Hearing Wait Time Decreases, but Overall Processing Time Continues to Rise at the Social Security Administration

Social Security Hearing TimesAs is often the case with Social Security, good news usually is followed by bad news. First, the good news: the number of cases awaiting Social Security hearings continues to drop. The bad news: the average time it takes for a claimant to receive a decision on a disability application continues to grow. As of March, the backlog of claims awaiting a hearing dropped below 1 million. The last time there were fewer than a million claims pending was November 2014.

The backlog decrease is largely due to declining numbers of hearing requests. So far in Fiscal Year 2018, there have been an average of 2,343 Social Security hearing requests each business day. That’s 141 fewer requests per day than 2017. The total number of hearing requests so far this year is 9.6% lower than at the same time last year.

The productivity of administrative law judges also has increased slightly, from 1.92 decisions per ALJ per work day in Fiscal Year 2017 to 1.97 decisions so far this year. In addition, Social Security has added 42 additional judges since the beginning of the year. Each judge receives 1.59 hearing requests per day and renders 1.97 decisions per day, resulting in a net reduction in the number of people waiting for a Social Security decision. However, as of February 2018, the average claim-processing time, from initial application to final decision, remains high at 607 days.

The increased processing time is primarily caused by a continued staffing deficit in decision-writing positions at Social Security. Social Security has tried pulling workers from other roles into decision writing, but that has caused slowdowns in other areas. The Social Security Administration continues to pay staff overtime in an effort to bring down the backlog, but overtime hours for the first five months of 2018 were down approximately 27.3% compared to last year. The $100 million in funds that Congress recently designated for backlog reduction may allow for increased overtime hours, but Social Security has not yet finalized its plan for spending the money.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that you have an attorney on your side when applying for disability. A hardworking, experienced attorney can help you avoid costly delays and even expedite your application if you meet certain criteria. If you are hurt, injured, or otherwise impaired, and you find yourself unable to work, contact Bailey & Galyen for a free case evaluation.

Immigration and Public Benefits: Facts, Fiction, and Current Proposals

Immigration LawA leaked draft executive order dramatically changes policies and practices long held by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State relating to admission of immigrants into the United States, grants of lawful permanent resident status to foreign nationals, and removal of out-of-status immigrants and persons in the country unlawfully. The draft order permits officers to scrutinize more closely any taxpayer-funded public benefits received by an intending immigrant—as well as those received by the immigrant’s U.S.-citizen children—when determining eligibility for immigration benefits or deciding whether to initiate removal proceedings.

Undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for public benefits. However, until 1996, lawful permanent residents were eligible for public benefits on the same terms as U.S. citizens. In 1996, the Clinton administration barred lawful permanent residents who have been in the U.S. fewer than five years from means-tested benefit programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). The 1996 law also created the “public charge” ground as a basis to deny admission to the U.S. or lawful permanent resident status for those considered to be primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) also contains a provision allowing for removal of any lawful permanent resident who becomes a public charge within the first five years of obtaining permanent resident status. Under the INA, a “public charge” is limited to those who receive cash welfare benefits or long-term, government-funded institutional care. The INA further requires each person petitioning for permanent resident status to have a sponsor sign an Affidavit of Support. The Affidavit serves as proof of the sponsor’s ability to financially support the petitioner so that he or she will not use public benefits. If the immigrant ever does receive public benefits, the government may seek reimbursement from the sponsor; however, actually obtaining reimbursement from the sponsor is rare due to the cost of enforcement.

The current guidelines regarding public charges specifically bar officers from taking into consideration an intending immigrant’s receipt of non-cash benefits when determining whether to admit an immigrant to the U.S., grant lawful permanent resident status, or initiate removal proceedings. The draft executive order reflects a huge departure by allowing officers to look at an immigrant’s receipt of any public benefit, including benefits received by the immigrant’s children, such as government-funded Head Start. The draft order also limits intending immigrants’ ability to file for child tax credits, even if the immigrant has a valid social security number and pays taxes. Though only in draft form now, the order has scared many intending immigrants, and advocates predict that many will take their children out of school programs and health and nutritional programs, thereby creating public health risks.

The Department of State has already revised its instructions to allow officials abroad to consider non-cash benefits received by an intending immigrant, his or her family members, or even his or her sponsor, when determining whether or not to admit the immigrant into the U.S.

It is important to note that under federal law, certain immigrants are not subject to the public charge determination, and this cannot be changed by regulation or executive order. Those not subject include immigrants granted asylum; those granted protection as victims of trafficking, domestic violence, or other crimes perpetrated in the United States; and those granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Also, lawful permanent residents applying to become U.S. citizens cannot be denied citizenship based on public-charge grounds.

There may be hope for certain immigrants subject to the public charge determination. The intending immigrant may use positive factors to tip the decision in his or her favor and prove that he or she will not use public benefits in the future. Factors that may be considered are current income, age, health, family members’ incomes, education, and employment opportunities.

If You Think It Is Expensive to Hire a Professional to Do a Job, Wait Until You Hire an Amateur

Family LawLike everyone else, I have to be careful with my money, and, whenever possible, I try to do a job myself rather than hire a professional. There are plenty of outlets to help you do it yourself in order to save a buck, including TurboTax, Home Depot, and various YouTube channels. This now applies even to legal matters. Plenty of people download forms from Intuit and other sites in order to make a will or lease property.

A few years ago, the Texas Supreme Court decided to provide forms that would allow people to handle their own divorce. The goal was laudable. Many people don’t have discretionary income to spend on a lawyer but make too much to qualify for legal aid. The forms provided are intended to be used by couples who don’t have a marital estate, property, or minor children. However, the implementation of this program has been nothing short of nightmarish. I don’t believe anyone other than a trained legal professional is capable of using these forms correctly. Even for legal professionals, the forms are confusing. Moreover, numerous people with minor children, or a marital estate, or other property try to use the forms.

Ask any attorney who practices family law, and they are likely to have plenty of horror stories about people who used the forms incorrectly, with devastating results. One woman came to me because she was trying to get her share of her ex-husband’s retirement account, and the retirement administrator told her she would need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). She had done the divorce herself using the forms published by the Texas Supreme Court. Their children were all grown. They didn’t have any property other than personal items (or so she thought). So why not use the forms? It turns out she did not award the retirement account to herself in the divorce decree. Thus, a QDRO was not possible. Yes, she probably saved a few thousand dollars on the divorce, but she lost several thousand dollars and a lifetime of income by doing it incorrectly.

In another instance, a woman had a sexual encounter with someone other than her husband during the course of her marriage and wound up pregnant as a result. Genetics being what they are, in time it became apparent that the child was not “of the marriage,” and the couple divorced. Once again, in order to save money, the couple handled her own divorce. Neither she, nor her husband, hired an attorney. They completed the forms incorrectly, and now, because of that, the husband is the legal father of the child. Eventually, the Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division, intervened because the woman could not afford insurance for the child and applied for Medicaid. Following standard procedure in such cases, the Attorney General filed suit against the former husband to have him pay child support and provide medical coverage for the child. The ex-husband protested that he wasn’t the father of the child; nevertheless, the court ordered him to pay child support for several years. The couple attempted to have the biological father named as the child’s legal father, but the time allowed for doing so had run out. The entire mess resulted from the fact that the couple used free forms to get divorced so they could save a little money.

These are only two examples among many. If you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do a job, wait until you hire an amateur. If you find yourself in need of a divorce, child support, or a will, call one of the professionals at Bailey & Galyen.

OWNERSHIP?

FOCUS ON OWNERSHIP: You can’t give away or sell what you don’t own!

Estate PlanningProperty rights are important under the law. Often, clients fail to consider the important question, “Who owns the property?” Ownership is not the same thing as possession. You can occupy a seat at a ballgame or concert as a licensee for the period of that event, but you don’t own the seat. You might rent a room or a house or 1,000 acres, but that does not mean that you own it.

When Dad dies, clients typically assume that Mom owns their property once Dad’s name is removed from the statements of the appraisal district, insurance company, and mortgage company. Mom may discover that assumption to be wrong when she tries to sell the property, borrow money for home improvements, or get a reverse mortgage. She also might be contacted by Dad’s children from a previous marriage about their ownership interest in the property. Sometimes, Mom dies without ever learning that half her property is titled in the name of Dad’s long-dead ex-wife. This is an unpleasant surprise for the next generation and adds time and expense to clearing title and wrapping up the estate.

The law also provides for many and varied interests in property that do not involve outright ownership. For example, a surviving husband might know his deceased wife held oil and gas interests. After researching the matter, though, he might discover his wife did not own those interests entirely but instead held a life estate in them. In such a case, upon the wife’s death, the oil and gas interests pass to the person holding the remainder of the estate, regardless of the wife’s wishes or her family’s understanding of her ownership of those interests.

If you need estate planning, or advice about probate, give us a call.

Third Party Workplace Injury Claims

Third Party Workplace Injury ClaimsWhen you’ve been injured in an accident at work in Texas, you have the right to seek benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. But that may not be your only recourse. Here’s how it works.

The workers’ compensation laws were set up as part of what’s often referred to as the “great bargain,” designed to provide benefits to both workers and employers. For workers, the workers’ compensation system allows you to recover benefits without a lot of the hassle and expense of filing a lawsuit. You may have to take your claim to a referee or workers’ compensation judge, but the process customarily takes a lot less time. If your claim is initially approved, you can be receiving benefits within a number of weeks. Compare that with a civil suit for damages, where it can take six months or more just to complete discovery and another year or more before you go to trial… and you won’t receive a single penny until the lawsuit has run its course, including appeals.

For employers, there’s also a benefit—you don’t have to worry about a sympathetic jury returning an exorbitant jury award to an injured employee. The workers’ compensation system has fixed benefits, based on the worker’s wages and degree of disability.

Workers’ compensations was designed to be the exclusive remedy for an injured worker for losses caused by the negligence of an employer or co-employee. In most instances, it is the only avenue of recourse. However, if the injuries suffered were caused, in whole or in part, by an unrelated third party, an injured person may seek damages from that third party in a separate lawsuit in civil court, in a proceeding unrelated to the workers’ compensation claim.

Accordingly, if your injuries were the result of negligence by someone other than your employer or a co-worker, you can file a lawsuit. In fact, if your employer or a co-employee was partially liable and a third party also had some liability, you can simultaneously file a workers’ compensation claim and a civil suit.

Examples of injuries for which you could file a third-party claim include:

  • Injuries suffered in a work-related motor vehicle accident, where the at-fault driver was neither your employer nor a co-employee
  • Injuries caused by the negligent design or manufacture of a product, tool, machine or device
  • Injuries caused by workers or conditions on property adjacent to that of your employer

It’s important to understand, though, that when you file a third party lawsuit, there are potential benefits and consequences. You won’t be limited to a fixed amount of damages, but you’ll also have to wait a long time before you see any compensation.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Does lighting strike twice? – Timelines for filing a new bankruptcy case.

Bankruptcy LawIf you have filed bankruptcy in the past and you find yourself in a position where you need to file again, you need expert legal advice to make sure you get it right. Job loss, divorce, medical emergencies, business closing, or other unexpected situations can all come together in a perfect storm to necessitate a new bankruptcy filing. Are you able to file bankruptcy again? The answer is usually “Yes” but you have to be careful to get the timing of your case right if your goal is to receive a new discharge on your outstanding debt. Below is a brief outline of the filing time periods between cases filed to receive a discharge in the subsequent bankruptcy filing:

PREVIOUS CASE DISCHARGE* NEW CASE REQUIREMENTS
Chapter 7 Discharge Chapter 7 8 Years
Chapter 7 Discharge Chapter 13 4 Years
Chapter 13 Discharge Chapter 13 2 Years
Chapter 13 Discharge Chapter 7 6 Years – Unless you paid all your unsecured creditors in full in the Ch. 13 or you paid at least 70% of the claims filed in your case and you proposed your case in good faith and it was your best effort

*If your case has been dismissed and not discharged, then the filing time requirements do not apply; However, you may still be subject to additional filing requirements.

Even if you filed a previous case and received a discharge, either a Chapter 7 or a 13, you may still want to file a new Chapter 13 to protect you from foreclosure, vehicle repossession or tax garnishment if you find yourself in any of these circumstances. You may not receive a discharge but you can protect your property and pay back these debts on your own terms. Remember, your choice in attorney matters and you need an experienced bankruptcy attorney to review your case. Contact our office today for a free consultation to see if a new case is right for you.

First Offender Programs in Texas

First Offender Programs in TexasWe all make mistakes—unfortunately, for some of us, those mistakes can have legal consequences. While the aftermath of a criminal arrest can be traumatic, the existence of a number of first offender programs in Texas can give you the opportunity for a second chance.

The Function and Purpose of a First Offender Program

A first-time offender program is one that includes a rehabilitative component, allowing the defendant to escape the full penalty or consequences of a conviction or plea. As a general rule, a first-time offender program includes mandatory participation in certain types of counseling or training. Depending on the nature of the offense, the defendant may be required to submit to certain types of treatment and may have a mandatory period of probation. It’s also customary not to enter the probation into the official record, provided the defendant meets all the terms.

The Texas First Offender Programs

Texas offers a number of first-time offender, or diversionary, programs:

  • There are first offender drug programs, usually available to first-time drug offenders who have no other pending prosecutions.
  • Some counties offer mental health diversionary programs—These options, such as the Denton Mental Health Treatment Court, give offenders with mental illness the opportunity to remove charges and convictions from their records
  • There are also general first-time pre-trial diversion programs

Though it’s not specifically a “program,” HB 3016, recently enacted by the Texas Senate, gives convicted persons in Texas the right not to disclose a conviction when applying for a job. Basically a “second chance” act, it applies only to individuals convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses.

Expunging a Conviction under HB 3016

If you are looking for a second chance under the new Texas law, you’ll need to file a petition for expunction with one of the Texas civil courts. The process can be complicated, so it’s important that you have an experienced attorney to protect your rights. You can also anticipate that the prosecutor may show up at your expunction hearing and may bring law enforcement officers, in an attempt to refute your request.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

April Showers Bring More than Flowers—Often Bring a Spike in Auto Accidents

Rain Increases Auto AccidentsSpring is here…the colors are splashed all across the state of Texas. With the warm temperatures, though, come the warm spring rains, necessary to give all the budding life a good start. But those showers can also wreak havoc for motorists, in many ways. Whether it’s a deluge that brings your visibility down to next to nothing, or water on the road, or the fog that often accompanies a change in weather, conditions can be tricky…estimates are that the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident can double or triple when roadways become wet.

It’s important to understand, too, that it’s not just on the freeways and superhighways where the danger lies. Most safety experts will tell you that you can start to hydroplane even at relatively slow speeds. And when there’s precipitation on the ground, it’s not enough to avoid going over the posted speed limit. If the signs say you shouldn’t exceed 30 miles per hour, you may want to bring it down to 20 or even slower.

Ways to Stay Safe in Rainy Weather

When other motorists fail to adjust their driving to inclement conditions, you can be at risk, regardless of how defensively you drive. Nonetheless, there are certain measures you can employ to minimize your risk of being involved in a weather-related motor vehicle accident:

  • Don’t drive through puddles—If at all possible, go around any puddles or pooled water on the roads. That’s where you’ll be at the greatest risk of hydroplaning, where the water actually creates a membrane between your car and the road. If, however, you start to hydroplane, take your foot off the accelerator until you start to get traction. You may even need to tap the brake, but don’t slam on the brakes. There’s another good reason, though, to avoid puddles—when you drive through them, you can splash water on your car and on other motorists, making it difficult for you or them to see the road.
  • Turn your headlights on—This is the best chance you have of being seen by other motorists—one of the common complaints after many car accidents is that one of the motorists could not be seen by the other. In most states, the law requires you to turn your lights on during a rainstorm.
  • Be willing to arrive a little late to be safe—If it’s raining, reduce your speed by about 20%. You may still hydroplane, but you’ll have more time to react.
  • Feather or tap the brakes—Be prepared to just touch the brakes, but to do it a number of times. This is an effective way to slow down in rain or on icy or snowy roads.
  • Contact Us

    At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Equifax Updates – Drivers’ License Numbers Stolen

Automatic US Citizenship by BloodIn 2017, Equifax, Inc., a credit-reporting firm, suffered a cyber-attack that resulted in a data breach that affected millions of customers. After the company disclosed that the identities of roughly 148 million individuals were compromised, the company continuously struggles to regain the trust of customers. In early 2018, after completing a forensic examination of the breach, Equifax disclosed that an additional 2.4 million people were impacted by the 2017 cyber-attack. The company explained that these additional individuals were not identified in the first investigation because the search only focused on individuals who had their Social Security numbers compromised. The additional names were revealed after cross referencing partial drivers’ license numbers that were stolen with internal and external sources. The newly impacted individuals will receive the same credit-monitoring and identity theft protection services paid for by Equifax, as those initially identified.

To make matters even worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged an executive of Equifax with insider trading in March 2018. Jun Ying, an executive who was next in line to be named the company’s Chief Information Officer, exercised his stock options when he learned of the breach and sold the shares after learning of the breach. The SEC alleges that Ying sold his stock options before the company disclosed the data breach to the public, avoiding over $117,000 in losses. After learning of Ying’s violation of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, Equifax dismissed him. Both the SEC and the United States Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia are pressing criminal charges against Ying.

Automatic U.S. Citizenship by Blood

Automatic US Citizenship by BloodClients often ask about the path to citizenship. Most are eligible for the long and time consuming path to citizenship through visas, petitions, and Adjustment of Status. However, some are eligible for direct citizenship by blood via the N-600 application. Note that no actual blood is shed for this application.

A child may have citizenship bestowed upon them in two situations: (1) being physically born in the United States and its territories (Jus Soli), or (2) being born to U.S. citizen parents. The latter is often referred to as “Jus Sanguinis,” and may be proven through the N-600 Immigration Application. While the concept of Jus Sanguinis appears to be simple and straightforward, it is often complex and requires extensive legal analysis. The amount and type of evidence that is required for Jus Sanguinis depends on the various factors and the particular situation of the birth. The following are several factors, amongst others, that I look to consider whether someone is automatically a U.S. citizen.

One factor to consider is whether the child, born outside of the United States, was born in wedlock or not. Immigration laws require different standards of children born within the marriage and those born outside wedlock. Also, as immigration laws change over the years, a child’s birth date determines which period of law applies to that situation.

Another factor to consider is the citizenship of the parents at the time of the birth. It makes a difference whether both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of child’s birth. For example, in a situation where the child was born, in wedlock, after Nov. 11, 1986, to two U.S. citizen parents, the child must prove that the at least one U.S. citizen parent resided in the United States. In a situation where there is only one U.S. citizen parent, the child must further prove that the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for five years, two of which must be after the age of 14.

For children born outside the marriage and outside the U.S., the evidentiary requirement and standards are different for those born to U.S. citizen mothers or to U.S. citizen fathers. In the case of those born to U.S. citizen fathers, it is also important to note whether they were legitimated or acknowledged by the father in question.

As a side note, a child may inherit U.S. citizenship from the parent(s) if the child was under a certain age and the child was lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

A client could skip the long and expensive immigration process to legal permanent resident status if they qualify for Jus Sanguinis through the N-600 Application. However, due to the level of extensive legal analysis required and substantial evidentiary requirements, it highly recommended that one hires an experienced immigration attorney to guide them through this application.

The Legal Process for Early Termination of Probation

Early Termination of ProbationIf you’ve been convicted of a crime or have pleaded guilty, there’s a good chance that a part of your sentence will involve a period of probation, where you’ll have some restrictions set on your activities and where you’ll have to report to a probation officer on a regular basis. Probation can become a real burden after a while, and if you’ve honored all your commitments and learned your lesson, you may want to see if the court will allow you to terminate the probation before the designated date. It can be done, but there’s a specific process you must follow.

Initiating the Process for Early Termination of Probation

In most states, to apply for early termination of court-ordered probation, you must contact your probation officer or a criminal defense attorney and must file a motion in the court where you were convicted. The motion must specifically request early termination of probation and must usually include the reasons why you believe early termination is warranted. Typically, if your probation officer agrees with the request and puts that in writing, the court will be inclined to grant your request.

The Factors the Court May Consider When Evaluating Your Request for Early Termination of Probation

If your probation officer has not weighed in on your request, the court may still grant your motion, but will customarily look at a number of issues first:

  • Have you paid all fines assessed as part of your conviction and have you made restitution to any victims?
  • Did you undergo counseling or treatment as ordered by the court and did you successfully complete those programs?
  • Have you complied with all terms established as part of your sentencing and probation?
  • Did you seek to better yourself while on probation? Did you look for employment or engage in training to help you develop marketable skills? Did you do volunteer or community service work while on probation?

The court can also factor in any real or potential hardships that continued probation may have, such as:

  • The inability to get or hold a job in your chosen field because of the probation requirement
  • The inability to see family because of any travel restriction imposed by the probation
  • The loss of any benefits because of probation

As a general rule, courts typically don’t allow for the early termination of probation until at least one half of the probationary period has elapsed.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Study Reveals Positive Effect of Professional Representation at Social Security Hearings

Social Security HearingsA Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of hearings-level award rates for disability claims revealed that “claimants who had representation at their hearings, were allowed benefits at a rate nearly 3 times higher than those without representatives.” The report also quotes SSA officials stating “that a representative can help the claimant by ensuring that the medical evidence and other records are fully developed and help the claimant present their case at a hearing.” At Bailey & Galyen we have always believed in the value of personal quality representation, but it is useful to have validation from an official source. The report, entitled “Additional Measures and Evaluation Needed to Enhance Accuracy and Consistency of Hearings Decisions,” was released in January 2018. It studied Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions made on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims between Fiscal Years 2007 and 2015, a period where requests for hearings increased, peaked, and then declined. During this period, 77% of claimants at ALJ hearings had attorney representatives and 12% had non-attorney representatives.

During the studied period, the variation in award rates between ALJs shrank slightly, but the overall allowance rates decreased significantly. ALJs who joined the Social Security Administration (SSA) between 1995 and 1999, and were still at the agency between 2007 and 2015, had higher award rates than newer ALJs. Several factors correlated with allowance rate: older claimants were more likely to be awarded benefits than younger adults and having a critical case, a college education, and a claim for SSDI rather than SSI also increased the chance of an award. Hearings that included testimony from a medical expert were more likely than the average claim to result in an award of benefits, while vocational expert testimony decreased the chance of an award.

These numbers further prove that a finding of disability is getting harder to obtain. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you have an experienced, qualified, and hardworking representative on your side when applying for disability. If you are hurt, injured, or otherwise impaired, and unable to work please contact us at Bailey and Galyen for a free case evaluation.

HANDLE WITH CARE

Wills and ProbatePerhaps you have seen “HANDLE WITH CARE” stenciled on the outside of a container or crate. If you’re like me you may have tried to child-proof a room or dealt with the consequences of placing an item in harms’ way. As we get older we accumulate more stuff and take on more responsibility for securing things of value. Let me suggest three basic questions to ask when safeguarding what you value:

1. WHAT ARE MY PRIORITIES?

Really think about what you value and how you want to use it. It may be a collection or collectible. It may be the education of loved ones or gifting to my favorite school. It may be travel, digging water wells, helping to eradicate hunger or disease. For many of us it is having enough to keep from being a burden to our children. Note that priorities change over the years and that your plan should change with them. WHO DO I TRUST?

What family members or friends do I trust to execute my plan? Who does the right thing without supervision, when no one is looking? What is the experience level of the professionals that I retain to draft my plan? Is my plan flexible? Am I being upsold based on concerns that don’t really apply to me? Look at the track record of those you need to trust for advice and counsel before you execute your plan.

2. WHERE DID I PUT THAT?

I tell people that the difference between an original document and a copy is like the difference between you and a picture of you. Misplacing documents can be anything from inconvenient to disastrous. For example; a parent has carefully planned to place assets into a testamentary trust for a child who struggles with addiction or will be disqualified from receiving assistance if they receive an inheritance in a lump sum. Upon their death the will cannot be found and a copy is produced. In order to probate the will not produced in court and execute the parent’s wishes it will be necessary to get the consent of all the heirs. The very child that was so carefully planned for either cannot or will not consent and the entire plan fails.

What are your priorities? Who do you trust? How are you safeguarding your important documents?

If you need good advice and wise counsel we look forward to being someone you trust to do just that.

Contact Us

To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

No Man’s Life, Liberty, or Property are Safe while the Legislature is in Session

No Man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session. ~ Gideon Tucker

Alimony TaxesFor as long as anyone can remember, alimony has been tax deductible. In Texas, we do not call it alimony instead, it is referred to as Post Divorce Maintenance (Chapter 8 Texas Family Code). Post Divorce Maintenance meets the requirements of Alimony under the Tax Code for IRS purposes. Alimony is the more common term, so I will use it here.

Alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other after the dissolution of the marriage. There can be many reasons for a court to award it. For instance, sometimes one spouse makes significantly more money than the other. Part of the reason for this is because that spouse attended a professional school (such as law school, medical school, or dental school) while the other spouse worked to put them through school and took care of the house and children. Most states do not allow the non-moneyed spouse to have an ownership interest in a professional practice. So, upon the dissolution of a marriage, to make the property and marriage more equitable, the court may award alimony.

Alimony has always been tax deductible to the payor and treated as taxable income received by the person receiving it, because they no longer have the money available to them. This worked favorably for both parties, because it allowed the professional practice to remain intact, without taking on a large amount of debt to pay the other spouse. It also had favorable tax implications because it reduced the marginal tax bracket of the payor, taxing at the lower bracket of the person receiving the alimony.

In 2016, President Trump ran a campaign based on, among other things, reforming the Tax Code. In 2017, the Legislature obliged him by passing one of the most significant tax overhauls in years. Each term among the items introduced functions to remove the home mortgage interest deduction. Most years it gets nowhere, but this year it got closer. However, one of the items passed was the elimination of the deduction for alimony, which no one saw coming.

Starting in 2019, alimony will no longer be tax deductible for the person paying. This completely changes the landscape for persons divorcing. This last summer, at the Advanced Family Law Seminar, I spent one-half of my time attending seminars on the changes. I almost always involve accountants and financial planners in divorces that involve financial assets, as I believe any good lawyer would. However, with these changes to the Tax Code, I believe their help will be more important than ever in an effort to make divorce less taxing.

If you find yourself considering a divorce, make sure to interview multiple attorneys and make sure they work with other professionals to minimize the disruption to your life.

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