What is the status of estate planning for same sex couples?

What is the status of estate planning for same sex couples?

Public Act 09-13 was recently passed by the Connecticut Legislature and signed by Governor Jodi Rell.  This Public Act changes the legal definition of “marriage” in Connecticut to mean the legal union of two persons.  Connecticut previously defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  This Public Act also transforms existing civil unions into marriages as of October 1, 2010, unless the civil union has been previously annulled or dissolved, or is in the process of dissolution.   

If you have questions regarding this new Public Act or would like to learn more about estate planning for same sex couples, we would be pleased to meet with you, discuss your questions and address your specific family circumstances.

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What is a Severance Agreement?

What is a Severance Agreement?

In the absence of a contract that obligates an employer to provide benefits beyond COBRA health coverage to a terminated employee, there is no legal obligation for most employers to do so. Nevertheless, many employers voluntarily choose to offer an employee a severance package upon the termination of the employee’s employment. In order to receive the benefits offered by the employer, the employee will be asked to sign a Severance Agreement, sometimes referred to as a Separation Agreement or a Termination Agreement. Such Agreements typically state that the employee’s acceptance of the benefits provided in the Severance Agreement constitutes a waiver of most claims the employee may have against the employer. The specific terms of a Severance Agreement are very important and should be carefully reviewed by both employer and employee.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can prepare and/or review a Severance Agreement that protects your interests.

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What is owner’s title insurance and why do I need it?

What is owner’s title insurance and why do I need it?

When you purchase a home, your lender will insist that you have a title insurance policy for the amount of your mortgage loan. It is important that you also have coverage to insure your ownership interest. There are many potential defects in title that simply cannot be discovered, even with a careful title search. A few examples include forged deeds, unreleased mortgages or other liens, claims by Indian nations, and transfers by persons without legal capacity. For a modest price, an owner’s title insurance policy will give you coverage for any such title defects.

We would be pleased to answer your questions about title insurance or any other aspects of your home purchase.  

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What is a statute of limitations?

What is a statute of limitations?

It is a legal doctrine that requires you to start a lawsuit against the person who has injured you within a certain period of time after you have been injured. In most cases, the statute of limitations requires that the suit be started no later than two years from the date of your injury. In some cases, the period may be extended to three years from the date of your injury. If you do not start a lawsuit within the required time period, your right to do so is barred.

Rules concerning the statute of limitations are construed very strictly. If you have been injured, please contact us immediately. An important part of our responsibility is to assure that your lawsuit is started before the statute of limitations expires.

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Summer 2009

Dear Friends:

This is the eighth newsletter I have sent to clients since January, 2006. As many of you know, I recently have welcomed Attorneys Allison M. DePaola and Bernard J. Kito, III to my staff and they have participated in writing this newsletter. We expect to continue to provide the same careful, individually crafted, personalized, and cost effective legal counsel, advice, and representation that I have provided many of you in the areas of law discussed in this and earlier newsletters. In addition to these practice areas, we now will provide counsel, advice, and representation in all aspects of family law, and in employment law including subjects such as unemployment compensation, hiring and termination, and other employment issues.

Personal Injury Cases: What is a statute of limitations? It is a legal doctrine that requires you to start a lawsuit against the person who has injured you within a certain period of time after you have been injured. In most cases, the statute of limitations requires that the suit be started no later than two years from the date of your injury. In some cases, the period may be extended to three years from the date of your injury. If you do not start a lawsuit within the required time period, your right to do so is barred.

Rules concerning the statute of limitations are construed very strictly. If you have been injured, please contact us immediately. An important part of our responsibility is to assure that your lawsuit is started before the statute of limitations expires.

Medicaid planning: New rules concerning continuing care retirement communities: In most instances the equity in a home owned by husband and wife is an “excluded asset” for Medicaid eligibility purposes. However, if husband and wife sell their home and use the proceeds as an entrance fee to a continuing care retirement community, new rules say that in most instances the entrance fee no longer is an “excluded asset”, but, rather, now is an “available asset”. The change is the combined result of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (effective as of February 8, 2006) and proposed changes to the Connecticut Uniform Policy Manual (“UPM”). The UPM is the Manual used to administer the Connecticut Medicaid program.

Please contact our office immediately if you are considering a move to a continuing care retirement community. We may be able to negotiate language in the entrance agreement that will avoid this harsh result.

Estate planning: What is the status of estate planning for same sex couples?

Public Act 09-13 was recently passed by the Connecticut Legislature and signed by Governor Jodi Rell.  This Public Act changes the legal definition of “marriage” in Connecticut to mean the legal union of two persons.  Connecticut previously defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  This Public Act also transforms existing civil unions into marriages as of October 1, 2010, unless the civil union has been previously annulled or dissolved, or is in the process of dissolution.

If you have questions regarding this new Public Act or would like to learn more about estate planning for same sex couples, we would be pleased to meet with you, discuss your questions and address your specific family circumstances.

Real estate transactions: What is owner’s title insurance and why do I need it? When you purchase a home, your lender will insist that you have a title insurance policy for the amount of your mortgage loan. It is important that you also have coverage to insure your ownership interest. There are many potential defects in title that simply cannot be discovered, even with a careful title search. A few examples include forged deeds, unreleased mortgages or other liens, claims by Indian nations, and transfers by persons without legal capacity. For a modest price, an owner’s title insurance policy will give you coverage for any such title defects.

We would be pleased to answer your questions about title insurance or any other aspects of your home purchase.

Business entities: What is a Severance Agreement? In the absence of a contract that obligates an employer to provide benefits beyond COBRA health coverage to a terminated employee, there is no legal obligation for most employers to do so. Nevertheless, many employers voluntarily choose to offer an employee a severance package upon the termination of the employee’s employment. In order to receive the benefits offered by the employer, the employee will be asked to sign a Severance Agreement, sometimes referred to as a Separation Agreement or a Termination Agreement. Such Agreements typically state that the employee’s acceptance of the benefits provided in the Severance Agreement constitutes a waiver of most claims the employee may have against the employer. The specific terms of a Severance Agreement are very important and should be carefully reviewed by both employer and employee.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can prepare and/or review a Severance Agreement that protects your interests.

We hope you have found this newsletter informative and helpful. Please do not hesitate to call us if you, a family member, friend, or colleague requires legal services in any of the practice areas handled in our office. As always, we are here to serve our past and present clients, and we also welcome new referrals.

Very truly yours,

SPF/jm                                                                       STEVEN P. FLOMAN

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How have the rules changed concerning “immediate annuities” owned by a Medicaid applicant?

How have the rules changed concerning “immediate annuities” owned by a Medicaid applicant? 

The rules concerning Medicaid eligibility for an applicant or spouse of the applicant who owns an “immediate annuity” (one that is paying out a fixed monthly or yearly sum for a specified period of time) have changed dramatically. The changes are the combined result of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (effective as of February 8, 2006) and proposed changes to the Connecticut Uniform Policy Manual (“UPM”). The UPM is the Manual used to administer the Connecticut Medicaid program. Here are some of the changes.

  • Annuities purchased or annuitized after February 8, 2006 must be irrevocable, non-assignable, and actuarially sound.
  • Connecticut contends that all annuities, whether purchased or annuitized before or after February 8, 2006, must name the State as the primary beneficiary to the extent of Medicaid benefits actually paid out by the State. Although this position may violate federal law, no Court yet has ruled on the issue.
  • Connecticut contends that any immediate annuity owned by a Medicaid applicant is treated both as a source of income for the Medicaid applicant, and, as well, an asset owned by the applicant. Although this position may violate federal law, no Court yet has ruled on the issue.

If there is a reasonable possibility a family member will apply for Medicaid and the applicant or the applicant’s spouse either owns an annuity or is thinking of purchasing one, contact us for a full discussion of the new Medicaid annuity rules and how they may impact your family.

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New law effective as of October 1, 2009.

New law effective as of October 1, 2009. 

If you have been involved in an automobile accident that is not your fault, an important practical question is whether the at-fault driver has insurance, and, if so, how much? The minimum amount of liability insurance required in Connecticut is only $20,000.00 per person and $40,000.00 per incident. Often, that is insufficient to cover

damages sustained in a collision. A new law in Connecticut requires the at-fault driver’s insurance company to tell you exactly how much insurance the driver

has. Prior to the passage of this law, many insurance companies refused to do so. This new law is important because it fosters prompt settlement of claims,

often without the need to initiate a lawsuit. The new law applies to accidents occurring after October 1, 2009.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident, contact us immediately. We stay current on all changes in personal injury law and know what to do to protect your interests.

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Has a family member been injured in a nursing home?

Has a family member been injured in a nursing home?

Many families answer “yes” to that question. Injuries include bed sores, infections, bed, wheel chairs, or during transfers. Here are some ways in which the legal issues

choking on food, dehydration, incorrect medication, and fractured bones from falls from concerning a nursing home injury differ from those related to an injury sustained in an automobile collision.

  • Connecticut law requires the nursing home to maintain detailed records concerning patient care. These records often provide important clues about what happened. This is particularly important if the family member has some degree of cognitive limitation that impairs observation or communication skills.
  • Connecticut law requires the nursing home to file a report with the Connecticut Department of Public Health describing the injury, explaining how it happened, and outlining a course of action to prevent similar occurrences. This report also provides important clues about what happened.
  • Connecticut law has established a “Patients’ Bill of Rights” applicable to patients in nursing homes. The provisions of the Patients’ Bill of Rights are helpful in establishing a standard of care that must be followed by a nursing home. 

We successfully have represented the families of individuals who have been injured in nursing homes. In fact, one of our employees is a nurse with past experience working in a nursing home. We encourage you to contact us if a family member has been injured. You can access the Patients’ Bill of Rights and other information about nursing homes by visiting the Department of Public Health website at www.ct.gov/dph.

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What is the current status of the federal estate tax for assets passing to non-spouse beneficiaries?

What is the current status of the federal estate tax for assets passing to non-spouse beneficiaries?

To use a somewhat overused expression, it is “up in the air”.

  • The value of assets that can pass, federal estate tax free, to non-spouse beneficiaries increased to $3,500,000.00 on January 1, 2009; transfers between spouses remain tax-free in unlimited amounts.
  • In 2010, there is no federal estate tax at all.  
  • However, in 2011, the value of assets that can pass, federal estate tax free, to non-spouse beneficiaries is reduced to $1,000,000.00; the federal estate tax begins at 45% on the first dollar above $1,000,000.00.
  • Most commentators expect the law to change in 2009, but no one knows how it will change; there is a large federal deficit and the federal estate tax is a hot political issue.
  • The federal estate tax includes life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, assets in a revocable trust (living trust) and all other assets owned by a decedent.
  • Because of the broad scope of assets included as part of the federal estate tax base, many people are surprised to find that their estate may face a potential federal estate tax obligation. 

We would be glad to meet with you to help you prepare an estate plan that avoids or minimizes exposure to the federal estate tax.

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The importance of being licensed.

The importance of being licensed.

If your business requires licensing by a State agency, treat the requirement seriously. In Connecticut, many trades and professions are licensed through the Department of Consumer Protection.

  • A few examples of businesses that require licensing are health clubs, heating and cooling contractors, electricians, home improvement contractors, solar heating contractors, real estate appraisers, real estate brokers, and new home construction contractors; there are many others.
  • Connecticut Courts consistently apply the doctrine of “illegality” to prevent an unlicensed business from collecting money owed it pursuant to the terms of a written contract.
  •  
  • Connecticut Courts use the same doctrine of “illegality” to prevent the business from recovering the fair value of the work it has performed pursuant to a non-contractual theory of recovery referred to as “quantum meruit”.
  • You can obtain additional information about business licensing requirements by visiting the web site of the Department of Consumer Protection at www.ct.gov/dcp

If you are in business, contact us so we can help assure that your business has satisfied all licensing requirements.

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