Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tax Problems of Actor James Gandolfini's Heirs Illustrate Need for Estate Planning

Why go to the trouble of estate planning?

The recent death of Soprano's actor James Gandolfini illustrates the need for careful, individual estate planning.

The actor had a large estate, and he had a will.  But sometimes a will just isn't enough!

In this case, the will WAS enough to make his wishes known, to allow his beneficiaries to know that he cared for them, and to designate how he wanted his property to be divided.   However, it did not account for the one BIG "interested party"... the I.R.S.!

Because of the way that Mr. Gandolfini's will was written, property that he intended to go to the beneficiaries may have to be sold off to pay the tax burden.  The sad thing is, that tax burden could likely have been reduced, with planning. 

How can the I.R.S. end up "the largest beneficiary" when there is not a cohesive, individual estate plan? 

Why then do these situations happen?   There are a variety of reasons.  For example: 
1. the testator (person signing the will)  wants to "keep it simple" and believes a will is good enough;
2. the testator signs a will (better than having nothing!), and plans to do the more complex estate planning later but gets busy and never does it;
3.  the testator does not update his/her will when financial circumstances or federal or state laws change;
4.  the testator does not visit a wills and trust attorney or get adequate legal or financial advice when needed;
5.  people hate to think about death and so continue to put off the planning... for months.. and years...

What can be done to prevent a problem?

First of all, having a will is a good idea... it's a great idea!  And for many people, having a will may be good enough!  BUT for others, taking the time to do additional planning can significantly reduce the tax burden on the estate and therefore, the beneficiaries.  "Giving Uncle Sam his due" doesn't require giving him an added large bonus due to lack of understanding and planning. 

Texas Wills and Estate Planning

We all hope to live long and healthy lives, but unexpected things happen!   It is important to plan in order to minimize the tax burden and provide for your loved ones.  Don't put it off!

Review your will/ estate plan in 2014

Changes in the law are going into effect.  Review your will/ estate plan in 2014.  Make a consultation appointment with your attorney and bring your current documents for review. You may already have exactly what you need. If not, you can make the necessary changes and avoid problems later. 

Kalish Law Office - Wills and Estate Planning Attorneys - The Woodlands, Texas.  Since 1984  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Wait to See Your Attorney if you Have Been Sued!

If you have been sued, don't wait to contact your lawyer!  There are specific times limits that you are given and you must answer the lawsuit within that time. If you don't, you may lose your case. With no answer on file, and no one speaking up for you, the judge will see and hear only one version of the events.  (NOTE: in Texas Justice of the Peace/Small Claims Courts the time period that you have to answer is shorter than for other state courts).

"Getting served" can happen in person when someone (usually a constable or private process server) personally hands you the official papers in the case.  ("You have been SERVED!") In some cases, you could also be served by certified mail, by papers being "posted" on the door where you are likely to be found, by someone at your home or office taking papers for you, by your attorney accepting service for you, or even by publication in a newspaper or business journal.   Some of the above methods (other than a qualified person actually handing you the paperwork) may or may not be "proper service".   In that case, if you argue to the judge that you were not properly served, he or she will make as decision as to whether or not you received proper notice and what should happen with the case after that.

So, if you get served with a lawsuit, make sure you contact an attorney right away. This is important in ALL cases, but especially in family law and business law cases, which can be life-changing. Bring your paperwork to the lawyer's office with you when you have your initial appointment. When you call to make the appointment, make sure you tell the law office staff that you have been sued.


Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands Texas.
Business Attorneys in The Woodlands - Divorce and Family Law Lawyers

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is Your Divorce and Family Law Attorney There for you in an Emergency?

Is your divorce and family law attorney "there for you" in an emergency?  What is a "true" emergency?  How should you handle an emergency in your family law case? 

Legal problems sometimes do result in true emergencies.  There are also urgent situations that feel like emergencies because they are "emotional emergencies".

When you have an attorney, it is normal to want and hope for answers and reassurance from him/her.

How can your attorney be there for you in time of emergency or upset?

  1. Letting you know you are "heard".  You may have some questions that can't be answered yet ("What's going to happen?"), but it is comforting to know that someone is in your corner looking our for your interests and paying attention to your wishes.
  2. Checking email regularly. Sometimes it is a relief just to know that the attorney has a piece of information to consider.  Even if the lawyer is in court, or out of the office, knowing that you have put something important in writing for future consideration may put your mind at ease and let you go about your day. 
  3. Letting you know your information is received.  A specific reply, a return receipt, communication from the legal staff or even a quick email or text telling you that a phone conference or face-to-face meeting is needed to discuss in more detail lets you know your concerns are being taken seriously. 
  4. Providing reassurance.  Knowing that your attorney has dealt with other situations like yours and has a plan for different possibilities that may arise in your case helps you the scary unknown in proper perspective. 
  5. Giving you "dos and don'ts" to assist you in your case.   You may be considering a piece of behavior that feels totally reasonable to you now, but has the ability to come back to haunt you later in the case.  Follow the instructions your lawyer gives you about what to do and not do in order to avoid accidentally doing harm to your case. 
  6. Helping you to understand the legal process.   An explanation of "why" something cannot be resolved immediately along with sharing the overall plan for the case is very helpful!

What is a true emergency?

When you feel that your family or property is at stake everything may feel like an emergency.  However, some situations are worse than others.   The following are true emergencies:

  1. Someone's life is at stake
  2. Someone is about to be injured
  3. Someone is about to do harm to himself/herself or others
  4. A child has been (or you are fairly certain is about to be) kidnapped, or is missing. 
  5. In some cases, property damage or destruction or a break-in 
  6. Cruelty to persons or animals
  7. Violation of a court order (when immediate harm may occur)
Your attorney should be notified of these things, however, here are some guidelines.

How to report an emergency and when:

  1. When you call a doctor's office or clinic after hours it is common to receive the message "If this is an emergency please hang up and call 911".  That is good advice.  If you have a true emergency going on, don't spend time contacting your lawyer while someone is in true physical danger. Call the police.  Then notify your lawyer. 
  2. If a child has been abducted, notify law enforcement first, your lawyer second. 
  3. If there is major property destruction that is happening now, tell law enforcement first.  If the destruction is more "minor" (example: destruction of mementos in your home during a divorce which is upsetting but not dangerous), you won't need law enforcement involved but should take pictures and let your divorce lawyer know so that s/he can deal with it by discussing it with opposing counsel, the mediator or the judge (as appropriate). 
  4. Abuse of persons or animals.  Report to the proper authorities. If it is going on now  call 911. If it is in the past, or ongoing, notify the proper authorities for child protection, elder protection, or animal protection.  Then tell your lawyer if it is relevant to your case. 
  5. Stay calm!  
  6. If your attorney is unavailable, or is unable to answer all your concerns immediately, be patient.  And don't react in anger. Angry emails, social media posts or voice messages will come back to haunt you later.  Take a deep breath!
  7. Be aware of manipulation tactics.  The parties in a family law case usually know each other pretty well. Your ex may be trying to get you upset and wanting you to say/do something you'll regret. Don't fall for it! 
  8. If you have a restraining order in place and the other party is violating it, have a copy of the order with you so that you can show it to the police if and when necessary. 
  9. When there is a  "financial emergency", tell your attorney or his/her staff right away.  Here are a few examples: 1) your spouse/ex is making unauthorized withdrawals from accounts; 2) you discover your house payment or utility payment wasn't made as ordered 3) your spouse/ex is fraudulently incurring expenses in your name.  These situations may require your attorney to get an emergency hearing in front of a judge during the court's work hours. 
Divorce, custody and other family law cases have a potential for urgent situations to occur.  If you are involve in such a case, take the time to think about how you would handle the different situations that may occur.  Keep your attorney informed, and follow her/his advice. 

Kalish Law Office: Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in The Woodlands Texas.
"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference." Since 1984