General Legal Information

What You Should Know about On-Line Shopping

Q.: How safe is it to give my credit card number to an on-line seller?

A.: In general, it is safe to give a credit card number to an on-line merchant. It’s not advisable to use a debit card, however, since debit cards function to remove money almost immediately from your bank account and are far less protected from being lost or stolen or being used improperly. Credit cards cover losses from lost or stolen credit cards over $50. Even with credit cards, though, some banks are now restricting their customers' ability to dispute charges from out-of-state on-line merchants.

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What You Should Know about Medicaid

Q.:  What is Medicaid?

A.: Medicaid is a federally designed, state-administered welfare program that pays for medical care for qualifying low-income and needy individuals including the aged (over 65), blind and disabled.

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What You Should Know about Guardianships and Advance Care Planning

Q.:  I am the legal guardian for my brother.  I have been advised that I should do “advance care planning” for him. What, exactly, is advance care planning?

A.: Advance care planning is a type of estate and life planning that focuses on planning for when a person becomes ill, disabled, incompetent or incapacitated. As your brother’s legal guardian, the court has already entrusted you with his care.  However, advance care documents allow your brother to state his own wishes about medical treatment and to privately appoint you to act as his agent in financial or health care matters if and when he cannot make his wishes known.  The most common and simplest advance care planning documents are durable powers of attorney for financial matters, durable powers of attorney for health care and living wills. Trusts also can be used for advance care planning.

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What You Should Know about Auto Insurance Law

Q.:  When I renew my license tags or driver's license, I have to acknowledge that I have "financial responsibility."  What does that mean?

A.: Every driver must be able to prove that he or she is financially able to cover damages that he or she might cause while operating a motor vehicle.  Typically, this is done by buying auto insurance.  Financial responsibility (FR) can be shown in other ways, such as furnishing proof that you are bonded, but that is less common.

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Using Trusts to Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Disabilities

Q.: My son has cerebral palsy. He is employed at a sheltered workshop and receives SSI and Medicaid benefits. He wants to move into his own apartment, but I'm not sure he realizes how difficult it might be to live on his own. Is there any way I can give my son money without causing him to lose his benefits?

A.: Yes. Certain trusts can be used to supplement your son's benefits. A trust designed to supplement his benefits and meet his special needs will not affect your son's eligibility if it is properly drafted.

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Some Useful Websites

Legal Research Sites

Findlaw

Home, sweet home for many lawyers

The Legal List

'Net legal researcy tips and a guide to free legal sites from West Group

Court Rules

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Understanding the Different Forms of Bank Account Ownership

Q.: What are the most common forms of ownership for bank accounts?

A.: The most common forms are:

  1. Individual account
  2. Payable-on-death account
  3. Joint account with rights of survivorship
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Trusts Can Help Protect from Bank Failure

Q.:  How do I know if the bank insures a trust I set up for my family?

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If you walk into almost any savings institution in the United States, you see a little seal on the door that says “Member FDIC.”  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) was founded in 1933 as a response to the run on banks in the Great Depression.  It provides each person with up to $100,000 of insurance for funds in that bank.  That sounds simple enough.  And, for individuals, it is.  Until recently, however, applying this $100,000 FDIC limit to trusts was more complicated.  For example, the names of the trust beneficiaries had to appear in the bank’s records.  Also, FDIC insurance was not available to a beneficiary whose interest in the trust was conditional or might be removed.

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The Court Says I Won: Now, How Do I Collect?

Q.: I just won a judgment in court against one of my customers.  How do I collect the money owed to me?

A.: The most effective way to collect on a judgment is to file for garnishment.

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Tenants Should Look Out for Intent-To-Vacate Clauses

When renting an apartment, a tenant should not assume that a lease term will end when the lease agreement says it will.  Tenants should read lease agreements carefully to make sure they understand everything they are responsible for as tenants.  For example, a lease agreement may contain an intent-to-vacate clause.   If so, the tenant must provide written notice of the intent to leave, even if the lease term has ended.

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