parents or, if they're no longer alive, are equally divided among all siblings. For the married, everything goes to the spouse; if no spouse survives, it's divvied up equally among next of kin.

Vivien Chang, an estate planning probate attorney in Seattle, had grown accustomed to having young couples ask about estate planning and then not following up for months, if ever.

''Now the response time is much quicker and I have clients insisting on coming 'this Thursday' ... or asking 'Is there any way you can fit me in right away?''' she says.

Boston church revises approach to annulment

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Archdiocese of Boston has hired a children's advocate for the staff of its annulment court as it remakes the way it handles divorcing couples.

''This is the church's pastoral response to the reality of divorce,'' said the Rev. Michael Smith Foster, presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Boston. ''We want to make this as painless as possible.''

Church officials emphasized that marriage should be forever, but said they're trying to be realistic.

The Archdiocese of Boston oversees the handling of 700 annulment cases per year.

''People need healing, and this hopefully is healing for people,'' Foster said.

Hiring of a children's advocate is believed to be a first worldwide for the church. Mary-Kate Tracy was hired to determine how well divorced couples care for their children since forty percent of petitioners have kids under 18.

Because the church does not recognize civil divorce, an annulment is needed if a divorced Catholic wants to remarry within the church.

Foster said 70 percent of the annulment requests are granted. A petitioner must convincingly show that the marriage was flawed from the start before an annulment can be granted by the church.

Thursday, November 1, 2001

More single people are becoming parents through adoption

A story published today by the Tampa Tribune reports that Florida law does not prohibit single people from adopting but they can face obstacle that married couples don’t.

Social workers can be suspicious of a single person's motives and abilities. Adoption agencies may put their applications on the back burner in favor of married people. Friends and families can be critical instead of supportive.

``There was lip service, `Oh, sure, single people can adopt,' but I didn't get a lot of encouragement,'' says Rand, a Pinellas County property manager and the adoptive father of two boys.

But even with the roadblocks, the rate of single parents adopting children is rising slowly.

In the 1970s, less than 4 percent of all adoptions were by single parents, according to statistics from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse. As of 2000, one-third of the adoptions of children in foster care were by single parents. About 5 percent of all other adoptions were by single people.

Increasing divorce rates and a societal acceptance of single-parent families have helped shift attitudes toward single people who want to adopt.

When Rand decided to adopt three years ago, he had to complete a training requirement at a private adoption agency in Hillsborough and the public agency in Pinellas. Even though he had undergone the process, his application was still mysteriously stalled.

"I kept getting passed around. I never did get any answers," he says. "It was like running in molasses."

Out of frustration with the local system, he went to San Diego, where he also owns a home, to adopt. He got his two boys, brothers who had been in foster care since they were infants, in about a month.

They now are 8 and 12 years old and doing just fine, he says. Rand now volunteers with the Adoption Council of Tampa Bay.

"I wouldn't trade my kids for anything in the world," he says. "Taking the plunge was the hardest part."


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