Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself...

Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself...

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

There are few other times in a couple's life together as gleeful, romantic, and exciting as getting engaged and married. However, while it's not exactly the stuff of romance novels, discussing certain legal and logistical matters before tying the knot may protect your marriage from unraveling in the future. Before you say "I do" consider the following:

1. Do we need a prenuptial agreement? Most of us have some preconceived notions about prenuptial agreements. These agreements - meant to specify in advance each spouse's rights in the event that the marriage breaks down - are not just for the rich and famous. If you or your spouse own a family business, family real estate or property, or other interests you'd like to preserve, you may want to consider putting your intent to paper to ensure that those interests are protected in the event of death or divorce. Likewise, couples who anticipate a certain lifestyle (such as one spouse becoming a stay-at-home parent) may want to predetermine how either spouse will be maintained in the event of separation or divorce. Lastly, couples who are marrying for the second time and may have children from a previous marriage may want to preserve certain property or income for their children of the first marriage. 

2. Will we purchase a home and/or how will we maintain a home? If you and your partner intend to buy a home together, consider the source of the funds for the purchase. Discussing how such a large purchase will be made ahead of time can stave off issues down the road. Consider whether you and your partner intend to title the property in joint names and how you intend the property to be passed down upon your death. If either you or your partner intend to move into a home owned by the other, you should discuss how each of you will contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the home and who would receive the proceeds from the same of that home in the event that you choose to sell it down the road. 

3. What is Pennsylvania's law regarding assets and marital property? Knowing your rights and obligations pursuant to Pennsylvania's divorce and estate laws may not be the most romantic way to enter a marriage. However, being mindful of your rights and obligation to your spouse can help both of you determine the best way to plan your financial life together. Some couples choose to maintain joint accounts and pool their finances, while other prefer to maintain separate finances while contributing to joint expenses. Furthermore, you and your partner may have different ideas about how you want your property and assets to pass in the event of your death. Before you tie the knot, it is important to learn how Pennsylvania's law would handle your finances so you can prepare wills or other estate documents if you'd like your property to pass in a different manner. 

4. If we have children, how will we raise them financially? Discussions regarding future children and parenting styles can be thorny. Not only can you and your partner have different ideas about prefered parenting styles, but you may also have different ideas about what kind of life you'd like your children to lead. Do you or your spouse intend for your children to attend private school? What kind of activities or expenses do you anticipate for your children? Do you wish to help your children pay for higher education? Discussing the kind of obligations and expenses you foresee for your children and how you, as a couple, intend to handle those expenses can help keep you on the same page.  

When It Comes to Custody, Hard Circumstances and Choices Abound

When It Comes to Custody, Hard Circumstances and Choices Abound

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Courts and legislatures across the country are grappling with the question of what to do when the parent seeking custody has committed an egregious act in the conception or birth of that child. 

In Maryland this week, a legislative bill that would prevent a man who impregnated a woman through rape from seeking custody of the child conceived and born of the rape has fizzled out. The bill, which had support on both sides of the political isle and the state's governor, lost traction and left Maryland as one of a handful of states without such legislation. In another state, Washington, a 19 woman who threw her newborn child into a trash compactor is "on track" to regain custody rights of her son. After receiving a six-month sentence for felony abandonment, she was recently awarded supervised visitation with the child and is expected to see her time increase if she continues to follow the court's instructions. 

These shocking circumstances beg the question: In these drastic situations, what is really in the best interest of the child?   

PA Superior Court Recognizes Same-Sex Couple's Common Law Marriage

PA Superior Court Recognizes Same-Sex Couple's Common Law Marriage

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

On Monday, Pennsylvania's Superior Court ruled that a same-sex couple had a legitimate common-law marriage decades before same-sex marriage became legal in the state.  The Court wrote, "Same-sex couples have precisely the same capacity to enter marriage contracts as do opposite-sex couples, and a court today may not rely on the now invalidated provisions of the marriage law to deny that constitutional reality." Read more...

 

How the LA Lakers Became a Lesson in Estate Planning

How the LA Lakers Became a Lesson in Estate Planning

By John T. Dooley | Esquire

Us attorneys often preach the importance of making your intentions known through careful and thorough estate planning. While it is thrilling to us, it is not often that Wills and Trusts capture the attention of the general public. However, recently Jerry Buss and his intentions for his beloved LA Lakers have become national news for that very reason.

Jerry Buss was a very successful business owner who loved all six of his children equally. Thus, like many, his primary goal in estate planning was to assure, as best he could, the continued health and comfort of his family. But he also wished for his business, The Los Angeles Lakers, to continue to thrive after his death. Jerry was an excellent manager and strategist who built the Lakers to a $3 billion dollar asset during his time as sole owner and he realized that passing equal control to each of his six children would be no way to run a business. Deadlocks, competing interests, various level of involvement are all foreseeable consequences of attempted equality and can lead to destruction of any ongoing enterprise.

Jerry, thankfully, sought and received outstanding professional estate planning advice which resulted in the Lakers being placed in a Trust under the control of his daughter, Jeanie, the child who he thought would be most capable of continuing the operation and who had been the most involved during Jerry’s life. The Trust exists for the benefit of all of the children but Jeanie is clearly vested with the power to run the team in the manner she deems best.

The importance of this clarity in the Trust language became very obvious over the last couple of weeks when two of Jeanie’s brothers attempted to wrest control of the team from her through the election of new directors who would presumably support the brothers’ points of view. There was suggested testimony of what Jerry “really wanted” and various conversations Jerry had had with the brothers, friends and Laker employees. The fight proceeded to court where the judge, relying upon well settled law, refused to listen to this offered testimony because the Trust itself clearly supported Jeanie. It has been suggested that the brothers wanted control so that they could “cash out” through the sale of the team or, at least, of their interests. This is not a result which Jerry ever wanted to see and the Trust which was prepared for him will prevent it from happening.

Read more about Jerry's trust here and here

Filing for Unemployment Compensation

Filing for Unemployment Compensation

By Jonathon B. Young | Esquire

Filing for unemployment benefits can seem like a daunting process, but it doesn't have to be. Unemployed Pennsylvania workers may file initial applications or reopen their existing claims for Unemployment Compensation benefits by one of two methods: 

  1. An applicant can use the telephone claims service by calling the state-wide toll free number (888) 313-7284; or
  2. An applicant can file an initial claim via the internet website, www.uc.pa.gov/unemploymentbenefits .

Unfortunately, local Unemployment Compensation offices are a thing of the past and Pennsylvania Unemployment Service Centers have dwindled down to four or five brick and mortar locations statewide. As such, every post-application issue must be dealt with via phone, fax or email. Keep these communication methods in mind if you have a question regarding your application. 

It is also important to remember what kind of individuals qualify for unemployment compensation. Remember, Unemployment Compensation is for a worker who is laid off or is fired for reasons that do not constitute “willful misconduct”. Unemployment benefits are possible for an employee who quits a job if it is determined to be a “necessitous quit” under the Unemployment Compensation Act. Consequently, even if you have been fired from your position you may still be eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits and should apply.

Lastly, all Unemployment Claimants should also know that their employer is not the ultimate arbiter of whether or not they are entitled to Unemployment Compensation benefits.  That decision is made solely by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.

Call Jon Young of our office for additional information on Unemployment Compensation.

 

 

Changes to Mechanics’ Lien Law of 1963 You Should Know About

Changes to Mechanics’ Lien Law of 1963 You Should Know About

By Eric Frey | Esquire

Effective January 1, 2017,  the PA Department of General Services has made changes to the PA Mechancis’ Lien Law, 49 Pa.C.S.A. § 101, et seq.  A new website known as the State Construction Notices Directory (“Directory”) has been implemented by the Department to streamline the way in which notices are given on non-residential construction projects valued at $1,500,000 or more. Pursuant to the changes owners, contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers must adhere to new filing requirements if they plan to use the Directory.

The change in the law allows an owner or the owner’s authorized contractor to file a Notice of Commencement (“NOC”) with the Directory before any work or materials are supplied to a project.  The NOC is a voluntary filing.  If such a filing is made, then contractors, subcontractors and materialmen must file a Notice of Furnishing (“NOF”) with the Directory within 45 days of beginning work or supplying materials to the project.  Failure to file the NOF may result in the subcontractor/materialman forfeiting the right to file a mechanics’ lien claim.

Access the Directory here

Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself....

Before You Tie the Knot, Ask Yourself....

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

There are few other times in a couple's life together as gleeful, romantic, and exciting as getting engaged and married. However, while it's not exactly the stuff of romance novels, discussing certain legal and logistical matters before tying the knot may protect your marriage from unraveling in the future. Before you say "I do" consider the following:

1. Do we need a prenuptial agreement? Most of us have some preconceived notions about prenuptial agreements. These agreements - meant to specify in advance each spouse's rights in the event that the marriage breaks down - are not just for the rich and famous. If you or your spouse own a family business, family real estate or property, or other interests you'd like to preserve, you may want to consider putting your intent to paper to ensure that those interests are protected in the event of death or divorce. Likewise, couples who anticipate a certain lifestyle (such as one spouse becoming a stay-at-home parent) may want to predetermine how either spouse will be maintained in the event of separation or divorce. Lastly, couples who are marrying for the second time and may have children from a previous marriage may want to preserve certain property or income for their children of the first marriage. 

2. Will we purchase a home and/or how will we maintain a home? If you and your partner intend to buy a home together, consider the source of the funds for the purchase. Discussing how such a large purchase will be made ahead of time can stave off issues down the road. Consider whether you and your partner intend to title the property in joint names and how you intend the property to be passed down upon your death. If either you or your partner intend to move into a home owned by the other, you should discuss how each of you will contribute to the maintenance or improvement of the home and who would receive the proceeds from the same of that home in the event that you choose to sell it down the road. 

3. What is Pennsylvania's law regarding assets and marital property? Knowing your rights and obligations pursuant to Pennsylvania's divorce and estate laws may not be the most romantic way to enter a marriage. However, being mindful of your rights and obligation to your spouse can help both of you determine the best way to plan your financial life together. Some couples choose to maintain joint accounts and pool their finances, while other prefer to maintain separate finances while contributing to joint expenses. Furthermore, you and your partner may have different ideas about how you want your property and assets to pass in the event of your death. Before you tie the knot, it is important to learn how Pennsylvania's law would handle your finances so you can prepare wills or other estate documents if you'd like your property to pass in a different manner. 

4. If we have children, how will we raise them financially? Discussions regarding future children and parenting styles can be thorny. Not only can you and your partner have different ideas about prefered parenting styles, but you may also have different ideas about what kind of life you'd like your children to lead. Do you or your spouse intend for your children to attend private school? What kind of activities or expenses do you anticipate for your children? Do you wish to help your children pay for higher education? Discussing the kind of obligations and expenses you foresee for your children and how you, as a couple, intend to handle those expenses can help keep you on the same page.  

DBD Attorneys Speak to Possible Future Lawyers at North Penn HS College and Career Fair

DBD Attorneys Speak to Possible Future Lawyers at North Penn HS College and Career Fair

By Kyle J. Somers | Esquire

DBD attorneys Kyle Somers and David Conver participated in the North Penn High School College and Career Fair on March 7, 2017.  They spoke with students about the job of being a lawyer and career paths that students who are interested in the law might want to explore.  The annual event features dozens of representatives from colleges and various career fields and is attended by thousands of North Penn School District students.

DBD attorneys David Conver and Kyle Somers representing DBD and the legal community at the North Penn HS College and Career Fair. 

DBD attorneys David Conver and Kyle Somers representing DBD and the legal community at the North Penn HS College and Career Fair. 

Rhode Island Latest State to Move Toward Recognition of Pets in Divorce Cases

Rhode Island Latest State to Move Toward Recognition of Pets in Divorce Cases

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

Taking the lead from recent legislation passed in Alaska (read all about it here), a state representative in Rhode Island has introduced legislation that would require judges to consider the welfare of the family pet in divorce cases when deciding which party should be awarded custody of the animal.  Presently, Rhode Island's divorce statute treats domestic pets no different than couches or cars.  Will Pennsylvania be next?  Read more about the proposed law here.

Preparing for Your Family Law Matter

Preparing for Your Family Law Matter

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

We know that initiating a family law matter is generally a last resort for our clients. The process is often stressful, emotionally wrought, and can be costly. However, when the last resort becomes the only option, preparing in advance can be helpful. Being prepared can make an otherwise seemingly-daunting process a little less so. Here are some things you can do to prepare for your family law matter:

  1. Create your own "case file." Mastering the nuances of your own circumstances is a crucial first step in preparing for a family law matter. Create a chronology of events and/or a list of important facts. Create a record of important family circumstances and/or points to discuss with your attorneys. You are a wealth of information about financial, logistical, and historical aspects of your family. Maintaining a list of important points, conversations, schedules, locations, transactions, events, and/or other information will help you remain organized and will ensure that your attorney is aware of the complete picture.
  2. Gather your paperwork. Our clients are often unaware of many aspects of their financials and/or familial circumstances. When this is the case, family law litigation (whether divorce, custody or support) and the rigors of providing "evidence" to the court are often overwhelming and difficult. Thinking (and preparing!) ahead can help keep the process manageable. If you are preparing for a divorce matter, make sure to gather a copy of current bank, retirement, credit card, and/or mortgage statements. Gathering documentation regarding the property owned by you or your spouse is crucial to any divorce matter. If you are preparing for a support matter, gather complete copies of your tax returns, W-2s and 1099s, pay stubs, and/or employment benefits. If your believe you will be a litigant in a child support matter, make a list of the activities in which your child participates and gather documents (such as invoices, receipts, payment confirmation, etc.) evidencing the cost of those activities. In custody matters, preparing information about your child can be crucial. If you have specific concerns about your child or your child requires extra considerations (such as in the case of special needs children, kids with health needs, and/or educational and therapeutic needs), collect as much information as you can about the issue. Past and current report cards and school records can also be helpful in custody matters. 
  3. Understand your financial situation. Once you gather all the necessary paperwork, it is helpful to get a sense of your assets versus your debts. It is important to understand the nature of your finances and keep looming expenses in mind. Understand when bills are due, whether deadlines for any important decisions are coming up, and/or whether financial changes are on the horizon. Understanding your finances can assist you in deciding when and how to initiate your family law matter.
  4. Figure out your living expenses....now and after the start of a case. One of the most important planning tools for our clients is a monthly budget. Understanding the carrying costs of your life under your current circumstance, as well as how they might change when you initiate a family law matter, is essential. For example, your attorney may ask you whether you can afford to stay in the family home or whether you can afford to move out. The fear of being unable to maintain living expenses can be one of the most distressing aspects of litigation. It is therefore important to consider how income is currently being used and what changes can/should be made if the need arises. 
  5. Don't make any sudden moves. If you believe litigation is on the horizon, making big purchases and/or changes can have a negative impact on your future case. Preserving the status quo will give you an opportunity to discuss any possible changes with your attorney to determine the viability and advisability of the decision. For example, avoid purchasing a new car or new home if you are contemplating a divorce. If you believe a support matter is in your future, discuss any possible changes in your employment and/or income with an attorney before committing to the change. In custody matters, changing your child's residence, school, medical providers, etc. can be detrimental to your future case. In short, check in with your lawyer before making a big decision. 

The IRS is Paying Close(r) Attention to Your Support Order

The IRS is Paying Close(r) Attention to Your Support Order

By Elizabeth J. Billies | Esquire

According to a recent article by Insight Financial Strategists, those claiming payment or receipt of alimony/spousal  support are at a higher risk for audit by the IRS. The agency is increasing it is auditing filters and developing additional strategies to catch reporting discrepancies between alimony payments that are claimed vs. alimony payments that are received. 

If you are claiming a deduction for support payments or declaring receipt of support income, it is crucial that accurate numbers are reported.  This may require speaking with your ex-spouse to make sure the amount paid vs. received match and that you both understand what is considered alimony/spousal support and what is not.  Although working with your ex may not be something you look forward to, it may be more favorable then speaking to an IRS auditor.  To read the Insight Financial Strategists article, click here.

Four Years of Happy Clients!

Four Years of Happy Clients!

By Inna G. Materese | Esquire

Congratulations to our very own Elizabeth Billies! For the fourth year in a row, Liz, as her clients know her, has been recognized as one of the 10 Best Family Law Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. 

The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys is a third-party attorney rating organization that publishes an annual list of the Top 10 attorneys in each state, based on a rigorous selection process of client and/or peer review, research, and AIOFLA's independent evaluation.

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