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Three Tips To Stop Your Car Insurance Company From Giving You The Raw Deal

Three Tips To Stop Your Car Insurance Company From Screwing You Over

No one likes talking about car insurance so I will keep this brief. Here is what you need to know to not get screwed over by your car insurance company in New Jersey.

FULL COVERAGE MEANS BASICALLY BUPKES

Full coverage is something that you should purchase. It generally refers to collision coverage, which means that your car insurance will fix property damage from an accident regardless of fault. This lets you get back on the road quickly and inexpensively. Its important to have this. BUT UNDERSTAND THAT FULL COVERAGE MEANS NOTHING ELSE. It does not mean you are covered for medical benefits, liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else!

DO NOT ELECT TO REDUCE YOUR “PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION” No Fault Benefits to Less than the standard $250,000

It does not matter who is at fault for a car accident, your car insurance pays for the medical care related to any accident. Reducing your coverage for this, known as “PIP” or “No Fault” coverage, does not significantly lower your premiums. But it will screw you over if you are in an accident and require even a modest amount of follow up care. Even if you have health insurance, not all doctors accept all health insurance and your health insurance may have a right to recover any amounts paid

GET AS MUCH UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED (UM/UIM) COVERAGE AS YOU CAN AFFORD

No one likes to pay their car insurance, but the whole point of having it is to protect you in case that something awful happens. If the person who causes that something awful is uninsured or has minimal car insurance, you are straight up out of luck.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides a safety net. At a minimum, you should make sure that you have $100,000 in this type of coverage to protect yourself and your family. This way, even if the driver who causes an accident has no insurance, no liability coverage, or minimal liability coverage, your uninsured/underinsured coverage will act as their coverage so that there is a source for you to recover lost wages, other economic losses, and pain and suffering compensation from.

A Reflection on Attorney Advertising

It will come as no shock to anyone reading this that the legal profession does not have a stellar reputation in most people’s eyes. This goes double for trial attorneys. And triple for personal injury attorneys. I often think about why that is?

There is much that could be said about the impact of the bad apples; Michael Avenatti did us no favors by his very public and egregious misconduct. Our depiction on television isn’t always stellar. And then there is the decades long “tort reform” spin campaign by big business and insurance industry designed to poison public opinion.

But putting those things aside, I think that the way attorneys advertise their services is a big part of why people despise them. This is particularly true for attorneys who, like myself, practice personal injury.

For starters, in New Jersey, there are actually pretty strict limitations on advertising. We are not allowed to call compare ourselves to other attorneys, make specific statements about our skill or experience, or even provide testimonials or past achievements without disclaimers. That is why there is not that much substantive information provided in attorney spots on television or the radio.

That doesn’t stop some lawyers from making some advertisements that are in really poor taste. Based on the restrictions against naming names, I wont point fingers. But we’ve all seen the kind of cringeworthy television advertisement I’m talking about.

But I think there is a problem that goes deeper than that. Whether its someone being hurt in a car accident, losing a limb on a fishing vessel, being paralyzed on a construction site, or being sexually assaulted no one needs a personal injury attorneys’ help until things have already gone bad.

My experience is that no one thinks that bad things can happen to them until they do. There’s nothing wrong with that. Its how we walk around everyday without being paralyzed by fear. So no one wants to think about ever needing a lawyer who does what I do.

How do you advertise for that without it appearing that you want bad things to happen, or at a best you are happy when they do. I am not sure that you can.

The best I have come up with is to keep trying and hope that I get through to people two things. One, I bad things never happen to you or anyone you care about. Two, I’ve got the skills to have your back if they ever do.

And if that ends up guiding one more person to me for my help even one person down the line, its worth a little bit of cringe along the way?

Commercial Fishing Accidents

Commercial Fishing Accidents

Let’s examine commercial fishing accidents and your rights under the Jones Act. When things go wrong on a commercial fishing vessel, they often go wrong hard and fast. Luckily, the laws that protect all seamen, including commercial fisherman, provide a lot of protection so long as you are familiar with how to take advantage of them.

The most important law that protects seaman and commercial fisherman is called the Jones Act. Here is a little bit of information about what protections it affords.

First, a commercial fisherman injured in the course of work is entitled to something called “maintenance and cure.” This is regardless of what happened or whose fault it was.
Maintenance means that the employer is responsible to pay a reasonable amount for living expenses until the injured worker is able to work again. Cure refers to the responsibility of the employer to pay for any necessary medical treatment. There is no pre-approval process and the injured person can choose his own doctors.

The issue that often arises here is on the part of the medical providers. Our healthcare system has become so convoluted that most offices either have their own billing specialists or outsource billing completely. Maintenance and cure does not fit neatly into any of the categories that they are used to like Private Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, or Automobile No Fault Benefits. So having an attorney who understands maintenance and cure and can communicate this process to your doctors is important.

Second, under the Jones Act and Admiralty Law, an injured fisherman can bring a negligence claim against his employer and/or a seaworthiness claim against the vessel itself for damages. The injured party has the option of whether to bring these claims in state court or federal court and the option of whether to request a trial by jury or trial by judge.

Again, having an attorney who understands this area of law is important to determine whether the facts of a particular case are better off in federal court or state court.

Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC has represented individuals injured in commercial fishing and boating accidents for twenty five years. If you or someone you know has been injured on a commercial fishing vessel or boating accident, please contact us for a free consultation.

Estate Planning and Estate Administration

Estate Planning and Estate Administration

Let’s examine estate planning and estate administration. There is very little certainty in life apart from the unfortunate eventualities of both death and taxation. In its simplest form, estate planning allows an individual to leave an official set of instructions for what is to happen with their property when they pass away, as well as to nominate a trusted person to act as representative and carry out those instructions.

Estate Planning

“Our new constitution is established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can said to be certain except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789

Building from that foundation, the attorneys of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C., can help you create and implement a plan for your estate and give you peace of mind when it comes to what happens after you pass away.

The key to a good plan is thorough consideration of the complexities of a person’s estate. Our firm is here to help you navigate these matters, including:

  • Providing instructions to your loved ones for what you would like to happen to your property and assets;
  • Appointing a trusted person to administer your estate;
  • Naming guardian to care for any minor children;
  • Minimizing estate taxes and costs of administration;
  • Providing for the transfer of a family business;
  • Creating trusts to help care for children or loved ones with special needs;
  • Preparing your formal Last Will and Testament;
  • Preparing a Power of Attorney, which will allow another to act on your behalf;
  • Creating an Advance Directive (sometimes called a “Living Will”) to give instructions on how you feel about your medical care.

Every person has an estate though few people plan for how their estate is to be managed, leaving it to loved ones to figure everything out. Our firm is here to help you plan for the inevitable and give you, and your loved ones, the peace of mind of a well laid out plan.

Estate Administration

The loss of a loved one is possibly the most trying time someone can endure. If you have been named as the executor of an estate, an estate administration professional can help you to find your way through the process of probate, satisfying tax requirements, the payment of debts, and the distribution of assets. Acting as an executor or administrator of an estate can be a difficult job with many responsibilities, and Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. is here to assist you.

The administration of an estate can be a daunting task if you have not gone through it before. What is probate? What is the difference between an “executor” and an “administrator?” What is the Surrogate Court and what do they do? How do I get all of this done? If you are faced with any of these questions, we can help.

When a person passes away, all of his or her possessions become part of an “estate,” whether it be bank accounts, real estate, antiques, cars – anything that person owns. Someone must gather all of the information about a decedent’s assets, pay their remaining debts , pay applicable taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs. Where the decedent left a will, the person responsible for all of this is called an “executor.” When a person passes away without a will all of these jobs still need to be done, only in this case the person responsible would be called an “administrator.”

A few aspects of estate administration with which our firm can assist you include:

  • Opening probate with the county’s Surrogate Court;
  • Getting the executor or administrator of an estate qualified with the Surrogate Court;
  • Marshalling the assets of an estate;
  • Seeing that just debts and taxes are paid;
  • Coordinating distributions to heirs;
  • Providing an accounting of an estate, whether formal or informal; and
  • Protecting an estate’s representatives from disputes.

Whether you are planning for your estate, are administering an estate, or are an heir of an estate with questions, contact our office today to discuss how the attorneys of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. can assist you.

What is Probate?

What is Probate

Probate is the legal procedure by which a testamentary document such as a Last Will and Testament is established to be valid. In addition, “probate” also often refers to the overall process of administering an estate, whether the decedent left a will or not.

In New Jersey, probate generally beings with the Surrogate Court. Each county has a Surrogate Court, which is overseen by that county’s Surrogate – an elected official who acts as Judge of the Surrogate Court. The Surrogate Court handles the probate of wills, guardianships of minors and incapacitated adults, testamentary trusts, and accountings of estates. Whenever there is a challenge to a Will’s validity or the acts of an estate’s representative, such matters must go before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Probate Part, where the Surrogate acts as the Deputy Clerk.

So, what does it mean to “open probate?” If a person passes away and leaves behind a will, that will may be taken to the Surrogate for probate ten days after the date-of-death. The Surrogate reviews the will and information about the estate such as its value, who the heirs of the estate are, and who is appointed under the will to act as the representative of the estate. If the document meets the requirements of New Jersey law for a formal will, the Surrogate will admit the will to probate and issue “Letters Testamentary,” a document certifying that the will has been probated and naming the representative of an estate.

What’s next after opening probate?

The representative of the estate must notify all persons with an interest in the estate that the will has been probated. He or she must then gather all of theinformation about the estate – what is the nature, location and value of the assets? Did the decedent have any debts? What taxes are owed? Once the representative has marshalled the assets of the estate, debts and taxes must be paid before any heir is entitled to any money.

What taxes are owed?

In the State of New Jersey, there were traditionally two “death taxes,” the first being the “inheritance tax” and the second the “estate tax.” As of the writing of this article, there is no New Jersey estate tax – but it may return. There are also federal tax obligations. The responsibilities of an estate’s representative depend on several factors including the value of the estate, location and nature of the estate’s assets, and who stands to benefit from the estate.

What about trusts?

Sometimes, a person puts a provision in a will that creates what is called a “trust.” A trust is an arrangement where one person (called a “trustee”) manages property for another person (called the “beneficiary”) based on a set of instructions from the person who set up the arrangement (called the “settlor.”) There are many reasons a person might set up a trust. One reason is that the beneficiary is a minor and needs someone to manage money for them until they become an adult. Another reason is that the settlor wants to protect the money from creditors, or perhaps even the unwise spending habits of the beneficiary. There are also specialty trusts designed for beneficiaries with special needs that help take care of that person without upsetting their ability to receive certain governmental benefits. Many estates involve trusts, which have the potential of lasting many years beyond the administration of the estate.

So the will has been probated, debts and taxes are paid, and any trusts have been set up – now what? Now the estate’s representative can prepare to make distributions. First, the representative should prepare an accounting to show the beneficiaries how he or she has been managing the finances of the estate and proposing a distribution to the heirs. Most often this is done through what is called an “informal accounting.” In certain rarer circumstances, a “formal accounting” is required. The difference is that the formal accounting is reviewed by the Surrogate and presented to a judge for approval as part of a court proceeding. In most cases, an informal accounting is all that is required – but any beneficiary may ask for a formal accounting, so good record keeping is very important!

Once the beneficiaries of an estate have approved of an accounting and signed a promise to return any money to the estate if needed to pay just debts (called a “Refunding Bond,”) the representative can start to make payments to the beneficiaries.

My loved one passed away without a will. What do I do now?

The process is very similar. Someone must still go to the Surrogate to open probate in order for anyone to be authorized to act as the representative of the estate. Where there is no valid will, the person is said to have died “intestate” and left an “intestate estate.” One main difference is that the representative of an intestate estate gets a different title. If there is a will appointing the representative, that person is called the “executor” or “executrix.” If there is no will, the Surrogate will appoint an “administrator” instead. The administrator has substantially the same job as an executor; they must gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and make distributions. The main difference is that an administrator does not have instructions from the person who passed away describing how they want their estate to be distributed. In this case, who gets what is determined by the laws of New Jersey. If you do not want the State making assumptions about whom you would like to leave your assets, that’s a very good reason to talk to an estate planning attorney today.

What happens when the estate owes more money than it has? Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. There are many possible reasons. Did the decedent have a lot of debts? Does the state have a lien for providing medical services? Whatever the reason, when an estate has less money than it owes, it is called an “insolvent estate” and there are special court procedures for what the representative of such an estate must do.

How long does this process take? In true legal fashion, the answer is “well, it all depends…” Probate and estate administration can be a complex process. It helps to have the assistance of professionals like an estate attorney and a tax specialist who have been through the procedure before and can guide you to a satisfactory resolution for everyone involved.

This is all pretty complicated – how do I get help? Our attorneys are well experienced with the probate process and administering estates. Whether you need assistance navigating a large and complex estate or are simply looking for a helping hand after the loss of a loved one, we are here to help. Please give us a call at (609)-729-1333 to discuss how Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC may be able to assist you.

Important terms for probate and estates:

Administrator: the person appointed to administer an estate where the decedent left no will.

Beneficiary: A person who stands to receive some benefit, such as an heir of a decedent or the person for whom a trustee manages money.

Bond or Surety Bond: like an insurance policy that may be required of an executor, administrator, trustee, or guardian to protect against his or her failure to meet some obligation of the position

Codicil: Like an amendment to a Will, this is an official document which amends or alters the provision of an existing Will.

Decedent: a person who has passed away

Estate: Refers to all that a person owns, including real estate, financial accounts, and personal property.

Executor/Executrix: The person appointed under a will to administer an estate.

Holographic Will: A writing intended to be a will, in the testator’s own handwriting, but most often not meeting the formal requirements of a will.

Insolvent estate: an estate where the debts outweigh the assets available to pay them.

Intestate: refers to situations in which a person has died without a will.

Letters of Administration: The official document issued by the Surrogate naming the official representative of an intestate estate.

Letters Testamentary: The official document issued by the Surrogate confirming that a will has been admitted to probate and naming the official representative of the estate.

Probate: The legal process of offering a document to be established as a valid Last Will and Testament. Can also refer the overall process of administering and estate.

Short Certificate: A (typically one-page) document with the official, raised seal of the Surrogate confirming that Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration were issued. Often required by banks and other institutions to prove who is authorized to act on an estate’s behalf.

Surrogate: The county official who oversees the probate process.

Testator/Testatrix: Someone who has made a will.

Trusts: an arrangement where a person is appointed to manage money or property for the benefit of another.

Will or Last Will and Testament: An official document in which a person expresses their wishes about the disposition of his or her property after death.