Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund
It’s tax season again, and many of us have visions of tropical vacations running through our heads. While luxury is a valid way to spend your tax refund, there are more financially responsible actions you can take, especially if you are facing debt. As a Clearwater debt collection attorney, we know how hard it is to get out of debt collection once the process has begun. Here are some smart ways to spend your tax refund this year.
Pre-Pay Some Priority Bills
Maybe you’re not in debt, but you’re basically just covering expenses each month with little to spare. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a little break from barely meeting your payment deadlines? Apply your tax return to your most crucial bill (mortgage, rent, etc.) and enjoy a brief period of financial freedom. You can use the time to keep paying ahead so you have a security net if you get behind, or you can take the extra money and get started on your savings account. Just be sure that the company allows you to pre-pay. Some companies, like loan companies or many mortgage companies, will apply the extra payment to the total, but that doesn’t decrease your immediate commitment.
Avoid Future Problems
There is a saying, “It’s expensive to be poor”, and it refers to the fact that when you are just getting by, you can’t afford preventative measures. When you get a little extra boost in your finances from your tax return, use it to prevent future expenses. Get your car checked out and see if there are any issues that need to be addressed, especially if they may escalate over time. Have someone come and check your home for leaks or small issues that could end up getting worse. This is a great time to be proactive and save money in the long run.
Pay Off Debts
If you’re in debt, pay it off as soon as you can. Try not to use your tax return for other items if you owe money. Instead, use it to pay off your smaller debts and clear them once and for all from your record.
Start Planning for Retirement
This is a great time to start a retirement fund! An IRA or other retirement fund will yield high returns, and a contribution like your tax refund can really get the ball rolling.
There are so many ways you can plan ahead with your tax refund! What do you plan to do with your return?
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler, P.L. for their insight into smart ways to spend your tax refund.
What is Probate
Probate is a legal proceeding used to settle the estate of a person who has died. The judge appoints an executor or executrix who becomes responsible for gathering the assets of the decedent, paying off the creditors and then distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. Any interested party such as beneficiaries or creditors can open probate. There are three reasons why every family would want to avoid the probate process: (1) it is expensive; (2) it is time consuming; and (3) it is public in nature.
While the fees for probate will vary from state to state, it is reasonable to use an estimated fee equal to 5% of the fair market value of the probate assets. Probate assets usually include all assets you own except life insurance, annuities and retirement plans (although sometimes these assets do become probate assets). At a fee of 5%, the probate fees can get very high. Probate normally takes at least 9 months, although it does vary from state to state. Finally, all probate procedures leave a public record open to financial predators who may be looking for families to trouble.
How to Avoid Probate
To understand how to avoid probate, we need to understand what triggers the probate. Normally, a probate is opened if a person dies with real estate in their name or a certain minimum amount of other assets in their name (for example, if you have over $25,000 in bank accounts or brokerage accounts). Therefore, if you want to avoid probate, you simply need to gift your real estate and other assets out of your name before you die. The problem is that you will lose control if you gift the assets to another person.
Living Trusts Make Avoiding Probate Safe and Easy
A probate attorney Las Vegas trusts can form a Living Trust that gives you 100% control over all assets it may own. So the simple trick is to transfer all the assets you own to the Living Trust. That will leave you with no assets in your name for probate purposes. You will have the same amount of control over the trust assets as you did when the assets were in your name. There are no income tax consequences for making the transfers, and most banks will permit such transfers if there is a mortgage on the real estate.
Other Solutions Only Delay the Probate
Some folks will suggest that to avoid probate you merely need to have a co-owner for all your assets. However, that will only delay the probate until the co-owner dies; but eventually, there will still be a probate. Meanwhile, you have over-exposed the assets to the financial troubles of your co-owner such as lawsuits, bankruptcy and divorce.
The probate process creates extraordinary fees, time delays and exposure for your family. Living Trusts are a cost effective way to avoid probate while at the same time keep you in total control of your assets.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Gary L. Fales & Associates for their insight into the probate process.
Reversing Roles as Your Parents Age & Initiating Difficult Conversations
When we were younger our parents attempted to shield and protect us from situations that could harm us. They often hovered over us until we completed tasks or reminded us over and over again until it was accomplished. As we get older and our parents, aunts, uncles or loved-ones age; the roles are now reversed within society. The difference is that we are unable to provide the same approach to our parents when we are concerned for their health and well-being.
It is our personal job to ensure their safety and we now have become their guardians, literally. As a parent, you never want to be a burden or admit that you need help or assistance especially to your own children. Many people will contact a third party facility for assistance than burden their children with their worries or concerns. I bet you are wondering how can we break this cycle? How can I effectively communicate with my parents that I am their biggest advocate, supporter and I want to be their go to person?
Being a Senior Paralegal for a skilled elder law attorney Arlington TX trusts, I have the pleasure of getting to sit in with clients and have first hand knowledge of having these difficult conversations with our clients. I get to assist with strategizing finances, planning for retirement, Medicaid, VA Benefits, Wills, Trusts and Life Planning Document Preparation, Probate and Estates, Guardianships and Social Security Disability.
I also get to be an advocate or voice for our clients when it comes to Elder Law, which is another section of Law that our Firm provides. Elder Law consists of many different varieties of things such as demands for payment of loans, disputing Power of Attorneys or Medical Power of Attorneys due to mental capacity issues.
In dealing with these types of law, I have had numerous years of experience in discussing the most difficult of topics. I have come to find that the best remedy with starting these types of conversations is to simply be honest, open and direct. A listening ear and closed mouth at first often allows you to discover the most important first steps…. Being heard. Taking the time to sit down with your loved ones and truly listen to their wishes is the biggest part in gaining trust and understanding of the situation. At some point, when dealing with Dementia or Alzheimer’s of course you are not able to do as they so may direct you; however hopefully by the time they are diagnosed you’ve already come up with a strategy as to financial planning and healthcare needs.
All of these areas of law have one thing in common; no one wants to plan for the inevitable. No one likes to discuss death or growing old. When is the last time you sat down for dinner with the family and discussed burial plots or your last wishes? I believe the consensus would be unanimously across the board with a huge slim to none chance. Even in the line of work that I am in, I have brought up some of the most awkward topics of conversation at the most inopportune times with family members and the expressions or reactions still amaze me. For example, I will be driving down the road and turn to my spouse and state “I want lilies and white roses at my funeral!” The usual response is, “What is wrong with you, don’t say that?” I have rambled off so many different ideas’ that of course no one is going to remember them all, so I have literally compiled a list of all my wishes down to the music, poems, colors of my attire, photos and even my fragrance I wish to wear. Does this make me crazy?
We grow up planning for graduations, weddings, birthdays, vacation trips, purchasing our homes and some even have the whole Retirement thing accomplished. Yet as a society we do not want to discuss these difficult topics let alone sit down and plan for them. I have always had a motto of you can either be prepared for your future or your future will consume you. In dealing with Wills, Trusts and life Planning Documents I get to gather information to pass down to their loved ones once they are gone. I get to have that difficult talk when a clients son or daughter contact us to inform us of their passing and need direction as to where to go from here. When dealing with Probate and Estates, they often come back to our Firm to Probate the Will or Administer their Trusts and in doing so I get the pleasure of letting them know what we discussed at their meetings. I personally encourage our clients to write a little note to their loved ones, or tell me a joke that they would want me to share with them. A phrase that every member of the family knows them infamous for making or a memory that they want me to share with their family.
Often the saddest part of sharing these things is that a lot of the time in discussing their loved ones lives, I have had numerous clients tell me that they did not know these things about their loved ones lives. A common response is that, “They simply would not open up to me about these topics”. All you simply have to do is to stop and take the time to listen to them. Do not be afraid to ask questions or even show interest in planning for their futures. With all the technology nowadays and society being so fast paced we often forget to stop and have an actual conversation.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm for their insight into nursing home malpractice litigation.
Appealing a final judgment to the Court of Appeals
Sometimes, for a wide array of reasons, it may be necessary to appeal a judgment. Once the decision has been made to appeal a final judgment, you should mark your calendar for several deadlines. Miss any one of these deadlines, and it may be fatal to your appeal, so it’s important to ensure compliance with every deadline.
Entry of Final Judgment – Filing a Notice of Appeal:
Once a judgment has been rendered, you must make sure to await entry of the judgment into the record. Once final judgment is entered, you have 30 days in which to file a Notice of Appeal. Second, besides “entry,” the other operative word here in “final.” In Arkansas for example, while it is possible to file an interlocutory appeal, the topic of “finality” is reserved for a specific blog for next week. When filing your Notice of Appeal, ensure that it contains the requisite information included in Rule 3(e) of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Order the Transcript:
Simultaneous with preparing the Notice of Appeal for filing, you must contact the court reporter to order the entire transcript from the hearing or trial (if your appeal is more targeted, you may order only the relevant parts of the transcript). You must also make arrangements with the court reporter to provide payment for the transcription services you are ordering.
Call the Circuit Clerk to notify them of the appeal:
Simultaneous with preparing the Notice of Appeal for filing and contacting the court reporter, you must also contact the circuit clerk (if your case is being appealed from circuit court – if your case is being appealed from district court, county court, or another inferior court in the state, contact me for details on appealing adverse rulings from those courts). The clerk will then prepare the official record, which will be lodged with the appellate court. This must be done within 90 days of the filing of the Notice of Appeal. Otherwise, you must request and obtain an extension.
Appeal — Where taken
Once you have complied with the three steps discussed above, you must also decide whether to appeal the case to the Arkansas Court of Appeals or to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Depending upon the type of case, that decision will probably already be made for you. However, if you have a case that could be a case of “first impression” for the court, it is possible to appeal directly to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Consult the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure for specifics.
For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in wrongful death cases for years.
Driver Responsibility for Tire Blowout Accidents
Each year, many motor vehicle accidents are caused by tire blowouts. Drivers, passengers and even pedestrians can be injured in these accidents, just as a tire blowout can cause property damage.
If you suffered property damage or injury because of a tire blowout accident, an experienced Phoenix auto accident lawyer can help you gain compensation for your damages.
Tire blowout accidents are often the responsibility of the driver whose vehicle suffered tire damage. Sometimes the liability falls on others’ shoulders, also.
When Tire Blowout Accidents Are the Driver’s Responsibility
Drivers are required to drive according to their state’s laws and the circumstances of the environment in which they are driving. Drivers have a duty to make reasonable decisions behind the wheel.
If a driver is following laws and their vehicle suffers a blowout unexpectedly due to unavoidable roadway debris, he or she will likely not be held liable for an accident that follows their blowout. This is because the cause of the accident was the unavoidable debris, not the driver’s behavior.
However, if a driver experiences a flat tire and uses poor decision to handle the flat, he or she will possibly be at least partially responsible for an accident that results from that reaction. For example, swerving and slamming on brakes when a flat occurs will likely result in an accident. To avoid causing an accident, the driver should react to a flat by slowing the vehicle’s speed, signaling and pulling off the roadway.
Beyond a driver’s duty to regulate how they manage their vehicle while behind the wheel, there are other duties of driving. These two duties can also affect liability in a car accident after a blowout.
Duty to Inspect the Vehicle
When providing a citizen with driving privileges, the state is also entrusting that citizen with the duty to keep their vehicle in safe operating condition.
It is not necessary for a driver to know how to fix their car like a mechanic would. A driver should inspect their car for obvious hazards before getting behind the wheel, however.
If tires are not well maintained and become thread-bare or have an obvious defect, repair of these issues is the responsibility of the driver. He or she should not operate the vehicle until the problem is fixed. If a blowout causes an accident and the investigation determines the blowout was the result of an over-worn tire, the driver cannot claim they were unaware of the tire’s problem. This is because every driver has a duty to know if their tires are safe for the road.
If your accident involves a blowout caused by a defect in a tire, the driver’s mechanic or automotive specialist could also be found liable for the accident. Such would be the case if the vehicle was inspected by a mechanic who neglected to alert the car’s owner to the defect. In this situation, it would be up to a jury to decide whether the mechanic or the driver should have discovered the problem and fixed it before operating the vehicle.
Duty to Not Drive with Defective Equipment
When a driver is aware that their tire has a dangerous defect, they are obligated by law to not drive that car until it has been repaired. This duty has the same effect on a driver as the duty to inspect. If a tire blowout causes an accident, a driver who had a defective tire and operated the car without fixing it will be found liable.
When Tire Blowouts are Not the Driver’s Fault
There are instances where the driver is not at fault for a tire blowout that causes an accident. As previously mentioned in the defect situation, if a mechanic fails to do his duty during work on the vehicle or an inspection, he may be liable for the tire blowout accident.
Along the same vein, an improperly installed tire or installation of an ill-fitting wheel resulting in a blowout accident can be determined the fault of the mechanic or tire installer.
Manufacturers and retailers can also be held liable for these types of accidents. If a tire is defective as a result manufacturing or design, the manufacturer may be held responsible. Likewise, if a retailer damages a tire on the showroom floor and sells it anyway, that retailer can be held accountable for a tire blowout accident.
An Experienced Attorney Helps Victims of Car Accidents Due to Tire Blowout
When a tire blowout causes a car accident, the case of liability and compensation for damages can become complicated. A highly skilled car accident attorney will help you prove your case through expert testimony about the tire’s condition, possible prevention of the accident, whether the blowout was caused by a defect and who was responsible for such a defect.
Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at CantorCrane for their added insight into tire blowout safety.
Top 5 Myths about Slip and Fall Accidents
A slip and fall accident can require expensive medical treatment and result in crippling amounts of lost wages. Some victims are permanently disabled and even lose their jobs. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you should reach out to a Chicago personal injury lawyer who understands how to maximize your recovery for a slip and fall case.
There are numerous myths about slip and fall accidents. These range from people who think that they cannot recover damages because they fell (even though the unsafe condition was caused by someone else) to people who think that certain types of entities (such as the state) can never be sued. Here are five of the most common myths about slip and fall cases.
Myth # 1 – People Who File Lawsuits for Slip and Fall Injuries are Greedy
While a few people may occasionally file nonsense lawsuits to try and shakedown settlements from defendants, the vast majority of slip and fall lawsuits are filed by people who suffered injuries because of a condition on someone else’s property. These injuries can require expensive medical care, and often result in days, weeks, months, or even years of missed work. People asking a property owner to compensate them for losses that they suffered because of a dangerous condition on the property owner’s property is not greedy.
Myth # 2 – If the Property Owner Claims he is “broke”, you cannot recover any money
Many times, when a person contacts a property owner after being injured by a dangerous condition on their property, the property owner claims that he or she has no money. This is rarely true—property costs money! Of course, it is difficult for an injured person to know for sure whether the property owner is telling the truth, but that is where a personal injury attorney can help. We track down assets on a regular basis. In addition, most property owners have insurance, which will cover injuries sustained on their properties.
Myth # 3 – You should take a quick settlement if it is offered
Often, when a person is injured on their property, a property owner will generally quickly offer a small settlement. “Here is a few hundred $$$ for your trouble; just sign this release, and I’ll hand you some cash.” While there is nothing wrong with settling a case, the vast majority of people who are injured in a slip and fall have no idea how much their case is worth. How much will their medical bills be? How much in lost wages? How much will your future medical expenses cost you? Will you miss more work? Are any of your injuries permanent? Will you continue to be in pain after the injuries have healed? Until you understand the entirety of your situation, you should not settle, because once the release is signed, you usually cannot go back and claim that you are owed more.
Myth # 4 – It is easy to tell if you have sustained major injuries in a slip and fall accident
While it is true that in many cases, a serious injury is immediately apparent, in other cases, it can take weeks or even months for a serious injury to be diagnosed. For example, what is initially diagnosed as a bump on the head may turn out to be a concussion, or an even more significant brain injury. This is one reason why property owners and their insurance companies are often in a hurry to get a quick settlement done. It is also why you should also seek immediate medical attention if you are injured, and consult with your attorney before accepting any settlement offer that is made.
Myth # 5 – If you are injured due to a slip and fall, the property owner must compensate you
This is one of the most common and costly myths regarding slip and fall accidents. However, the reality is that if you are injured in a slip and fall accident, the burden is on you to prove that the injuries were as a result of the property owner’s negligence. A personal injury attorney can be vital in helping you prove your injury claim.
Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at The Law Offices of Konrad Sherinian, LLC for their added insight into slip and fall related personal injury claims.
Am I Liable if Someone Borrows my Car and Gets in an Accident?
As a practicing Des Moines, IA personal injury attorney, I am often confronted with what I call the “cocktail party question”. That is, whether at a cocktail party or just hanging out at the pool, it is almost inevitable that someone, upon hearing I’m a lawyer, walks up and tells me a long and convoluted fact pattern followed with a, “can they do that?” This type of question to a fact pattern is never simple to answer, especially when I’m not wearing my lawyer hat! Another angle of the cocktail party question is when I’m asked a seemingly easy question but, due to missing information, I’m again at a loss. This latter scenario occurred just days ago, and I came away from the conversation feeling like I probably caused the poor lady who asked more confusion than she had when we first started talking. With a glimmer of hope that she will ever see this article, below I am attempting to offer her a more thorough answer than I had previously.
Her question to me? Am I Liable if Someone Borrows my Car and Gets in an Accident?
Again, a straightforward question with a challenging answer. The safest answer to this question is the oft-used, “it depends”. The reason “it depends” is due, in large part, to differences in laws from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Therefore, if you are faced with this question, it is important to research the laws in your specific state to ensure accuracy.
That said, frequently the owner of a vehicle is indeed liable if they loan out their car and the driver gets in an accident. In many states, the priority for negligence claims stemming from a motor vehicle collision is owner first then operator. For example, you loan your car to your neighbor who proceeds to hit a pedestrian with your car. The victim would make their first claim for injury against your insurance policy then, if they are not fully compensated by your insurance carrier, they can then make a claim against the operator (neighbor). This situation is why some parents who buy cars for their kids choose to put the car and insurance in the child’s name as this help protect the parent should the child injure someone in an accident.
However, even in cases in which owner / operator isn’t the priority for claims, the owner isn’t necessarily off the hook should someone else crash their car. There is a claim that may be able to be brought called negligent entrustment in which the injured party might be able to make a claim against the owner for negligently entrusting your car to the person who injured them. While this claim isn’t made terribly often, it does exist and, under the right circumstances, can be made.
Thanks to our friend and blog author, Christopher A. Johnston of Johnston|Martineau PLLP, for his insight into car accident liability.
What is Uninsured Coverage?
Have you ever considered what might happen if you are involved in an accident with someone who is not covered by insurance? If they are at fault, who pays your medical bills? Who repairs the damage to your vehicle? As a Little Rock AR personal injury lawyer, we hope that you never find yourself in a situation that requires the answer to these questions; but if you do, here’s a little info that may help you be prepared:
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you’re in an accident with a driver who has no insurance. For this reason, uninsured motorist coverage is compulsory in all states and the District of Columbia except for New Hampshire (Live Free or Die…literally).
This scenario may be more common than you’d initially think. Consider all the drivers on the road out there who are risking driving without insurance. Think of all the drivers on the road who could be an excluded driver under their family’s policy. Think of all the possibilities of shopping at the mall and coming out to find someone hit your car in the parking lot and didn’t have the courtesy of waiting to tell you or even leaving a note.
What does uninsured motorist coverage typically cover? Uninsured insurance offers coverage for bodily injury to you and your passengers. It’s important to note that uninsured motorist property damage (damage to your vehicle and contents) coverage is not available in some states.
Most states also require that you have a minimum level of uninsured protection in an effort to protect you if you are involved in such an unfortunate situation. Keep in mind that the minimum level of insurance required (for example, $10,000 in Florida) may not be sufficient to pay for catastrophic (or even moderate) injuries. As a matter of fact, the minimum level of insurance required may not even cover a trip to the ER. For this reason, it’s important to review your policy and determine if you have sufficient coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage is also triggered in a hit-and-run scenario. This is also more common than you might think. Statistics suggest that one in seven motorists may be required to use their uninsured coverage over their lifetime. For these reasons, it’s important to review your insurance policy and make sure that your coverage is at a level with which you’re comfortable.
When are Attorney’s Fees Awarded in Personal Injury Cases?
Personal injury attorneys are required to tell prospective clients that a court may award attorney’s fees and costs to the other party at the end of your case. But when does this actually happen? Today’s blog will answer your questions. First and foremost, this rule on attorney’s fees and costs only applies if your case goes to trial or arbitration. If your case settles prior to trial, this rule should never come into play.
For example, the rules that apply when a court decides if attorney’s fees and costs should be awarded in personal injury attorney cases can be found in Nevada Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 68 and NRS 17.115. The rules basically applies when the other side made you a settlement offer. However, in evaluating the offer, you decided to go to trial instead of settling. But, the jury awarded you less than what was offered prior to trial. The court may award the other side their fees and costs for having to take the case to trial needlessly, because you would have gotten more money if you had just settled.
A case that was handed down in the 1980s, talks about four specific factors when looking at an award of fees:
- The trial court must carefully evaluate the following four factors: (1) whether the plaintiff’s claim was brought in good faith; (2) whether the defendant’s offer of judgment was reasonable and in good faith in both its timing and amount; (3) whether the plaintiff’s decision to reject the offer and proceed to trial was grossly unreasonable or in bad faith; and (4) whether the fees sought by the offeror are reasonable and justified in amount. See Beattie v. Thomas, 99 Nev. 579, 588-89 (1983).
Under the same example, the Las Vegas, Nevada Supreme Court case says, just because the court could potentially award the other side attorney’s fees and costs, it might not necessary do so. They say hindsight is always 20/20 and this applies when looking back after a trial is over. As long as a court determines that you and your counsel acted in good faith in taking your case to trial, the other side will not likely be awarded any fees and costs.
A personal injury attorney may be able to go over this with you in more detail. If you have questions about your accident case or attorney’s fees, call a top personal injury attorney today for a free, confidential consultation.