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Wednesday
May142014

Retirement Planning for Same-Sex Married Couples

Trusts & Estate Planning Attorney

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

 

In September, the Internal Revenue Service issued Revenue Ruling 2013-17 which clarified when, for federal tax purposes, the IRS will recognize same-sex marriages.

As of September 16, the Department of the Treasury and IRS recognized a same-sex marriage if the couple was married in a state where it is legal. It became the state of celebration that mattered to the feds, rather than the state of domicile.

Now the IRS has released further guidance, which addresses questions regarding certain retirement plans for same-sex married couples. Revenue Ruling 2014-19:

1. Describes when marital status is relevant to the payment of retirement benefits;

2. Outlines how tax requirements for same-sex married couples should be satisfied following the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor – in which Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (marriage declared to be between one man and one woman) was deemed unconstitutional – and  Revenue Ruling 2013-17; and  

3. Provides guidance regarding when retirement plans should be amended for compliance.

 

Same-Sex Retirement Benefits: The Basics

Now is a good time to review your retirement plan, check your beneficiary designations, and check with your employer to see if the retirement plan will be amended to provide additional benefits to same-sex surviving spouses.

Keep these three things in mind:

1. Ruling 2014-19 is retroactive, applying the 2013-17 definitions of married couples for tax purposes to retirement plans. Remember, it's the state of celebration, rather than the state of residence that is important now.

So if a same-sex couple married in California and later moved to a state where gay marriage is not recognized – the surviving spouse will still be eligible to receive benefits according to the IRS. 

 

2. If a spouse passes away on or after June 26, 2013, the same-sex surviving spouse will be entitled to profit-sharing and stock bonus plans, and other potential benefits, if the spouse is named the primary or partial beneficiary.

If the deceased participant did not designate a beneficiary, the plan administrator must recognize the spouse (gay or straight) as the default beneficiary.

 

3. If someone other than the spouse is the designated beneficiary, the surviving spouse whether straight or gay, must have provided written consent to that effect.

If you need more information regarding who to designate as beneficiary for your estate's assets, please read Designated Beneficiary Assets: Consider Your Income, Capital Gains & Estate Taxes.

 

Kira S. Masteller is a Gift Tax and Estate Planning Attorney at our firm. Contact her by phone: 818.907.3244 or email: kmasteller@lewitthackman.com for more information.

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.

Wednesday
May072014

What Happens in a Personal Injury Case Once You’ve Completed Your Medical Treatment?

Injury Attorney Los AngelesLos Angeles Injury Lawyer

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

This is part two of a series of blogs that will discuss what a client can expect during various stages of a personal injury case. This post addresses what happens after completing medical care.


The first installment in this series, What Happens in a Personal Injury Case After You’ve Hired a PI Lawyer, looks at the initial steps both you and your attorney take in the first phase of the case. But what happens after you’ve completed medical care?  

Personal Injury Cases: Communication is Critical

Personal Injury Medical CareFirst, you need to make sure you continue with medical care and therapy until you and your doctors believe you are either fully recovered, or that there is no further treatment that could help you. If you and your doctors disagree regarding this issue, make sure you let us know so we can give you the proper legal advice in that situation.

Once you are discharged from further care, tell us. We will begin collecting all of your medical records and bills so you can move forward with compensation.

If you’ve sustained basic injuries and merely have chiropractic treatment, this can be a quick process. If your care has been more complicated and you have treatment with multiple medical providers, it's a more time-consuming process. Many hospitals and doctor’s offices will require us to send a professional copy service to obtain your records. This extends the time and cost of obtaining your records.

As we’re gathering records, we always tell clients to ease back into their pre-accident lifestyle to see how their injuries react to regular, daily activities.

Many times, once treatment is done and clients are active again, injuries can flare up and we realize further treatment is needed. This is why we wait at least a month or so and check in with the client again and make sure they are still feeling well and have not had any recurring problems.

Once your recovery is certain, we will review your records and send a demand package to the insurance company asking for a certain amount to settle your case.

You should know that the type of demand package varies with the quality of your attorney. Less competent attorneys – those just looking for a quick settlement (generally not a good idea, watch the video below to find out why) without doing much work – will generally send the records with a list of the bills and nothing else.

Our office prefers to send a detailed demand – summarizing the facts of the accident, the injuries you sustained, the care received, and how your life was affected – because we need to convince the insurance adjuster to adequately compensate you for all damages. Sending a list of the bills with no details is not very convincing, and does not show the insurance company that we are serious about obtaining maximum restitution for you.

Depending on the type of case and the insurance company, it can take an adjuster several weeks to a couple of months to respond to the demand package.

The insurance company will most likely make its first offer to settle at this point. We will negotiate back and forth, which could take another several weeks or months. Again, this depends on the size of your injury case and whether the adjuster needs to obtain approval from his/her supervisors for certain offers.

If all goes well, we will reach a settlement. If, however, the insurance company does not offer what you and we think the case is worth, then you will have a decision to make.

If we believe the insurance company has not offered fair settlement value, and we think we can obtain more through litigation, we will not hesitate to file a lawsuit and pursue the matter through trial, if that is what’s best for the case.  

Injury Settlements vs. Litigation

There are many attorneys, however, who will NEVER file a lawsuit and litigate. They are either looking for a quick settlement  because they do not want to work any harder than they have to -- or they are just not competent to litigate a case.

This type of attorney will usually try to convince you to accept a settlement, even though you both know it’s not a fair offer. S/He may also require you to pay costs if you decide to move forward. If this happens, it’s time to find a new attorney.

Our firm does not increase fees if we file a lawsuit. We ensure that a decision to litigate or not, is always made in the best interests of you the client, and not based on costs in either time or money for us. 

Serious Injury Cases

Unfortunately, there are times when a client is not discharged from medical treatment for many years, if ever at all. If this is the case, many times it will be apparent from the start and we will file a lawsuit early on.

Many cases settle or go to trial with the client still receiving care due to the significant injuries sustained. Your medical providers, usually including Life Care Planners, will lay out your need for future care. Your attorney will incorporate this future care and costs into any settlement negotiations with the insurance company.

We’ll look at what happens in your case after a lawsuit is filed, in the next installment in this series of blogs.

 

David B. Bobrosky is a Shareholder in our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him for a free personal injury consultation by phone, 818.907.3254 or by email: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com.

 

 

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
Apr292014

Three Tiers for Beer – State Regulations Control Most Distribution

 

Craft Beer LawyerChair, Franchise & Distribution Practice Group

 

by Barry Kurtz
818.907.3006

 

After the Prohibition Era, the 21st Amendment granted individual states primary authority in the regulation of three aspects of the alcoholic beverage market in the United States: production, distribution and sales. Written to generate income for the states, this three tier system was also meant to promote competition and to discourage aggressive marketing tactics that might encourage consumers to overindulge.

Distributing Craft BeerBefore 1919, brewers sold their products directly to retailers and taverns where they held ownership interests, which lead to anti-competitive business practices and unscrupulous marketing.As a result, individual states established laws that vary substantially, but these generally fall into two broad categories of regulation: Licensing and Control.

 

Beer License States or "Open" States

Currently there are 32 open states – including California, Nevada and Arizona – that employ license-style regulations. Usually, a craft brewer who wishes to sell beer in a license state must obtain a manufacturer's license or register with a governing agency before executing a distribution agreement.

There are different licensing schemes for each tier and some states will require those in the beer business to apply for multiple licenses. For example, alcohol distributors may be required to buy a beer wholesaler's license in addition to licenses a distributor may already have for wine or spirits.

Because of the different types of licenses needed and the varying regulations and governing boards in each state, obtaining the right license can get very complicated, especially when selling beer in multiple states.

 

Control and "Sole Importer" States

The 18 control states – like Washington, Oregon and Utah – also require licenses. However, these states take an ownership stake as distributors or retailers – giving them a direct interest in the revenues.

Control states are also more controlling, as the name implies. There are more regulations governing the conditions of sale and marketing.

Utah and Pennsylvania fall under the control state category, but they are also sole importers. Consumers there can buy their alcohol in state-run stores only – craft brewers won't be able to sell their products in grocery, drug or big box retail stores.

 

Internet Beer Sales: Craft Brewers Win Some, Lose Some

Sixteen states forbid a producer to ship beer directly to the consumer. Some states require the shipper to have a license as a brewer, distributor or retailer.

Many states allow craft and micro-brewers to self-distribute beer if the brewery is in that state, in recognition of the fact that these producers sell much smaller quantities of beer.

Even so, shipping beer via the U.S. Postal Service remains illegal for everyone, and DHL will not handle shipments of beer at all – it's company policy. When it comes to internet sales though, craft brewers may rely on UPS and FedEx, if the brewer has a valid license, and a contract to ship beer through one of these companies.

Barry Kurtz is the Chair of our Franchise and Distribution Practice Group, which represents franchisors, franchisees, licensees and distributors. For more information, contact him via email: bkurtz@lewitthackman.com or phone: 818.907.3006.

 

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.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Copyrighted Images: Individual Works Registered in Group Are Protected

 

Franchise Agreement LawyerState Bar Certified Specialist, Franchise & Distribution Lawby Tal Grinblat
818.907.3284

 

Stock photo agency, Alaska Stock, LLC, registered groups of photographs with the Copyright Office. In custom with Copyright Office regulations, individual photos and photographers were not all listed on the registrations. Alaska Stock simply registered the group of photos s as "Alaska Stock CD Catalog 1, 2, 3…"

The name of author on the copyright applications and resulting registrations listed three photographers and a specified number of others for each catalog, i.e., John Doe, Jane Smith, Joe Black and 98 others. The compilations of photographs each contained hundreds, and even thousands of photographs submitted by 32 to 106 individual photographers.

This method was prescribed by the Register of Copyrights.

This suit arose when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, who licensed certain photographs from Alaska Stock, published far more images than they paid for. Alaska Stock therefore sued for injunctive relief, actual and statutory damages, attorneys' fees and associated costs arising from Houghton Mifflin's copyright infringement.

In 2010, a District Court in Alaska ruled against Alaska Stock, citing previous rulings (Muench Photography  v. Houghton Mifflin 2010, and Bean v. McDougal Littell 2008), as well as sections 409 and 411 of the Copyright Act.

The District Court held Alaska Stock’s registrations were defective because Alaska Stock did not provide the names of each of the photographers and the titles of each of the photographs in the registrations. Accordingly, the district court found the registrations succeeded in registering the catalogs themselves (as a whole), but not the individual photographs within them. On March 18, the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding in Alaska Stock’s favor.

 

Copyright Act of 1976: What Does It Say?

The district court first questioned whether Alaska Stock could claim copyright infringement in the individual photographs, as Section 411 of the Copyright Act requires a registration to sue for infringement. The court then looked to the Copyright Act’s procedures for registration. 

Section 409 of the Copyright Act specifies that applications for registration must include:

 

  1. Name and address of copyright claimant

  2. For anonymous works: Name, nationality or domicile of authors, and date of death if author is deceased

  3. For anonymous works: Name, nationality or domicile of authors

  4. Statement, if work is made for hire

  5. For copyright claims made by non-authors: statement of how claimant obtained copyright ownership

  6. Title of the work

  7. Year of completion of work

  8. Date and nation of first publication, if published

  9. Identification of preexisting work if the work is a compilation or derivative

  10. Other information bearing upon the preparation, identification, existence, ownership or duration of the copyright

 

Accordingly, the district court found the registrations were defective because they did not disclose the names of the authors of the individual photographs or the title of any individual photograph.


Ninth Circuit: The Big Picture

The court of appeal reversed finding that a title of a work can refer to a collection (which Alaska Stock did), and that as the author of the collective work, only Alaska Stock’s name was needed on the application. This was because when the applications were filed, the authors of the individual photographs had assigned their rights in the photos to Alaska Stock, so that Alaska Stock owned both the photos within the collection and the collection itself.

The court of appeal found that the Register of Copyrights has the authority to prescribe the method for registering a body of work under a single title and/or listing.  As a result, the Court held that Alaska Stock successfully registered the copyright both to its collections and to the individual images within the collections.

Practitioners Note:  since the time of Alaska Stock’s Copyright registrations were issued, the Copyright Office changed its procedures for registering published and non-published collections of photographs. Now all authors of the photographs must be the same and applicants must assign a title to each photograph deposited and specify the title on both the application form and the deposit itself. See Group Registration of Published Photos or Group Registration of Unpublished Photos for details.

Tal Grinblat is an Intellectual Property Attorney at our firm. Email tgrinblat@lewitthackman.com or call 818.907.3284 for more information. 

 

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
Apr152014

What Happens in a Personal Injury Case After You've Hired a PI Lawyer?

Injury Attorney Los AngelesLos Angeles Injury Lawyer

by David B. Bobrosky

(818) 907-3254

 

This post is the first in a series of blogs in which we will outline what a client can expect during the various stages of a personal injury claim.

 

You've suffered a serious injury. You've found an accident attorney – what happens next?

I’ve previously written about how to hire a personal injury attorney, and what to do immediately after an accident. Many times, though, I’ve found that clients really do not know what to expect after they do engage an attorney.

Wrongful Death AttorneyThis is part of a series of blogs that will discuss what you can expect during various stages of a personal injury case – this one addresses the legal process of a personal injury claim right after hiring an attorney.  

 

What Does a PI Attorney Do, Once Hired?

Every case will not be the same. What happens immediately after hiring an attorney largely depends on the type of case, when you hire an attorney, and how severe your injuries from the accident are. For this blog, let's assume you’ve already engaged a lawyer after an auto accident and that you have sustained moderate injuries.

The first thing an attorney usually does is send out representation letters to everyone involved to let them know you have legal counsel. This is very important, especially if the other driver’s insurance company has already contacted you. If the other insurer hasn't yet, we can prevent them from doing so with this type of letter.

Once an insurance company receives a representation letter, they can no longer contact you. An attorney will provide the insurance company with basic information about you and about the case. (Watch this video regarding providing recorded statements to insurers.)

These initial contacts with the insurance company will help set the tone for the case. If you are contacted by an insurance adjuster, investigator or anyone after hiring an attorney, you need to get the person’s name, and immediately inform your attorney. You should never give the person any information, other than your attorney’s name and phone number.

Representation letters will also be sent to any medical providers involved, letting them know that they will need to send your attorney a full set of medical records and bills once treatment is finished.

 

Accident Investigation & Property Damage

Next, an attorney will investigate the accident, if necessary. This includes contacting witnesses to obtain statements and taking photographs of the scene of the accident. This sometimes includes utilizing an investigator and other experts.

If the property damage to your vehicle has not been finalized by this time, your attorney will also assist in this area if need be. Usually, property damage is resolved fairly easily if there is enough insurance. If you pursue a diminished value claim, this will take longer and will be much more involved.

 

Recovery: The Client's Job

While your attorney is doing what I’ve described above, you have one job: Get the appropriate medical care and get better. Follow your doctor’s advice and keep your appointments. Your medical records are the evidence your attorney needs to prove your injuries. If the records are full of missed or canceled appointments, it will look like you are not seriously injured.

On the other hand, you also have to be careful not to over treat. If you are receiving chiropractic care, you should not also be receiving physical therapy and/or acupuncture on the same parts of your body at the same time. If there is a viable reason for you to have these multiple providers, then make sure each provider is aware of the others.

For more details on getting to the right doctors, see my previous blog, Personal Injury Accident Care: Getting the Appropriate Treatment.

Once you are healed or your injuries have reached a plateau, your attorney can begin negotiating your case. We'll look at what happens in the negotiation phase in the next part of this series.

Read the next installment of this series: What Happens in a Personal Injury Case Once You've Completed Your Medical Treatment?

 

David B. Bobrosky is an experienced Accident & Injury Lawyer at our firm. Contact him for a free personal injury consultation, by phone (818) 907-3254 or email: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com

 

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.

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