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7 posts from June 2010

June 24, 2010

Getting Your Ducks in a Row Through Estate Planning

What Is Estate Planning?

Ducks-in-a-row

            Getting your ducks in a row -- that's what estate planning really means!  Depending on the nature of your assets and future needs, the process of estate planning can be simple or complex.  Surprisingly, estate planning involves more (much more) than simply writing a will.  In fact your estate plan, which should include the creation of a trust,  is a dynamic plan which addresses many issues including

·        Your family

·        Other individuals

·        Charitable organizations

·        Your property (assets) and the many types of ownership and title that your property may take

·        Financial planning

·        Medical planning

·        Tax planning

·        Business planning and/or

·        Future needs if you’re ever incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for yourself

Why Estate Planning Is So Important To You

         Who will be in charge of your medical decisions should you suddenly become incapacitated by a heart attack or stroke?  Do you want heroic measures taken or do you NOT want heroic measures taken.  Without an advance health directive, you're leaving your fate in the hands of others (who may be well-intentioned but do not know your wishes).  What if you want to be resuscitated but you don't have the ability to communicate that message?  What if you don't want this sign over your hospital bed?

Do not resuscitate

            Plan, plan, plan.

          It will come as no shock to you when I say that we live in an uncertain world.  So while you’re still of sound mind it is important that you plan for the future.  Through an estate plan, you can determine many things:

·        What if you become incapacitated? Your estate plan will define

o       How and by whom will your assets be managed for your benefit during the remainder of your lifetime

o       Who will take care of your minor children

o       How you will be cared for

o       Who will make your health care decisions with direction as to what those health care decisions shall be (don’t leave it to chance)

·        At what point it will make sense to distribute your assets during your lifetime

·        Who will get your assets after your death – and by what means?

·        How your assets will be managed after your death

·        What happens to your remains after you die

Simply Put: You Need An Estate Plan

Estate tax

            Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter if your estate is large or small.  You, your children, your grandchildren and your assets must be protected and provided for as determined by you.

·        Small Estate: Your plan may focus on

o       Who will receive your assets after your death

o       Who will manage your estate

o       Who will pay your final debts

o       Who will handle distribution of your assets

·        Large Estate:  Your lawyer will discuss plan and focus on the small estate issues PLUS

o       Ways to preserve assets for your beneficiaries

o       Ways to reduce / postpone amount of estate tax that may otherwise be payable upon your death

What If You Don't Have An Estate Plan?

            Wow, not having an estate plan pretty much leaves it up to a judge to pick someone to handle your assets and your personal care.  Your estate will go through the lengthy and uncertain process called probate.  Your assets will be distributed to your heirs per the rules of intestacy (dying without a will).

            Your assets will not necessarily go to the state.  In fact, per the rules of intestate succession your assets will go to your relatives, no matter how remote!

            With an estate plan, it is your choice as to whom your assets go after your death.  You have control of care of your minor children, your own care, distribution and control of your assets during your life and after your death, handling of your remains and a host of other issues.

What's Actually In My Estate?

PiggyBank

            All of your assets are in your estate.  Those assets may be

·        Bank accounts

·        Real estate

·        Stocks

·        Bonds

·        Personal property

o       Furniture

o       Jewelry

o       Cars

·        Life insurance proceeds

·        Retirement accounts

·        Inheritance still owed to you

·        Tax refunds still due you

 

For a Free Consultation Call

Attorney Lowell Steiger

We'll Advise You on Your Plan

Create (as needed) Your

Will

Trust

Directives

323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

 

June 18, 2010

Dog Bites: Emotional and Physical Devastation

Vicious dog Being bitten or attacked by a dog can prove to be one of the most devastating experiences of a person's life. You may find that, after being bitten, the love that you once had for dogs suddenly turns to fear and mistrust. The emotional and physical scarring that result from a dog bite oftentimes requires extensive medical treatment, scar removal or reduction and psychological counseling to restore you to the person that you were before this unsettling event.

There are nearly 5 million Americans that are bitten each year by dogs with almost one million causing injuries which require medical attention.

Important Links

Victim's Rights

Vicious dog 002 In California, if you, or your child, are the victim of a dog bite or attack, you are entitled to compensation for your hospital and medical expenses (past, present and future), loss of earnings (past, present and future) and the pain, suffering, fear, embarrassment and humiliation that you may have experienced as a result of this unfortunate and often life-altering experience. It is our job, as your attorney, to find the responsible party or parties and seek out the available insurance coverage which is available to compensate you. It is not uncommon for a dog owner to deny insurance coverage for the devastation that his or her dog has inflicted upon you. It is also not uncommon for that denial of insurance coverage to be false for a variety of reasons.

It is our experience at the Law Offices of Lowell Steiger that many dog owners initially deny (1) that their dog even bit or attacked the person and/or (2) that they have an insurance policy that covers the event. However, aggressive representation of clients in such situations uncovers the truth and affords you the justice to which you are entitled.

In California, there are special laws that protect the victims of dog bite attacks. Contrary to popular belief, there is no "one free bite" doctrine in California. In particular, California Civil Code §3342(a) states

Vicious dog 003 The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner' s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

June 14, 2010

Witness Blindness: Memories & Perceptions Not Always Reliable

    You may be interested in an article that I came across in A Public Defender, a fascinating blawg.  This particular article, Change Blindness and the Fallacy of the All-Remembering Cop, illustrates how faulty a witness's memory might be.  This phenomenon is known as Inattentional Blindness.  Watch the short but very eye-opening videos below.  The first one illustrates how an eye-witness can easily misidentify an alleged defendant.  This, of course, would also apply to eye-witnesses in civil cases misidentifying or not accurately recalling people, places and things involved in an auto accident, slip and fall case, etc.  Watch The Door Study by Daniel Simmons

In A Public Defender's article, he goes on to discuss the case of Jerry Bordeaux and Roger Christianson. 

Take the sad case of Jerry Bordeaux and Roger Christianson. Bordeaux, fighting a traffic ticket, hired Christianson to represent him. Months later, when the matter was called to trial, Christianson answered for Bordeaux and started questioning the officer:

When the case started, the sole witness was Officer Coronado, who had ticketed Bordreaux. While Officer Coronado was on the stand, Mr. Christianson asked him:

“And what was I wearing?”
“Had I cut off my beard that day?”
“Was I wearing a beard that day?”
“I am the driver?”

After Officer Coronado identified Mr. Christianson as the person he had ticketed that day, Mr. Christianson revealed that he was actually the lawyer! What a brilliant ploy — if Officer Coronado couldn’t even remember which person he had ticketed, how could he be certain of what Mr. Bordreaux had done. By switching places with his client, Mr. Christianson impeached the reliability of Officer Coronado’s memory.

Finally, the following video, The Monkey Business Illusion by Daniel J. Simmons, confirms that we cannot always rely on eye-witness testimony.  This is not to say that an eye-witness has an agenda or that he/she is evil, lying, etc., but simply that we all have the ability to misperceive and rely on our misperception or that we have faulty memories because we are human.  Therefore, an attorney "beating up" an eye-witness's testimony is often times appropriate when zealously advocating for his/her client.  In fact, it is the ethical thing to do! (Note: It can be done with finesse, without humiliating the witness and allowing them to retain their dignity).


Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

June 10, 2010

Deadly Fun: Texting While Driving

The New England Journal of Medicine just published an article entitled The Most Primary of Care - Talk About Driving and Distraction by Amy N. Ship, M.D. 

Dr.Ship references a British Public Service announcement.  Watch this. Show it to your kids.  

Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

June 08, 2010

Drinking Coffee While Uninsured? Don't Do It!!!

Hot coffee What do McDonald's, Jack-in-the-Box and an uninsured motorist have in common? Well, you might recall that back in the day  elderly Stella Liebeck was the victim of a hot coffee spill at a McDonald's drive-through.  When McDonald's refused to pay for her skin grafts and other related medical bills, they were hit with a multi-million dollar verdict.  McDonald's whined and cried and screamed bloody murder but, the truth is, that the verdict was in response to their refusal to lower the temperature of the coffee they served to something safe -- i.e., a temperature which doesn't cause third degree burns upon instant contact with the skin.  Read McDonald's Coffee Case, The Truth -- I'm still outraged at the perception that Stella's lawsuit was frivolous when McDonald's callously put profits above safety.  

But I digress.

Young Woman Burned at Jack-in-the-Box

Fast forward to the 21st Century when a young woman, Teckla Chude, pulls her car into a Jack-in-the-Box drive-through, orders coffee and is handed a cup with a loose lid.  Lo and behold she suffers the same fate as Stella Liebeck and is burned pretty badly.  Teckla's injuries were expressly alleged to be increased because she couldn't get out of the vehicle after the coffee spilled because the drive-thru was too narrow to let her open her door and the hot coffee just soaked through her pants causing burns and, ultimately, some scarring.  She incurred medical bills, loss of earnings and had to delay her schooling a bit.

Jack in box on phone Jack, that clever fellow, had his lawyers argue that Teckla Chude was ineligible to recover for her pain and suffering under California's Uninsured Motorist Law  which states that "in any action to recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle, a person shall not recover non-economic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary damages, if any."  Read Uh-Oh, Car Accident With No Liability Insurance: "But I'm Not At Fault" for a colorful explanation of the law. 

Teckla Loses! Jack Wins (say what?) 

Yep, you read it right!  The California Court of Appeals decided that the Uninsured Motorist Law applies to this case.  Here's their actual opinion: Chude v. Jack-in-the-Box.  And here's the court's logic:

...Chude used her car to drive up to the drive-through window. Even more than the plaintiff in Harris or Cabral, both of whom had parked and were outside of their vehicles, Chude was seated inside her car, with her seatbelt on, with the motor running and the transmission engaged. Here, the accident "arose out of" her "operation" and "use of" her vehicle at the time of the incident. More important, Chude would not have been in the drive-through lane purchasing coffee but for her vehicle. It is JIB's policy not to serve anyone at a drive-through window who is not in a motorized vehicle. Thus, the accident "arose out of" or "flowed" from Chude's operation and use of her vehicle. Stated otherwise, she was in the drive-through lane precisely because she was using her car to purchase coffee from the drive-through window part of the restaurant. Accordingly, this "action to recover damages ar[ose] out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle" and so section 3333.4, subdivision (a) applies to bar her recovery of non-economic damages.

Don't Get Burned! Get Auto Liability Insurance

Was this the intention of the statute or is the court reaching too far in its interpretation?  Maybe, maybe not.  But this is how the court has interpreted the law so broadly that I must give you the bottom line: Get liability insurance when driving in California or you could get burned! (Read Auto Insurance Coverage From a Personal Injury Lawyer's Perspective)

Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

lowell@steigerlaw.com

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

  


June 05, 2010

Indecent Exposure Defense Strategy

Need I say any more?

Indecent exposure strategy

June 03, 2010

Estate Planning: Important to You and Your Loved Ones

 
Estate_planning


Estate planning ensures that:
  • Final property wishes are honored
  • Health care issues are clarified and honored
  • Loved ones are provided for in your absence
Estate planning resolves these (and other) legal questions when someone dies:
  • State of their financial affairs
  • Who gets what?
  • Guardianship of minor children
  • How much tax will need to be paid to transfer property
  • Appropriate funeral arrangements
What An Estate Planning Attorney Does For You

We will help you plan your estate.  At the Law Offices of Lowell Steiger, we can advise you and then prepare, your legal documents:
  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Domestic Partnership Agreements
  • All other estate related papers
Prior to doing so, we will meet with you to discuss and advise as to:
  • Extent of your estate wishes
  • Preparation of your properties and estate to make it easy on your loved ones to manage with little or no interruption from
    • Government Agencies
    • Courts
    • Tedious Probate System
  • Preparing estate against various tax issues that spring up during life and upon death

Protect Your Assets

Asset Protection: What is asset protection? Asset protection planning involves figuring out and applying a lawful series of techniques that protect your assets from claims of future creditors. The techniques are designed to deter potential creditors from going after you, and frustrate them if they do, generally by making it difficult or impossible for future creditors to grab hold of your assets or collect judgments against you.


In cases where significant sums are involved, asset protection planning often includes setting up a series of:


  • Trusts
  • Partnerships
  • Off-Shore Entities
Contact me for more information.
Probate

Probate is a court involved process that determines how property, owned by someone who has passed away, will be distributed to the proper beneficiaries or heirs.

Avoiding Probate

The probate process is tedious and complicated and can easily be avoided through proper estate planning and trusts.

If Probate Is Unavoidable
We Will Help You Probate An Estate


If you or a family member needs assistance probating an estate or accessing a deceased person's financial affairs, we will help you here at the Law Office of Lowell Steiger.

Call us now for a free consultation!
Finally, and most importantly, please contact me if you have any legal issues whatsoever.  If it's not something that my office ordinarily handles, I will be delighted to refer you to a well-qualified attorney who does.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'm signing off with my warmest regards to you.

Lowell Steiger

Law Office of Lowell Steiger
8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 830
Beverly Hills, California 90211
Law Office of Lowell Steiger
323-852-1100

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