Legal Issues with Family Finances

Imagine the following scenario, you are the parents of three children, a boy age 17 and two girls, ages 9 and 12. You have been meaning to attend to certain legal and financial issues regarding your family such as establishing a last will and testament. You may feel secure if you and your spouse have life insurance through your employer that amounts to around $500,000 in death benefit when either of you die, and you named as beneficiary each of your children in equal amounts (per stirpes).

Here is a summary of the worst case scenario in the event that both you and your spouse predecease your children before they reach the age of majority (which is 18 in in the United States). Your assets will not automatically pass to your three children if they are under the age of majority at the time of both of your deaths. What is worse is because no individual was appointed guardian of the children, a court would appoint what is known as a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the children.

Issues Arising From the Death of a Parent with Minor Children
As you can see, failure to address the issue of a will while alive forces the hand of the state to take action and appoint an individual to look after your children. Questions will arise from this scenario about the financial status of the estate left behind by the demise of you and your spouse.

When the joint deaths occurred (and we will set aside for a moment the issue of who died first) and no will was left behind, you are said to have died intestate, or without a will or a set of written instructions that determine the disposition of your estate, guardianship of the children, and settlement of your affairs. This invokes the involvement of the probate court to fix these matters, a process which could take some time. Consider the size of your estate and how likely it may be to cause disputes among members of your surviving family (i.e. parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.).

Simultaneous Death or Death Caused by a Common Disaster
Now back to the issue of who dies first. Under what is known as the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act, insurance contracts have what is known as the common disaster clause. If you and your wife were involved in an accident that resulted in your deaths, the determination (in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary) would be that you predeceased your spouse, meaning the proceeds of the insurance would go to your estate, not hers. Regardless of the relationship you have with the children you are raising from another marriage or her children from another marriage, if she were the primary beneficiary the proceeds would pass to her at the time of death.

What Can Be Done?
There is a common myth that estate planning is something only for wealthy people and a will is not necessary if there are not a lot of assets to distribute. If you own a home, participate in a retirement savings account like a 401(k) plan, and have money in the bank, you need to protect those assets for your surviving children in the event that simultaneous deaths were to occur. The effort to plan for the protection of your children and their financial interests cannot take place if you and your spouse are no longer around to protect them.

This article was written by Robert Tritter, an aspiring lawyer who looks forward to helping you understand legal issues better. He recommends taking a look at the finance jobs with moneyjobs.com if you’re interested in a career in finance. Check out their website today and see how they can help you!

Five Tax Laws Affecting the Middle Class

On January 2 of this year, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (or fiscal cliff deal) became law and was made retroactive to January 1. The act was designed to shield the middle class from the expiration of the Bush-era tax rates. While the law included tax increases directed at wealthier Americans, much of the act was targeted at the middle class. In particular, five key tax laws of the fiscal cliff deal affect the middle class and they are discussed below.

First Provision

The first provision of the tax changes was something omitted in the fiscal cliff deal and that is an extension of the payroll tax cut enacted by the president back in 2011. All taxpayers enjoyed a 2% reduction in their withholding due to the lower Social Security payroll tax rate of 4.2%. However, with the expiration of this tax cut, the rate returns back to 6.2%. Given that the maximum taxable earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax is $113,700 in 2013, the tax increase affects the middle class more than it does top wage earners. This makes this tax increase a regressive tax increase and will result in a decrease of $100 a month in disposable income for households earning $50,000 a year.

Second Provision

The second provision affecting the middle class was the permanent extension of exemption amounts to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The exemption amounts for 2013 increased over 2012 levels and are now $50,600 for individuals, $78,750 for married people filing jointly, and $39,375 for people married filing separately. Also, the AMT exemptions are now inflation adjusted annually. This will insure that the AMT, designed to affect the wealthiest Americans, does not become the de facto middle class tax rate. If the AMT exemptions had not been increased, sixty million workers would have become subject to higher tax rates.

Third Provision

The third provision affecting the middle class is the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax rates of 10%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35%. A new tax rate was added of 39.6% for income over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. Absent this change, tax rates would have increased across the board for every worker and coupled with the expiration of the payroll tax cut would have been a substantial tax increase.

Fourth Provision

The fourth provision affecting the middle class is the permanent extension of the marriage penalty tax relief. For couples filing jointly, the standard deduction is exactly twice that of an individual’s standard deduction. This eliminates the disparity in the standard deduction for married people which disparity became known by the pejorative “marriage penalty tax”. The fiscal cliff deal prevented the standard deduction for married couples from decreasing to $10,150 from $12,120.

Fifth Provision

The fifth provision benefiting the middle class is the permanent extension of the Bush-era child tax credits of $1,000 per dependent child who is under age 17 by year’s end. The phase out for this tax credit remains the same at $75,000 for individual tax filers, $110,000 for married filing joint or $55,000 for married filing separate.

There are many other provisions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which directly or indirectly affect middle class taxpayers such as business tax extenders, small business expensing, and bonus depreciation. Also, tax credits for education were also extended. However, the provisions cited above were those which most directly affected the middle class. Covering all the tax provisions is beyond the scope of this article but they may be reviewed in greater detail by clicking on the link for The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

This article was written by Robert Tritter, an avid writer of law-related articles throughout the web. He writes this on behalf of R&G Brenner, your number one choice when looking for a Brooklyn Tax Consulting firm. Check out their website for more information on their services.

Product Liability Laws and Your Family

Product liability involves holding a manufacturer or seller liable because a defective product was sold to a consumer. Sellers are responsible for a defective product because they distribute the item, and others who may be involved include the manufacturer, the distributor and the retailer selling the defective product.

What you should know

Generally speaking, the law states that any product should meet the consumer’s reasonable expectations of safety, and when a product has a hidden defect, it falls below that standard. Under the law, any party that is part of the distribution chain could be held liable for a defective product, along with whoever installs or assembles it.

In a product liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that a product caused an injury because it was defective to such an extent that it was “’unreasonably dangerous.” These defects fall into three categories:

● design defects that make the product inherently unsafe,

● manufacturing defects that occur during the product’s production or assembly, and

● marketing defects due to inadequate safety warnings, incomplete instructions and incorrect labeling.

For their part, consumers must follow a product’s instructions carefully, heed the safety warnings, and read the fine print as well.

Protecting children

In the United States, many families are adversely affected by injuries that are the result of using a defective product every year, and children are often harmed because a manufacturer failed to take the necessary safety precautions. For example, the most common defective children’s products include playpens, cribs, high chairs, strollers, walkers, car seats, toys and carriers.

Establishing who is liable

With product liability cases, the defense often maintains that the plaintiff has failed in identifying the supplier of the item that is alleged to be the cause of the injury. Consequently, the plaintiff must provide a direct link between the product and those who were involved in producing or supplying it. Note that an exception to the rule may be applied in a case involving a defective medication. If a plaintiff is unable to identify which pharmaceutical company supplied the drug he or she consumed, all manufactures will be held liable, based on the amount of sales for the medication in the plaintiff’s locale.

As part of their defense, a manufacturer or distributor may claim that the plaintiff significantly altered the item after purchasing it, and that taking this step was the sole cause of the injury. It may also be argued that the article was used in an “unforeseeable way” as opposed to its intended purpose, and that this error is the source of the plaintiff’s injury.

Getting the help you need

Product liability cases can be very complicated, and proving liability may require the advice and testimony of experts in the field. There are several legal precedents under which a plaintiff’s attorney could file a claim, and several legal arguments that could cause them to be unsuccessful as well. In addition, each state has its own set of specific statutes and laws that have a direct bearing on product liability lawsuits. Because of this, it is essential to consult with an experienced product liability attorney if you feel that you or some one close to you has been injured by a defective product.

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Recent Ruling on Circumcision – A Violation of Individual Liberties or Protection for Children?

At the end of June, a judge in Cologne, Germany ruled that male circumcision is illegal. Not only is it illegal, but motivation behind the circumcision is of no value in this area of Germany. The judge made this ruling based on his conviction that the religious practices and beliefs of parents who do circumcise should not trump a baby or a child’s right to have bodily integrity. This ruling was handed down after a four year old Muslim child in Cologne was brought to the emergency room with severe bleeding only two days after being circumcised. The judge felt it was his responsibility to protect young boys and babies who cannot protect themselves from such an act. However, this ruling does not apply to medically indicated circumcisions.

Circumcision: A Deeply Religious Practice

Circumcision is in many religions, such as the Jewish and Muslim religions, a required and sacred act. Understandably so, this court ruling has Jews and Muslims in Germany in an uproar. One Jewish leader even went so far as to compare this ruling to the start of the Holocaust where religious freedom was completely ignored. Jewish leaders say they will continue to practice their religious beliefs, including that of circumcision. Jewish menare traditionally circumcised as babies at eight days old. Eight days is what God instructed of them in the Bible, and it has been found that at eight days of age a newborn has an intrinsic ability to clot their blood. Muslim boys are traditionally circumcised between the ages of four and twelve.

Is the Cologne Jude Right or Wrong?

Is this judge really protecting the bodily integrity of young boys in Germany, or has he crossed the line and encroached on the religious freedoms of many? One could agree with the judge and argue that when these young men reach a certain age they can make a religious decision for themselves as to whether or not to be circumcised. However, as parents we do have the right to make many decisions, religious or not, for our children until they are of a certain age.

Adding to the Heavily Debated Circumcision Topic

Circumcision has always been a widely debated global topic, and the ruling of this judge only adds fuel to the fire. Parents of boys have likely been a part of this debate in one way or another, no matter where they live. There are valid and scientific facts on each side of the debate. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have stated there are medical benefits to circumcision such as lessening the likelihood of bladder infections, penile cancer and sexually transmitted diseases later in life. However, there are arguments on the other side questioning parental and religious rights to do this to children, as well as the risk of infection, emotional trauma, infringement on the child’s freedom of religion, and possible decreased sexual enjoyment later in life. One point that cannot be refuted is that this is a very emotionally charged and debated issue.

Cologne Judge’s Ruling Puts a Halt on most German Circumcisions

It is important to note that this ruling on circumcision only applies to the Cologne area of Germany. However, it has doctors and hospitals all throughout the German countryplacing a temporary ban on the practice of circumcision. Many health professionals are afraid of what this ruling means for the entire country, and therefore are not performing circumcisions until the dust settles and the ruling is either successfully appealed, or at the very least made more clear.

Will a German Circumcision Ban lead to an American Circumcision Ban?

With German doctors wondering what this means for the rest of the country outside of the area of Cologne, perhaps we should be wondering what this means for the United States and the rest of the world. Is it possible that such a ruling could eventually be handed down somewhere, or even all over, the United States? After all, many German or European trends, policies and ideas in law, medicine and government have made their way to the United States over time.

This article was written on behalf of Kramer Law Firm.

Woman Charged with Abuse for Locking Daughter in Closet

Jacole Prince of Kansas City, Missouri has been charged with abusing her 10-year-old daughter after the girl was found locked in a closet that smelled of urine.

Prince, 29, is facing assault, endangerment and child abuse charges. All of the charges are felonies.

Anonymous Caller Reported Abuse

An anonymous caller contacted the child abuse hotline claiming that three children lived at Prince’s home, but one was confined in a closet. The agency notified the police.

In response to the anonymous call, police officers met social workers from the Missouri Children’s Division outside of Prince’s apartment. When they arrived at the home, neighbors told them that Prince had left the home with two girls.

When a social worker told the neighbors that three girls lived at the home, the neighbors insisted that only two children lived with Prince. Prince told them she only had two daughters. Neighbors claimed that they had lived near Prince for several years but had never seen a third child.

When questioned by police, the neighbors insisted that the other two daughters were always clean and seemed well-cared for.

Officers Discover Girl Locked in Closet

When officers entered the apartment, they discovered a crib set up against a closet door in a bedroom. The closet door was tied closed. When an officer asked if anyone was in there, they heard the girl respond, “Yes.” The officers opened the door to the closet and discovered the girl standing inside. The closet reeked of urine.

The girl was taken to a local hospital. The hospital staff reported that the girl weighed only six pounds more than she did at her last hospital visit six years earlier. When questioned by investigators, the girl explained that she had no room of her own and that she was forced to remain in the closet most of the time. She claimed that she often went without food for days. She also did not have access to a restroom and had to relieve herself in the closet.

The girl told officers that she wasn’t allowed out of the house because she “messes herself.” She claims that Prince gets mad and punches her on the back when she pees on herself.

According to reports, the girl was suffering from several skin injuries and failure to thrive. At 32 pounds, the girl weighs just over one-third of the weight of a typical 10-year-old child. It is unclear how long the girl had been confined to the closet.

Authorities say that the anonymous phone call to the child abuse hotline likely saved the child’s life.

Children Placed in Protective Custody

Prince was arrested on Friday, June 22. The other two children were placed in protective custody.

Prince acknowledged that she did not let the girl leave the house. She claims that she was embarrassed by the girl’s appearance and feared she would be in trouble if anyone saw her condition.

Prince’s boyfriend has not been charged. He has denied knowing that the girl had been locked in the closet. He is not the biological father of the victim. Police are attempting to locate the victim’s biological father.

Prince was arraigned on Monday, June 25. She entered a plea of not guilty.

 

This article was written on behalf of Stokes Injury Lawyers, a group of Atlanta wrongful death attorneys who will fight for you and your family.

 

 

How The Health Care Law Frees Your Young Adult Children From Bad Jobs

(US law) The Employment Scene for Younger Workers

Unemployment is a major problem for younger Americans. The unemployment rate has risen by nearly 5 percent over the last ten years for those in the 20-24 age bracket. There have also been increases for other age brackets in the wake of the Great Recession, but the youngest workers are suffering to a larger degree than those workers of other ages. The unemployment rate for 2011 was over 14 percent for those aged 20-24 years.

Many people who are not included in the unemployment numbers are actually still in what would be considered the underemployed category. This includes those people who are employed below their level of education or experience as well as those who are working less than a full-time schedule. If the number of underemployed were added to the unemployed numbers for those who are under 25, the number would be even more disconcerting.

 

Why Do Younger Adults Often Stay in Bad Jobs?

Some of the major employers in the fast food and retail sectors that provide jobs for the underemployed young adults of America provide some benefits for their employees. These are frequently not ideal jobs that allow younger adults to take advantage of their educations or talents, nor do they provide the income that is necessary to achieve the independence desired by these young people and their parents. Many of these employees stay in what some would consider to be dead-end jobs, and their parents’ houses, because of the benefits. One of the most important benefits that a job can provide is health insurance.

There are a few reasons why workers might want to keep the insurance a job provides, in spite of the employment itself providing little in the way of advancement or the cultivation of useful experience. Some of these individuals have medical conditions that they would not be able to manage without employer-sponsored insurance. Insurance for those with preexisting conditions is frequently unavailable, or, if it is available, it is cost-prohibitive. The self-employed also have to pay more than those who are in group plans. A gap in insurance coverage could lead to costly medical bills, and insurance companies would not be required to pay for any illnesses developed during the gap. Those who are self-employed are forced to pay higher premiums for the same coverage. All of these facts can discourage young adults from taking any employment risks, and keep them in unfruitful occupations.

 

How Can the New Health Care Law Help Young Workers?

The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, promises to alleviate some of these concerns. Younger workers will see some benefits after the new program is implemented that could help their economic and employment options greatly.

Younger workers can now stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26. Some complain that this encourages increased dependence. This would not necessarily be the case. Those who could not afford a break in coverage previously can now have insurance while taking a job in their field that may not offer benefits. These workers could then get beneficial experience in their profession that would have otherwise been spent in a non-related service industry.

More employers are likely to provide insurance. With the tax penalties that will result if insurance is not offered, young workers are more likely to have insurance while working for employers that can advance their careers. They will not be pigeonholed into keeping jobs that do not reflect their interest or expertise merely because they need the benefits.

One final benefit that Obamacare provides that will help free young workers from bad jobs is the end of restrictions based upon preexisting medical conditions. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit will be more likely to strike out on their own and start their own business or try to invent the next big thing because the fear of being uninsurable will be gone. All of society could benefit from this provision. While there are many people who complain about some of the provisions of the bill, younger workers could benefit more than most.

The Legal Implications of Child Custody During Divorce

(US law and generally) No doubt, the greatest victims of divorce are the children. The impact of a custody decision on a child’s mental and physical health is enormous. Disturbances in the parent / child relationship cause depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, and may impair the child’s ability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Notable studies (Brook, Zheng, Whiteman, & Brook, 2001) have unequivocally linked angry parenting practices with the expression of anger and aggression in very young children.

There is a persistent and harmful misconception that joint custody predictably provides better long-term outcomes for children of divorce. It is well documented through years of scientific research that actual custodial arrangements are secondary to other issues. Instead, the greatest factors influencing child adjustment are the levels of parental conflict and the quality of parenting that the child receives.

Complex Child Custody Laws Require Effective Legal Assistance

Although child custody laws vary from state to state, most integrate a similar list of statutory factors that assist judges in performing a comparative fitness analysis. While consideration of these factors is mandatory, judges are given great leeway in decision-making. With this in mind, it becomes imperative to realize that bitter parents who litigate child custody often get distracted hurling accusations against each other.

This scenario provides very little useful information to the presiding judge, who needs to know which parent is the best suited for custodial status. While it is certainly necessary to point out negative factors and justifiable reasons for limiting visitation or decision-making authority, it is also crucial to give the judge positive information he or she can use.

Delays in the case are damaging for children and should be avoided. The American Bar Association advises judges and attorneys that, “When litigation proceeds at what attorneys and judges regard as a normal pace, children often perceive the proceedings as extending for vast and infinite periods. The passage of time is magnified for children in both anxiety levels and direct effect.”

Gender Bias

With the abolishment of the Tender Years Doctrine, a new presumption that favors gender neutrality is indicated in most state statues. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that perceived gender bias still exists in our family court system. Sometimes this bias is against the mother, especially if she works full time or becomes labeled an over protective parent. Fathers may experience the same frustration when the child is young and he has had limited involvement in day-to-day care.

Divorce and child custody issues cause a tremendous amount of financial and emotional stress, igniting volatile battles between the sexes outside the courtroom too. Political action groups advocate for the constitutional rights of both mothers and fathers, frequently ignoring the fact that the law requires the child’s best interests to be paramount to that of either parent.

Implications for the Future

Divorce and child custody issues are vulnerable to trends that favor public opinion. The law today is substantially different than it was twenty years ago. The way that law is practiced is also changing. The hardball litigation tactics used by older generations are being gradually replaced with a preference for negotiating child custody cases when possible.

In fact, only a minority of cases proceed to trial. These will typically involve complicated issues such as domestic abuse, child neglect or a personality-disorder parent. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges publishes a bench guide for assessing safety in these situations and offers recommendations for developing a plan that works.