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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Value an Estate

Get the details.

To work out the value of the estate, you will need details of all assets e.g. bank accounts, savings accounts, property, etc. You will need details of all debts e.g. utility bills, loan repayments, mortgages, etc. and all significant gifts they gave away in the last seven years before they died. This means you will have to write to the asset holders and ask them for the value of the asset at the date of death. You are trying to ascertain the value of the estate at the date the deceased person passed away. This is an important point as some assets will increase in value, e.g., a bank account gaining interest.

Money in a joint bank account or owned jointly will automatically pass to the other owner or owners, half of the money will need to be added into the calculation for the estate.

Tip: To value non-monetary assets (cars, antiques, etc.) it is recommended that you use a professional valuer if the asset is worth more than £500.00. If the deceased left a lot of belongings such as furniture, jewellery, etc. you can hire a professional valuer who will value everything at once and provide you with a succinct report.

Tip: You will need to get three valuations of any houses from three different estate agents and then use the average to give you a figure for the property.

Total up the assets and the debts. Add all of the assets together to reach the total asset figure and total up all of the debts to reach the total debt figure.

To find the value of the estate, you will need to subtract the debts from the assets. Take the total debt figure away from the total asset figure to be left with the final value of the estate.

Assets – Debts = Estate value.

If the estate value is over £325,000.00 then usually you will need to pay inheritance tax. For more information on when and how to pay inheritance tax.

Regardless of whether or not you need to pay inheritance tax if you need a grant of representation you should fill out the right inheritance tax form. This needs to be completed to obtain the Grant.

If there is no inheritance tax to pay, but you need a grant, then you need to fill out form IHT205. If there is any tax to pay you will need form IHT400.

Send in the forms when you apply for the grant of representation. You should send your application to your local Probate Registry.

Settle Court Case

When we hear the word, “Settlement”, images of money are immediately conjured into our minds. Most of the settlements we hear about in the media are for large sums, anywhere from $50K to millions of dollars, often involving celebrities or powerful business moguls. Many people might ask, “If a party knows they are innocent, then why would they agree to settle the case?”

People settle cases for all kinds of reasons:

1. Save on lawyer expenses
2. Avoid public attention
3. Reduce stress/Time in court
4. Reduce risks of harsher sanctions from potentially losing in a trial.

Defendants often settle criminal cases for “plea” bargains. (An admittance of guilt in exchange for a lighter punishment) for similar reasons that defendants agree to settle in civil cases.

Nobody likes being in court! It is costly, time consuming, stressful and can be somewhat intimidating. Whether you are being sued for a credit card debt or facing criminal charges, the potential of being garnished, put in jail, missing time away from work and family, the presence of armed guards, black robed judges, etc… the entire process can be a bit frightening, especially for those who do not spend much time in the courts. (Which is usually most people unless you are a legal professional, police officer, or a habitual criminal.)

When we decide to settle a case, we have to weigh our options. Defendants and Plaintiffs settle for the same reasons believe it or not. If a defendant believes he has a weak defense or is simply fed up with the court process, he is likely to settle, if a plaintiff believes he has a weak argument or he is fed up with the court process, he is likely to settle. Time is money, and people do not like to have their’s wasted!

In essence, settlements happen when people come to a conclusion after assessing in their minds a “cost-benefit-analysis”. Let us take a look at the perspective from a defendant and plaintiff’s point of view in a hypothetical discrimination case.

John sues Corporation-Z for racial discrimination. John has several witnesses who have agreed to testify. Corporation-Z learns that these witnesses with be participating. Corporation-Z believes that John has a good chance at defeating them in court. Corp-Z offers John $10,000 to settle the case out of court. If John were to win the case in court, he would probably sue for much more in damages, however, if John takes the offer, he can save himself attorney fees and months (possibly years) going to court cases.

Although Corp-Z is in a disadvantageous position, they are well-funded and will be able to drag the case on for a long time. John is a simple 9 to 5 employee with very little resources. However, John feels that he has strong evidence and is unwilling to settle for $10,000, he refuses the offer and decides to see it through to the end. Corp-Z offers another amount for $15,000, John still refuses.

Corp-Z files several continuances to drag out the case. John is getting tired.

John later finds out that several of his key witnesses have decided not to testify. John is now getting worried. Corp-Z has not yet learned that the witnesses have backed out. The next court date is in 6 weeks. John must act fast! Due to these new circumstances, his chances to win the case have gotten much lower.

At this point, John has several options:

Contact the defendant and accept their $15,000 settlement offer.
Send the defendant one last counter offer for a higher amount before agreeing to settle.
Rebuild his case, look for new evidence, take the case to trial and potentially win big or end up with nothing if he loses.

Option 1 is the safest- Defendants and Plaintiffs have the option to offer and/or withdraw settlement offers at ANY TIME. In this scenario, the defendant, Corp-Z is likely to accept to settle unless new evidence has been obtained.

Option 2 is a little risky- In this situation, John has learned that his witnesses are refusing to testify. Corp-Z has not yet found out, however, if they do find out, they are very likely to withdraw any offers to settle, as they will be likely to defeat the suit. John can attempt to negotiate one last time to get a higher amount from the defendant, but it will take some time to sort out the particulars, and time is something John doesn’t have with a looming court date. The closer the trial date gets, the more likely the defendant is to find out about the witnesses backing out.

Option 3 is highly risky- If the case goes to a trial by jury and John has other evidence besides witness testimony, the jury could still see it his way. If his witnesses are his key pieces of evidence, then he is at high risk for losing. This option would require very careful consideration. If John wins the case through jury, he will likely receive a huge pay-out, if he loses the case, he could end up losing everything or even end up being counter-sued by Corporation-Z.

Factors to consider:

Is John poor? How bad does he need money? If he loses the case, will he still be financially sound? Is he looking for justice or a pay-out? What are his goals in this lawsuit? Is he mentally and emotionally prepared to stay in court for several more months? These are questions John has to ask himself before making a decision on how to proceed.

From the Defendant’s perspective:

Corporation-Z is a business and they have a business to run. Handling these legal matters are a huge cost and burden on the operation. Negative publicity can also hurt the business extensively. Even if Corporation-Z discovers that the plaintiff, John, has lost his key witnesses, it still may be beneficial for Corporation-Z to settle. Typically, when settlements occur, non-disclosure agreements must be signed stating that the allegations against the company cannot be publicly discussed. If Corp-Z refuses to settle and defeats John, John may still end up retaining his right to discuss the trial and his allegations to public organizations causing bad press not to mention the extra legal fees it may take to try and sue John later for defamation.

In this situation, if Corp-Z discovers that John has lost his witnesses, Corp-Z can agree to settle, for the same amount previously offered or for a lower amount, (since Z now has bargaining power!) or Corp-Z can withdraw all offers and attempt to win in trial.

Corporate attorneys are famous for their slogan to, “Always settle, settle, settle”.

While Corporation-Z has a good chance at defeating John, they may end up spending triple the amount of their settlement offer attempting to defeat the suit, also, Corporation-Z isn’t fully aware if John has any other additional evidence that is not yet known. Victory is not always guaranteed. In court, just as in a boxing match, the ability to appear weak when one is strong, and the ability to appear strong when one is weak, is very crucial in the negotiation process of settling a case.

Timing:

Losing a lawsuit that goes to trial can result in dire consequences.

Income garnishments
Loss of employment as a result of being garnished by multiple entities
Loss of public reputation
property being seized
injunctions being placed against yourself or your business
liens being places on your assets
Tax refunds being withheld
Negative credit score
(These are just a few examples)

Some may be tempted to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in light of being sued for a debt, however, I wouldn’t recommend doing so unless your debts exceed $10,000. I’ll save that discussion for another article.

Timing is very critical when it comes to successfully mitigating a civil or criminal case. Let’s say you owe a credit card company $10,000. Typically, after you default on your loan for more than 90 days, the credit card company will likely sell your debt to a third party collector. A few months to a year later, you are likely to be served with a warrant stating that you are being sued for the amount by the third party debt collector who purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar.

Once the lawsuit is filed, the creditor now has the upper-hand. Since you have essentially ignored all attempts to collect, it is assumed that you are avoiding the debt and do not have the means to pay it back. A smarter decision would have been to inquire about hardship programs or attempt to settle the debt with a partial amount before you were sued. (Always get everything in writing). However, since things have escalated to a court hearing, the creditor now probably believes that they have a great chance to win the case.

When most people owe a debt, they stick their heads in the sand and do nothing. If you are sued for a credit card debt, your goal now is to re-establish your bargaining power! Even if you owe the debt, make them prove it! File an answer to the lawsuit, file a discovery request, ask for continuances! ( I can help you do these things by offering a template to follow.) Once the creditor sees that you aren’t going to be like the other 99% of people who don’t show up to court and allow for a default judgement, the creditor will be likely willing to settle the debt for a fraction of what they are suing you for.

While you are fighting the lawsuit, whether your intention is to get it dismissed through lack of evidence,lack of itemization or your goal is to settle the debt for a lesser amount, you must act swiftly! If you do intend to settle the debt, be sure to make the number attractive but not too high. If you owe $10,000, offer them 30%, because they are likely to counter back asking for 50%.

If the creditor is not willing to settle and/or you lose the case, enroll in a “slow-pay” program. That’s right! If you lose a lawsuit, you can enroll in a “slow-pay” program whereas you may only be paying $20 a month or so to the creditor. (Albeit for a very long time!). Through the slow-pay process, you can pay with a check or money order. In order for the plaintiff (or creditor) to garnish your wages, they have to get an approved garnishment order from a court. If you miss a single-payment through the slow-pay program, some jurisdictions automatically issue a garnishment order because of your lack of ability to keep your promise to pay.

Federal law protects workers from being fired if they are being garnished by a single entity. However, if two or more entities are garnishing you, federal law allows employers to fire you because of the administrative burden your garnishment orders are costing to the company you work for.

Any legal case must be taken seriously whether it be criminal or civil. Even traffic court can cost us! If you ignore a traffic ticket, don’t be surprised if you later find out that your drivers license has been revoked! Reinstating a revoked license is time consuming and can cost hundreds, even thousands, depending on the liens placed upon the license.

In many criminal cases, district attorneys will offer “plea deals”. This “deal” is basically where you agree to admit guilt in exchange for a lighter punishment. Plea deals can benefit both parties. The district attorney meets his conviction quota, you receive a lighter sentence than you would if you lost your trial, and the process of court is sped up.

Going back to the lessons we learned earlier about, “Appearing strong when you are weak, and to be weak when you are strong”, accepting plea deals is an art within itself just as accepting settlements are.

Set Up DFW On Site Drug Testing

Find a Third Party Administrator

When you are ready to set on site testing in DFW, you will want to find a third-party administrator. This can be a consortium who will take care of maintaining the records, and performing various tasks as you agree upon. They will help to keep you compliant. The most important aspect is to choose an administrator that is reliable, and has a great reputation for managing drug and alcohol testing programs.

Implement a Program

You will need to implement a full program. This includes talking about the various details as to how the on-site drug testing will happen, where it will happen, and who will be tested. For example, how often do you want each employee tested? Will all employees be tested, or simply those who operate machinery? Identifying the various aspects will help to mold your program. Plus, when you work with a medical review officer or an administrator, they can provide you with tips on how to create the best possible program.

Talk to Employees

Employees need to know that you will be setting up on-site drug testing. Those who use drugs in any capacity may decide that they want to quit. You should simply allow them to do so, and you can work on finding higher-quality employees – ones where you don’t have to worry about them failing a drug test. All of your employees will need to sign off on the fact that they are agreeing to drug tests in a random fashion.

Schedule Random Tests

Once the program is up and running and employees are aware that drug testing can happen randomly, this can start to be scheduled. Employees won’t know when they will be called to be tested. This is the point. You don’t want them to know because you want to take them by surprise. This will make it easier to learn whether they are using drugs in their spare time or not.

Examples of Larceny

• Petty-this is where the property amounting to a smaller prices is being stolen. For a crime to be considered petty larceny the object stolen has to be less than four hundred dollars. If they are convicted of this crime they will have to pay a fine or do jail time.
• Grand-this is also known as felonious larceny and occurs when the property stolen is more than four hundred dollars. In New York, the amount of the robbery has to be more than one thousand dollars for it to be considered a felony. If you are convicted of this misdemeanor are subjected to time in prison. If the crime committed is a crime of a large magnitude can result in longer prison time. In addition to going to prison, you are also liable for fines related to the crime, court fees, and restitution payments.

Examples of larceny

• Snatching a purse-if the offender uses force to snatch the purse and instills fear in the victim it is known as robbery. If there is no force or fear in the victim then it is larceny.
• Shoplifting-this crime occurs when an individual shoplifts certain items from a store and does not pay for them. It also happens if you switch price tags so you are paying an lesser amount that what the actual value is.
• Embezzlement-this crime is when there is misappropriation of funds from an account that belongs to the victim.
• False check -this is a crime when the person issues bad checks to an owner for acquiring the property.