How to Protect Yourself from Lawsuits

Without a doubt, in the modern era, the risk of getting a lawsuit is very high. Because of this, more and more people are doing whatever they can to avoid getting into those predicaments in the first place. While this is undoubtedly easier said than done, you’ll find that a lot of people simply don’t know how to handle themselves or execute proper etiquette.

This is very problematic because overall, most people do not have any clue how to properly articulate themselves or express themselves in the public square. Not literally, of course, but remember, in litigious contexts, it is important to acknowledge that communicating or making statements about another person can result in serious consequences. Rather than getting caught up in one of those situations, you can keep the following advice in mind. This will ensure that you not only avoid getting sued, but it will also allow you to better articulate and organize yourself should you feel concerned about possibly getting into legal action.

Now remember, even if you exercise the best judgment, it is still possible to get into a lawsuit. However, in the event that that would happen, assuming you followed protocol to a tee, you would not be held liable. So even if a suit is brought to court, you can still survive or avoid a long-standing dual just by following the best practices.

Stay Silent

First and foremost, one of the easiest ways to get sued in the public square for making slanderous or libelous statements about someone is simply by saying those statements out loud. If you avoid this in the first place, you’re never going to encounter any of those kinds of issues.

This is something that a lot of people experience because when they interact with others in a public forum, oftentimes they make the mistake of making an assumption or statement that isn’t true. For example, if you’re a celebrity and you make a statement about other celebrities, talking about their actions, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of problems. This is primarily because a lot of people that are in those situations, don’t fully realize just how critically important it is to maintain your public appearance. If people don’t take that responsibility seriously, they’re going to end up in a lot of trouble. So rather than just throwing assumptions out there about another person, always keep in mind that if you make a statement about someone, it has to be something true. You cannot openly spread lies or falsehoods about people, because as a result, you could be opening yourself to being sued. When in doubt, just stay silent. There is no way someone can sue you for NOT saying something bad about them.

Know the Law

In a way, getting into lawsuits is a bit like playing a game. A very costly and time-consuming game, but a game nonetheless. Now while the stakes and costs of this “game” are much higher than Monopoly, the fact remains that you must treat a game like you would any other endeavor of competitiveness. You must know the rules.

Without knowing the rules, it’s not possible to properly know what not do. With the law, if you’re able to understand what you can and cannot do, you’re going to be in way better shape than someone that doesn’t understand the difference between libel and slander.

It’s also important to know how what you could be sued for in your type of business or even personal matters, because if you understand how to get into a lawsuit, you can understand how to avoid them altogether.

Most of the time, people treat these situations in a very counter-intuitive fashion, and as a result, they end up getting themselves into legal trouble they very well could’ve avoided. So rather than being one of those individuals, ensure that you’re always exercising caution. Now, of course, you will not be expected to understand the ins and outs of complicated legal jargon and code all by yourself. That’s where having educated people on your team helps.

Have a Good Team

One of the first things to keep in mind, when it comes to avoiding lawsuits, is having a good team around you. If you have people that are smart enough to avoid trouble in the first place, you’re not going to encounter any issues.

These are the individuals that will watch over your work and ensure you’re doing the right thing. They’re also the people that are going to go over all of your work and ensure that anything that you do intend to disseminate is properly checked and approved.

Remember, the aforementioned tips are just a start. Overall, you’ll see that if you practice just a little bit of these strategies, you’ll go a long way.

Now that you know what it takes to avoid getting sued, it’s time to take action and ensure you have the best asset protection lawyer, in the business, watching your back. Titanium Asset Protection has decades of experience, and specializes in ensuring your assets will stay safe and sound no matter what the circumstances. To learn more or get a free consultation, visit mullhoferlaw.com or call (714) 827-9955.

Why Digital Assets Need to Be a Part of Your Estate Plan

When it comes to digital assets, in the modern era, there are all sorts of assets that have to be kept in mind. Otherwise, you’re going to see very quickly that these assets could get into terrible trouble. The truth of the matter is the following: in the modern era, people are going to have assets that are more than just books, money, gold, and jewelry. People actually have all sorts of assets that are going to be able to be acquired when they become deceased, and among those that are coming into play are internet accounts, video game subscriptions, social media sites, and even digital files and information. This is something you should keep in mind if you have a well-built estate plan, because undoubtedly, if you do pass away unexpectedly, you’ll want to ensure that your loved ones will have a way to digitally access and preserve your assets that exist in the digital realm. Should you be unable to, the consequences could be very unfavorable. If you’re still unsure as to what digital assets should be a part of your estate plan, consider the following information.

 

Social Media Accounts

 

While most people might be unfamiliar with most of the social media sites that are growing in popularity in the present moment, there are a few that have emerged as mainstays that are as ubiquitous in our society as almost anything else. These are the kinds of assets that need to be kept in mind, because in the long run, you’re not going to be able to keep these assets functioning properly.

 

For example, if you’re someone that just doesn’t care much for social media, you might just as easily discard and toss away your accounts without thinking about it.

 

While this is very common, the truth is, you’ll need to be aware that these are the sort of things that can actually have a lot of value in the coming decades and years. This is because as social media accounts become more and more common, more people will be dying with social media accounts to pass off. Now this may not be of much importance to you personally, but if you’re someone that relies on these accounts for a significant amount of income, if you were to pass them off, it might be the equivalent of passing on a very lucrative business or bank account.

 

Therefore, if you have an estate plan, be sure to add your social media accounts in there. If you pass them off to your offspring and ensure there is a legally binding way of doing so, you’ll ensure that those individuals will get direct access to them and will be able to use them for the ensuing decades as time goes on.

 

When it comes to the most likely social media accounts to pass on, keep in mind that Facebook and Instagram are going to be your most popular choices. This is primarily due to the fact that a lot of businesses tend to use these for spreading information, and if you’re someone that can make tremendous use of them, you’ll definitely have them to pass on when you pass away eventually.

 

Saved Data and Information

 

In the past, we had things called folders and filing cabinets. In the present era, almost a lot of our critical data and information is stored in folders, but instead of being gigantic lockers that take up half of our wall space, they are stored safely on our computers.

 

This revolutionary shift in how we store information has resulted in an entirely new phenomenon of what’s valuable and what isn’t. For this fact alone, if you have a loved one that passes away, you have to be aware of the fact that this individual might have very important data stored on their computer or phone. This is the kind of information that might keep some people awake at night, but rather than being afraid of it, is good to be aware of just how valuable this information is in deciding as far as passing the information on when someone passes away.

 

If you’re a businessman and if you have very critical data stored on digital folders, it’s important that the information in said folders get passed on, but in order to facilitate that kind of transaction, you need to make sure you have the right contractual set-up to make that happen. This is precisely the kind of thing estate planning was made for. So, when planning your estate, make sure you keep an organized record of all of the digital information you have stored. If you have very sensitive or secure information, always remember that when planning an estate, you have a trusted lawyer who will not be able to share any of that information to anyone. This will ensure that you keep discretionary information secured from those that do not need to know.

 

Overall, this is the kind of information that plenty of people tend to overlook, but in the event that you need to do a good job, you’ll be able to rest assured that your critical files and information will all be safely guarded from those that might otherwise want to do harm.

 

Final Thoughts

 

When it comes to estate planning, always make sure you keep some sort of itemized list of your digital items. Because people often keep everything digital, it’s hard to have a physical document or idea that establishes what stays and what gets passed on. Sure, estate planning is never a fun thing to do, but you’ll never regret having done it, especially when it comes to passing on digital assets to your loved ones.

 

Now that you know which digital assets are essential for having in your estate plan, it’s time to have a team of asset protection lawyers to ensure your digital assets are safe and sound. Titanium Asset Protection not only has a team of motivated and professional lawyers with decades of combined experienced in estate planning and asset protection, but they specialize in ensuring your digital assets will be preserved and passed on regardless of the circumstances. To learn more or get a free consultation, visit mullhoferlaw.com or call (714) 827-9955.

Frivolous ADA Lawsuits Being Filed Against California Business Owners

Americans with Disabilities ACT

Laws are setup to establish and maintain order within a society to protect individuals and businesses.  When laws are abused for financial gain, most often small business are targeted because they have little knowledge of the law and their rights, and may be afraid to challenge accusations for fear of additional retribution.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established by then president George Bush “to prohibit employment discrimination, and impose requirements on access to public facilities, transportation and telecommunications” (PBS). The ADA helps many individuals; however, greedy lawyers take advantage of the law and target small businesses who violate some ADA laws regarding access to facilities. Local attorney Rick Blake works with small business owners that have unintentionally violated ADA codes to protect them from the abuses of predatory lawyers who use various tactics to “make a buck.” He does not dispute that the defendants (his clients) have violated the laws, but he recognizes that there needs to be leniency and a grace period for the client to fix the violation and bring it up to code. He tries to protect his clients from exorbitant attorney fees and additional abuses. Even though the ADA improves the lives of many people, many businesses are being taken advantage of with little opportunity to help themselves before they face potential financial problems, and  lawmakers recognize that the laws need to be amended to protect businesses and reduce opportunistic claims.

The ADA was created to protect individuals with disabilities allowing for fair and easy access to public transportation and public facilities including concert venues, restrooms in restaurants and shops, and other small businesses. National chains such as Walmart and McDonalds, have teams of lawyers and heaps of money to monitor regulations and make necessary  legal changes to comply with the codes. Unfortunately, this law, that set out to protect the disabled now hurts small business by abusing them with “an army of professional plaintiffs statewide” whose goal it is to make money at everyone’s expense (Brown).

ADA allows for all disabled people to have fair and equal access to all facilities, transportation, and communications regardless of their disability, and more importantly, all businesses must comply with the laws. The laws are regularly updated to conform with the needs of disabled members of the community.  The most recent updates to the ADA were on November 21, 2016 and this “final rule provides that public accommodations that own, operate, or lease movie theaters are required to provide closed movie captioning and audio description whenever showing a digital movie that is produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features” (ADA.gov). The changes that the ADA implemented undoubtedly changed the lives for millions of disabled people throughout the country for the positive. The Department of Justice revises and updates the laws as well as monitors and enforces the laws. If businesses are out of compliance or disabled persons feel they are discriminated against, the DOJ will advise on the proceedings and how punishment and resolutions will take place.

Once the ADA was put into force, businesses had to comply with the new laws and implement the necessary changes at their own expense to allow disabled persons to access the businesses as any other person would. The cost of making the changes could be costly at first however, the expenses could be recouped as more people would now be able to shop or eat in restaurants that had been previously “architecturally” difficult to move in (building principles).

If a business has been cited for being out of compliance, it “has 15 days to fix the complaint” (Wang). Small businesses at times could be at a disadvantage and not be able to adhere to the laws because of financial restrictions or new building and safety codes that would require a large-scale renovation.  Many smaller businesses have been targeted because “California [is] such a target-rich environment for ADA litigation” and “small businesses [are] terrorized by serial litigants” who prey on them and take advantage of the fact they are out of compliance and are willing to cooperate at whatever the cost to not lose their businesses (oc register).  California “accounts for a whopping 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits (though the state makes up only 12 percent of the U.S. population)” and many attorneys come here knowing that they will be successful in filing minor claims (oc register).

Many small businesses comply with the laws regarding ease access into and out of buildings and restrooms, however predatory attorneys love California because it is easy and financially beneficial “to file frivolous lawsuits based on minor and technical deficiencies”(Brown). In San Jose, California, a serial ADA lawsuit filer, Scott Johnson, claimed that a gas station bathroom was out of compliance and that his client (that he paid to make the claim) would scald his legs on the hot water pipes as he rolled his wheel chair up to the sink. The owner of this business, Com Tam Thanh, was sued even though “we don’t even get hot water in here” and at no point was the wheelchair client in harm’s way(Gafni).

There is a small minority of serial litigants who go out of their ways to find potential business through trivial lawsuits. “Mega-filer” Theodore Pinnock has filed “well over 2,000 ADA/accessibility lawsuits and hundreds of allegations of false claims” and ” has offered monetary compensation (1) to identify properties with disabled accessibility issues, and/or (2) for visiting properties with such conditions for purposes of creating claims to file lawsuits” (ADA Abuse). Typically, the predatory attorney will send an investigator or CASp inspector, both of whom are paid a fee, to inspect various businesses to see if they are potentially out of compliance. If the business does not comply with ADA laws the predatory attorney will send in a handicapped individual to make an official claim. After making the claim the attorney then writes a demand letter stating what needs to be fixed and the amount of compensation required. The lawyer then will file a lawsuit to the courts stating what laws have been broken an then the defendant will have 30 days to file a written answer to the court. If the parties have not come to settlement terms in the allotted time the case will go to court and it may take up to a year before it is heard by a judge and a jury in a trial setting.

Fringe businesses such as liquor stores, smoke shops, and adult stores are easily targeted because of the type of goods they provide and want as little attention as possible.  For these shops, paying off the attorney results in the least time consuming and least expensive method to avoid court. Even though the “shake down” method does not violate the law nor would it be considered morally wrong the “law is well intended but sometimes, I think abused by certain attorneys” who are out for financial gain (Blake). Harassment and extortion seem to be the goals of predatory attorneys while they sit back and collect fees. Predatory attorney’s have teams including expert witnesses, paid witnesses, and handicapped individuals who all play an expert role in abusing shop owners in their quest for money. When attorneys sue small businesses, the businesses are intimidated and have little understanding of  the law and they do not attempt to fight back.

The law firm of Pinnock and Wakefield has filed more than 2,000 ADA lawsuits and several hundred allegations of false claims which have sparked concerns in the California courts.  As the courts encounter more of these frivolous lawsuits, they are stepping in to monitor and regulate the cases that are being presented. The ADA compliance laws are fairly strict in their interpretation and implementation, however, judges have the ability to deal with “mega-filers of ADA/accessibility lawsuits [and] sanctioned [against] them for deceptive and punishable conduct” (ADA Abuse).  The courts recognize these abuses and see how predatory attorneys take advantage of the laws as they are repeatedly seen in the courtroom with the same types of claims over and over.  Recognizing that he took advantage of the legal system and business owners, “Pinnock was forced to resign with “disciplinary charges pending”, he was suspended of his right to practice law after San Diego Superior Court Judge Julia C. Kelety concluded that he “stole” from a disabled minor in another case” (ADA Abuse).

One such plaintiff James Cohan has filed at least 180 lawsuits throughout southern California. Cohan claims that he’s disabled with end-stage emphysema his hobby is suing small businesses who are “violating the Americans with Disabilities Act”(Brown). Cohan also claims that he needs a walker or wheelchair to get around and because of his condition he is limited to what work he is able to do. He uses these cases to create an income and “technically, legally they’re all frivolous…” and  “…arguably, he could be subjected to monetary sanctions…arguably his attorneys could be sanctioned if they knew, which is frankly why they’ve dismissed all the cases”(Brown). Ironically James Cohan was caught by “Eyewitness News… after his daily hike up a steep hill near his Sun Valley home. He was hiking without a wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank”(Brown). He is the perfect example of a person who not only harasses and extorts the small businesses but also has the law on his side because “technically” the buildings are noncompliant. Even though he claims, “I told you I do it out of the goodness of my heart because I’d like people to be in compliance with the ADA, I don’t make any money doing this”(Brown). His attorneys recognized the frivolous claims and “arguably his attorneys could be sanctioned if they knew, which is frankly why they’ve dismissed all the cases”(Brown). This is just a small example of how the law is abused and small businesses are taken advantage of. Cohan even went so far as to sue small business owner Betty Joseph whose building was in full compliance. These types of claims are growing and small businesses are starting to fight back.

These frivolous lawsuits are piling up around the state and the courts are overwhelmed. It has come to a point that “this plague upon the state’s civil justice system has risen to such a level that it can no longer be ignored by lawmakers in Sacramento” and with the small businesses being targeted, change is on its way(oc register). Small businesses are not denying the acquisitions of being out of compliance, however, they just want more leniency and fairness on the issue. For example Com Tam Thanh acknowledges that he is in violation, but should not be sued and penalized for not having the equipment to cover the hot water pipes in the men’s bathroom because he does not even get hot water in that facility. This poses no danger to anyone and only wastes the courts time and bottom line hurts a business owner trying to perform a service in the community. As more and more of these cases come to court they waste the court’s, the attorney’s, and the small businesses’ times. California has been named “the No. 1 ‘Judicial Hellhole’  in the nation last year by the American Tort Reform Foundation”(Daily News). Legislatures are recognizing that changes to the system need to be implemented and are getting input from small businesses to help them improve the law. It has been suggested that

“several legislative proposals would reform the system simply by requiring the aggrieved party to submit their complaints about alleged ADA violations to business owners in writing, and then allowing businesses a reasonable amount of time, usually 90 or 120 days, to fix any problems before civil litigation could be filed. Such federal bills include H.R. 241, the ACCESS Act of 2015, from Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, and H.R. 4719, the COMPLI Act, from Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton”(Daily News).

These federal bills are much more reasonable than the previous 30 day amount of time and predatory attorneys may be slow to file as they recognize they can no longer intimidate and harass small business owners into paying. The original intent of the ADA was to protect individuals’ with disabilities, but greedy attorneys and plaintiffs have abused this law and have taken advantage of small business owners who may be out of compliance but certainly are not stopping those with disabilities from entering their businesses with slightly faded signs or a “curb painted the wrong shade of blue”(Daily News). California state has proposed several senate bills including SB 1142, SB 269, and SB 1186 that have been used to promote the benefits of the ADA while curbing the abuses of predatory attorneys.

In California on September 19th, 2012 Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB1186 the disabled access law. There was wide acceptance for this law as it was passed 77-0 in the state assembly and 34-3 in the state senate and went immediately into effect. The main highlights of SB1186 include giving certain “business 60 days to fix an ADA violation and their statutory damages may be reduced from $4,000 to $1,000 – a 75 percent reduction and SB 1186 ends ‘demand for money’ letters from attorneys. Letters can still be sent to a business alerting them of a potential violation or infraction, but the letter can’t include a ‘demand for money'”(ADA Compliance Consultants). Even though these bills have helped many small businesses, there are still many that are being taken advantage of. After working with Rick Blake it was evident that people are still easily manipulated and coerced into paying off demand letters out of fear of violating the law and potentially losing their businesses.

Even1 though these laws are enforced the ADA laws are strict and clear in terms of what violates the law and how the violators should be punished.  Many supporters of the ADA feel that few concessions should be given to small businesses who violate ADA laws because it is the

1 Counter Claim – 2 paragraphs

small businesses responsibility to know and understand the law. Small businesses can easily

request the services of CASp inspectors to evaluate their properties to see whether they are compliant or not.

CASp inspectors know and understand the laws and can bring businesses into compliance. As a small businesses owners should also be aware of changing laws and changes within city codes, because it is ultimately their responsibility. They should have money set aside as well as a contingency plan for potential issues that could come up. If owners just read the guidelines and take time out of their day to make sure their entire business is up to code they would never even have to step foot in court.

The ADA laws were set into motion to prohibit discrimination of disabled individuals in all areas of public life and in the workplace. The benefits of these laws have helped thousands of disabled individuals access venues from concerts to grocery stores and have helped provide them with a better quality of life. However, these laws have been taken to task by predatory attorneys who strictly adhere to the laws and attack small businesses for minor infractions that do not jeopardize access to venues for the disabled. Attorneys have the law on their side so they can easily scare small businesses into paying more than they should to fix these violations. Recently new bills have been created to limit coercive actions and unfair lawsuits against small businesses, however, after working with Rick Blake it is obvious that more needs to be done to protect these small businesses.

Highlights of the New CA LLC Act (RULLC)

The California Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (RULLC) has been in place since January 2015. These rules are intended to bring CA LLC regulations in line with other states so that state to state or multi-state businesses run in agreement.

Provisions of the RULLC provide that the original law will still govern all LLC contracts established prior to January 1, 2014. However, those entered after January 1, 2014 must adhere to the new regulations. We shall briefly discuss the highlights of the new RULLC in the following article.

Indemnification

Under the new law, the LLC must indemnify managers and managing members as long as they are in compliance with their statutory duties. If they do not wish to be indemnified, they must amend their operating agreement to override the original rule.

Capital Contributions

The previous law stated that capital contributions were accepted in the form of property, capital, a promissory note, or services rendered. However, the new law allows that “any benefit” provided to the LLC is applicable.

Member Voting

All matters must be approved by every member of the LLC. An exception to this is if the matter is “outside the ordinary course of business.” However, this term is not outlined so this can lead to management disputes.

Managerial Issues

The new law provides that both the article in question and operating agreement must be manager managed. The exception to this is included in the sale of assets, a merger, any amendment to the operation agreement and any act outside of the ordinary course of business.

Operating Agreements

In accordance with the new RULLC, if a record or article that is filed with the Secretary of State conflicts with the set terms of the original print agreement,  the operating agent will rule.

Tax Allocations

Under the new law, tax allocations of profits and losses are to be determined by the operating agreement.

Disassociation

According to the new law, disassociated members cannot conduct business with the LLC or have access to any company information. Disassociation occurs upon the death of a member of the LLC, if a member is ruled by jury as incapacitated, or if they have become bankrupt.

Fiduciary Duties

The new RULLC specifies that the members or managers who possess control of the LLC owe a “duty of care/duty of loyalty” to those non-conforming members when it comes to fiduciary duties. The duty of loyalty is limited to enumerated activities. Duty of care is thereby limited to refrain from reckless conduct, gross negligence, and intentional misconduct.

If you have any questions regarding the changes in the new RULLC, please contact us at (714) 827-9955. A member of our staff will gladly answer all concerns, and clear up any areas of confusion.

The Importance of Executing a Durable Power of Attorney & Health Care Directive for Your College Age Children

When you think about a Power of Attorney, the first thing that comes to mind is an elderly parent or family member who is incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions in legal or medical matters.  In most cases, we do not consider our college-aged children when we think of Power of Attorney. However, it is wise to appoint a durable Power of Attorney for your child before they leave home for college. This also applies in the event your child travels overseas or moves away from home once they have reached legal age.

Imagine this:  your child is away at college, perhaps in another state. You receive a late-night phone call saying that they have become ill or have been in a serious accident and are unresponsive. If you have not appointed a durable Power of Attorney, you will not be able to receive any information, due to HIPPA rules and regulations, about the condition of your legally aged child over 18 years.

However, if you have taken the time to draft a proper durable Power of Attorney, which appoints you as their legal agent, you will be able to receive information and make any necessary medical decisions on their behalf. This could mean the difference between life or death in some situations. Proper planning on your end can literally save the life of your legally aged child.

You should establish a Healthcare derivative on their behalf, particularly if your child has any ongoing or pre-existing medical conditions.  It is critical that their needs for medication or treatments are met if for any reason they are unable to communicate this information to a medical professional. You and your child should sit down together and discuss the need for determining a Power of Attorney.  Then you should meet with your lawyer to finalize the matter, making sure that all of the necessary documentation is in place.

What Should a Power of Attorney Cover for?

Your College Age Children

  1. Medical Issues

As mentioned above, it is crucial to have a durable Power of Attorney should your child suffer from a serious accident or injury while away at college. You would then have the ability to make medical decisions on their behalf. This also applies to sudden illnesses. Also, if your child has an existing medical issue or disability, you will be able to remain  actively involved in their medical care.

    2. Legal Matters

Should your child be involved in a legal matter while away at school and is unable to make it home for any meetings or court dates, a durable Power of Attorney will allow you to speak on their behalf.

    3. Financial Matters

If there are any business or financial matters that involve your child, you will be able to make decisions for them and speak on their behalf should they not be able to do so. This also gives you the authority to pay any bills that are in their name while they are away.  Additionally, it will give you the ability to withdraw money from their bank account for any emergencies as well as wire money between yours and their accounts.

If you or your child have any questions regarding durable Power of Attorney or Healthcare Derivatives, please contact us at (714) 827-9955. We can provide you and your family with peace of mind.

We have years of experience with durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare derivatives. We will advise you as to what needs to be done before your child leaves the nest. As soon as your child turns 18, please contact us to take care of any legal documentation required to set up a durable Power of Attorney.

The Costs to Probate an Estate in California

The cost of probate is not something that one typically takes into consideration until the time actually comes to set up a probate. One would assume that the fee would be the same as a standard estate attorney fee like setting up a standard will and so forth. However, the state of California statutory provisions determine attorney fees when it comes to the probate process.

What is probate?

Probate is the name given to the legal process of distribution of assets to the designated beneficiaries after the death of the heir. This process also will validate any existing last will and testament. If there is no will, the estate will be disbursed under the intestate succession laws of the state of California.

What factors are involved in the cost of a probate in CA?

When you are paying for the probate process in California, you are paying for more than just your attorney. Your attorney is responsible for the following (among others, depending on the specifics of the probate):

  • Consultations with the executor of the estate
  • Court representation
  • Paperwork preparation
  • Any Consultations with family members of the deceased
  • Tax return preparations for the estate
  • Property maintenance costs
  • Any fees if the property is for sale

 

Other fees involved in the probate process are as follows:

  • CPA/tax attorney
  • Real estate appraiser
  • Any advertising costs
  • Probate court costs
  • Surety bond

Every case is different and might involve additional costs. These are just the most common factors that can contribute to the overall cost of the probate process.

 

What is the cost of probate process in the state of CA?

Following is the breakdown of the state statute percentages according to the state of California for the probate process:

  • 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million
  • .5% of the next $15 million

The estate attorney will receive one half of the lump sum and the other half will go to the executor of the will.

The following is a reference for estimated probate costs based on the above:

 

PROBATE ESTATE VALUES TOTAL ATTORNEY AND EXECUTOR FEES*
$100,000 $8,000
$200,000 $14,000
$300,000 $18,000
$400,000 $22,000
$500,000 $26,000
$600,000 $30,000
$700,000 $34,000
$800,000 $38,000
$900,000 $42,000
$1,000,000 $46,000
$2,000,000 $66,000
$3,000,000 $86,000
$4,000,000 $106,000
$5,000,000 $126,000

 

 

Is there a way to avoid or reduce these costs?

The best way to avoid these exuberant fees is to set a plan now, so your family can avoid these fees after your death.  One alternative is to opt for a living trust instead of, or in addition to, a will. A living trust is not subject to probate. All your assets and property will be disbursed to your designated beneficiaries via your appointed trustee. There are no court fees and the entire process only takes a few weeks as opposed to the long drawn out probate process. Once the property has been disbursed according the living will, it is null and void and therefore cannot be contested.

 

At Titanium Asset Protection, we understand that you want to make the probate process as smooth and cost-effective as possible for your loved ones. Your family has enough to handle in dealing with their loss, so we will do everything in our power to help make this process less intimidating. Please contact us at (714)-827-9955 for a free consultation. A member of our experienced team will gladly answer any questions or concerns you might have regarding the probate process.

 

Transitioning or Converting Your California Business from A Sole Proprietor To S-Corp & the Tax Savings in Self-Employment Taxes

If your business is suffering as a result of recent changes in the economy and you are considering converting to an S-Corp, there are some things you need to take into consideration. There are advantages to switching off, such as tax benefits. In this article, we’ll discuss what is involved in switching over from a sole proprietor an S-Corp and the advantages involved with that.

Advantages of Converting a Sole Proprietorship to a Corporation

●     As a corporation, you will have limited liability protection. This means that in the event that you are involved in a lawsuit, the corporation’s assets are at risk rather than your personal assets.

●       It will be easier to split your profits and income with your staff through the use of dividends.

●       The tax rate is lower for a corporation that it is a sole proprietor.

As you can see, there are advantages of switching to an S-corporation. Following we will give you a brief guide as to how to make the transition.

●       Adding “LLC” or “Inc” to your company name can greatly increase your credibility as a reputable business.

●       As a corporation, you are eligible for more tax reductions than you would be as sole proprietor.

●       You will have more stock options as an S-Corp than as a sole proprietor.

The Transition Process

It is advised that you seek legal counsel to ensure that the transition is a smooth one, and that everything is done legally. Following are the steps you need to take to make the transition from a sole proprietor to an S-corporation for the purpose of tax reductions.

First, you need to file for corporate status. Make sure you adhere to the proper guidelines. You need to form a board of directors, file the necessary paperwork with the California Secretary of State, draft your company by-laws and establish a corporate bank account. Also, you should check to see if your chosen name of your corporation is available for use in the state of California.

Next, you need to apply for an Employer Identification Number or EIN. This will be your number for federal tax identification for tax filing purposes.  It will also be used for payroll purposes and banking such as obtaining a line of credit for your business or opening a business account. You can apply for your EIN on the IRS websit, or call the IRS 800 number (1-800-829-3993). In addition, you a mail in or fax your completed Form SS-4 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Third, you will need to file with the IRS for S-corporation status by completing Form 2253 within 2 months and 15 days prior to the beginning of the first business day as an S-Corporation.

Next, you would need to transfer your assets from your sole proprietorship to your S-Corporation. This includes both tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets include company vehicles, office machinery, furniture and equipment and so forth. Intangible assets are those assets that are not psychical in nature such as trademarks, patents, and copyrights.  Essentially intangible assets are the estimated value of the company’s brand and reputation.

Make sure that you have filed for the necessary permits and licenses required by the state and county government such as re-sellers permit, health permit and any other required professional certifications, permits or licenses. You might have to reapply for the aforementioned when you are making the switch from a sole proprietor to an S-Corporation. Check to make sure that all of your permits, and so forth are up to date with your city, county and state government to ensure that you do not incur any fines in the future.

If you have any questions or need assistance during your transition from a sole proprietor to an S-Corporation, please contact us at (714)-827-9955. Our staff will assist you with any concerns you may have. We have years of experience and expertise in dealing with corporate law and asset protection. You can count on us for expert legal advice!

 

The Tax Advantages of Being a Landlord

The promise of ‘tax breaks’ for investing in real estate is one of the biggest draws, but what are they?

Minimizing taxes is often promoted as one of the top reasons to invest in real estate. Yet, few investors are aware of what those tax advantages are and how they can be maximized. That often leads to thousands of extra dollars being shelled out to the tax man each year. So what are the real breaks available?

Here are five ways to lower your taxes as a landlord, plus a couple of extra power strategies to investigate…

Depreciation

Depreciation is one of the biggest tax breaks for landlords. Properties and improvements degrade and become worn over time. You can get a tax credit for that. Under the new PATH Act some types of properties can enjoy accelerated depreciation, and their landlords get bigger breaks sooner. Note that this is one of the few deductions out there that mortgage lenders will allow you to add back to your qualifying income when applying for loans.

Financing Costs

Mortgage interest, lender points, and other financing fees may all potentially become tax deductions. That can be a big motivator and perk for using financial leverage to grow a portfolio faster and earlier.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Yes, you can actually write off other types of taxes you pay in conjunction with investing in real estate when it comes time to file your taxes. You can also deduct what you pay in accounting and tax preparation fees. That’s a big reason to get the best tax prep help you can get.

Losses

Some real estate investors and business owners may experience net paper losses in the first couple of years. Those losses may be used to offset other earned household income. These essentially become credits against other income tax liability, and maybe rolled over to cover future year’s liability. Don’t overlook this one.

Property Management

It’s sad to see so many real estate investors running themselves ragged, taking on extra liability, and hurting their net profits all because they think they are saving by not using professional property management. Ironically those ‘costs’ can be a tax break too.

More Miscellaneous Expenses and Tax Breaks for Landlords

According to Landlordology and House Logic some of the other commonly neglected breaks for landlords include advertising expenses, payroll and commissions paid, property maintenance, insurance premiums, and legal fees.

Advanced Tax Strategies for Serious Real Estate Investors

While LLCs, SDIRAs, 1031 exchanges, and other asset protection tools can add another layer of tax write-offs and defense, and are frequently referred to as ‘advanced’, they should be utilized by far more investors. Don’t wait till you’ve got a big tax bill to try and fix the situation. These tools can open the doors to breaks for offices, vehicles, communications, education, and more, as well as shielding investors from taxes on gains so they can snowball and enjoy compounding results for decades.

Disclaimer: It is always crucial talk to your own individual licensed professionals for custom advice and to create a real tax strategy before making any financial moves.

Authored by Matthew C. Mullhofer, PC

Matt is a licensed California attorney specializing in asset protection, trusts, corporate law, succession planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and tax law. He has successfully represented clients to the highest levels of the justice system in fighting to protect them, and their finances. Matt has served as the Ethics Chairman for Le Tip International, The Chapter of Orange for 15 years, and is a member of the revered Wealth Counsel.

 

What are the Costs to Probate an Estate in California? Orange County

What are the costs to probate an estate in CA?

It’s not something most want to think about. Yet, the costs of avoiding dealing with these questions can make that inevitable moment even harder for everyone. Avoiding this conversation and taking the simple smart actions to ensure an estate is passed on to designated heirs, can mean the complete waste of a lifetime of work and discipline, and sets a precedent likely to be repeated by those you love too.

If you don’t think it’s that serious, just consider the costs and consequences of failing to prepare.

The Costs of Probate in California

There are multiple fees and costs associated with probate in CA, including:

  • ·        Court filing fees
  • ·        Estate appraisal fees
  • ·        Compensation to attorneys and representatives

The basic statutory fees for a probate case in California scale in relation to the value of the estate. This can range from $4,000 to over $163,000. The court can also allow or assess greater fees for cases they consider complex, or which have higher values.

The Pros & Cons of the Probate Process

There is an advantage of allowing an estate to fall into the probate court. That is allowing for a judge to hear arguments and solve disputes between competing heirs. However, the cons can include; elimination of privacy, risk of your desires not being fulfilled, and extended processing times. That’s all in addition to the costs.

If an estate has to go through the probate process in California it means months of legal hoops, stress, and filing papers. Some may just not make it through that. At best it can mean heirs are left without access to financial resources and assets while the cases hangs in the balance.

Ways to Lower the Risk, Costs & Time Associated with Probate

Fortunately, there are several ways to lower and avoid the risks, costs, taxation, and time frames associated with probate of an estate in CA.

This includes:

  • ·        Wills
  • ·        Durable powers of attorney
  • ·        Trusts
  • ·        Corporations

If you want to avoid the cons of probate, this is time to get proactive and talk to an expert about putting the right legal protections in place.

 

Authored by Titanium Asset Protection

Titanium Asset Protection is an elite asset protection firm with licensed California attorneys on staff who specialize in asset protection, trusts, corporate law, succession planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and tax law. Our team has successfully represented clients to the highest levels of the justice system in fighting to protect them, and their finances, with lead counsel Matt serving as the Ethics Chairman for Le Tip International, The Chapter of Orange for 15 years, being an honored member of the revered Wealth Counsel.

Sole proprietorship vs. S Corp Taxes

Can small business owners save on taxes by switching their entity types?

Although we have a new president who has sworn to cut taxes and boost American business, many independent professionals and small business owners are still feeling the burden of taxation. Many have gone into business for themselves to earn more and profit more, but can find they are almost worse off, and are pocketing less after tax time comes around. What can be done?

One commonly posed solution is switching entity types, or opting to be taxed differently. Every tax professional and attorney may have their own opinion of the best structure. Some of the options may include switching from sole proprietor to S-Corp. S-Corp to C Corp. Offshore trust to domestic LLC and so on.

Each entity has its own pros and cons. Different legal entities may have more or less advantages at different stages of business, and for different business strategies. However, let’s take a look at just one of these potential shifts and the benefits to be gained. Sole proprietors bear a big tax burden. This is especially true when it comes to self-employment taxes. Not all want to switch to a C Corp and all that comes with. Yet, there can be some potential perks of switching to a S-Corp. Most notably this is due to the difference in how income is taxed. As an S Corp owner only a portion of net proceeds needs to be taken as a salary. The rest can be taken as dividends, or reinvested in the business. You may even be able to back date these changes and enjoy more tax savings, or losses which can be carried forward to offset income in future years.

How do you change from sole proprietor to S Corporation? It’s smart to work with both your tax professional and attorney to make the right choice. Then have a corporate attorney file the necessary documents for you with the department of state. Note that the change isn’t 100% official until the change has been accepted and approved by the state.

You’ll also want to make sure all parts of your business are correctly rolled over to the new entity. This may include employment contracts, leases, business vehicles, bank accounts, business licenses, etc.

What’s most important for each self-employed person and small business owner to consult relevant professionals who can give expert and personalized advice for their individual situation.

 

Authored by Titanium Asset Protection

Titanium Asset Protection is an elite asset protection firm with licensed California attorneys on staff who specialize in asset protection, trusts, corporate law, succession planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and tax law. Our team has successfully represented clients to the highest levels of the justice system in fighting to protect them, and their finances, with lead counsel Matt serving as the Ethics Chairman for Le Tip International, The Chapter of Orange for 15 years, being an honored member of the revered Wealth Counsel.