Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The Quotation of the Day from today's New York Times:

"In my opinion, it's not a national tragedy if Walmart can't open at 8 o'clock on Thanksgiving Day."
BARRY FINEGOLD, a Massachusetts state senator, on the Colonial-era blue laws in his state that prevent retailers from opening their doors on the holiday.
Stay safe and enjoy your holiday, especially if you are partaking in the shopping sales.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday Shopping & The Need to Hold on to Your Receipts

Thanksgiving week has turned into the opening whistle on holiday shopping season, with stores now preparing to open on Thanksgiving Day itself. It seems like this continues to erode the family aspect of the holiday as dinner will now be moved (or interrupted) so that families can go stand in line in the cold weather waiting to save $5 on a gift. Personally, I don’t think the $5 is worth it, but that’s just my opinion.

In addition to beginning your holiday shopping, this week is also a good time to look back on the prior 11 months and get your documents together for the end of the year and the upcoming tax season. I have friends who keep track of their spending to the penny and keep every receipt in the most hyper-organized system I have ever seen.

Their approach is not workable for most people, but a good document retention system can go a long way to having important documents at your fingertips. Whether it is receipts for major purchases, your health care expenditures for the year, tax documents and receipts for deductions or whatever other spending you need to track, this week is a good week to tweak your system and make it work for you. This will be especially helpful if you find yourself in some kind of lawsuit down the road – your lawyer will thank you for your organization and your bill will be much lower.

Years ago, I had a client who had a multitude of bank accounts with various banks and what would have amounted to boxes of paper for my review. Luckily for me, when any statement came in, the client scanned the paper into his system and one day he appeared on my doorstep with a CD-ROM with nearly 25,000 pages of statements ready to go. If you need a good holiday gift for someone this season who needs to organize their paper, you can’t go wrong with the Fujitsu line of ScanSnap scanners (Full Disclosure: I have 3, one at the office, one at home and a portable one for meeting clients outside of the office).

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call my office (718.568.0221) or visit my website (

Friday, November 16, 2012

Splitting Up the Holidays

It seems like Thanksgiving has just appeared on the calendar out of nowhere and with it comes the annual issues of dividing up the holiday time, especially for people going through divorces. Many people run into issues with where to go and when for the holidays, but those going through divorces go through it in a very amplified and adversarial manner (at least most of them do).

The December holidays are usually a bit easier to split up because they last longer and people have a variety of traditions for their families. But when it comes to Thanksgiving, being only one day, it seems to be a time that people really dig their heels in and refuse to budge. This week I spent nearly an entire day in Court dealing with just that issue when no one was willing to cede any time on the day, split it up, or agree to alternate it going forward.

A common question in my recent consultations has been what to do with holiday times, or more specifically, what does everyone else do. Unfortunately, everyone’s case is different and what works for one family will not work for the other. The easiest cases involve two families who celebrate the holidays in different ways at different times that allow the children to be with both sets of families for their respective holiday traditions.

If you want to see a judge who is unhappy with a couple of litigants, tell the judge that you are unable to agree upon a holiday schedule. It should be a simple calculation, and would show the Court that you are able to be reasonable in the best interests of your children. But if you can’t, you can always let the judge decide and I can guarantee that no one will be happy with what the judge comes up with.

So in the spirit of the holidays, try to work it out yourselves!

For more information on divorce practice and the ways to move your matter forward or to schedule a consultation, please call my office (718.568.0221) or visit my website ( for more information.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Payday Loan Scammers Lose a Friend

The big news this week is that MoneyGram has agreed to forfeit $100 million to settle charges that it aided wire fraud and failed to police against money-laundering. (Reuters) This news crossed my desk from a few clients who had previously used MoneyGram in connection with Pay Day Loans and found that the money the supposedly sent had not received the recipient and had disappeared.

In connection with its settlement, the U.S. Department of Justice says that MoneyGram processed thousands of transactions that were used by their own agents to trick people into wiring money to people they believed to be their relatives or with the promise of large cash prizes. The settlement money will be used to create a fund from which victims of the scams can be repaid.

Across the past months, many of my meetings with those who have been the victim of Pay Day Loan scandals have involved companies demanding payment through services like MoneyGram where there was not a truly “traceable” receipt of the money. The companies, who are often scammers located overseas, demand payment by a money-wiring service and won’t accept a check or other payment method that would be traceable. If you refuse to use their companies, they immediately threaten you that you will be arrested if you do not use their service and pay the money. Of course, once you’ve made the payment, you do not hear from them again and never receive any confirmation that the payment was actually made.

With this settlement, hopefully another way to scam people is being closed down, but at the same time, these scammers will often just move on to another scam to get their money.

For more information on defending yourself against these scams or to schedule a consultation, please call the office (718.568.0221) or visit my website ( for more information.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After the Election: Now What?

The election is over. Like many, we wake up the following morning, after months of being inundated with political ads, calls at home and a full mailbox, to wonder what is next?

On a national level, the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives appear to all be staying in the same political party hands as before the election. At the state level, each state is different, but with last night’s results, we can all begin to plan for the next two to four years and predict what the legislatures will be doing with our laws.

The past few months I’ve seen an uptick in consultations for people who want to revise their wills or create a new estate plan in anticipation of the outcome of the election. One of their biggest concerns is the $5 million gift tax exemption, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012.  With the estate tax rate likely rising from 35% to 55% and the lifetime gift tax exemption decreasing from $5 million to $1 million, now is the best time to review your personal estate plan and see if you should take advantage of these changes now.

For more information on estate planning or to schedule a consultation, please call my office (718.568.0221) or visit my website ( for more information.