Here are some handy tips for successfully SUPERVISING YOUR ATTORNEY, and MANAGING YOUR CASE.
- “RUN THE TABLE.” You may be impressed with your attorney, but make sure YOU take the initiative and make the major decisions. (This applies to Medical Doctors, just as well as Attorneys.) DO NOT sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that someone else is handling a major part / component of your life and well-being. Pretend you’re in Vegas, playing “Craps,” or pretend you’re Donald Trump, after winning three or four Primaries in a row …. this is an opportunity for you to shine, to be the boss, and the “mover and shaker.” Do not pass up the opportunity.
- SPEAK-UP … BE THE “SQUEEKY WHEEL” THAT GETS THE “GREASE.” Be in constant contact with your attorney, but do not be a pest. When possible, send e-mails, rather than make telephone calls. That gives your Attorney just a little bit more control of the timing of the conversation – meaning when exactly he or she responds – but YOU must still control the agenda, as much as possible. Just like the patients in a hospital that have the most visitors – and most assertive visitors – are treated the best by the Hospital Staff, so the Clients that communicate the most, speak up when appropriate, and make their “presence felt,” are the ones that are treated the best by their attorneys.
- TRY YOUR HAND AT LEGAL WRITING. By this we mean, rather than sending your Attorney a ten-page handwritten note, or a series of disjointed e-mails, try your best to send him or her a brief, concise e-mail, with a DRAFT DECLARATION attached. Meaning, try your best to put the written information that you are conveying, in the form and format – more or less – that your Attorney will be required to put it in, in order to file it with the Court, or use it as the basis for a letter to Opposing Counsel. If this is your very first lawsuit or divorce or legal matter of consequence, this may sound like “Greek” to you. But for those of you who have had to hire an attorney once or more already, you will understand. Try your best to convey your thoughts … in a form and format that your Attorney can readily and quickly USE.
- BE REASONABLE AND REALISTIC. I was once involved with a complex commercial lawsuit, and I recall that the parties scheduled a Mediation, before a Retired Judge, in hopes of settling at least some of the issues, without going to Trial. The Mediator made it clear at the outset that his approach required each side to think hard, and then convey to him (the Mediator) a reasonable and realistic settlement offer, which represented (theoretically) the absolute minimum that they would require in order to consider the settlement to be worthwhile, from their perspective. After several hours of preliminary discussions, the Mediator requested that reasonable and realistic settlement offer from each side. On the side that I was involved with, the Attorney left it up to the Client (Principal of the Company) to formulate the settlement proposal. The Client thought for five minutes, and then assembled a “Laundry List” of all the amounts and concessions that he would like to have. Upon presenting his Laundry List to the Mediator, the Mediator said, “well thank you very much [sarcastically], we’re obviously done here,” and walked out of the room, and actually terminated the Mediation. So the day was a waste for everyone involved. It would have been better for the Client to be Reasonable and Realistic.
- EXAMINE INVOICES CAREFULLY, REQUEST REVISIONS, BUT THEN ACCEPT THE RESULT. Meaning, do not pay an Attorney’s Invoice without reviewing it carefully. If you have questions, or believe that the charges are too high, then discuss it with your Attorney. Attorneys’ Invoices CAN be negotiated. But, after your Attorney revises the Invoice amount downward, accept the result and pay it. Not necessarily all at once … you can informally work out a payment schedule or accommodation, so that the impact of the Invoice can be spread out over time. But then, you really should pay your Attorney some or all of the charges.
Here’s why: much as your Attorney trusts you, and believes in you, and agrees with your assessment of your case, he or she still has to pay the rent. Consciously or unconsciously, if you stop paying your Attorney, her or she will begin to place more energy in his or her other cases, where the clients pay regularly. If this occurs, your Attorney is not intentionally failing you, rather, he or she is just focusing more energy on the clients that support his or her law practice. If you quote me, I’ll deny that I ever said this, but, to some degree at least, it is the truth.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid back in the 1960’s, watching black-and-white TV, I heard (several times) the phrase, “Possession is nine-tenths (9/10) of the Law,” but I had no idea what it meant.
Most clearly, I remember the phrase from the old Western Television series, “Maverick” starring James Garner as the stylish and rambling Gambler “Bret Maverick.”
Well, now – fifty years later – I finally understand.
It means that you should never give up the “high ground.” You are always better off being the person who possesses the “thing of value,” with others trying to get it from you.
- In Family Law, when your marriage is fraying apart, and you think your spouse might be planning to file for Divorce, ALWAYS stay in the MARITAL RESIDENCE. Do Not leave, or agree to leave. The “high ground” advantage goes to the party that is in the HOUSE, with the other spouse going to Court to take it away. You also want to be the party that spends the most time with the children. Always insist on the kids being with you for the majority of each week, even if you have to take time off from work to make it happen. Eventually, the custody sharing arrangement will be finalized by the Court, and your percentage of time with the kids will determine whether you are paying or receiving Child Support, and how much … for a very long time. If there is a Property Settlement, with one party keeping the House, and the other receiving an equivalent amount of Cash, you want to be the one that keeps the House … since it will be critical in keeping the kids with you for the majority of each week. And don’t forget that on a School Day, the party that has the kids with them in the morning, and again in the evening, gets credit for the six (6) to seven (7) hours that the kids are in school each day !
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- In the Dissolution of a Business Partnership or Corporation, you are generally better off to be the one that keeps control of the business, and not the one that will be paid an annual payout from the operation of the Business. If you are in control of the Business, you make the decision of how much will be invested in expansion, and how much will be taken out in profits, despite what the provisions of the Dissolution Agreement state.
- Whether it’s Real Property or Personal Property, it is generally best to be the Person “ON TITLE.” Let your business partners and/or relatives go to Court to say that despite the fact that YOUR name is on the Title, you were actually just a “NOMINAL TITLE HOLDER,” and it is really them that should be awarded the Beneficial Interest in the Real Estate or Personal Property. With YOUR name on the Title, you are holding the “high ground.”
- If it’s Livestock, Whether Cattle or Horses, you want to be the one that owns the animals, just like it should be you that is on Title to the Real Estate. Better to be the one with the livestock, with your business partners and/or relatives going to Court to claim that YOU are the “cattle-rustler,” instead of YOU going to Court to say that YOU’VE been “rustled.”
- If there’s been Fraud On Your Credit Card, and the Credit Card company asks you to review the monthly statement, and “circle” the charges that are “fraudulent,” just say, “no thank you” … the charges are ALL fraudulent, as far as you’re concerned … and let the Credit Card company be the one to spend the time “circling” the charges that appear NOT to have been “fraudulent.” Just an illustration of when you might want the other side to spend the time, doing their homework, “taking the laboring oar.”
- Be the One to “Press Charges.” I hesitate to even say it, since it just doesn’t seem right to suggest this, but … if you get in a scuffle, and Police break-up the fight, and ask, “do you want to press charges?,” YOU should be the one to say “YES.“ Years ago, a thirty-something, “Yuppy” friend of mine, on the City Subway, back in the day of “Boom-Boxes,” and very loud radios, got in a verbal argument with a teenager, and (apparent) gang member, about the loud noise from the teenager’s “Boom Box.” The teenager “sucker-punched” my friend, and pretty soon it was an all-out fight on the subway platform. The NYC Transit Police broke up the fight, and turned to my friend, asking, do you want to press charges? My friend figured enough was enough, and no one was really hurt, so he said, NO. The Transit Police then asked the (apparent) gang member the same question, and he said, “YES … I want to press charges.” So my friend was arrested. He should have said “yes” when asked. It is always best to negotiate from a position of strength, meaning be on the “high ground.” So, in this case, the criminal process “corollary” to the saying “Possession is nine-tenths (9/10) of the Law” means, do NOT “waive charges” until the other guy “waives charges.”
So, always remember, “Possession is nine-tenths (9/10) of the Law,” and YOU want to be the one on the “high ground’ … the one that maintains “possession.”
You’ve read the book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” …. but now, there is a Tree growing in front of YOUR home or business, in the City of Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the Tree growing in Los Angeles is pushing up the concrete sidewalk, and causing it to buckle, as if there’d been a recent earthquake.
Being a responsible person, you contact the City of Los Angeles and inform them of this Tree problem. In most cases, nothing further happens, and that’s the end of the story.
If you are lucky, the response of the City of Los Angeles is to go out and inspect the problem and repair it if necessary.
But even then, what the City of Los Angeles does next is really quite surprising – the City holds YOU responsible.
Over recent years, the City of Los Angeles and other local Governments, in an attempt to shield themselves from liability, lobbied the State of California to pass California Streets and Highways Code Section 5610. Section 5610 places liability for the sidewalk on the “Adjacent Landowner.” And that person / entity is YOU ! To say the least, you have been Blindsided. Your response is shock, since you did not put the sidewalk in, nor did you plant the Tree that is now affecting the sidewalk. You are wondering how on Earth you could possibly be liable !
The statute shifts responsibility for the maintenance and repair of sidewalk to the “Adjacent Landowner.” The Statute, and subsequent cases interpreting the Statute, have held that the adjacent landowner owns all land from the edge of the sidewalk adjacent to their land to the middle of the street. (What if the problem is a Sewer Connection under the street, which would be virtually inaccessible to the Adjacent Landowner ?
The City of Los Angles claims that it will gladly come out and repair and then bill you, the “Adjacent Landowner” for their expertise. We are currently litigating a case involving a serious injury where an “Adjacent Landowner” Restaurant built a restaurant patio extension onto the sidewalk. It turns out that neither the Restaurant, nor its construction company (now bankrupt), had a permit to do so.
In the ongoing litigation, both the City of Los Angeles and the Restaurant have Cross-Complained against each other.
Logically, one would think that the entity that built the sidewalk, and planted the Tree, would be liable for injuries caused by their Negligence.
However, logic and law are at times not in sync.
In our case, the City of Los Angeles claims that it had no notice of the danger caused by the un-filled, deep Tree well. The Statute shifts the responsibility to the Adjacent Landowner to notify the City. This makes nosense, since the City of Los Angeles had sent various employees to the area, on business for various other City departments.
Should there not be a duty on the City to inspect and identify hazards before an injury occurs ?
In our case, an 18-inch deep Tree well became unfilled (how?) and our client (Plaintiff), walking at night, in conversation with a friend, down the narrow and partially-obstructed sidewalk, and tripped and fell into the deep Tree well, sustaining serious injuries.
The City of Los Angeles claims that it is not liable, since it (allegedly) had no notice of the dangerous situation, while the Adjacent Landowner claims it thought it had a permit and does not know how the deep Tree well became unfilled. Luckily for Plaintiff, case law places liability on the Adjacent Landowner when the land was altered for their benefit.
In our case, the construction of the Restaurant’s patio extension gave exclusive benefit to the Restaurant.
Does this situation make sense? Should not the City of Los Angeles be liable, since they built the sidewalk, and planted the Tree ?
Should the Adjacent Landowner be liable for a dangerous situation that it did not create ?
On the other hand, as in our case, what if the Adjacent Landowner did create the situation ?
What say you?
Here are the CRITICAL “ANATOMICAL” STAGES of a successful PERSONAL INJURY (“PI”) CASE :
- INFORMATION. At the scene of the car, truck or motorcycle accident, if you are able, get Driver License and Insurance information, and take photos. (Again, IF you are able.)
- AMBULANCE / EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION. If possible, accept Ambulance or Emergency Transportation to the nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
- IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. Whether it is a Hospital Emergency Room, an Urgent Care Clinic, or your Family Physician, you absolutely must seek Medical Attention immediately, meaning right after the accident, obviously the same day, but best timing is immediately … do NOT go home, do NOT “Pass GO” … go directly to the Hospital or Physician.
- REQUEST THOROUGH MEDICAL TESTING AND EVALUATION. Request X-rays, CT-Scans, MRI’s, and push for a very thorough medical evaluation, right at the beginning.
- CONTACT ATTORNEY / GET LEGAL REPRESENTATION. On the day of the accident, contact an attorney, and retain legal representation. Your legal counsel must be “in place” from DAY ONE. In terms of your medical treatment, your Personal Injury (“PI”) attorney will be able to recommend suitable medical staff from a network of physicians, technicians, chiropractors and care givers.
- LEGAL COUNSEL AS “GATE-KEEPER.” Your attorney and/or law firm will serve as your “Gate-Keeper,” keeping track of the Medical Invoices, requesting Medical Reports, and ensuring that not only do you receive proper medical care, but that the medical care that you do receive, is PROPERLY DOCUMENTED ON PAPER.
- ATTORNEY’S LETTER OF REPRESENTATION. Soon after your Accident, your Attorney will send a Letter of Representation to the Insurance Company representing the other parties involved in your Accident, and will ensure that future communications go directly to your Attorney, and NOT to YOU. This ensures that an experienced Personal Injury Attorney will handle the upcoming communications, and will know what to say, and what not to say.
- ATTORNEY’S DEMAND LETTER. As soon as your Medical Evaluation and Treatment is well underway, and in some cases, concluded, your Attorney will get final Medical Reports from your treating Physicians and Health-care providers, and add up your Medical Expenses, plus your Lost Income and other Damages, and send a DEMAND LETTER on your behalf. In many cases, this is all that is necessary in order to obtain a successful monetary recovery.
- CRISCI POLICY-LIMITS DEMAND LETTER. In some cases, your Attorney will have a basis to send a Policy-Limits Demand Letter, warning the Insurance Company involved that they must pay the Policy Limit to cover your damages, and if they refuse, and the case goes to Trial, and the Jury awards an amount above and beyond the Policy Limit, the Insurance Company will be REQUIRED TO PAY THE FULL AWARD, despite the Policy Limit of the Insurance Coverage !
- FILING LAWSUIT. Your Attorney will know, from long experience, when it is necessary to actually go to Court, to advance your legal rights, and when NOT.
- LITIGATION LESSONS. Your Attorney has learned many lessons from the “trench-warfare” of litigation, lessons about how best to deal with what may be at times a daunting process. You will need representation for Written Discovery, Oral Depositions, and Court Appearances.
- COURTROOM DEMEANOR. Your Attorney will coach you on “Courtroom Demeanor.” How you act in Court, or in a Deposition, may determine how believable you are. One really decent and honorable client, listened in Court as his teenage children not only took the side of their Mom, but testified falsely on Mom’s behalf, actually lying on the Stand. The client WEPT as his children testified against him, because he felt the pain and anguish of betrayal, and also deep sadness for a broken family …. But the client’s weeping conveyed the impression that the teenagers were telling the truth, even though they were not. Ideally, the client’s Courtroom Demeanor would have been one of disbelief, outrage, even anger … had he kept his composure, and even used a little bit of drama, he would have conveyed the (accurate) impression that his teenagers were lying to the Court, and betraying their Dad out of anger and disrespect. There was a lot at stake … in this case, the Dad was forced to move out of the Marital Residence, which was his Separate Property (inherited from his father). The Mom didn’t fare much better, since there was no income to pay the mortgage, and the Marital Residence was ultimately lost by the family.
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- ESTABLISHING DAMAGES. Your Attorney will help you to establish evidence of DAMAGES, and prove DAMAGES at Trial. How bad are your injuries? Juries are increasingly cheap when it comes to awarding damages in personal injury cases. Jurors are not happy to be on Jury Duty in the first place. As Plaintiff, you had better have a compelling story to tell the Jury, through your own testimony, as well as the testimony of witnesses and experts. If you do not have such a story, the Jury will take it out on you, and your Attorney.
- ESTABLISHING LIABILITY. Your Attorney will help you to establish LIABILITY on the part of the Defendants. What did the Defendant do, or not do, which would trigger a finding of FAULT (LIABILTY) against them? Major damage cases have been lost because a Judge or Jury has found that there is no liability on the part of the Defendant.
- INSURANCE. Defendant’s INSURANCE Coverage is of critical importance. Although the law clearly states that neither Judge nor Jury can imply or infer that there is, or is not, INSURANCE Coverage for a Defendant, most people understand that this is a critical aspect of the case. Without INSURANCE, collecting on a judgment will be a problem. A Defendant could file for bankruptcy and have the Judgment discharged, or a payment agreement could take years to satisfy.
- PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES. Only your Attorney will know whether or not to allege Gross Negligence, and whether or not to seek PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES. In an appropriate case, PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY Damages may be applicable. Punitive damages are those that are designed to punish or deter the defendant and others (similarly situated) from engaging in the type of conduct that the Defendant engaged in. PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES are to be awarded in an amount commensurate with (in accordance with) the Defendant’s ABILITY TO PAY, and in an amount sufficient to deter such conduct in the future. However, PUNITIVE / EXEMPLARY DAMAGES are not covered under the typical INSURANCE policy. If a Defendant acted intentionally, those actions are not covered under insurance as well. The courts have concluded that this would be against public policy. This is why in a given case, pleadings may allege actions of the Defendant as both negligent (covered by insurance) and intentional (not covered by insurance).
- DO NOT “GO IT ALONE.” Let’s face it, you are going to need a skilled and experienced Accident ATTORNEY to help you navigate through some pretty rough seas, and what can sometimes be a long journey. You should hire your Attorney at the very start, and take full advantage of what the American legal system has to offer you.
Our American Society’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) Community must decide what its priorities are.
What is most important ?
Is it an urgent need to have LGBT COMBAT SOLDIERS on the FRONT LINES in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan ?
Is it to have equal access to RESTROOMS of choice ?
Is it to have America’s FIRST LGBT PRESIDENT elected ?
Is it to have LIBERTY, FREEDOM and EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, regardless of Gender and/or Sexual Orientation ?
Regarding LGBT COMBAT SOLDIERS on the FRONT LINES in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, does anyone really want that ? Are members of the LGBT Community so determined to have full integration of America’s Armed Forces, that they will seek out Front-Line Combat positions ? Is full integration of America’s Armed Forces really such a good idea, or will there be at least the potential that we would lose a degree of Battle-hardened, Combat-readiness ?
Regarding equal access to RESTROOMS of Choice, do new laws and regulations really help anyone ? Perhaps we should just leave things the way they are, and let the individuals involved sort it all out.
Regarding America’s FIRST LGBT PRESIDENT, will that be achieved if Hillary Clinton is elected ?
Regarding LIBERTY, FREEDOM and EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, regardless of Gender and/or Sexual Orientation, isn’t that the most important thing, for the LGBT Community, as well as everyone else ?
And perhaps we should all apply a “RULE OF REASON,” which is a time-honored LEGAL TERM referring to a well-thought out decision, using COMMON SENSE, avoiding extremes, and coming up with the BEST SOLUTION.
Let’s not be so driven by specific MILESTONES, as by COMMON SENSE.
If Discrimination is alleged, capable attorneys can argue the issues in a Court of Law.
After all, our Adversarial Judicial System works best when opponents hire experienced counsel, who argue the different sides of the issue, to be ultimately decided by either a WISE COURT, or a JURY of PEERS, or both.
Have you ever met or knew a lawyer in Los Angeles who used this as evidence during a case? Or, just had it on their desk to keep kids occupied while their parents went on to deal with the legal matter with this vintage and seasoned attorney?
Tell us your story, do you miss those simple gadgets or, happier now with your endless options on your sophisticated mobile phone?
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So the question came up at the World Joke Fair as the bartender asked his colleague:
“What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 70?”
How many lawyer jokes are there?
Only three. The rest are true stories.
- Avoid The Crash, If At All Possible. If it looks like there may be trouble ahead on the road, it is well-worth slowing down, or shifting lanes … whatever it takes, to avoid possible injury, and likely property damage. For sure, the car crash will ruin your day, at the very least! Drive defensively at all times, avoid any contact with a dangerous driver, rather than attempting to “teach him a lesson.” Don’t waste time slowing down to shout at the dangerous driver, or make hand or finger gestures. Move on … and stay safe.
- Have a Car Crash Kit in your Glove Compartment. This means, a copy of your Car Registration, and a current Insurance Card, a Disposable Camera (yes, in addition to your cell phone camera), a flash light, a pad and pen.
- Take Photos – A Lot of Photos. Do not be bashful. Snap a shot of their License Plate, their Driver License, their Insurance Card. Snap a shot of the damage to your car, and the damage to their car.
- Write Down Everything. In addition to writing down the Driver License, Registration and Insurance Information from every vehicle involved, see if the other driver will write a brief statement for you, such as “I accept liability,” or “I skidded on an oil slick.” We know … you’re laughing … thinking that they won’t do that … and you’re probably right, in most cases … but sometimes, the other driver will scribble a statement against their own interest. It’s worth a try.
- Do Not Write Anything Down for the Other Driver. Show them your Driver License, Registration and Insurance Card. But let them do the writing … not you.
- Do As Little Talking As Possible. Don’t offer conversation. Make sure your kids stay in your car, and keep quiet. We are aware of one car accident in which the teenage daughter of our client blurted out, so that the other driver heard, “I can’t believe that this happened twice in one day !” … Not good … do not offer gratuitous information that may come back to haunt you.
- Call the Police. They may not always arrive promptly, but it is always best to call the Police, and to be the one that does the calling. Frequently, the Police Dispatcher will ask, “was anyone injured?” We’re definitely not suggesting that you provide a false answer, but you might want to say, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” rather than a simple “NO,” since you really do NOT know.
- Ask Witnesses for Their Contact Information. Just a first name, a cell phone number, a business card … anything will do. This could make a big difference down the line.
- Seek Medical Attention. Even if you feel OK at the moment, you may very well experience pain and discomfort an hour or two later. Go to a physician, whether it is a Hospital Emergency Room, or your Family Doctor. It is always a good idea to have your own physical condition checked by a doctor, after a crash, just as it is always a good idea to have your vehicle checked by a mechanic, after a crash.
- If An Ambulance Ride Is Offered, or Available, Accept It. If you are asked, “do you want an Ambulance?,” Just Say “Yes.”
- If A Tow Truck Is Offered, Or Available, Accept It. It is always better to have your vehicle towed to a Service Station, even if you think it might be drivable.
- Call An Attorney. Whether or not you feel that you need a Car Accident Lawyer, it is always worth a phone call. The law office that you contact might have a helpful suggestion or two.
- Call Friends and Family. They will thank you many times over for keeping them informed. They will feel honored to be the one that you call at such a time. And yes, they might also have a helpful suggestion or two.
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Our society continues to evolve in ways that social conservatives and traditionalists in this country cannot or will not comprehend.
The most recent and glaring examples are the legal actions taken by the states of Mississippi and North Carolina, in effect mandating that transgender persons do not exist. Laws in these states mandate that a person must use a public bathroom solely based on the gender that is listed on their birth certificate. This completely disregards the medical and surgical advances that have been made.
Gender changes are in all likelihood not undertaken lightly. The person who wishes to undergo this type of change has undergone tremendous psychological angst, pressure and has been the subject of ridicule or perceived mis-identification for many years.
If science can alleviate this problem, why should a person continue to be discriminated against by government? How would the Mississippi and North Carolina laws be enforced? Would there be a “checker” at bathroom requiring a person to lift their clothes to expose their “private parts” prior to using a restroom? Who would pay for this “service”? How degrading would this be people?
Doesn’t government have better things to do with resources than engage in this type of conduct? If our society is to be all inclusive, then why are we enacting laws to exclude and discriminate against people? Transgender rights has now emerged as the leading edge of the civil rights movement.
Our concept of legal rights has evolved. Sexual harassment has gone from male to female to female to female to man to man. Why stop the recognition of transgender people because of the quirk of being born of the “wrong gender” for them? The Catholic church has not yet embraced the transgender community, apparently stemming from the Biblical concept of what it means to be a man or a woman. However, the Bible was written at a time when transgender surgery did not exist.
In San Francisco a Catholic High School is not going to terminate a transgender teacher on this ground. Teachers are a profession that teaches students.
The sexual orientation of a teacher is irrelevant. If they can teach, they should have a job.
All male teachers are not ostracized if one of their number acts inappropriately with students. The same applies with female teachers. All persons should be judged on what they do, individually, and not on what others, similarly situated do.
Health insurance carriers are now beginning to recognize that transgender surgical and psychological procedures should be covered under health insurance policies. Transgender people want to carry on with their lives as everyone else does, free of governmental or societal ridicule, scorn and discrimination. Shouldn’t we now just get past this and, as Rodney King said, “why can’t we all just get along?”
What say you?
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With the recent death of the record artist Prince, it turns out that he did not have an estate plan. This was done when his estate was valued at over $250 million. In Prince’s case, many questions exist as to who gets the rights to his music. Millions are on the line in the form of royalties. Prince had no spouse or children. He has five half siblings and one sister. The primary beneficiaries of this failure to have a will be the State of Minnesota, the Federal government and (dare I say it) lawyers! There will be extensive litigation over this fortune. Whoever finally gets control of the estate, will pay hefty estate taxes. The taxes could have been minimized with planning. A trust or will could have been established which would have skipped generations and pay taxes far down the proverbial line. Why was this not done?
Many people refuse to deal with their own mortality. Even Abraham Lincoln died without a will. In California, you can make an estate plan all by yourself. A valid will can be done so long as it is entirely in your handwriting and is signed and dated by you. This is called a holographic will. What can you and I learn from this? The answer is simple: Make a Plan!
Wills can sort out many issues and give guidance. If you own a small business, who will take over if/when you die? If you have minor children (with or without special needs) who will care for them if you and your spouse die? You can have guardians for them established. A plan can keep our estate out of the court system. The American Bar Association estimates that $2 billion is spent in probate court. Of that total, nearly $1.5 billion is paid to lawyers.
Should you die without a will, the state where you die has a statutory plan to take care of your estate. This is called intestate succession. This may or may not mirror what you want. This may or may not have estate taxes paid the way you want. Guardians for minor children will be appointed if you do not have a plan in place for persons you want to assist your children. These people may or may not be the persons you want taking care of your children.
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Ensure that questions are answered so that lawyers do not get involved in sorting out what you may or may not have wanted. Ease any pain for those you leave behind. When you go, go on your terms, from the financial sense. The two things that are inevitable are death and taxes. Make sure you can control the tax part of your life and what happens after you leave, minimize the cost of your leaving, MAKE A PLAN!!!!
Chances are you worked very hard to make money and acquire things during your lifetime. Make sure that these things do not needlessly go to those whom you did not want them to go to.
What say you?
Did you have anyone in your family who passed without leaving behind a will?