Archive for October, 2009

Can we start over?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I goofed.  I tried to update my blog software all by myself and in the process, I managed to get things really really messed up.

This sort of thing happens when you have a business.  Things that you didn’t plan for.  That’s why it is so important to have some sort of plan for how you will recover.

I thought I had a backup plan that would work.  However, I did not plan on not being able to even get to my restore software.  Off to plan B….which includes copying text from a series of electronic backups I had of previous blog posts.

Now, I get to start over!   That’s why you see so many posts with today’s date.

Here’s to a new start!  (and a revision of my ‘disaster recover’ plans)

Are you the perfect client?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

There is rarely a ‘perfect’ anything. but there are ways you can strive to be the perfect legal client!

1. Be willing to listen. You might not like my advice, or the facts I have to tell you, but I am working hard to represent you the best way possible. So hear me out. Don’t get immediately defensive and stop listening to my whole statement.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I am here to represent YOU, and that means that you need to understand what I’m doing on your behalf.

3. Be prepared to go through stressful situations. I’ll do my best to make this as easy as possible, but legal matters are often stressful. You might want to consider getting the assistance of a therapist or talking to your doctor about something to help with your anxiety. We can all make better decisions if we are thinking clearly.

4. Be respectful of me and my staff and our time. We are people too and we have families and commitments as well. Don’t call at the last minute and get angry if we can’t stay late to accommodate your change in schedules. That also includes being on time for appointments. We make an effort to be sure we are prepared for your appointment and to clear our desk of other items during that time. If you show up late, or if you don’t show up at all, that means that we could have been spending our time on something else. This may not make a difference to you now, but think about how it might impact you if we tell you we are booked on the day you want to come in, and then those people don’t show up. You could have had the appointment you wanted if only the other client had told us in advance that they were not going to show up.

5. Keep good records. This is an important one! Once you have retained an attorney it is a good idea to buy a notebook or folder of some kind to start storing all those documents relating to your case. Also, keep track of activities that relate to your case. If you have a child custody and visitation situation, keep track of the times that the other parent visits with the child (and also keep track of the times when the other parent said they were going to visit and they did not show up). If your situation has to do with payments of any kind (e.g., child support, spousal support, rent payments on a house) keep a detailed record of when those payments were due, when they were paid, how much was paid and sometimes the manner of payment.

6. Do not hide information. If you are a client, we have an attorney – client relationship. This means that everything you tell me is told in confidence, so tell me everything, even if you think it might make you look foolish. I’d much rather hear it in my office than hear about it for the first time in a courtroom!

By following these suggestions, you can greatly improve the attorney-client relationship. If we work together then we have a better chance of getting the results we are working towards.

Are you prepared?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

(Note this post was re-written from a few months ago when both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died in the same week)

Thursday was a difficult day in the world of celebrity news. But it is also a good view on what happens when we either are, or are not, prepared for end-of-life events.

On the prepared side, we all heard about the death of Farrah Fawcett. Since she had cancer and knew it was terminal, there were plans already in place so that the TV specials and news items that documented her life were all ready to go. Things seemed to go more smoothly for those that needed to act.

On the un-prepared side, we also all heard about the death of Michael Jackson. However, in Michael Jackson’s case, nobody thought that he would die so soon. The family was not prepared for his passing and the news media was not prepared to present the TV specials that would document his life.

Being prepared does not make a death more or less tragic. The loss of a loved one is always tragic.

But if you have prepared in advance, it can make things much easier on those that are left behind.

Even if we aren’t movie-stars, our passing will have a huge impact on our family and friends. I think we owe it to them to be as prepared as possible.

If you’d like to discuss what you can do to help your family become prepared for your inevitable passing, call our office to schedule an estate planning session.

What is the difference between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Felony and misdemeanor crimes are distinguished under Virginia law by the maximum punishment you can receive.

Felonies are crimes punishable by death or imprisonment for more than 12 months. Sentences for Felonies are served in state correctional facilities (prison). Felonies are divided into six classes, with MAXIMUM punishments as follows:
Class 1 Felony: Death, if certain circumstances exist; or life imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine
Class 2 Felony: 20 years to life imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine
Class 3 Felony: 5-20 years imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine
Class 4 Felony: 2-10 years imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine
Class 5 Felony: 1-10 years imprisonment or 12 months in jail and/or $2,500 fine
Class 6 Felony: 1-5 years imprisonment or 12 months in jail and/or $2,500 fine

Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by no more than 12 months in jail. Jail sentences for misdemeanors are served at local facilities (county or regional jails). Misdemeanors are divided into four classes, with MAXIMUM punishments as follows:
Class 1 Misdemeanor: 12 months in jail; $2,500 fine
Class 2 Misdemeanor: 6 months in jail, $1,000 fine
Class 3 Misdemeanor: $500 fine
Class 4 Misdemeanor: $250 fine

As you can see, there is a big difference between a Misdemeanor and a Felony and there is also a big difference in the maximum sentence between different classes of crimes.

If you have been charged with a crime, you should consider getting legal assistance.

Where Should I keep my Will?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Your Will is a very important document that will be used to tell the Court how you want your assets to be divided in the event of your death.

Also, if you have minor children, your Will tells the Court who you want to have guardianship of your children in the event of your death. And of course, you Will names the person you want as the executor of your estate.

The Will really has no meaning until you die. Of course, if you have died, you won’t be around to tell anyone where to look for this very important document.

So that brings up the question….Where should I keep my Will?

In some states, a safe-deposit box in a bank can’t be opened until after the Executor gets the ‘letters’ from the court. But how do you know who the executor is without the Will in the first place? So in those states, your safe deposit box at the bank is a bad place to keep the Will.

Fortunately, in Virginia, the bank will allow the safe-deposit box to be opened for the express purpose of trying to locate the Will. If the Will is found in the box, the bank will make a copy of the Will, along with an inventory of the contents of the box, and you may take the original of the Will to Court while the copy and all of the contents (as well as the inventory) are left in the box.

I’ve also heard people say they leave all of their important papers in a zip-lock baggie in the freezer compartment of their refrigerator. That probably wouldn’t be my favorite place. The argument is that the freezer will probably be safe in the event of a fire or other disaster in the home, and they think people will know to look there. Personally, I only look in the freezer when I’m looking for ice cream!

You could leave the original Will with the attorney. But what happens when you haven’t been back to that attorney for a few years, and nobody in the family is aware of the attorney’s name or phone number? I guess each attorney could review the list of death notices every day to see if their client has died, but that’s just not going to happen.

My recommended place for your Will is in a fireproof box in your home.

The most important thing to remember is that wherever you decide to keep your Will (and all of your important papers, such as the deed to your house), you should make sure to tell your loved ones where they are!

I generally give my clients a binder with flexible sides so that it can forced to fit into a smaller space. This binder contains all of the estate planning documents in one place. I also include a section on ‘Important Contact Information’ so that my client can put in the names and phone numbers of all of the insurance agents, investment advisers, life insurance policy numbers, (etc.) as well as the contact information for all family members. That way, the loved one only has to pick up one binder and all of the information needed will be right there! I also suggest that my clients include a section on what they want to have done with their remains. That way, there is no question in the family about what you really would have wanted.

So, what is the right answer to my question, Where Should I keep my Will?

Wherever your loved ones will look for it!