The general rule is that any debt of a deceased person, including credit cards and medical bills, are solely the responsibility of the decedent or the decedent’s estate. The general rule assumes that no other person was the signer or joint obligator on any particular account or debt of the deceased person. If an account is the deceased person’s alone, the debt is the deceased person’s alone.
Creditors use employer garnishment errors to collect entire debt from employers
Employee wage garnishments appear to be informal and somewhat routine proceedings from the perspective of the employer. Employers are routinely sent writs of garnishment on printed forms, and employers can simply respond to writs of garnishment without using an attorney. Employers, however, face a huge risk relative to its employees’ garnishment proceedings because in the State of Michigan, employers can be held liable for the entire debt of the employee that is subject of the garnishment, including court costs and attorney’s fees, if the employer fails to comply with certain requirements. Some creditors are paying attention to the small details that the employer may overlook, because the creditor wants to be repaid and rather than wait around to be paid from the debtor, creditors are using employer garnishment errors to collect the entire debt from the employer. Employers are commonly not represented by counsel in this process and creditors are represented by counsel, providing the creditor a significant advantage.
Failure by employers to respond within 14 days could cause courts to take action against the employer
If an employer is named as the garnishee in a writ of garnishment, the employer must provide information as to the debtor-employee’s money that the employer controls on the Garnishee Disclosure Form, including a calculation of the amount that is available for garnishment from the employee’s paycheck. The properly completed form must be mailed to the court and the parties within 14 days after the employer receives the writ of garnishment. If the employer fails to disclose within the 14 days, the court can take action against the employer and can order the employer to pay the full amount owed on the judgment as stated in the writ of garnishment. A friendly letter to the creditor stating that the employee is no longer in the employer’s records or other information is unavailable is insufficient. The creditor can go to court and obtain a default judgment for the entire amount of the debt because the employer did not properly respond to the writ.
Going, Going, Gone!
U.S. taxpayers are experiencing a “perfect storm” of opportunity to make tax-free transfers (gifts) of assets such as family businesses, real estate and other wealth from one generation to the next. The gift tax was first enacted in 1932 by the federal government. Over the coming months, we all have what may be the best opportunity since 1932 to gift family assets without a gift tax now and to avoid significant estate taxes later.
Two notable exceptions to the gift tax
Some people are not aware that giving away assets to their children or other individuals may create a taxable event. The “gift tax” referenced above applies to anything of value transferred by one individual to another. There are two notable exceptions to the gift tax. One is an “annual exclusion” which is an exception that allows individuals to gift up to $13,000.00 per year per person without any gift tax consequences. A second exception is an overall gift tax exemption which historically has been limited to $1M during an individual’s lifetime.
Judge Rules on Employee and Facebook Post
We have previously provided information regarding social media and how employee postings on various websites may or may not affect the employment status of employees. The Acting General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently released a report on August 18, 2011, summarizing the results of 14 employment related cases that center on employees’ use of social media relative to their employment and their employer’s social media policies for employees. The report provides insight into what the NRLB regards as protected speech and also the enforceability of certain social media policies that employers implement. Remember that the NLRB and the National Labor Relations Act apply to most employers, union and non-union alike.
Protected, Concerted Activity
Have you ever stood at an automobile rental counter while traveling staring at a rental contract trying to figure out what the insurance options mean? “Should I buy additional coverage through the rental car company or am I paying for coverage I already have based on my insurance coverage for my own vehicle?”
Consider the following information the next time you rent a car while traveling or need a replacement while your vehicle is being repaired.
Many of us know someone or will possibly be responsible for someone that is affected by mental illness. Yet, many patients have not executed patient advocate designations for psychiatric care. Psychiatric illness may come on quite suddenly and can be traced to metabolic imbalances, drug interactions, and other situations that, initially, may not appear to pose a threat to someone’s mental health. There are numerous stories of patients being erroneously diagnosed and treated for an extended time for a condition that did not exist. This can result in severe depression and anxiety disorders. When treatments fail, the patient can sometimes be persuaded to undergo therapies that may provide relief but have severe side affects. For example, I recently read about a woman who agreed to undertake electric shock therapy after her course of treatment failed to successfully combat a supposed infection. Electric shock therapy is known for wiping out years of memories which can force the patient into losing their career and being unemployable. If the patient is depressed, maybe to the point of suicidal tendencies, can they be competent to consent to treatment and therapy? On the other hand, individuals with severe psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia can have time periods where they are stable, lucid, and handle a high-level career.
Everyone should have input, at some point, into the treatment of their medical and psychiatric issues in the event of an emergency. Individuals can make these decisions while they are still competent, and generally, these decisions are addressed in a Patient Advocate document (a power of attorney designation for health care and mental health). We encourage our clients to appoint a trusted surrogate (a “patient advocate”) with a power of attorney to authorize psychiatric care on behalf of the client in the event of mental illness. An individual may prefer to combine the appointment of a patient advocate with an expressed declaration of his or her preferences when the patient advocate encounters certain situations and choices that affect the patient.
Every day my in box fills with information from many sources. Some is from mainstream media, trade journals, special reports and various reviews and findings from the legal and wealth advisory community. Often, while reading an article or report, many people come to mind that I think might also share an interest in the information.
For example, earlier this year I read through a Special Survey Report published by WealthCounsel and Trusts & Estates magazine. I read it again this week. Even though the survey was directed to estate planning attorneys about emerging industry trends within our profession, there were some items that were of interest to me because they addressed those of us who are moving in 2011 from the “Baby Boomer” and “Generation Jones” generations to being “Golden Boomers”.
As we counsel clients during the preparation of their estate plans, one concern is usually very evident – parents are worried that their children will squander the funds and assets that they worked very hard to accumulate. This concern can be addressed in many ways, but usually, parents request specific provisions in their estate planning documents that control an heir’s access to distributions based upon age, accomplishments, and certain life choices. Therefore, the assets are distributed largely because a specific milestone has been reached. The thoughtful nature of the distribution planning, however, leaves a primary problem unaddressed – preparing the heirs for wealth transition from one generation to the next.
Studies conducted by various institutes demonstrate that many estate plans that have been completed and then updated carefully and competently throughout the years, successfully address the issues relevant to the parents’ wishes. The attention to detail, however, cannot necessarily fill the gap of the heirs’ lack of direction and instruction that results in chaotic estate administration, family disharmony, and relationships that remain broken forever.
Leelanau Conservancy Annual Picnic and Auction
In Suttons Bay we are supporting and serving as a sponsor of the Leelanau Conservancy’s 2011 Picnic and Auction. The Conservancy’s Annual Picnic and Auction will be held Thursday, August 4, 2011. Over 700 people attended the 2010 auction and over $100,000 was raised to help the Leelanau Conservancy in its mission to conserve the land, water and scenic character of Leelanau County. If your schedule permits, attend the picnic, donate an item, make a bid online or in person and volunteer to make this annual event a success. Visit their website at www.theconservancy.com to get your tickets to support this event too!
Suttons Bay Fireworks Display and Celebration
Another important community event we sponsor is the Suttons Bay Annual Fireworks Display and Celebration held during Labor Day weekend. It’s a way for us to give something back to the families of the local community at the close of the summer season. Held at dusk at the Suttons Bay Marina Park. Grab a blanket and pack a picnic basket full of snacks and beverages and join us after sunset to enjoy the fireworks display as it lights up the night sky over Suttons Bay. It’s a fun night for all who attend.
It doesn’t matter what time of day you arrive, everything always looks the same. Granted, the trees are taller and wildflowers seem to be growing everywhere. But your family cottage is the same to you today as it’s always been.
Cubby holes filled with trinkets and treasures
While waving hello to neighboring friends you realize every family cottage and summer home is as different as the memories gathered by families every summer. Each cottage has a special cubby hole filled with trinkets and treasures from sandy beaches and hiking adventures through surrounding woods. Weathered hinges guarantee screen doors will squeak open and slam shut right on cue announcing that this is summer. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of racing down to the lake and assuming every summer will be just like the last.
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