Wednesday, July 29, 2015

USCIS Bulletin - Updates to Forms I-865, I-601A, I-212, I-90, I-612 and G-884

It is really hard to tell a client their application was returned because it was filed on the wrong version of the USCIS Form. It is important to check the dates on the forms and the instruction page on the USCIS website to make sure you are using the most current form. If they are accepting the earlier forms, it will state that on the website. Here are some changes ...

Direct from USCIS:

"Updates to Forms I-865, I-601A, I-212, I-90, I-612 and G-884

07/28/2015
Last week, USCIS published the following:

For more, see our Forms Updates page."
 
If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at www.whhmlaw.com.

#BucksCounty #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Setting up a Trust - Why should I let someone else manage my money?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Many people find it hard to talk about the end of their life and how to handle their estate. Thinking about how to leave money to a child is generally a tough conversation. The idea of giving control of their life savings to a third party seems counter-intuitive. On top of that, there is generally a management fee that goes along with the trust. So why do it? Why not just give it to the children?
Well, did you see this headline on Yahoo Finance?

"22-year-old college student blows her $90,000 college fund and blames her parents" The article outlines a radio interview conducted by the Atlanta radio show “The Bert Show.” Excerpts from the article and interview:

"The woman, a 22-year-old college junior named Kim, ... she had managed to blow through a $90,000 college fund left to her by her grandparents. Kim has one year left of school and no way to cover her remaining $20,000 tuition balance."
...

“Maybe [my parents] should have taught me to budget or something. They never sat me down and had a real serious talk about it.”
...

“[My parents] said there was nothing they could do for me. They’re not being honest with me saying they don't have [money] because my dad has worked for like a million years and they have a retirement account.”

I truly do not believe this type of behavior is limited to our younger generation. The idea of creating Trusts has been around for quite some time. This case illustrates one good reason to consider creating a Trust rather giving the entire amount to a young adult.

If this young lady's grandparents would have placed this money in a Trust, they could have protected the girl from herself and provided her with the guidance she blames her parents for failing to provide her. They could have placed a mature individual or a financial institution to guide her and ensure she maximized the use of her gift for its intended purpose; school. The costs of managing the Trust may have been greater but the result would probably been more favorable.

 If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark M. Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at www.whhmlaw.com.

#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare #Trusts 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Three Costly Mistakes Estate Executors Need to Avoid

Anyone without knowledge of estate administration and associated tax laws can easily make costly mistakes.

Failure to Value Assets Correctly.  

Valuing assets incorrectly can be costly, time-consuming and create personal liability for an Executor or Administrator. Selling the asset based on a value too low may cost the estate the difference in fair value versus the incorrect, low value. If the asset is valued low for Pa. Inheritance Tax but then sold for a higher, fair value, there will be income tax on the difference (gain) in value and the income tax rate will be higher than the Pa. inheritance tax rate. In both cases, the Executor or Administrator will have cost the estate heirs a loss. Valuing an asset too high can result in over payment of  Pa. inheritance tax and a delay in selling the asset. When the asset is finally sold after long delay and at a lower price, heirs will be frustrated by the over-payment of tax and disappointed by the final sale price. Obtaining accurate date-of-death value of assets requires both knowledge of the laws and regulations governing valuation and the correct sources to use to obtain accurate values.

Failure to Liquidate Assets Timely. 

The duty of the Executor or Administrator is to preserve asset value for the heirs. Holding an asset, like stock which is subject to fluctuation of value, is dangerous and can often result in loss of value. In one estate the Executor delayed in liquidating the stock for over 90 days and the stock went down in value by $50,000. This caused significant problems for the Executor. If the Executor or Administrator is found to have delayed in liquidating the asset without a proper reason, he may be held personally liable for the loss.

Failure to Apportion Taxes Properly Among Heirs. 

Executors and Administrators need to carefully follow the estate and inheritance tax allocation language of the will, or if there is no provision for it, then must follow the law for distribution of tax liability among heirs. Improper allocation will, at best, create unhappy heirs and, at worst, impose liability on the Executor or Administrator if final distribution to heirs was made without proper releases or court order.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about R. Kurtz Holloway or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at www.whhmlaw.com.

#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bankruptcy - mortgages and rebuilding credit - a brief conversation with a banker ...

In time, there is credit after bankruptcy ...
          and it may be shorter than you think ...
Image courtesy of digitalart
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As some people who know me know, I am an adjunct professor at DeVry University at the Philadelphia campus and also with Keller Graduate School of Business. I just started a Keller course this session. One of my students is a branch manager for Wells Fargo. He told me he has been involved with both mortgage lending and retail banking. I had the opportunity to talk to him about bankruptcy and rebuilding credit.

I tell my clients, generally mortgage companies will make some things difficult for them if they do not reaffirm their mortgages but will not attempt to take their home as long as they are current on their payments.  Mortgage companies cannot foreclose on a home loan that is being paid in accordance with the loan agreement. But that doesn't mean they have to make it easy for the homeowner and I heard of debtors having real problems trying to refinance their home loans with their mortgage companies. My student admitted Wells Fargo does not refinance mortgages that were not reaffirmed. He also agreed that it doesn't prevent other mortgage companies from lending to the same homeowner when their credit score increases enough to permit the refinancing.

We also spoke about credit building after bankruptcy. I tell my clients it will take a couple years. He told me it can be as short as a year to normalize credit. We spoke about secured credit cards. He told me Wells Fargo's lowest limit secured credit card is $300. He also talked about applying for a small secured loan 6 - 9 months after discharge, which the lowest amount Wells Fargo will lend is $3,000. He doesn't recommend using it; just borrowing it and paying it back over time. The bottom-line of our conversation: the biggest factor to rebuilding credit after filing for bankruptcy is paying all your bills on time.

While none of this information was really new to me, it was nice to talk to someone in the banking and lending industry. It is always comforting to find people who have information to support what you believe. In time, there is credit after bankruptcy.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Medvesky Law Office, LLC, check out our website at www.medveskylaw.com.

#bankruptcy #Chapter_7 #Chapter_13 #Montgomery_County #law_firm #Bucks_County #Pennsylvania

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

So They Could Stay Together - The Importance of a Power of Attorney

So They Could Stay Together

The importance of a power of attorney

One day a realtor acquaintance, Bert, called me from the home of an elderly couple, Hank and Martha Smith, who had contacted him about selling their house to move into a nearby senior living facility. They needed the money from their house to afford that. During the meeting, Bert realized Martha did not understand the conversation. When he had a chance to pull Hank aside, he asked him if Martha was capable of signing a listing contract. Hank admitted Martha had Alzheimer’s disease, but he assumed he could sign everything for both of them since he had no trouble signing his name on checks for their joint checking account and the house was in joint names.  Bert explained to Hank that he could not sign documents on Martha’s behalf to sell their house without a POA.
Hank sighed and said, "We’ve been married for 60 years and have never lived apart, but Martha needs specialized care soon. I can’t take care of her myself, as much as I want to do so. We need to sell our home, so we can stay together and she can get the care she needs."
Bert wanted to help this nice couple sell their house and knew they needed legal help so he called me from their house. After explaining the situation to me, Bert put Hank on the phone. I told Hank I could help them so he made an appointment.
When we met, Hank asked me if I could prepare a POA for this wife to sign. I explained in order for a POA to be valid, a person must have the mental capacity to fully understand what it means to grant someone the power to sign legal documents for her, including those needed to sell her property. This is known as being legally competent. A person who is not legally competent cannot make a valid power of attorney, and it is ethically improper for an attorney to knowingly facilitate this.
I told Hank about the several instances in the past when I declined to prepare POAs because I believed the person did not have the necessary mental capacity, but if Hank believed Martha was competent, he could ask her doctor to write a letter stating this and then I could prepare the POA.  Hank said that he knew Martha's mind was too confused to understand things. He then asked me what he could do.
I explained, "You could be appointed guardian for Martha but for that to happen you will have to...read more

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about R. Kurtz Holloway or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at www.whhmlaw.com.

#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #MontgomeryCounty #Souderton #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare 

USCIS Press Release - USCIS Launches Citizenship Public Awareness Initiative

Direct from USCIS:

"USCIS Launches Citizenship Public Awareness Initiative
 
Release Date: July 06, 2015
    
National Effort Highlights Agency’s Free Citizenship Preparation Tools

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a series of promotional materials today as part of the Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Initiative. This media campaign builds on a similar effort from 2011 and is being launched under the umbrella of the Task Force on New Americans and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

This effort is intended to raise awareness about the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship and provide information on the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources. The promotional campaign guides lawful permanent residents towards the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center for official, accurate and reliable information on citizenship and naturalization topics..." see full release here - http://1.usa.gov/1RwhCAX

***
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In the short time I have been practicing in this area, I have had a good number of more experienced immigration attorneys say it is best for everyone who is eligible to become a US citizens should do so. At first I thought this advice was a little bit arrogant. I asked myself how I would feel if I felt people from other nations were pushing me to become a citizen of their country. Changing citizenship seems to me to be a little more difficult than transferring colleges or moving to a new state.

But now I'm starting to see the issues that arise when you wait. We don't realize it but our paper records can become "corrupted" similar to an electronic file. For instance, some clerk in a DMV incorrectly inputs an address into the immigrant's driving record where the immigrant never lived, someone accidentally registers to vote when they get their license, or some other information is inaccurately enter on one of the thousands of records kept on us without notice until the immigrant applies for citizenship. It can make the process that much harder.

Other issues that I've seen impact the naturalization process are arrests on minor offenses, incapacitation, and the procurement of old records are some of the challenges I have come across in my short time in my immigration practice.  

For these reasons, I now agree immigrants should consider applying for US Citizenship as soon as they are eligible. Eligibility is not a permanent state. It can be lost easier than it was gained.

If you want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Medvesky Law Office, LLC, check out my website at www.medveskylaw.com.

#Bucks_County #Immigration #lawyer #lawyers, #Montgomery_County #Souderton #Law_Firm, #Pennsylvania

Friday, July 10, 2015

Estate Planning - Think Inside the (3) Boxes

A couple of weeks ago I had a conference with a middle-aged couple to review their old wills. They have children and grandchildren They came in with an estate distribution plan in mind which was straight-forward. We had an easy conversation about their children and grandchildren and about their assets. What I learned helped me to offer a few simple suggestions without complicating their plan. This helped them think of a few details for their wills that they had not considered. They liked the ideas and ask me to include those in the new wills they wanted me to prepare.

Then I raised a couple of the most important questions I ask all of my estate planning clients:

Do you have assets like life insurance, retirement plans or annuities that have beneficiary designations?

Do you own property jointly?

The answer to both of these questions is often "yes."

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
That is the point in our conversation that I show my clients a very simple and effective estate planning tool which I created. It is a chart with 3 boxes on it. One box is for assets with beneficiary designations, one is for joint assets and one is for everything else. I explain that all of their assets can be put in one of those three boxes. Clients can now see how some assets are controlled by their wills and others are not.

This is often an "ah-ha" moment. Clients then understand the steps they need to take to connect all three boxes into a coherent plan. I can honestly say that every time I am finished explaining my "3-box" chart, folks tell me how helpful it was. I then give them the chart to take home with them along with specific ideas for them to finish the plan, like updating beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement plans and annuities.

Estate planning can be simple. We just want to be sure it is complete.

If you want want to know more about R. Kurtz Holloway, check out: http://www.whhslaw.com/attorneys/r-kurtz-holloway


#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #Montgomery_County #Souderton #Pottstown #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Introducing a new contributor - R. Kurtz Holloway

Hello to all of Mark's readers. I would like to introduce myself. My name is R. Kurtz Holloway but people call me Kurt. Like Mark, I am an attorney. Mark and I have been talking for months about how we might work together and one of the ways we came up with was for me to join him on his blog.

My areas of concentration are estate planning, estate administration, real estate, small business issues and bankruptcy. In the coming days I will join Mark by sharing some thoughts and tips with you about those areas. But, for today...

Have a great 4th of July. We're headed off with our family to see a parade this morning.

If you want want to know more about R. Kurtz Holloway, check out: http://www.whhslaw.com/attorneys/r-kurtz-holloway

#Bucks_County #lawyer #lawyers, #Montgomery_County #Souderton #Pottstown #Law_Firm #Wills #Power-of-Attorney #Living_Will #Healthcare  #Pennsylvania

Friday, July 3, 2015

Why would I do that? ... change banks before filing for bankruptcy

Today, most people have their pay deposited directly into their bank accounts and it takes time to change their direct deposit. So people balk on the occasions when I suggest they move their banking before filing for bankruptcy. My recommendations are generally based more on conversations with other attorneys and experience than the law.

First, I have talked to several attorneys who's clients have had accounts locked by a national bank. The bank has taken the position the accounts belong to the trustee until the trustee releases the accounts. The general consensus is the practice is against bankruptcy law but it seems to happen.

If clients have a credit card with the bank that also holds their accounts, I really encourage them to move banks. I am always concerned that the bank will claim a security interest in the funds on deposit.  It hasn't happened yet but I have that concern. Also, the bank may have a right to take payments (set-off) from your accounts as you are preparing to file bankruptcy but before you can file. That is even harder to get back if not impossible.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee  
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then there is the risk of garnishing an account. That is when a judgment creditor has the sheriff seize money in a debtor's account. I've had clients who came to me days before their next paycheck and we found that an account was going to be garnished. We filed their bankruptcy the day before their paycheck was deposited into the account and saved the money but it took a week or two to get the money released.

This week I ran into a new twist with a credit union. The credit union has a software program that automatically shuts down the member's electronic access and debit cards to their accounts after they miss so many payments. For a short time, my client thought all access was lost. It took some time but we got the account opened up but not without some angst.

Most of these problems probably violate bankruptcy law but may not rise to the level a court would want to handle. The freezes on accounts, for my clients, has been relatively short. However, they are long enough to hassle debtors who are living from paycheck to paycheck.  So moving accounts can give clients some control over the inconvenience.

For those reasons, I may recommend clients change bank and establish accounts into smaller banks where they have no credit.

If you want assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark Medvesky or Medvesky Law Office, LLC, check out our website at www.medveskylaw.com.

#bankruptcy #Chapter_7 #Chapter_13 #Montgomery_County #law_firm #Bucks_County #Pennsylvania