Far more often than not, grandparents play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren. In recent years, many grandparents have become increasingly involved in their grandchildren’s lives, from seeing them on a regular basis to caring for them on a full time basis, if a parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child. Sometimes, however, situations develop where grandparents are denied the right to see their grandchildren. Historically, grandparents lacked any legal right to visit and to communicate with their grandchildren when such contact was forbidden by the parents. However, lawmakers have increasingly recognized the need to preserve the beneficial relationship between children and their grandparents, and as such, at least forty-eight states have enacted various statutes allowing grandparents the right to petition for visitation under certain circumstances. For instance, New York State, which takes a paternalistic approach, recognizes that visits with grandparents can be a precious part of a child’s life, providing benefits that cannot be derived from any other relationship.
In these turbulent economic times, many of us are concerned about protecting our assets, whether it is the home, savings for a child’s education, or a dwindling retirement account. We need no reminder that life holds few guarantees and to further protect ourselves we have insurance on our lives, our homes, our cars, and the list goes on. But when was the last time that you reviewed your policy limits and confirmed that you have enough insurance? Or the right type of insurance policy riders?
I attended a meeting this morning where it was announced that there had been a significant rise in title insurance claims in New York State. These claims are made against title insurance policies issued to either the homeowner (if he/she purchased this optional policy at the time they bought their home) or the bank lending the money for their purchase or refinance (such a policy is always required by the bank).
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with a potential client who had acknowledged with her spouse a need to achieve at least a legal separation and possibly a divorce. Her main questions were focused on how that process would work as she had some ideas regarding traditional divorce litigation, mediation and collaborative law. Her case was not unlike pretty much all others in that the answer to the question of which process is optimal is unfortunately best answered with the benefit of hindsight after the matter has been brought to a conclusion. There are a number of factors for the parties each to consider when choosing a “dispute resolution model”, including the potential costs involved, how trusting the parties are of one another, and ultimately how they would like their divorce to look when it is finished. With respect to this last consideration, the resulting Judgment of Divorce will, in many ways, be the same document no matter what course the parties chose to achieve that result. However, how the parties feel about one another and how they are able to interact in a post-divorce setting may be markedly different.
Though the Buffalo area has not been hit as hard by the mortgage crisis as other parts of the country, there are still many local people who are affected. Whether in a foreclosure situation or in negotiating with a lender to accept something less than the full mortgage debt that is owed (a “short sale”), a homeowner may end up having a portion of his or her mortgage debt forgiven by his or her lender. In the past, this may have solved one problem (the inability to satisfy the mortgage) but created another: income tax due on the forgiven debt.
A client recently shared with me an unsolicited offer he had received in the mail. The company offered to obtain (for a sizeable fee) a certified copy of the client’s deed of ownership to his property from the local county clerk. The offer stated that it was a good idea to have a copy of this valuable document, which is the single best indication that you own your own home. I agree with that statement, which is why all lawyersrecommend recording deeds in the county clerk’s office in the first place. The clerk records the deed by referencing it in an index of deed records (so it can be found by anyone, simply by looking up the seller/buyer’s name) and scanning the deed into the clerk’s computer files. The image of the deed is available for public inspection forever.
I read with interest a September 26, 2008, article in The Buffalo News, about an 88 year old area widow who had been bilked out of close to $80,000.00 for home improvements that were never done and were done in a shoddy fashion. My first thought was how overwhelming sad it was that in a “City of Good Neighbors” that such a thing would even occur. Not only had it occurred, but the poor woman had paid the gentleman over 71 payments that totaled the $80,000.00. Eventually, the culprit was arraigned in the Town of Cheektowaga Court, and if convicted he could face up to 15 years in prison.
When the time comes to settle a personal injury suit, litigants should be aware that Medicare may have a potential lien against the settlement proceeds in instances where Medicare has made past, conditional payments for medical expenses. This is due a federal law which deems Medicare to be a so-called “secondary payor” with regard to payments made under workers’ compensation, automobile, or liability insurance policies or plans, or uninsured or underinsured coverage. Congress intended Medicare to be the payment source of last resort for medical care; therefore, if a recipient is entitled to receive compensation for his injuries from a “primary payor,” Medicare will not be responsible for the costs. The “primary payor,” in many personal injury actions, is the defendant’s liability carrier. Medicare will make payments, however, if the primary payor cannot be reasonably expected to pay promptly for the medical care. These payments are called conditional payments. Medicare conditions these payments on its right to receive reimbursement from the primary payor and from anyone who receives payment from them, including a settling plaintiff.