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Thursday
Oct042012

Postnuptial Agreements Relieve Pressure on Marriage

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerPostnuptial Agreement Lawyer

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles

 

This may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes a postnuptial agreement can save a marriage. That's especially true if money is a major source of tension, or if one partner comes into an extra income or windfall that wasn't expected before the couple got married.

This scenario could stem from an unexpected rise in business profits, or receiving a substantial inheritance, or even winning the lottery.  

Some partners ask for postnups because of a spouse's lifestyle, i.e., excessive shopping, drinking, or gambling habits.

Whatever the case, divorce lawyers across the nation have seen a rise in couples putting postnuptial agreements, also known as marriage agreements, in place over the last few years. Interestingly, these attorneys say more and more wives are the ones seeking security in a postnup – especially now, when women have steadily been increasing their earning power over the last few decades and taking control of the finances.


Why Bother Drawing Up a Postnup?

 

Whether you're male or female, newly wed or married for many years, a postnup may very well be a good way to keep the peace in your marriage, or even to keep the peace in your own mind.

It's a way for you to save your personal assets in the event all goes awry in your marriage – and if nothing else, it's a pressure release valve that will hopefully relieve some financial tension. Even happy couples disagree on how money should be spent.

A good postnuptial agreement could help resolve issues regarding:

  • Assets (business and personal)

  • Support

  • Children's College Tuition & Expenses

  • Debt

  • Inheritances (past or future)

  • Property (everything from the art collection to the golf gear to the timeshare in Zanzibar)

  • Protections for Step-Children

  • Retirement Benefits

If one or both of you are worried about the financial future, a postnuptial agreement may be the very tool to relieve some of the pressure and even act as a reset button for your marriage.

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Family Law Attorney experienced in divorce and division of assets, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and support modification agreements. Contact her via email at vnellis@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.
Friday
Sep282012

Franchise Lawyer David Gurnick New SFVBA President | Lewitt Hackman Attorneys Honored

Photo courtesy San Fernando Valley Bar Association's Valley Lawyer Magazine

 

by Lewitt Hackman
September 28, 2012

 

The San Fernando Valley Bar Association (SFVBA) and Valley Community Legal Foundation (VCLF) held their annual officer installation dinner at a gala celebration Saturday evening.

Our own David Gurnick was installed as SFVBA President for 2012-2013, and Kira S. Masteller was installed as a Trustee. Ms. Masteller also served as emcee for the event. Stephen T. Holzer was installed as a Director for the VCLF.

This is the first time in the SFVBA’s 86 year history that a past president will serve a second term – Mr. Gurnick was president in 1993-1994. In addition to lightheartedly asking attendees to hold the date in 2032 in case he serves again, Mr. Gurnick mentioned our firm's ongoing commitment to the SFVBA:

Lewitt Hackman is more than a full service law firm. We are a full service supporter of this Bar Association. With past presidents Steve Holzer and Sue Bendavid, Lintz Award winner Barry Harlan, President's Award winner John Marshall, Trustee and dinner chair Kira Masteller – the firm is ALL IN with this Association.

Other Lewitt Hackman attorneys have also served the SFVBA as members of the Board of Trustees, section chairs, and as  various committee chairs. Our firm's paralegals were instrumental in launching and now running the SFVBA’s new Paralegal Section.

Recognizing the community-minded efforts of all of our attorneys and staff, Managing Shareholder, Keith T. Zimmet said:

"We are very proud of David, Kira and Steve.  Our law firm’s highly visible presence at  the Installation Gala is a reminder of how dedicated we all are to our local community."

At the gala, the newly-inducted president was introduced as someone who "loves the law." Lewitt Hackman founder Leon Lewitt commented that the description is "succinct and accurate, and we are fortunate he is part of our firm." 

Addressing fellow attorneys, Mr. Gurnick explained:

You and I are the ministers or foot soldiers of our society's core principle. Each day we honor and validate our history of freedom under law... You help the helpless. You give strength to those who feel weak. You give a voice to those who are afraid to speak, or who don't know what to say.... Your daily work, even when it seems routine or mundane – it is work that holds our society together. 

He further  expressed a commitment to expand successful programs such as the referral and fee arbitration services, Valley Lawyer magazine, the various law sections, and VCLF.

Mr. Gurnick went on to describe the SFVBA as a geographic bar that serves a dynamically changing community – the sixth largest municipal area in the United States. There are approximately 2,000 attorney members of the SFVBA.

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
Sep272012

California Home Care Services: Senior Fraud Prevention

Estate Planning & Trust Attorney

 

 

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, elder abuse and senior fraud are common crimes because of several factors: 

  1. Senior citizens tend to have valuable assets and good credit. 

  2. They were generally raised to be more polite – many seniors have a hard time saying "no" or just hanging up the telephone when someone is still talking, selling or conning. 

  3. Our elders are less likely to report a fraud or theft, either because they're embarrassed to have been swindled by someone they trusted, or because they're not sure how to proceed with a report or pursue legal action.

Senior Fraud & Elder AbuseNumber of senior fraud incidents reported in the media from April through June, in 2008 and 2010.So how do you prevent yourself or your loved ones from falling victim to elder exploitation or fraud?

An FBI web page lists a variety of Common Fraud Schemes that target seniors, involving everything from bogus health tests to medical equipment fraud, to investment scams and telemarketing crimes. But for this blog, we're going to focus on financial fraud that arises from elderly home care. 

Home Care Services and Elder Abuse

For many elders, living at home with a little or full-time daily assistance is a preferable alternative to moving into a nursing home. But if you're choosing a caregiver for yourself or for a loved one, there are some things you should know to prevent exploitation or fraud.

  1. Current California law requires background checks for employees of community care facilities – but NOT for home caregivers. Look for an agency certified by Medicare that meets federal requirements for health and safety, and ask for references, preferably from doctors and other health care professionals. 

  2. Inventory the jewelry and take photographs of the family valuables, particularly if they're small and easily hidden in a pocket. Keep them locked up, and don't keep a lot of cash in the home. 

  3. Shred your mail (especially applications for credit cards), old checkbooks and any other items containing personal information, with a crisscross-cut shredder. 

  4. Have monthly bank statements sent to a family member, CPA or some other professional advisor. Having a second set of eyes reviewing transactions will help stop thieves immediately. Fraudulent withdrawals on an account can reoccur for months without being noticed. 

  5. Don't share computer passwords with anyone, and make your passwords difficult to guess. How many of us use the same password for a number of websites, and how many of us use obvious passwords based on family member names, birthdates, pet names, etc?  

Remember, a home care provider, whether needed on a temporary or full-time basis, is hopefully a person that you like and will eventually trust. But don't trust too soon, and don't trust the provider with anything to do with your finances, estate, or physical access to valuables.

Elder abuse and senior fraud can be prevented with common sense and vigilance.

 

Kira S. Masteller is a Gift Tax, Trust and Estate Planning Attorney. Contact her at 818.990.2120.

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
Sep212012

November Propositions |California Ballot Initiatives' Pros & Cons Part 2

Los Angeles Environmental AttorneyLos Angeles Business Litigation LawyerStephen T. Holzer
September 21, 2012

Los Angeles Environmental Attorney

 

Last week we took a look at Propositions 30 through 35 – the first six of the 11 new ballot measures Californians will see when they head to the voting booths in November. In this blog, we'll review the remaining five, Propositions 36 through 40.

If you want to read the Official Title and Summary for each measure prepared by the Attorney General, click on the blue text of each proposition and you'll be hyperlinked to the Secretary of State website where those documents are hosted.

We've also included hyperlinks to the main opposition and support sites for each proposition.

 

Proposition 36  – Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

 

If enacted, this measure would revise the “three-strikes” law, requiring a third-strike life sentence only in cases where the third-strike conviction is for a serious or violent felony. 

If the third offense is for a non-violent crime like shoplifting, repeat offenders would be punished by receiving twice the normal sentence for the crime instead of life imprisonment. However, rapists, murderers and child molesters would be exceptions—if convicted of even a minor third-strike crime, these persons would receive life sentences. 

Prop 36 Opposition:

Current and former District Attorneys and law enforcement seem to be divided on this one. But key opposition members to the measure include the California GOP. The "Save Three Strikes" movement says:

1. The 1994 Three Strikes law cut crime rates in half when it passed in 1994.

2. Prop 36 would allow nearly half of the state's current 3-strike inmates to be re-sentenced and then released.

3. Low-level criminals released under AB109 are already causing enough crime – worse criminals with two or more convictions could be released under this new ballot measure.

Prop 36 Support:

Again, law enforcement and DAs fall on both sides of this argument. Drafters of the measure include legal eagles from Stanford Law School, the Legal Defense Fund, and the NAACP. Proponents say:

1. Prop 36 will make room in California prisons for more dangerous prisoners, as non-violent third-strikers will have their life sentences reduced.

2. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates Prop 36 potentially saves the state $100 million each year – funds that would help schools, prevent crime and decrease the need for tax increases.

3. The current law is too harsh in awarding 25 years to life sentences for repeat, non-violent felons, for such crimes as possession of small amounts of marijuana, writing bad checks, or theft of inexpensive items.

 

Proposition 37  – Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

 

This Proposition would prohibit claims that food is “natural” where such engineering has taken place and, additionally, would require labeling indicating such engineering had occurred.  There would be a number of exemptions offered, including exemptions for food that has been certified as organic, food that is made from animals fed with genetically–engineered materials and food containing minimally-engineered materials.

Prop 37 Opposition:

Various California farm bureaus and agricultural associations, the California Republican Party and quite a few heavy hitters of the food industry are opposed to this one, arguing that 37 is deceptive and flawed, and will:

1. Ban perfectly safe foods only in California, unless they're specially relabeled and/or remade with higher cost ingredients.

2. Result in higher food costs for consumers, as manufacturers will be forced to use more organics and implement new record-keeping and other operations. Billions of dollars in costs will be passed on to families.

3. Institute more costly bureaucracy as government agencies will need to monitor food, growers, packagers, retailers, etc.

Prop 37 Support:

The "Right to Know" movement is supported by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), the California Nurses Association and other health groups, United Farm Workers and such companies as Amy's Kitchen and Whole Foods. They claim:

1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are genetically engineered foods and other products that have not been subjected to long-term health studies and are not proven safe.

2. A growing body of studies links GMOs to allergies, organ toxicity and other health problems, as well as environmental concerns such as a loss in biodiversity, increase in pesticide use and the emergence of "super weeds".

3. Companies revise their labeling all the time so there shouldn't be a cost increase in food as the Prop 37 opposition claims. A study shows there was no increase in food costs in Europe when their countries switched to GMO labeling.

 

Proposition 38  – Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

 

This measure offers an alternative to Governor Brown’s proposal (Proposition 30) to increase the income tax on individuals earning over $250,000/year and to increase the sales tax.  Proposition 38 would, for a 12-year period, increase income taxes on virtually everyone, from a .4 percent increase on very low earners ($7,316/year) to a 2.2 percent increase on individuals earning over $2.5 million annually.  The monies raised would be devoted exclusively to schools, early childhood education programs and repayment of State debt.

Prop 38 Opposition:

The primary opposition comes from the supporters of Governor Brown's Proposition 30, and the California Democratic Party, as well as the California Teachers Association. The No on 38 crowd says the measure will:

1. Kill jobs in small and family businesses and imposes a significant tax hike on most Californians.

2. Not allow for change – this law if enacted, will continue for 12 years.

3. Force schools through complex red tape to receive basic funding and creates new programs even though necessary school functions have been cut back.

Prop 38 Support:

Supporters of this ballot include the California State PTA and various school districts and school boards around the state. They claim Prop 38:

1. Restores budget cuts to schools, allowing teachers to be re-hired and programs to be restored.

2. Ensures that funds raised will go straight to the schools – state politicians won't be able to touch it.

3. Guarantees local control: parents and teachers decide how to spend the money.

 

Proposition 39  – Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

 

This Prop would require businesses with multistate sales to pay State income taxes according to the businesses’ percentage of total sales being made in California.  Presently, multistate businesses can base their California tax liability on a formula that gives weight to payroll and property outside the State, usually resulting in more favorable tax treatment than would exist if Prop 39 becomes law.

 

Prop 39 Opposition:

The opposition to Prop 39 is primarily lead by the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA), who says that, the measure:

1. Makes California's hostile business climate and uncertain regulatory environment worse, by raising taxes on job creators.

2. The three factor formula for determining tax liability has been in place since 1966, including through California's "boom" years in the 1980s and 1990s.

3. Is a job-killer because it's a $1 billion tax increase on job-creating, multi-state companies.

Prop 39 Support:

The "Close the Loophole" faction is supported by California's National Organization for Women (NOW), The American Lung Association/California, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and various environmental and conservation groups. Supporters say Prop 39:

1. Closes loophole created in 2009 costs the state $1 billion per year and tens of thousands of jobs.

2. Creates 20k – 30k construction-related jobs because of the direct investment in energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

3. Will help reduce the state budget deficit by generating an additional $500 million in annual General Fund revenue starting next year, and $1 billion after five years.

 

Proposition 40  –  Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

 

If enacted, this measure would have held the 2010 realignment of State Senate Districts by the “Citizens Redistricting Commission” in abeyance, and would have had the judiciary set interim districts until the 2010 realignment could be voted upon in a future State-wide election.  

This one gets a little confusing. If you vote "yes," you're voting to maintain the State Senate maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. A "no" vote indicates you want the State Senate maps redrawn. 

To further cloud the issue, the original backers of Prop 40 – the ones who wanted a "no" vote, mostly the GOP – have withdrawn, though the measure will remain on the ballot. And now the original "No" movement wants you to vote "Yes." The OC Register has something of an explanation in this editorial:  Prop. 40 (redistricting): Yes.

Prop 40 Opposition:

The Yes on 40 coalitions is the initial ballot writers' opposition, and consists of the California Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters/California, California Forward, and other groups. Yes on 40 says the prop will:

1. Uphold the will of the California voters, who passed Proposition 11 in 2008 which created the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

2. Hold politicians accountable by ending "backroom deals" and ensuring transparency.

3. Uphold a unanimous California Supreme Court decision to protect the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Prop 40 Support:

Remember, the initial supporters of this measure wanted a "no" vote, but have now backed out and cannot get the Prop 40 removed from the ballot. The GOP could get the vote they initially campaigned for and now no longer want, just because most voters will be confused. 

Read California Ballot Initiatives Pros & Cons Part I, posted last week. Or continue with a look at ballot measures that will affect Angelenos: Los Angeles County Measure by Measure.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business Litigation Attorney and Chair of our Environmental Law Practice Group. You may reach him at 818.990.2120.

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
Sep132012

Employment Defense | Governor Brown Expands Religious Accommodation Requirements

Lawyer for EmployerWage and Hour Defense

 

by Nicole Kamm
818.907.3235

 

Late last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1964 into law, clarifying the responsibilities of California employers with respect to religious accommodation in the workplace.

Also known as the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, AB 1964 was introduced by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada and supported by a variety of faith groups – including Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs.

Several years ago, one of Assemblywoman Yamada’s Sikh friends was accosted by guards with guns drawn when he reported for jury duty. Around that time, another incident occurred during which two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed in what was believed to be a hate crime. And last year, a Sikh man settled an employment discrimination lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) after the DOCR refused to hire him unless he shaved his beard.

In the wake of these incidents, Assemblywoman Yamada proposed AB 1964 to address what she found to be workplace discrimination faced by Sikhs and other religious minorities. The bill, whose number commemorates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, is considered to be landmark legislation in protecting the civil rights of citizens of all religious backgrounds.

 

Religious Discrimination Claims by Employees & the New Law

 

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has long prohibited discrimination against applicants and employees based on their religious beliefs, and required reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs and observances.

Assembly Bill 1964 clarifies that “religious beliefs” under FEHA include religious dress and grooming practices – and that employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees based on those practices. The bill further clarifies what it means for an employer to reasonably accommodate such practices in the workplace.

According to the new law:

the term 'religious dress practice' shall be construed broadly to include the wearing of jewelry, artifacts, and any other item that is part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed. 'Religious grooming practice' shall be construed broadly to include all forms of head, facial, and body hair that are part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed.

The legislation states it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to:

refuse to hire or employ a person...or to discriminate against a person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of a conflict between the person’s religious belief or observance and any employment requirement, unless the employer…demonstrates that it has explored any available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious belief or observance or permitting those duties to be performed at another time or by another person, but is unable to reasonably accommodate the religious belief or observance without undue hardship [on the company]….

The new law further explains, “An accommodation of an individual’s religious dress practice or religious grooming practice is not reasonable if the accommodation requires segregation of the individual from other employees or the public.”

Though intended to merely clarify existing law, the impact of AB 1964 could affect workplaces across California and bring increased focus on employer obligations to accommodate religious beliefs. Already on the rise, the new law could also bring an increase in religious discrimination lawsuits and claims.

In view of the above, employers are advised to review and update their anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity policies and consult employment counsel if and when questions about religious accommodation arise.

Nicole Kamm is a Management-side Employment Attorney who works with employers in all aspects of defense and claim prevention.

 

 
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