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Monday
Sep102018

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Soulful Estate 

Estate Planning Attorney

 

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

 

As many in the country mourn the loss of Aretha Franklin, some of us are a bit surprised to discover the Queen of Soul passed intestate, without a will or estate plan.

 

Without such planning, the estate goes through probate, probably doomed to a long, drawn-out process, considering the value and complexity in this situation. Reports indicate Franklin owned four homes and demanded to be paid for her performances in cash. She was often photographed wearing furs and jewels. Aside from the many material property aspects, Franklin retained ownership to much of her music compositions. The intellectual property value of this catalog hasn’t been determined yet, and probably won’t be for a while.

Uncle Sam will take a large portion of the songstress’ estate in the event there was no estate tax planning in place. Remember, under current tax law, the first $11.2 million is exempt from Federal estate tax, but over and above that amount will be taxed at a 40 percent rate.

According to the NY Times, Michigan law allows for the decedent’s children to divide the estate equally. That’s good news for Franklin’s four sons: Ted White Jr., and Clarence, Edward and KeCalf Franklin. However, the equal distribution will be decreased significantly because of the probate, administrator fees and attorneys’ fees.  Valuing the rights to her music and likeness will be an expensive task as well.

No one knows yet what Franklin’s estate is worth, though it could be in excess of $80 million – without the rights to her music catalog. Probating the estate could mean more than $1.6 million to the administrator and the attorney administering the estate. If extraordinary services are required during the administration (such as selling real estate, a business or memorabilia), that number could rise significantly.

It also means the Queen of Soul foregoes her much valued privacy, as this all plays out in a public courtroom. Creditors will come forward to make claims. Long-lost family members and friends may also come forward to angle for a cut. And once all of that dust settles, there comes a run for her music, for product advertising, movie soundtracks, remixed albums, maybe her life story, and more.

The circus to follow will be something to watch. Just remember that you don’t have to put your family through an experience such as this. If you own property, even if it’s just a single home, estate planning can help avoid the unnecessary cost, the squabbles and funds going to places you didn’t intend.

Kira S. Masteller is a Trust & Estate Planning attorney and Shareholder at our firm.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Jul312018

Pre-Divorce Checklist: The Rational Preparation Before an Emotional Journey

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerCertified Family Law Specialist

 

 

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis

818.907.3274

  

Divorce is rarely easy for anyone. But if you’re serious about terminating your marriage or partnership, there are some steps you can take to legally, financially and emotionally prepare. Taking these steps first can make the process easier for all.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

Before making any major decisions, meet with and retain a family law attorney. You should retain a lawyer who listens, makes time for you, is responsive, and with whom you are comfortable talking to.

Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • What is your hourly rate?

  • What is your retainer? Does you retainer get applied to the monthly bill? If so, how much will be needed to replenish it?

  • Is the retainer an Evergreen retainer? An Evergreen retainer is applied to the final but not monthly bills. You will be expected to pay your bills monthly.

  • Do you have people who assist you? For instance, paralegals have lower hourly rates, as do associate attorneys.

Financial Preparations

For some, it may be tempting to just pack a bag and leave. That’s a natural, emotional response in some situations, but don’t do it.

It takes at least six months for a divorce to finalize in California, and sometime after moving out a party will almost always decide there are certain assets worth fighting for. Without proof that those assets are community/quasi-community, separate, or commingled property, the divorce can take longer depending on how long the parties want to fight over them.

Here is the rational response:

  • Photocopy all financial information such as bank statements, 401k, tax returns for the last five years, credit card statements, appraisals, and insurance policies.

  • If you are self-employed, make sure you have any documents you need to run your business – put them on a flash drive so you have a backup.

  • Take photos of anything valuable you may need to leave behind.

  • Gather all important documents: passports, social security cards, photos, baby books, and birth certificates.

  • Aside from the “big ticket items” like cars, homes, business interests, stock accounts and bank accounts – you should also make a list of retirement accounts, employee benefits, investments, life insurance, intellectual property, frequent flier miles/points, club memberships, season tickets, collectibles, jewelry, and proof of gifts.

Be prepared for a lot of paperwork. California Family Code §2100 mandates both preliminary and final Declaration of Disclosure forms stating all of your assets, debts, income and expenses under penalty of perjury.

Prepare the disclosure forms like tax returns. Sit down with your records and a computer, and set aside several hours to fill out everything as completely and accurately as possible. Engage someone to help you if necessary. The more thorough you are, the less your attorney will need to do, which keeps your fees down.

Emotional Preparation

Decide what your goals are, so that you are less reactionary and more proactive as the divorce progresses. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:

  • Who should have physical and legal custody of the children and/or the family pets?

  • Do you want to stay in the marital home, or would you prefer a clean start?

  • Can you afford to stay in the marital home?

  • Which assets are most important to you?

  • What sentimental items are most important to you?

Have a support system in place: friends, family, a therapist. You will grieve the relationship. Divorce will not be easy but you will get through it.

Dealing With Your Ex

Keep your communications with your soon to be ex-spouse short and respectful. In other words, do not engage in emotionally driven texts, emails, phone calls or social media posts. Also remember that you do not need to respond to every communication, and that often, waiting a day to reply gives everyone better perspective.

Stick to the facts and do not explain yourself. For instance, if your spouse says: “I can’t believe you did not practice with our daughter before her big math test and she did poorly. She should not go to your house before a big test.” 

An appropriate response might be: “We did practice but she really needs more help than just the night before. Would you agree to split the cost of a math tutor? I think she would really benefit from one. Please let me know by Friday.”  

Pick and choose your battles. Ask yourself: “Is it really worth the cost of attorneys’ fees to fight about this?” The more belligerent the parties, the longer the divorce takes. And that can be costly for all. 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a California Family Law Certified Specialist and the Chair of our Family Law Practice Group.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Jul262018

Grande or Venti? CA Supreme Court Weighs in on the De Minimis Question

Lawyer for EmployersWage & Hour Defense

 

by Tal Burnovski Yeyni

818-907-3224

 

 

 

Starbucks de minimis time lawsuit

De minimis is a Latin phrase that refers to something of little importance, or very irrelevant. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recognizes that some employee duties are so small, or take such little time, that employers may consider the minute or so spent performing these tasks as non-compensable.

A classic example of a de minimis task is that of unlocking or locking the door in a retail establishment. Another would be the time an employee spends logging into a computer before s/he is able to clock in, or after clocking out. Typically, such tasks takes less than a minute – it is difficult for employers to track that time.

In Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, what some employers may see as a very small issue, made it all the way to the California Supreme Court.

The Plaintiff, Douglas Troester, was a supervisor at a Starbucks, paid hourly wages. In 2012 he claimed his employer failed to compensate him for additional tasks he had to perform after clocking out. These tasks, which took between 4 to 10 minutes each day included: initiating “close store procedure” on the back office computer, activating the alarm, exiting the store, and locking the door. Troester further submitted evidence he occasionally reopened the store to allow employees to retrieve items left behind, waited with employees for their rides, or brought in patio furniture left outside.

Plaintiff totaled this unpaid time at nearly 13 hours over a period of 17 months of employment, amounting to $102.67 dollars of compensable time.

The district court decided for the employer, concluding the de minimus doctrine could be applied. Plaintiff appealed. The Ninth Circuit deferred the matter to the California Supreme Court, with this certified question:

Does the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's de minimis doctrine, as stated in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 692 (1946) and Lindow v. United States, 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984), apply to claims for unpaid wages under the California Labor Code sections 510, 1194, and 1197?

The Supreme Court held that under the facts of the present case, the relevant wage order and statute do not permit application of the de minimis doctrine.

CA Supreme Court de minimis decision

In its holding, the Supreme Court indicated there is no showing California intended to incorporate a less protective federal law. The Supreme Court further noted that technical difficulties of recording small amounts of time may not excuse compliance as today’s “technological advances may help with tracking small amounts of time.”

However, recognizing it may be impractical to accurately account for every second spent on work, Justice Leondra R. Kruger provided in a concurring opinion examples as to when a limited de minimis principle may apply: 

  • An employer requires workers to turn on their computers and log in to an application in order to start their shifts. Ordinarily this process takes employees no more than a minute (and often far less, depending on the employee’s typing speed), but on rare and unpredictable occasions a software glitch delays workers’ log-ins for as long as two to three minutes.

  • An employer ordinarily distributes work schedules and schedule changes during working hours at the place of employment. But occasionally employees are notified of schedule changes by e-mail or text message during their off hours and are expected to read and acknowledge the messages.

  • After their shifts have ended, employees in a retail store sometimes remain in the store for several minutes waiting for transportation. On occasion, a customer will ask a waiting employee a question, not realizing the employee is off duty. The employee — with the employer’s knowledge — spends a minute or two helping the customer.    

California employers are once again advised to review their policies and practices to confirm they are in compliance. Make sure employees accurately record their time, no matter the amount.

 

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is a wage and hour defense attorney.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Jul262018

When Managers Go "Rogue": Franchise & Employment Law Implications

Franchise Litigation Attorney Matt Soroky Employment Defense Lawyer Tal Yeyni

 

by Matthew J. Soroky & Tal Burnovski Yeyni

What should an employer do when an employee violates Company policies or when the employee’s actions reflect poorly on the Company? Most employers use disciplinary actions – anything between verbal warnings  on up to termination.  

But what if a Company has a manager who behaved in serious misconduct? Take for example Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who, as part of a Twitter feud used a disparaging remark against a British volunteer that participated in a Thai rescue mission. While Tesla’s board apparently overlooked the incident, Tesla investors implored the CEO to apologize, take a “Twitter sabbatical” and focus on production.

In today’s #MeToo and social media protests, many companies stopped shielding “rogue” managers and require strict policy compliance from all.   

Managerial Behavior Company Policy

Intel’s CEO recently resigned after an ongoing investigation confirmed he had a consensual relationship with an Intel employee which violated Intel’s non-fraternization policy. And Papa John’s founder John Schnatter stepped down as CEO following controversial remarks on the NFL, and later as chairman of the board after he reportedly used a racial slur during a conference call. Eventually Schnatter was barred from entering company headquarters. 

As the Papa John’s saga goes from bad to worse, the lesson to be learned is that an entire brand can suffer from the company figurehead’s poor judgment. Predictably Papa John’s revenue stream from sales-based royalties has dwindled, but declining sales have especially left their franchisees in a lurch. Removing Schnatter’s likeness from the Papa John’s logo trickles down to each business owner, who signed franchise agreements promising to adopt the franchisor’s new trademark on its signage, pizza boxes and other branded products at their own expense. 

As the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak 25 years ago taught us, it can take many years, substantial resources and some clever marketing for a franchise system to recover from bad press. But when it results from a “rogue” executive’s actions, much less a franchisor’s immediately recognizable figurehead, the task is that much more daunting.

Holding managers accountable not only enhances public confidence in a Company, but also demonstrates to employees and franchisees that policies are enforced and compliance monitored. All are equal before company laws.  

Matthew J. Soroky and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are litigation attorneys in our Franchise & Distribution and Employment Practice Groups.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Jul132018

Environmental Law: How Clean is that Cleaning Product?

Environmental Litigation AttorneyEnvironmental Litigation

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

As if California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (“Prop 65”) doesn’t impose enough regulations on employers, landlords, retailers, manufacturers and distributors – we now must also contend with the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 (the “Act”) – one more law that provides transparency as to product ingredients to consumers. 

California Cleaning Products Act Chemical ListsLast October, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 258 written by Senator Ricardo Lara – a law that requires ingredient labels on cleaning products and ingredient lists on cleaning product websites. The bill added a new section to Part 3 of Division 104 of the California Health and Safety Code

Senator Lara says the bill was prompted by his mother’s work in the domestic field – she would come home feeling ill, never knowing what caused her symptoms.

How the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act Differs from Prop 65

Unlike Proposition 65, the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act does not just mandate warnings regarding ingredients that may cause cancer or reproductive harm. Products that, for example, also cause allergic reactions are included within the ambit of disclosures required by the Act. 

Another difference between the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act and Prop 65 is the notification responsibility. Under this new Act, it’s up to the manufacturer of the product in question to warn the public, via online information and on product packaging. Prop 65 assigns that responsibility to anyone who sells, provides, or stores products containing certain chemicals and substances to warn consumers. 

Moreover, whereas Prop 65 covers any product containing listed carcinogens or reproductive toxicants unless the regulated entity can show exposure to the product poses no harm, this Act exempts 22 categories of products from regulation under the Act (though warning requirements concerning these products may be imposed under other laws). The Act does not apply to food or drugs; cosmetics or personal care products; steel or oil and gas production; heavy industry manufacturers; industrial water treatment operations; and some others in these industries, related industries, or similar industries. 

Even if a company is not regulated by the Act, the company may be required to maintain safety data sheets providing employees information regarding hazardous chemical to which the employees may be exposed. 

When does all of this go in effect?  

Manufacturers must provide chemical information for their products online as of January 1, 2020, and on product packaging labels as of January 1, 2021. To protect trade secrets, amounts or weights need not be provided. Curiously, if a product contains ingredients mandated by Proposition 65 to require warnings, warnings under the Act need not be given until January 1, 2023.  This extra time is likely insignificant as a practical matter, since even before 2023 warnings still must be given under Prop 65 itself. 

 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120