Hit and Injured by an 18-Wheeler or other Big Corporate Truck?

Hit and Injured by an 18-Wheeler or other Big Corporate Truck?

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

 What to Do to Protect Yourself

Due to the hectic demands of life, we often find ourselves on the road. Daily interstate travel brings many drivers in frequent contact with larger vehicles like 18-wheelers or semi-trailer trucks. Many truckers work lengthy hours, driving long distances hauling cargo, which can result in fatigue and distracted driving, both of which can lead to catastrophic crashes. In addition, truckers often face strict delivery deadlines, causing some to disregard speed limits. Many drivers do not realize how different a car wreck involving an 18-wheeler is from one involving two average vehicles. 18-wheeler trucks can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. which often causes serious and substantial damage to the cars involved in this crashes and sometimes fatal consequences. One in every eight automobile wreck fatalities involves a large truck like an 18-wheeler. If the past is any indication, more people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years. Because of statistics like these, there are strict laws and regulations that apply to trucking companies and their drivers, which do not apply to non-commercial drivers. Examples of such regulations include limitations on the amount of time that truck drivers can spend driving before they take a break and what they can haul.

If you are in a wreck with an 18-wheeler, it is important to call an attorney who handles trucking collisions immediately. The trucking company will begin investigating the wreck right away with a team of experts and lawyers on the case to protect itself, so time is of the essence for you to hire an attorney to begin investigation to protect yourself.  There is valuable evidence such as black box data or other GPS recording devices from the truck that need to be preserved promptly by an experienced attorney working on your behalf. A “black box” is a recording device that is triggered by certain events to start recording important data about the truck and its movement and speed. Black box data can provide critical evidence later for an expert such as an accident reconstructionist to determine what happened in the wreck. If this data is not requested early, there is nothing preventing the trucking companies from destroying it. It is also important to document the wreck with photographs of the vehicles at the scene of the collision to show exactly what occurred. An attorney can also investigate the background of the trucking company as well as the driver. It is important to have someone who will fight for you after an 18-wheeler collision.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years.  We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

 

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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Common Excuses for Delaying Estate Planning

Common Excuses for Delaying Estate Planning

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

  1. I’m too young to need an Estate Plan. Regardless of your age, you need an estate plan. If you are not married or do not have children, you must decide who will get your things.  In my youth, I didn’t have a lot of assets; but, I still wanted certain people to get what I had if my husband and I died together in an accident. You may not want your assets to go to parents or to siblings. You may prefer your assets to be given to one parent or to one sibling. You may want your assets to be given to friends or to charity. You have the right to decide how your assets are distributed; but, you must have an estate plan to do that. If you have children, you need an estate plan that names who will take care of your children. You do not want family members to fight over who will take them.
  2. I don’t have enough assets to need an Estate Plan. There is no magic number that suddenly deems you rich enough to need an estate plan. The key question is, “Do you have assets that are important enough to you enough you want to control who gets the assets?” If so, you need an estate plan.
  3. My spouse gets everything anyway. Without a Will or Trust, your spouse may not receive everything. Alabama law has certain requirements for how much a spouse can receive. It is entirely possible that your parents or your children may receive some portion of assets to the exclusion of your spouse.
  4. I can’t decide how to divide things up. It can be very difficult to decide how much to give to children or grandchildren; but, the danger in waiting on an estate plan is that you may die without ever deciding. If that happens, the State of Alabama gets to decide who gets your assets. Wouldn’t you prefer to make a decision that you can change later if needed instead of leaving it to chance and the State of Alabama?
  5. I can’t decide who to put in charge. If you do not make this decision, the State will make the decision for you. Talk with your estate planning attorney. You may decide to name an unrelated third party; or, you may name a family member. You can always change your nomination in the future if you later feel the person is no longer a good choice.
  6. It costs too much – It generally will cost much more if you fail to have an estate plan. An administration following intestate law is more complicated and can allow more opportunities for family to fight – all of which increases the costs.
  7. I’ll be dead so who cares – While chances are pretty good that you will not care about your assets after death, if you love your family, you can help to prevent them from having disputes and lessen the difficulties of going through a long and complicated estate process. This is especially true in blended families; or, in families with well-established personality conflicts.

It is easy to make excuses and delay preparing an estate plan. Don’t let excuses determine your family’s fate. Start working through your concerns with an experienced estate planning attorney that can help you review your choices and make decisions.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Tax Reform & Estate Planning

Tax Reform & Estate Planning

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

At the time I am writing this article, no one knows exactly what will happen with tax reform. However, it appears that the estate tax exemption will be significantly increased.

Presently, estate taxes are not a worry for the average Alabamian as the exemption limit was increased to $5 million per person under President Obama in 2012. Today, the estate tax exemption is $5.49 million dollars per person. In other words, a person must have over $5.49 million before his or her estate will pay estate taxes. Of course, if estate taxes are an issue, the tax rate is a hefty 40 percent.

If, under President Trump, the estate tax exemption is further increased, it will work to solidify the fact that most Alabamians do not have to actively plan to avoid estate taxes. However, that does not mean that estate planning is not necessary. Tax reform is expected to change other areas such as business taxation and deductions such as medical deductions. These are areas of important interest to business owners and seniors paying for long term care. Planning to pay for long term care and asset protection will continue to be a problem as the baby boomers age and the reality of paying for long term care sets in. Families need to be aware of options and proactively plan the best ways to provide care for seniors.

As tax reform occurs, make sure you check with your estate planning attorney to determine if you need to make changes due to changes in the tax laws and take the time to review your estate plan for any other changes that need to be made. And remember, blended families and families with troubled relationship dynamics will continue to need estate planning to make sure assets are passed in the way that is desired and in the best manner.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage?

Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage?

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage to Protect Yourself & Your Loved Ones in the Event of a Holiday Car Wreck?

Take Time to Check

You probably have automobile insurance, but do you understand the basics of your policy? The first step in reviewing your automobile insurance policy is to request a copy of the Declaration’s Page from your insurance company which contains details unique to your specific policy. It will list all drivers and automobiles that are insured under your policy as well as the policy number and the period of time that the policy insures you. It also contains the type of insurance coverage purchased, policy limits and deductibles. It is important to meet with your insurance agent to discuss the different types of automobile coverage available to you as well as the cost of each so that you understand your policy.

In Alabama, if you purchase liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory on your policy unless you specifically reject it in writing. You should never reject it. It is essential that in addition to your liability coverage, you also purchase uninsured motorist coverage, which is applicable when the person who caused the car wreck either has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to fully compensate the injured party or parties in the vehicle.

There is a common misconception that this coverage is expensive and unnecessary and therefore, many people chose to reject it. The cost difference of your monthly premium to add this insurance coverage to your policy is not very expensive compared to the benefits of having this coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is the only way you will be compensated if you are injured by a person who failed to keep insurance on their automobile. For example, if you and your family are headed home from church on Christmas Eve and a person who has no automobile insurance runs a red light and hits the family vehicle, causing serious injuries to your entire family, your own uninsured motorist coverage would kick in and compensate your family for your injuries.

A large percentage of Alabamians have no insurance at all so it is very important that you purchase uninsured motorists in case of an accident. Another layer of automobile insurance coverage that is good to purchase and beneficial in the event of personal injuries is medical payment coverage. This coverage applies toward your medical bills when you have been injured in addition to uninsured motorist coverage.

Protect yourself and your family by making sure you have proper insurance. Be sure to check with your insurance agent for insurance rates.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years. We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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Don’t Delay- Make Sure You Have a Will

Don’t Delay- Make Sure You Have a Will

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

People sometimes think that an estate plan is not necessary because “I don’t have that much anyway.”  This misconception is based on the idea that it is too much trouble to prepare a Last Will and Testament and that everything will be sorted out and given to the surviving spouse or children regardless of whether the person has a Will. While it is true that your estate will be “sorted out,” that does not mean that it will be sorted out the way you would prefer. The following are a few of the surprising things that can happen if you don’t have a Will:

  1. Your surviving spouse does not always receive everything – Couples generally think that the surviving spouse will receive everything when the first spouse dies. If you do not have a Will, under Alabama law, parents and children may receive some of the assets. This is usually a big surprise to the surviving spouse; especially, as is often the case, if the surviving spouse discovers that he or she is not the sole owner at a real estate closing.
  2. Your child living out of state cannot handle your estate – Parents usually want a child to serve as the personal representative and handle the probate of an estate. However, Alabama law does not allow a non-resident to be appointed in those roles unless a Will specifically authorizes the appointment of the non-resident. This means that an attorney may be appointed to handle your estate simple because you did not have a Will authorizing an out-of-state person to handle your estate.
  3. A bond is required – A Will usually exempts the personal representative from the necessity of posting a bond to guarantee the personal representative does not mishandle estate assets. If there is no Will, Alabama law requires an insurance bond to be posted. This means your surviving spouse or children may be forced to post a bond to probate your estate.
  4. An inventory is required – A Will can exempt the need to prepare a lengthy accounting of estate assets. If there is no Will, Alabama law requires the personal representative to file an accounting with the court.

In general, not having a Will can mean that your loved ones do not receive what you wanted them to have. It also means that they may have to go through burdensome and expensive procedures to get those assets.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Holiday Conversations

Holiday Conversations

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

As families gather to enjoy food and holiday time together, it can be a good opportunity to discuss estate planning issues for parents. Consider your own family situation and decide if some of the following questions will be beneficial for your family to discuss:

  1. Do your children know that you have an estate plan? If so, do they know where to locate the documents when they are needed? Ideally, the person(s) that will be in charge should already have copies of these documents.
  2. Are your estate documents old? Do they need to be updated? Laws change and your documents may not have all the necessary powers that are needed.
  3. If you need to name a person(s) to act on your behalf for financial and medical decisions, have you told this person that you have nominated him or her? Will this person be prepared to act? If not, you may need to reconsider this person as your choice for agent.
  4. Do the children understand your wishes about how to care for you as you age? How do you feel about in-home caregivers, assisted living, memory care and nursing homes? Take into consideration what the family should do if you are no longer able to care for yourself and caregiving in the home is not working. This occurs most often when the person has serious medical needs or is an escape risk due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Giving permission to your children to place you in a nursing home can ease the guilt experienced by children when they feel forced to place a parent in a nursing home for safety issues.
  5. How do you feel about end of life decisions? Do your children know if you want to be kept alive by life support or feeding tubes; or, have you clearly stated you do not want to be kept alive if you cannot recover and have a meaningful life?
  6. Do you believe there will be disputes about your assets at your death? If so, a conversation clearly stating what you wish may help to prevent future disputes. Of course, in some families, this tactic will not work and you must judge your own situation.

These topics are not festive; but, discussing these subjects is crucial to a peaceful aging and estate process. Take time when everyone is available to make sure everyone clearly understands your estate plan; or, make the decisions necessary to create an estate plan.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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A Halloween Trick?  An Unexpected Slip & Fall

A Halloween Trick? An Unexpected Slip & Fall

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck, P.C., Personal Injury

Imagine you are with your kids at a business trick or treating when suddenly your shoe gets caught on a broken tile on the floor and you fall breaking your ankle, what do you do? Alabama law requires businesses to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition, free of defects, dangers and hazardous conditions. Businesses are also required to warn the public if there is a hazardous condition which could cause injury to customers and visitors who enter their premises. If a slip and fall occurs which causes you injury, it is important to let a manager or other employee of the store know so that an incident report can be made at the time of the fall. Furthermore, you should seek medical treatment immediately so that a doctor can assess your injuries. In the example of the broken tile, the store should have repaired the broken tile which was obviously dangerous to customers and was a defect on the premises. On the other hand, it is important that you use care and pay attention to where you are walking when you are at a business. Alabama law protects businesses from slip and falls if you are simply clumsy or fall over something that you should have noticed. In this case, the business could not have prevented the fall and did nothing wrong.

When a restaurant, grocery store, spa, gym, convenience store, bank or any other business where a customer would enter looking for a product or service where they intend to spend money causes an injury to a customer because they left a spill on the floor or failed to repair a dangerous area on their property, they can be held responsible under the law to compensate the injured person for their injuries, pain and suffering. If a person slips on a puddle of coffee that has been on the floor and the manager had prior notice of the spill but failed to clean it up, there is legal liability on the part of the business. It is the duty and responsibility of the owners or managers to extend utmost care and diligence to keep visitors from harm. If you have an injury that was caused by someone else, whether it be a wreck, a wrongful death, wrongful prescription, slip and fall or any other injury please do not hesitate to contact us. We have made it our life work to help injured people.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 40 years.  We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 89 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters.

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Estate Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

Estate Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

Why Everyone Should Have a Special Needs Trust in Their Plan

Estate plans should include planning for a loved one’s financial and physical protection in the event of a disability. This is often overlooked by individuals that do not currently have disabled loved ones because they do not see such planning as applicable to their situation. Family members that have disabled loved ones are often so consumed with living day-to-day that they never get around to planning. If they do make plans, it often is in response to incorrect information received from non-legal sources.

Why Should I Include Disability Planning in my Estate Plan when no one in my Immediate Family is Disabled? The simple answer is that you never know when something will happen in the future to a loved one that will require disability planning. Having provisions in your Will or Revocable Living Trust that provide instructions on what happens if someone becomes disabled allows you to protect family members in the event of tragic accidents or illnesses that are unforeseen.

What do you mean by a “Disability Plan?” Individuals with disabilities may need someone to manage their newly inherited assets so no one takes advantage of them and squanders the assets. Financially eligible individuals with disabilities may qualify for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. To protect your beneficiaries, your estate plan must include provisions that address the oversight of the assets and the government regulations surrounding these benefits.

How do I Prevent a Beneficiary from being Ineligible or Losing Benefits? Your Will or Revocable Living Trust should have provisions for a “supplemental needs trust,” also called a “special needs trust” in the event a loved one is disabled at the time you pass away. The language used in this type of trust is compliant with specific federal and state requirements that allow the assets to be used for the beneficiary’s benefit without being counted as assets that can cause the beneficiary to lose benefits or otherwise be ineligible.

Your attorney should help you determine the type of plan you need and prepare the supplemental needs trust for you.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Asset Protection & the Elderly

Asset Protection & the Elderly

Legal Matters

presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning   

Asset protection for the elderly is a complex subject and the legal advice given can be very different based on the assets of the family, estate planning goals, and other family problems such as children that do not get along or children that have creditor problems, mental illness, or other issues. Typically, the elderly client wishes to establish an estate plan that avoids the probate process (a court process that is required with a Last Will and Testament). The client’s goals usually include protecting assets that will ultimately be distributed to the children regardless of the client’s future long-term care needs while also maintaining optimal tax rates and advantages.

These goals can be achieved using an asset protection trust if certain time factors are met and the proper provisions are stated in the trust agreement. This type of planning is generally much more in-depth than is necessary for the standard Last Will and Testament; however, the extra work involved in preparing the estate plan is worthwhile when assets are preserved and the process of distributing assets at death is simplified.

Individuals that give gifts directly to children or, unknowingly, have the wrong type of trust may fail to protect assets and cause the children to lose favorable tax advantages. These mistakes typically cannot be corrected once they are finally discovered and can cause lasting regret to a family.

If you want an estate plan that does more than simply distribute assets at your death; or, if you are unsure of whether your current estate plan is adequate, talk with an attorney that has experience in estate planning and asset protection and review your situation.

Melanie Bradford Holliman

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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