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Married couples need powers of attorney, too

Debunking the 7 myths of estate planning

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attorney, gay news, Washington Blade

Even married couples need to discuss power of attorney.

(This is the sixth in a series of seven articles to help you understand what you do know, don’t know and should know about estate planning.)

What is a power of attorney and why do you need one or more?  The answer is actually fairly simple. A power of attorney is a document that is created while you are well that allows other people to make decisions for you if there ever comes a time when you are unwell and cannot make your own decisions.  It is so important because you can lose the right to decide who will make decisions for you if something bad happens and you haven’t put your wishes in writing beforehand. That’s a big deal for everyone, whether you are married, in a domestic partnership, or single.

If you become incapacitated, state law will determine who in your family has the power to make medical decisions for you, even if you are estranged from them.  Of course, even without a medical power of attorney, your spouse will be able to make medical decisions for you. But what if your spouse can’t for some reason?  A good medical power of attorney will grant the same rights to other trusted people if your spouse cannot take care of you – and those people do not have to be relatives.  Perhaps your best friend is a nurse or doctor or works at NIH. A person like that would make a great choice as a healthcare agent, if he or she is willing. (You do need to ask first!) Naming your own decision-maker can give you peace of mind that your wishes will be respected versus the unknown consequences of that role going to a faraway family member who doesn’t approve of your “lifestyle.”  

Yet, the lack of a medical power of attorney is not what causes the biggest problem for most folks. If you become incapacitated, there will be hundreds of other decisions to be made that have nothing to do with medical care. Who will pay the bills, manage your money, take care of your home, and look after your spouse or partner? That’s where a financial power of attorney comes in. This document grants important, broad rights to people that you trust to manage all of your assets when you cannot. That’s incredibly important because no one gets the right to access your personal assets automatically, even a spouse. If you have a joint checking account, your spouse is still going to be able to write a check even if you’re incapacitated, but that’s the extent of it.  What if there’s a need to withdraw money from your retirement account to pay the mortgage?  Too bad, because without a power of attorney, even your spouse will be out of luck.  Need to sell a house that’s no longer suitable? Same answer.

The messy workaround for not having a financial power of attorney is that someone has to go into court and file a guardianship petition just to get the powers that you could have given in a simple document. That’s a very expensive alternative in most states and one that should be totally unnecessary. Worse yet, the person filing the petition might not be the same person that you would have chosen had you signed a financial power of attorney. These problems are so easily avoided that the real mystery is how come everybody doesn’t have these documents?

(This column is not intended to provide legal advice, but only general guidance that may or may not be applicable to your specific situation.)

Larry Jacobs has helped hundreds of same-sex couples and LGBT singles in the Washington area protect their assets and loved ones through partnership planning. He is a partner at McMillan Metro, P.C. and has practiced law for 41 years. Learn more about his practice at PartnerPlanning.com.

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Real Estate

Maximizing your homebuying strategy amid changing interest rates

Consult an expert when navigating unpredictable market

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If you’re looking to buy, stay up to date on market trends.

The Federal Reserve’s recent decision to pause its rate hikes and signal potential reductions in 2024 has sparked a wave of interest among prospective homebuyers. As the housing market remains dynamic, many are wondering if now is the right time to connect with a LGBTQ Realtor and embark on the house hunting journey.

In today’s real estate landscape, where factors like interest rates, market conditions, and personal financial readiness intersect, making informed decisions is key. Let’s explore the considerations involved in maximizing your homebuying strategy, even in the face of potential interest rate reductions down the road.

Assessing the Current Market

Before diving into the homebuying process, it’s crucial to understand the present real estate market conditions. Key factors include housing prices, inventory levels, and local real estate trends. These factors vary widely by location, and what may hold true in one area may not in another. The availability of homes, their affordability, and the demand for properties all play a role in shaping your homebuying experience.

Interest Rates and the Fed’s Actions

While the Federal Reserve’s influence on interest rates is substantial, it’s essential to remember that mortgage rates are influenced by various factors, including market forces, economic conditions, and global events. Predicting the exact timing and extent of rate reductions can be challenging. It’s wise to stay informed about financial news and seek guidance from experts when making rate-related decisions.

Your Financial Preparedness

Homeownership requires a solid financial foundation. Assess your readiness by considering factors such as your credit score, down payment savings, and debt-to-income ratio. Lenders scrutinize these aspects to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. It’s vital to have a stable income and job security, as this will impact your ability to handle homeownership costs.

If you’d like to get pre-qualified for a mortgage, ask your real estate agent for a referral.

Long-Term Plans

Think about your long-term plans and how they align with homeownership. Are you planning to settle in the area for an extended period, or is this a short-term investment? Evaluate your financial flexibility and whether you can comfortably manage homeownership expenses like maintenance, property taxes, and insurance.

Consulting with a Realtor

Connecting with a Realtor who understands your goals and the local market is invaluable. Realtors from platforms like GayRealEstate.com can provide insights into market conditions, housing options, and potential investment opportunities. They can help you assess whether now is the right time to start the house-hunting process based on your unique circumstances.

Refinancing as a Future Option

While securing a lower interest rate in the future is a possibility, it’s not guaranteed. Refinancing depends on your creditworthiness at that time and market conditions. Additionally, there are costs associated with refinancing, so it’s essential to calculate whether the potential savings outweigh the expenses.

The decision to buy a home should be a well-thought-out process that considers multiple factors, including interest rates. While the prospect of rate reductions is enticing, it should be evaluated alongside other crucial elements that shape your homeownership journey. Consulting with real estate professionals at GayReaEstate.com will empower you to make informed decisions, ensuring your homebuying strategy is optimized to your advantage.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected]. You can also visit GayRealEstate.com.

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Financial

New Workforce Program Aims to Help Expand Economic Opportunity for the Trans Community

Finding inclusion while pursuing sustainable careers.

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Sudhesna Kusulia recently graduated from the internship program as a full-time employee at JPMorgan Chase. Photo courtesy Sudhesna Kusulia.

It was only a few years ago that Sudhesna Kusulia would travel 10 kilometers (about 6.21 mi) from her rural village in India to be able to connect to the internet. 

The community she grew up in, Dangaria Kondh, had no network, electricity or constructed houses. When Kusulia got a smartphone in 2020, she gained a window to another world—one where she was able to explore the aspects of her identity she had suppressed since childhood. 

“I realized I’m not alone,” says Sudeshna, who identifies as a trans woman. “I belong in the LGBTQ+ community, there are millions of people like me living life authentically.”

Growing up, Sudeshna had a love for fashion and Bollywood dancing, and recalls carefully selecting dresses and accessories for her sisters, while secretly wishing she could wear them herself. “The disconnect between my soul and the body I was in was very painful to experience,” she explains. Facing these challenges, Sudeshna struggled with depression throughout her journey to self-acceptance. “From a young age, people started bullying me. I isolated myself. I would just cry in my bedroom, beating the wall with no one to hear my pain.”

Social stigma, barriers to opportunities, and lack of family support often push transgender people to the fringes of the society. Though recent policy changes in India have reduced barriers and provided rights to the broader LGBTQ+ community— India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 2018 — there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to advancing equity and inclusion for the country’s gender expansive (transgender and non-binary) population. 

India is the JPMorgan Chase’s second largest market worldwide in terms of number of employees, where is has been providing services to clients since 1945.  Today, the bank has expanded its presence in India, growing its corporate centers across the country, which act as strategic hubs for JPMorgan Chase.  Here, employees are working at the forefront of cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, operations and so much more that is used around the world.

At JPMorgan Chase, the Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs is committed to advancing equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community globally. One of the ways the office works to do this is by ensuring all employees and potential employees have an equal opportunity to pursue their full potential and enjoy a fulfilling career. Recognizing both the unique struggles of the trans community in India as well as the immense talent pool that is leading the way for new business and innovation in the region, JPMorgan Chase worked with PeriFerry to create a transgender internship program in 2022. PeriFerry is a first-of-its-kind social enterprise in India that creates upskilling and employment opportunities for the gender expansive community. 

“Across industry, we see that transgender and nonbinary people do not experience equal opportunities to thrive in their careers and achieve sustainable livelihoods,” says Brad Baumoel, global head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs. “At JPMorgan Chase, we’re committed to creating pathways for the next generation of trans and nonbinary leaders to develop and thrive in their careers.”

Advancing careers in an inclusive workplace

When Sudeshna went to college in 2016 and came out to her parents in 2020, it was a turning point. She finally felt comfortable in her skin and felt ready to pursue her dreams. But while she was ready to enter the workforce, she was worried her identity would hold her back. A friend suggested she connect with PeriFerry.

Sudeshna landed a spot in PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, a residential corporate training program designed for transgender individuals to venture into the workforce with confidence and acceptance, providing training opportunities in professional English communication, digital literacy, financial literacy, aptitude enhancement, resume building, and interview preparation. That’s how she found JPMorgan Chase. 

Through PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, JPMorgan Chase creates dedicated internship roles to gender expansive people across the company’s three corporate centers in India.  The 20-week program, inclusive of on-the-job training, is made up of eight weeks of classroom training by PeriFerry, followed by a 12-week internship with JPMorgan Chase. The first and the second cohort had 13 and 11 transgender candidates respectively, who interned across different parts of the business and in operations teams. Interns also were able to participate with the bank’s internal Gender Expansive Council, which organized sessions where employees shared their personal experiences as trans leaders at the bank.

Since the internship program launched in June 2022, it has resulted in the hire of over twenty full-time employees. 

Connecting with the community for support 

While her personal journey has been challenging, and despite rising anti-LGBTQ+ laws and sentiment across the globe, Sudeshna wants to inspire other transgender youth to recognize the beauty in themselves. “It’s a struggle for us. It will take decades before we feel complete acceptance, but it needs to be done. It has to be done,” she says.

According to Sudeshna, the two critical areas that the trans community needs support on are finding steady, respectful employment and a good, safe place to live. Across the globe, JPMorgan Chase supports nonprofits dedicated to advancing economic inclusion for the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender youth and elder communities. 

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is helping expand economic opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community, and advance equality and inclusion for employees globally.  

Visit our careers page for opportunities.  

© 2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved. JPMorgan Chase is an Equal Opportunity Employer, including Disability/Veterans.

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Real Estate

Back to basics in home buying process

Fantasizing about pricey condos you can’t afford is not the first step

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That multi-million dollar Logan Circle condo sounds good after a boozy brunch but can you really afford it?

As a home buyer we often forget what goes into the home buying process. There are several steps that you must take in order to purchase a home and similar to school or continuing education, it’s always a good idea to get back to basics to refresh your memory (or perhaps learn for the first time) the nuances of home buying and those steps that a Realtor is there to help you navigate.

Most buyers assume that the first step in home buying is the HUNT! You have been on Redfin or Zillow stalking some properties that are on the market and going into open houses on your lazy Sundays after a boozy brunch imagining yourself in a condo in Logan Circle. Well I hate to be the one to tell ya – but that is not your first step. You may have just been wasting your time as you are not able to afford those properties you have been looking at online and daydreaming about the furniture placement. In reality the first step to home ownership is getting  a pre-approval from a reputable local lender. A lender will do a quick pull of credit and finances to give you an idea of what type of mortgage and the amount of that mortgage. While you may think you can afford a mortgage, the mortgage industry will financially let you know what you can actually afford.

Once you have that pre-approval in hand we can start the hunt. This is the time that your agent is going to ask you for your list of wants and needs. These lists will no doubt change over time when actually touring properties. Agents are there to guide you through the process. We are teammates on this hunt together. Likely your agent will send you properties and you will also find a few on your own that are of interest. Just like with teaching, learning, fashion, etc. there are different styles that work for different people. Please remember that if you do not like the style your agent uses, there are more fish in the sea. Find the agent that you jibe with — you are going to be spending a great deal of time together.

Once you’ve found the home of your dreams – this is where the real fun begins. Your agent will run comps on the property to find its value. Value is a subjective thing; at the end of the day a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Comparable sales (comps) are a list of properties with the same bedrooms, bathrooms, size and within the same radius of the property that you are interested in purchasing. These figures are used to either support the asking price or support a lower offer price for the piece of real estate. Once the comps are run and you agree on an offer price, there are a few other items that need to be hashed out that are part of the offer of sale. 

Arguably one of the more important factors is the inspection period. This is usually used to perform a home inspection and find any items that may need special attention or repair that would drastically affect the home’s value. This is also a time to take measurements, take pictures, bring in a contractor for quotes etc. So you will want to ask for an appropriate amount of time for these items to be completed. 

The final item to go over in the contract (we are just breezing through this here) is coupled with the financing piece. We need to determine a closing date. This will usually line up with what the mortgage lender (remember step one) will need in order for you to produce any and all documents to them and to get the loan into underwriting in order to close the sale. In the DMV this is usually about 30-days from contract acceptance to closing. There are, of course, instances where it can be sooner and those where it can be extended a bit. It’s all a fine dance between all parties involved to ensure a smooth transaction. It truly does take a village.

Once the offer is written, presented, negotiated and all parties agree to the terms – then this menagerie of bulleted items and timelines are set into place. There are timed items for different types of real estate and each jurisdiction is different regarding their timing – which is why its vital to use a Realtor that performs often in that specific area in which you are looking to purchase.

This is by no means an all-encompassing list of items within a real estate contract nor a true roadmap to home ownership, however, it represents the stripped down fundamental steps in the home buying process. Aside from the contract, which protects you as the buyer, it is important to ensure that you align yourself with your ‘A Team’ for the hunt. That includes a lender, title company, home inspector and any auxiliary contractors, etc., that your trusted real estate agent can help provide a list for you to choose from.

In this current climate there are mumblings and lawsuits about the “need” for a Realtor to be used in a home buying or selling transaction. After reading the snippet of tasks above, I would surely believe that a Realtor is vital to a successful home purchase in this market. We have gone from a seller’s market with super low inventory levels to a market with higher interest rates and equally low inventory levels. Realtors are on the pulse of the market and what is changing because we are in the trenches – I would argue that assistance with your home purchase, one of the most valuable assets you will have – is one in which having a professional by your side is of vital importance.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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