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Thursday
Aug182011

The 2012 Presidential Election & the Ghosts of Elections Past

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

Two major events affecting the 2012 presidential election occurred last week. One got, and is still getting, national media attention. That would be the August 12 Iowa Straw Poll, in which Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minnesota) and Ron Paul (Texas) emerged as winners in that particular battle for the Republican nomination.

On the other hand, and garnering hardly any media notice at all, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 459 (Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Francisco) into law on August 8.

The law assigns California electoral votes to the candidate winning the national popular vote. The former bill is the result of a movement sparked by the 2000 presidential election, in which George W. Bush won the presidency on the strength of electoral votes, even though Democratic opponent Al Gore won the national popular vote.

Anomalous as the election may seem, it also happened when Rutherford B. Hayes won the White House over Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, and when Benjamin Harrison took the presidency over incumbent Grover Cleveland, in 1888.

But what does Governor Brown’s move mean for the 2012 presidential election?

Probably nothing, for the next year or two, even though California’s endorsement carries quite a bit of weight. First, under AB 459, California’s participation in the measure first requires States with 270 electoral votes also to sign on. So far there are 134:

State

Electoral Votes

California55
Illinois21
New Jersey15
Massachusetts12
Washington11
Maryland10
Hawaii4
Vermont3
District of Columbia3

 

The other reason we probably won’t see a significant move toward a direct national vote is because we can expect a rainstorm of legal wrangling, should the movement attain the 270 necessary votes.

The U.S. Constitution allows individual states to select electors as the States see fit; but some will argue that this does not permit (in this case, mostly larger) States to “conspire” together to reduce the electoral clout of other (smaller) States, as this measure would do (i.e., candidates would probably concentrate on large population areas to rack up the popular vote while ignoring some geographical regions of the country).

If the popular-vote measure ever goes into effect, the debate over its Constitutionality undoubtedly would ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Los Angeles Civil Litigation Attorney and Chair of our Environmental 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.

 

 

Tuesday
Aug162011

IRS Form 8939 | Remember, Remember, the 15th of November…

 

California Trusts, Estate Planning AttorneyAugust 16, 2011
by Kira S. Masteller


Not because of Guy Fawkes Night, commonly celebrated November 5th, and there is no gunpowder, treason or plot here. 

If anything, there is opportunity, because November 15th is an important deadline for filing IRS Form 8939.  For those of you who had a family member pass in 2010, the form can reap huge savings in your estate planning trusts

Along with the deadline, the IRS also issued guidance for using the form. Here’s how it breaks down (though it may seem very much like a rather twisted plot at first glance): 

1. An Estate Executor can opt out of paying estate tax for a decedent who died in 2010 and have the carryover basis rules apply (Form 8939). 

2. If the Executor files IRS Form 8939 to avoid estate taxes, then the estate assets would not receive a step-up in basis to Fair Market Value (FMV) as of the decedent’s date of death.  The assets would inherit the decedent’s cost basis in assets as governed by IRC § 1022. 

3. On the other hand, the Estate Executor can elect to allocate $1.3M to increase some assets’ basis to the FMV of the date the decedent passed.  The decision should be made on an Estate by Estate basis. 

4. Donors can elect to opt out of automatic allocation of the Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) tax exemption for direct skips in 2010. (The IRS also clarified when 2010 GST tax returns are due.) 

5. There will be no deadline extensions. 

As usual with the IRS, the guidance may very well sound like it’s designed to confuse the average citizen, and worthy of some Guy Fawkes-like scrutiny. But if you need help with your California estate and tax planning in general, or with Form 8939 in particular, just give us a call: 818.990.9120. 

Kira S. Masteller is a California Estate Planning Attorney. You can reach her by e-mail: kmasteller@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
Aug122011

Driving While Distracted a Nightmare, & Now Responsibility, for Employers

Injury Attorney Los AngelesLos Angeles Injury Lawyer 

 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

 Texting and driving, just one form of DWD or driving while distracted, has become so much of a problem in this age of the smart phone, that President Obama issued an Executive Order in October 2009 to address the problem.

The directive regarded federal employees who text while driving either federally-owned or leased vehicles (GOV), or privately-owned vehicles (POV) while on government business. Section 2 of the Order states:

 

“Text Messaging While Driving by Federal Employees. Federal employees shall not engage in text messaging (a) when driving GOV, or when driving POV while on official Government business, or (b) when using electronic equipment supplied by the Government while driving.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has followed presidential suit, recognizing a new dimension in keeping employees safe. They’re teaming up with the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving.

How Employers Should Prohibit Texting While Driving

OSHA tells employers who have workers that drive on the job that they must be proactive in preventing automobile accidents caused by DWD. It’s the employer’s responsibility to keep their workers from driving distracted. Employers should:

1. Create clear policies prohibiting texting and driving or other distracted driving behaviors.

2. Do not offer incentives to employees for work practices that encourage or condone using cell phones while driving.

3. Enforce your DWD policies. It’s your legal responsibility and obligation as an employer to keep your workers safe, as well as others who might be on the road.

But it’s not just our highways where using your cell phone and driving becomes an issue. Other roadways, rails and even waterways are potentially dangerous environments when people drive distracted.

No one will forget the 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and injured many more – the engineer sent his last text message 22 seconds before the crash.

DWD in California

There is a common-law doctrine, Respondeat Superior, that essentially says an employer is liable for acts of negligence or omissions on the part of their employees – and it certainly applies to employers who turn a blind eye to their drivers who use cell phones in company vehicles.

In California, the doctrine evolves to clearly stated laws when it comes to distracted driving:

1. California and Arizona are the only western states that ban cell phone use for drivers who run school buses and transit buses.

2. California is one of 10 states that ban hand-held cell phones while driving.

3. California and 33 other states ban texting and driving for all drivers.

Whether you run a major transportation company, operate a small courier service, or just have one company vehicle for miscellaneous errands . . . as an employer, you need to do your share to make the roads safer for everyone.

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney and a safe driving advocate. Contact him via e-mail: 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.
Wednesday
Aug102011

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony Breakup | A California Divorce Attorney’s Perspective

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerChild Custody and Support Attorney Los Angeles

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles

 

When Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced their decision to divorce in mid-July, they made a joint statement in People Magazine, which later got distributed to media outlets around the world:

“This was a very difficult decision. We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters.”

Even though the breakup will pose emotional hardships for the divorcing spouses, their children, other family members and friends, it’s still a good sign that the celebrity couple presented a united front to the world.

And on the surface, it seems they will not have a typically contentious, celebrity divorce.

This “amicable conclusion” as they call it, sets a good example for other couples dissolving marriages. Why? It’s the smartest move you can make emotionally and financially, especially in tough economic times.

Many of my firm’s clients choose an option similar to the Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez divorce route. They take our advice and help us “Bring Calm to Crisis,” as we say in our family law department. They choose to keep emotions under wraps, compromise, fully disclose their finances, and to mediate rather than litigate.

How can you follow their lead? Here are some tips, if you’re thinking about getting a divorce in California:

 

Child Custody Disputes

 

The ultimate goal in resolving child custody issues should be a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interest. Sometimes that goal gets lost in the heat of battle…and if that’s the case, I usually recommend the parents see a co-parenting counselor.

The hourly rates for a counselor will seem high, but they’re not as expensive as litigation. Since most parents will need to co-parent until the child is 18 years of age, learning to resolve conflicts is money well spent.

 

Spousal Disputes

 

It’s rare when couples can divorce with little or no emotion. Feelings are hurt, emotions rack clients with overwhelming anger, loss or guilt, and then there’s the stress of dividing property, debt and custody of children.

I recommend therapy in this situation too…if you can deal with your emotions positively, you’ll save thousands of dollars by not fighting over house plants and other minutiae.

A therapist can help you pick and choose which issues are truly important to you. (Remember, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony said they settled amicably on “all matters.”)

Attorney Relations

 

The rule of thumb here is: don’t waste your divorce attorney’s,  the court’s, or even your time. Here’s how you can avoid that:

▪ Save money on legal fees by staying organized. Provide all records and documents at once. Your divorce attorney won’t have to sift through information, wait for more data, and then rehash all of the information all over again. Being organized prevents mistakes, which will increase legal costs.

▪ Provide information as soon as possible: You can save money on fees if you don’t have to pay for expedited court filings.

▪ Work with the legal assistant or paralegal. Your divorce attorney’s staff is usually knowledgeable and efficient. Follow up with the legal assistant to see if the attorney needs additional information, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the staff can’t provide an answer they’ll get the attorney to respond.

I seriously doubt that Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony can’t afford a high-priced divorce attorney and expensive, drawn out litigation process, if that is the path they choose to travel. But for now, and hopefully throughout their entire dissolution process, they’ll take the higher and economically smarter road.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney and Shareholder in the Family Law Department. You can e-mail her 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.

Thursday
Aug042011

Amy Winehouse Will & Estate: If Amy Had Been a Californian…

 

California Estate PlanningAugust 4, 2011
by Kira S. Masteller


The death of Grammy winner Amy Winehouse on July 23 probably did not surprise the music community; those fans who have followed her career; or friends, family and others aware of her history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The British icon was a popular singer-songwriter known for her powerful deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including R & B, soul and jazz – not to mention her rebellious lyrics in her hit, Rehab.

Rebel lyrics notwithstanding, whether or not the troubled singer was more responsible in other aspects of her life remain to be seen. And in light of the sudden, Amy Winehouse death, a colleague recently asked me:

“What would happen to the estate if Amy Winehouse died without a will or trust?”

The process for disposing of an estate in England when someone dies without a will or trust in place is in some ways similar to that of the U.S. system. It’s lengthy, complicated and expensive.

But here’s how the probate process would work in California, if the singer had lived here, and there is no Amy Winehouse will or trust in place:

     ▪ If the deceased celebrity was still married to her former husband Blake Fielder-Civil, her assets obtained prior to marriage would be split between Blake (50 percent) and her parents (50 percent equally between them).

     ▪ Amy Winehouse’s assets earned during marriage, if determined to be community property, would be distributed solely to her husband.

     ▪ If the singer’s divorce was final, then her entire estate would be distributed to her parents equally.

The Legal Costs of a Probate Process in California

 

As I said, dying without a will or trust means your family and friends will incur a lot of costs and the stress of sorting through a lot of bureaucracy. The financial penalties can sometimes be staggering.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the Amy Winehouse estate is worth US$25,000,000. Here’s how the probate process gets expensive:

 

     ▪ Administrator Fees (Court Appointed Administrator)
     ▪ Attorney Fees (Attorney Representing the Administrator)
     ▪ Court filing fees
     ▪ Surety Bond
     ▪ Publication Fees
     ▪ Appraisal Fees
     ▪ Accounting fees

The fees to the estate administrator and attorney will total at least four percent of the estate (two percent to the administrator and two percent to the administrator’s legal rep), or more than $1M of the $25M estate left to Amy Winehouse’s family. The total costs of probate in this hypothetical case would be north of $1,250,000.

I sometimes tease my clients:

“Don’t wait till you’re dying to come and see me.” Waiting that long is leaving things a bit late, sometimes too late, for the ones you love.

Kira S. Masteller is a Los Angeles Trust, Estate and Probate Attorney and Shareholder in our Tax and Estate Planning Practice Group. Ms. Masteller can be reached via e-mail: kmasteller@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.

 

 

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