Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pet Trusts in Connecticut

Every now and then there are stories in the news about an elderly rich person dying and leaving millions of dollars to their beloved pet dog, cat, bird, etc.  Just this past month, it was reported that when she died, a wealthy widow of an Italian property tycoon left $13 million dollars to Tommaso, a stray cat that she had taken in several years before.  The cat gained not only the money but also reportedly several opulent homes in Italy.  To ensure that Tommaso would be taken care of, the woman arranged for her former personal nurse to oversee the funds and care for Tommaso.
While such stories may prompt one to laugh at the good fortune to have such a fortune to leave to a pet, the reality is that in Connecticut “pet trusts” have been allowed since 2009 when the state legislature passed Public Act 09-169, making Connecticut the forty-fourth state to allow the creation of trusts to take care of pets after the death of their owners.  Under the law (General Statutes 45a-489a), you can create either a testamentary trust (created from your assets after your death) or an inter vivos or living trust (created from your assets while you are alive) to take care of any of your pets alive at the time of your death for the rest of their lives.  Part of this process involves designating both a trustee, who may take care of the pets on a daily basis, as well as a “trust protector,” an individual who will monitor the trust and ensure that it is being used appropriately.
Although most people outlive their pets, it is not uncommon for a pet to outlive its owner, either because of old age or an unfortunate accident.  Although you may not be able to leave millions of dollars and multiple houses to your beloved pet, a pet does not need such extravagance.  It takes much less to create a pet trust to take care of your pet and creating a trust to provide a monthly stipend for food or cover the costs of veterinary visits may go a long way toward ensuring that your pet is a more likely candidate for placement with another pet lover when you are gone.
Questions or comments about this post? Contact Jared Cantor.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Independent Foreclosure Review Now Available

Federal Bank Regulators have mandated a review process for homes subject to foreclosure in 2009 and 2010. The Independent ForeclosureReview (IFR) is currently being offered to certain homeowners who meet a laundry list of criteria. The IFR is just one step the federal government is taking with respect to the massive foreclosure dockets sweeping the country.  Homeowners can be screened to see if they are eligible through the IFR website. If the homeowner can prove “financial injury” then they may be compensated, financially or through “other remedies”. The “injury” required, as well as the compensation available, is still very vague. Though the review process has been started, no compensation has yet been doled out. Eligible homeowners were supposed to have been mailed an informational letter by December 31, 2011, though many who received the letter thought it was a scam. The application must be completed by April 30, 2012.

Those who are eligible must have been involved in a foreclosure action on their primary residence from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010, and had their loan serviced by one of the following mortgage companies:

America’s Servicing Co.
Aurora Loan Services
BAC Home Loans Servicing
Bank of America
EverBank/EverHome Mortgage Company
GMAC Mortgage
IndyMac Mortgage Services
MetLife Bank
National City Mortgage
PNC Mortgage
Sovereign Bank
SunTrust Mortgage
U.S. Bank
Wachovia Mortgage
Washington Mutual (WaMu)
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Wilshire Credit Corporation

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Banking Commissioner Howard F. Pitkin are urging affected homeowners to have theirsituation reviewed. For more information visit the IFR website at http://independentforeclosurereview.com/

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Shopping Do's and Don'ts!

Remember to be safe and civil this holiday season.  While we are all rushing about to complete our holiday shopping and spread our holiday cheer, it is important to remember that the State of Connecticut requires a certain degree of civility among residents and visitors.  Connecticut General Statute § 53a-181 states: 

(a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person:  . . . (5) in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or (6) creates a public and hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which such person is not licensed or privileged to do.

One Christmas shopper learned a lesson about state required civility after being arrested for a breach of peace on Black Friday for creating a commotion by cutting another patron in the checkout line of a Walmart in Southington, Connecticut.  Therefore, be sure to treat other shoppers with kindness and respect this holiday season. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fake IDs: Fun but a Possible Felony

When young adults think about the consequences “getting caught” or “busted” with a fake ID, they may imagine being lectured at by a bartender, being ejected from a club by a burly bouncer or perhaps being turned away from the local package store.  In all three cases, the worst that young adults imagine may happen to them is that they will lose the fake ID, and the sometimes substantial cost it took to acquire it, or that their parents might be called.

The truth, however, is that getting caught with a fake ID in Connecticut can have much more serious legal ramifications.  Under Connecticut law (General Statutes §§ 53a-138 and 139), if you are caught with a fake ID, which includes any ID that bears false information such as altered age or other personal information, you can be arrested and charged with forgery.  Forgery in this case means that the person, with an intent to deceive another, falsely made, possessed or altered a written instrument that he or she knew to be forged.  This would include trying to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol at a bar or at a package store as well as being arrested for another crime and the police discovering that you have a fake ID in your purse or wallet.  Depending on the level of seriousness, a person with a fake ID can be charged with second degree forgery, which is a felony.  If convicted, the law mandates that the person serve at least one year in prison, but not more than five years.

Regardless of the arguments in favor and against lowering the drinking age, the fact is that 21 is the mandated drinking age in Connecticut and across the United States.  Although buying and using a fake ID may seem like a moment of harmless fun, it carries with it significant risks that far outweigh, and could long outlast, the thrill of purchasing alcohol before the law permits.

Questions or comments? Contact Jared Cantor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Law Designed to Stimulate Job Growth and Small Business in Connecticut

On October 27, 2011, Governor Malloy signed An Act Promoting Economic Growth And Job Creation In The State, House Bill No. 6801, into law. The Act does a number of things designed to jump start Connecticut business growth.

1.      Small Business Express Program. This program was created within the Connecticut Department of Economic and CommunityDevelopment (DECD), an agency already in existence to help Connecticut businesses. The Express Program will use streamlined application processes to expedite financial assistance to Connecticut businesses.  

2.      Business Entity Tax. The $250 annual BusinessEntity Tax (BET), payable by all LLCs, LLPs, limited partnerships and S Corporations organized or doing business in Connecticut, was effectively reduced by 50%. Starting January 1, 2013, the BET will be due every other year.

3.      Job Expansion Tax Credit. A new tax credit program whereby businesses will be given a tax credit for each new qualifying employee hired between January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2014. A qualifying employee is someone who (a) is receiving unemployment compensation; (b) has exhausted unemployment compensation and has not found a full time job; or (c) is receiving vocational rehabilitation services from the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services.

4.      Angel Investor Tax Credit. The existing tax credit available to Angel Investors will be modified so that the minimum investment to receive the credit is reduced from $100,000.00 to $25,000.00. The credit shall continue to be 25% of the investment, up to $250,000.00. Angel Investors are typically wealthy individuals that provide capital to business start ups. Check out "What's an Angel Investor?" from the Wall Street Journal for more information.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Facebook Status Update and Your Deposition

If you are involved in any type of litigation, such as a divorce, a slip and fall case or a business dispute, you may find yourself being deposed at a deposition.  What does that mean?  It means that you will be required to attend a question and answer session in which opposing counsel, which may consist of more than one lawyer, will be able to ask you questions about just about everything but your waist size and you will be required to answer them verbally, under oath, all while being recorded by a stenographer.  There are no “life lines”, no opportunities to dodge the questions, you are on the spot and in the spotlight, often all while being observed by your opponent who may be your soon-to-be former spouse, your business rival, or your worst enemy.  Think you have nothing to hide?  That's doubtful.  Everyone has some embarrassing history; some buried secrets that they have managed to keep quiet, or worse, some serious transgressions that could permanently damage their reputation or career.  Not all attorneys will discover these treasures, and your attorney will try to minimize the impact of these revelations, but it is up to you to make sure that you are not inviting your opponent to easily stumble upon such matters.  With Facebook and other social media sites being so widely used, it is easier than ever to research an individual’s personal life.  That is why it is very important that you have your Facebook page, Twitter account and similar accounts protected with the highest privacy settings possible.  You also should never assume that your on-line connections are truly your friends, any one of them could be a “leak” and may allow your opponent to uncover information that you intended for a limited audience.  Your postings could also be subject to the “discovery” process in your case even if you have privacy settings on your account.  More alarming is the possibility that a Court may order you to provide password access to those accounts to your opponent.  Forbes Magazine has reported that a Connecticut judge ordered a divorcing party to turn over her social media and dating account passwords to her husband's attorney.  See the decision at Gallion v. Gallion.  Divorcing parties are not the only ones susceptible to this type of damage, personal injury claimants and other litigants can also find themselves unnecessarily exposed.  Notwithstanding the privacy settings, do not post anything on these sites or any other website (such as a blog) which you would not want revealed in a courtroom, which is exactly where the information could end up.  Even seemingly unrelated postings may give opposing parties or their counsel reason to raise questions about your conduct, connections, financial status, etc.  In general, always use your judgment and always limit what you post about yourself on-line, whether or not you have a case pending.  When in doubt, do not post!

Questions or comments about this blog can be directed to Attorney Bridget C. Gallagher bgallagher@bpslawyers.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Med Pay Coverage and You

If there was one piece of advice I could give to people before getting into their car and driving these holidays, it would be to contact their car insurance provider and ask about “med pay” coverage.
What is med pay? Med pay is short for medical payments and is optional coverage that can be added to your normal car insurance policy.  Med pay works similar to health insurance in situations when you are injured in a motor vehicle related accident.  Instead of giving your health insurance information to a hospital or a doctor following a car accident, you inform them that you have med pay available through your car insurance.  Med pay coverage varies, but it generally includes costs such as doctor visits, hospital visits and/or stays, surgery, x-rays, ambulance fees, nursing services and care and so on.  Med pay may cover all of these accident related expenses, regardless of who is at fault, and also may cover anyone driving your vehicle or riding as passenger within your vehicle.
If you do not have health care coverage, med pay can be a lifesaver.  For instance, med pay would pay your medical bills if you were injured while driving or riding in a car, or were injured by an automobile, such as in a hit and run situation while walking the street or riding your bike.  In these situations, med pay would work exactly like health insurance and may be your only resource to pay these bills.  Even if you have health insurance, med pay coverage is helpful, as you may be able to use med pay to cover the cost of any deductibles for your health insurance or co-pays for prescriptions.
Never heard of med pay?  One reason may be that it is a good deal for the customer and therefore insurance companies do not aggressively market this option.  For instance, at the lower levels of coverage, such as $1,000 or $5,000, med pay may only cost you a few dozen extra dollars.  Med pay coverage levels go far beyond $5,000, and most insurance companies offer med pay levels of $10,000, $25,000, $50,000, and sometimes even $100,000.  For a few extra dollars and a lot of peace of mind, consider taking advantage of med pay coverage.
Questions or comments? Contact Jared Cantor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stalking Your Brand: Why Small Businesses Need to Monitor Google, Facebook and Twitter

Brand names, logos, slogans, even website content, are some of your company’s most valuable assets.  Though the internet and social media have allowed many businesses to enter the market at a relatively low cost, it also makes copying, stealing and misappropriating easier too. Small businesses can’t be afraid to make the most of their websites, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, but they must also be on their guard, and constantly on the lookout for infringers. Once infringement is found, you must be prepared to stop the infringement immediately to protect your brand.

Companies like Thompson Compumark offer trademark and domain name watch services. Reputation.Com also offers professional online reputation management services. You can also set up your own alerts, as well as run periodic searches for your trademarks, slogans and web content. It’s a good idea to use Google Alerts so that every time you, your slogan or your company name appears in the news, you receive notification. You can also search Twitter for any mention of your trademarks or logos using Twinitor. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are You on the Big List?

The State of Connecticut has just released a "Big List" of 50,000.00 people with unclaimed property in the State of Connecticut. You could be on the list with money waiting for you!

See the Hartford Courant piece at http://www.courant.com/business/ctn-unclaimed-money-big-list-1117,0,5703001.story

Check out the list at http://www.ctbiglist.com/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obesity and your custody case

Having a significantly overweight child could potentially come into play when going through a divorce or custody proceeding.  As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, accusations of inadequate care by parents-- as evidenced by the obesity of their children-- are on the rise.  

Although accusations of the inferred inadequate care by parents of severely overweight children are on the rise, it does not mean all courts or judges will consider a child's weight a significant factor.  Arguments are often made that being significantly overweight puts your child at risk for a host of problems beyond the obvious physical health risks, including emotional and mental health issues.  While certainly there is no single factor that determines a custody case, the physical, emotional, and mental health of your children will be considered, and courts will make orders for what they find to be in "the best interests of the child". 

Click here for a link to the Wall Street Journal article.

Questions or comments?  Contact Attorney Jodie Alberding at JAlberding@bpslawyers.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Danger of Driving with Dangling Objects

Everyone is aware that driving while distracted is dangerous.  Everyone would also likely agree that driving with an obstructed view is dangerous.  However, almost everyone would be surprised to learn that under Connecticut law, you might just be driving while distracted or with an obstructed view on account of that graduation tassel, air freshener, or parking pass hanging from your rearview mirror.  In fact, Connecticut General Statute section14-99f (c) makes it an infraction to operate a motor vehicle in such instances and provides that: “No article, device, sticker or ornament shall be attached or affixed to or hung on or in any motor vehicle in such a manner or location as to interfere with the operator’s unobstructed view of the highway or to distract the attention of the operator.”  (Emphasis added.)  While being pulled over and given a ticket because you had your graduation tassel hanging from your rearview mirror might seem a minor nuisance, consider the following.

In order for an officer to pull you over, he generally must have “reasonable and articulable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is occurring.”  See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21–22 (1968).  Once pulled over for a traffic stop, the officer can inquire as to your license, registration and proof of insurance.  Moreover, the officer would be able to view you, the driver, any of the occupants in your car, as well as anything in your car in plain sight or emanating from your car, such as smells.  What does this mean?  It means, for instance, that if you were driving with expired registration or an expired license or, more seriously, driving while impaired or with other illegal substances visible or capable of being smelled, the officer would become aware of this and could ticket or arrest you for those violations or crimes.

This is exactly what happened in the recent Supreme Court case State v. Cyrus, 297 Conn. 829 (2010).  In that case, for several reasons, the officer pulled over a driver because he observed a cross hanging from the rearview mirror.  This gave the officer a reason to pull over the vehicle and ultimately discover the driver did not have a driver’s license and was driving while intoxicated.  Ultimately the evidence in that case was barred from being introduced because the officer failed to provide enough testimony to demonstrate that he reasonably believed that the hanging cross was distracting the driver or obstructing his view, rather than simply hanging there in violation of the law.  In light of Cyrus, police now know to be specific in describing their reasonable belief that the hanging object was distracting the driver or obstructing their view.

The lesson to be learned:  remove all hanging objects from your rearview mirror, lest a minor infraction yield to bigger violation.  I, for one, had to remove my favorite fuzzy dice.

Questions or comments on this post? Contact Jared Cantor.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Brand Protection: The Importance of Trademarks

Small business owners tend to reinvest (or at least should reinvest) a good portion of their profits back into their business to help it grow.  A large portion of that investment usually goes to advertising. Most small business owners understand that advertising and building their brand is one of the most important things you can do for your business, but many don’t realize that a brand name can be one of your business’s most important assets. It’s not a coincidence that companies like Nike and Procter & Gamble spend literally millions of dollars per year protecting their trademarks. One thing small business owners can do is to file for federal trademark protection with the US Patent & Trademark Office. The cost is relatively low when compared with the protection that is afforded ($275-$325 filing fee plus attorney’s fees).  Filing a US trademark not only prevents your competitors from using a confusingly similar name nationwide, but it also ensures that you are entitled to be using your name. With today’s global online marketplace, there are millions of businesses operating and it is important to make sure that your brand is unique and available before spending money to build and promote that brand. A good brand can be worth a lot of money. Isn’t it a good idea to take proactive steps to protect one of your business’ most important assets?
Have questions or comments? Email Attorney Regina von Gootkin at rvongootkin@bpslawyers.com.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

While most victims of negligence in the provision of medical care by health care providers may seek redress through the traditional tort system via a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice, those suffering injury or death allegedly caused by the administration of certain vaccines are, as a practical matter, compelled by federal law to pursue their claims for compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), rather than pursuing claims against the vaccines’ manufacturers or against the health care providers who administered the vaccines. 

Created pursuant to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1 to -34, the VICP provides a no-fault compensation system through which persons may file a petition before the federal government for monetary damages.

VICP claims are filed with, managed and adjudicated by the Office of Special Masters within the United States Court of Federal Claims, located in Washington, D.C.

Compensation, if awarded, is made by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund, which is funded by an excise tax on each dose of certain vaccines which are recommended for routine administration to children by the Centers for Disease Control. 

For more information about the VICP, including a table of covered vaccines, compensable injuries, and information about the claims process, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website at: http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/index.html 

Have questions or comments?  E-mail Attorney Tony Stevens at wstevens@bpslawyers.com

Having ones insurance documents

The recent severe weather in Connecticut, including last winter's record-breaking snowfall, this summer’s Hurricane Irene and the widespread damage caused by October’s recent winter storm, have taught many lessons. One particularly worthwhile lesson is to always have your insurance documents available, and to have the most recent versions of these documents. A case in point: a potential client contacted me in despair concerning damage to her home. The person lamented that after reviewing their insurance policy, all the person could find were items that were not covered. Upon meeting with the person, I found the reason for their initial pessimism: the person only had in their possession their monthly billing statements and recent mailings from the insurance company amending the list of exclusions under the person’s policy. The person did not have the most important part of their policy, namely, the actual coverage documents, which were crucial to answering the question at hand. The lesson to be learned is that one should always make sure to have all insurance documents at hand, and to periodically request a copy of the entire updated policy, and not just rely on the updates sent out from time to time. Having an updated copy of your policy makes it much easier to ascertain what your coverage is, rather than reading a ten year old policy and comparing it to perhaps dozens of amendments that the insurance company made in the ensuing period. Having an updated and complete insurance policy may not protect you from severe weather, but it will be an invaluable step forward in recovering from such events.

Have questions or comments? Contact Attorney Jared Cantor.

Friday, November 4, 2011

CT to Begin Requiring Ignition Locks on Vehicles for DUI Offenders

Public Act 11-51 §§ 216-220 make some significant changes to the penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs in Connecticut. These provisions go into affect on January 1, 2012. First, this Act provides that in addition to a fine and term of imprisonment (or community service), an offender will have their license suspended for a period of forty-five days. Following the forty-five day suspension, the offender can have their license restored only if they have installed a functioning, approved ignition interlock device, which must remain installed for a year. An "ignition interlock device" means a device installed in a motor vehicle that measures the blood alcohol content of the operator and disallows the mechanical operation of such motor vehicle until the blood alcohol content of such operator is less than twenty-five thousandths of one per cent.

Find out more about this public act at our website http://www.bpslawyers.com/Articles/Criminal-Law-Update.shtml

Have questions or comments? Email law clerk Cody Guarnieri at cguarnieri@bpslawyers.com.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Limited Scope Representation

In an effort to help reduce legal fees and give parties more options, Brown, Paindiris & Scott Attorney Barry Armata is working with the Connecticut Bar Association and the Connecticut Bar Foundation to advance the missions of both the Connecticut Judiciary’s Public Service and Trust Commission, as well as the Access to Justice Commission to bring Limited Scope Representation (Unbundling) to Connecticut.  As both a James W. Cooper Fellow and the past Chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Family Law section,  Attorney Armata helped to organize a symposium on the benefits and risks of limited scope representation.

Limited scope representation, commonly called unbundling, allows for lawyers to represent clients in limited capacities- one day in court, on a specific motion only, to take a deposition, etc. This type of representation, which is allowed in 43 other states, allows parties to have greater control over their legal fees.  The symposium was held at Quinnipiac Law School on October 28, 2011 and featured prominent national and local experts on limited scope representation.

Have comments or questions? Email Attorney Barry Armata at barmata@bpslawyers.com