Probating Your Will Before You Die

A new state law, in effect as of July 1, 2014, allows a will to be probated before the person passes away.  Under this new law, an individual who has written a will that is likely to be contested may obtain approval of the will from the Probate Court in advance.  It proactively prevents disputes among heirs, avoiding costly litigation.

New Hampshire is one of the few states to have this type of law.

Read more about it in an article written by Paul Briand for the Seacoast Online.

If you would like to speak with an attorney about estate planning, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to competent and insured attorneys who handle estate planning matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Last Will & Testament Documents

Identity Thieves May File And Receive Your Tax Return

Waiting until April to file your tax return may allow identity thieves to beat you to it.  These crooks file fake returns using stolen names and Social Security numbers, along with false wage information, generating large fraudulent refunds.

“Our cases have increased by about 650 percent since 2008,” says Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, kind of the internal watchdog at the IRS. People go to her when they have a problem with their returns.

The IRS itself says the number of cases has doubled each year in recent years. And a lot of the fraud is coming out of South Florida.

It catches on like fire. It spreads like a virus. Friends tell their friends,” says Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

He calls this crime an epidemic. Fraudsters come from all walks of life: hospital workers, former Marines, white collar professionals and former gang members who have switched from street violence to tax fraud.

Read entire article at NPR.org.

Video Tips from the IRS

If you are a victim of this type of identity theft, contact your Local Taxpayer Advocate.

If you are still not able to resolve your issue, a lawyer  may be able to assist you.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who are skilled at handling identity theft legal issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

For other tax related matters, contact the Low-Income Taxpayer Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

 

 

 

 

How Long Should Financial Documents Be Kept?

Fearing an IRS audit, people have been known to keep every shred of  paper, going back decades.  Professional organizer, Regina Leeds says that while there are financial documents you should keep for life, most only need to be kept for three years or less.

Safe to Shred
Unless it shows proof of a deductible expense, many documents and receipts can be shredded monthly or annually, says Leeds. For entrepreneurs, these include:

  • ATM receipts and deposit slips after they’ve been reconciled with your bank statement
  • Monthly and quarterly bank statements if year-end statements are received

Keep for Three Years
Material that supports tax returns should be saved for three years. Leeds says this might include:

  • Income-related documents, such as invoices, cash register tapes, credit card charge slips, bank deposit slips, 1099s and W2s
  • Proof of deductible purchases and expenses, such as receipts, invoices, cancelled checks, mileage logs, and credit card slips or statements
  • Receipts for charitable contributions

As businesses become more paperless, receipts and statements are often delivered online. Some information is available for a limited time, however. Make sure you check with your account holder to understand its policy, and save or print documents that might be needed in case of an audit.

While three years is standard, according to the IRS, it can perform an audit up to six years after taxes are filed if a “substantial error” is suspected. In the case of fraud, there is no limitation on an audit. Leeds says if you are worried about being audited beyond the three-year limit, you should hold your documentation longer.

Read the rest of the article by Stephanie Vozza at Entrepreneur.com.

If the IRS has contacted you regarding unpaid taxes, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who specifically handles IRS tax matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.  Assistance might also be found through the Low Income Taxpayer Project.

Jar of money labeled Taxes.

Sports Fans Permitted to Pursue Lawsuit

Sports fans have received the OK from a U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin to pursue a lawsuit against the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and several other networks, claiming antitrust violations in how the games are packaged for broadcast on television or the internet.

The case arose from what the subscribers said were anticompetitive “blackout” agreements between service providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, sports networks and the leagues.

These subscribers contended that if they wanted to watch games from outside their home markets, they were required to buy packages that included all out-of-market games, even if they were interested only in one or a few nonlocal teams.

For example, a New York Yankees fan living in Colorado could not pay simply for access to that team’s games, but had to buy a product such as the MLB Extra Innings television package.

The subscribers sought damages and a halt to arrangements that they said resulted in “reduced output, diminished product quality, diminished choice and suppressed price competition.”

The defendants include Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, several teams in both sports, cable TV company Comcast Corp, satellite TV provider DirecTV, Madison Square Garden Co and some regional sports networks.

Read the entire story by Jonathan Stempel at Thomson Reuters.

Photo by Dan4th at Flickr Commons

 

Couple Accused of Abusing 80 Year Old Woman

As reported by WMUR:

A pair of Ossipee residents were arrested and accused of abusing an 80-year-old woman Monday.

Darin Brown, 43, and his wife, Sharon Giordano, 38, were accused of hiding Brown’s mother and abusing her.

The victim had been reported missing from Massachusetts. On Monday morning, police searched Brown’s Ossipee home and found his mother. Authorities said the woman showed signs of abuse and neglect, and was immediately hospitalized.

Read More on the WMUR website.

RSA 161-F:46 requires any person that has a reason to believe that an elderly incapacitated adult has been subjected to physical abuse, neglect, or exploitation or is living in hazardous conditions to notify the Department of Health and Human Services or their local law enforcement agency.

Any person (other than the alleged perpetrator) who makes a report of an alleged incident of abuse, neglect or exploitation in good faith shall have immunity from any criminal or civil liability.

To make a report, contact the Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services at 1-800-949-0470. Calls are confidential.  If it is an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
 
 
by Patrick Doheny

 

 

Is Your Dog a Blacklisted Breed?

A pet owner is responsible for his/her dog’s behavior, regardless of whether or not the animal was provoked.  That’s usually where home owner’s or renter’s insurance comes in to play.  These policies typically cover the liability of the pet owner in the event of a dog bite or attack on the owner’s premises.

These standard policies cover most dogs. However, your pooch’s breed may be blacklisted by some home insurers. Many insurers classify Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Presa Canarios, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies as potentially dangerous.

Each year, almost 5 million Americans are bitten or attacked by dogs. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid in 2010, totaling $412 million; the average claim was $26,166. Dog bites are the No. 5 reason for visits to the emergency room, and more than half of these bites occur on the dog owner’s property.

Given those statistics, it should come as no surprise that homeowner’s and renter’s insurance companies are as vigilant about dog bite claims as a watchdog that’s guarding a house.

To find out what you can do if your dog doesn’t qualify under your home owner’s or renter’s insurance, read the rest of the story by Michele C. Hollow at insurancequotes.com.

If your pet is accused of biting or attacking someone, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney experienced with dog bite defense cases.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

 

 

 

It’s Getting Harder to Hide Money from Your Spouse

Veronica Dagher of the Wall Street Journal writes about the different ways that electronic discovery is assisting spouses and their divorce attorneys with finding hidden marital assets.

To get an idea of just how widespread financial mischief is, consider a couple of surveys. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31% of U.S. adults who combined assets with a spouse or partner say they have been deceptive about money, and 58% of these adults say they hid cash from their partner or spouse.

The numbers also confirm that technology is playing a growing role in uncovering that double-dealing. In 2010, 81% of the members in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said they had seen an increase over the past five years in the use of evidence from social-networking sites. This year, 92% said that over the past three years, they have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence taken from smartphones.

Part of the reason electronic discovery is booming is that more people are using technology to hide assets in the first place. They set up covert business deals using text messages or social networks, for instance, or figure out ways to create cash hoards online.

Read the entire story.

If you are considering divorce, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help by connecting you with a competent family law attorney who will work to protect your rights, while helping you navigate this often confusing experience.  Call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Is Divorce Mediation Right For You?

From Alison Patten, licensed attorney and mediator, who blogs at LemonadeDivorce.com.

Here’s what you need to know about mediation:

1. Many divorce cases are suitable for mediation (even when there is ongoing conflict; even when trust is damaged from an affair).

2. Mediation can involve just one mediator and be low-cost, or can involve outside experts (such as an accountant, a financial advisor, and consulting attorneys). You decide what you need and what you can afford.

3. Other than doing your divorce yourself, mediation is often the least expensive and fastest way to get divorced. It is the most “hands-on” and you control the process. Perhaps for this reason, couples rarely have “mediation regret” — even in cases where no agreement was reached.

So your real task, when considering mediation, is to check for any compelling reason NOT to mediate — the “red flags.” If any of these factors exist in your situation, mediation may not be right for you.

Read the full article from the Huffington Post.

List of Certified NH Marital Mediators.

After a successful mediation,  it is a good idea to have an attorney review your mediated agreement before filing it with the court.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who provides unbundled legal services  to review your divorce agreement.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Debt Collectors Profiting From Student Loan Crisis

John Hechinger, writer for Bloomberg Businessweek reported on March 26, 2012:

With $67 billion of student loans in default, the Education Department is turning to an army of private debt-collection companies to put the squeeze on borrowers. Working on commissions that totaled about $1 billion last year, these government contractors face growing complaints that they are violating federal laws by insisting on stiff payments, even when borrowers’ incomes make them eligible for leniency.

Education Department contracts — featuring commissions of as much as 20 percent of recoveries — encourage collectors to insist on high payments. Former debt collectors said they worked in a “boiler-room” environment, where they could earn bonuses of thousands of dollars a month, restaurant gift cards and even trips to foreign resorts if they collected enough from borrowers.

The article goes on to describe the specific federal laws that debt collectors must abide by.

Federal-aid law requires collectors to offer “reasonable and affordable” payments, so debtors can “rehabilitate” their loans, repairing their credit and making good on what they owe taxpayers.

The law mandates no minimum payment for a borrower to enter a rehabilitation program, and collection companies may take borrowers’ finances into account. The fair debt act forbids collectors from making “any false, deceptive or misleading representation.”

Insisting that cash-strapped borrowers make minimum payments and then failing to disclose lower-cost options violates both federal-aid and fair debt-collection laws, according to Deanne Loonin, an attorney with the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center.

Read the entire story.

If you are struggling with your student loan debt, check out the National Consumer Law Center’s  Student Loan Borrower Assistance website.

Some student loan issues may need legal intervention.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to an attorney who handles student loan and/or debt collection issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request and online referral.

Report Bullying and Harassment of LGBT Students

Have you or someone you know experienced LGBT based bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school?

According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), you are not alone:

Approximately 85% of high school students report being harassed in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and 64% of students report being harassed for being too masculine or too feminine. Even more troubling, only 18% of LGBT students report that their schools have policies which offer comprehensive protections.

Without  adequate statewide protections, what can members of school communities do to address these issues?

We can take action to ensure LGBT students claim their rights, create a record measuring anti-LGBT harassment, and use this record to advocate laws and policies that will address this epidemic plaguing our nation’s schools.

Empowering school communities with this information , and delivering reports to the U.S. Education Department is a critical first step in claiming our rights and getting the tools to create change and build safer schools. We need your help in this important educational and advocacy effort.

GLSEN recommends  that if you – or someone that you know – have experienced school-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, please file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Education Department today.  For more information on how to file a complaint, visit GLSEN’s website.

For information regarding New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law and other resources check out Bully Free New Hampshire.

For discrimination matters in areas of employment, public accommodations and the sale or rental of housing or commercial property, because of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability or national origin contact the NH Commission for Human Rights.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association has a panel of competent attorneys experienced with handling discrimination matters.  Most discrimination claims are time-sensitive so call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.