How Can I Contest a Will?

Challenging a will is not an easy thing because the court views a will as the last wishes and voice of the decedent. Anyone who may have something to gain from the estate has a right to contest a will, but they must have the grounds to do so.

A person may challenge a will based on one or more of the following criteria:

contest a will-          Lack of testamentary capacity: When a will is challenged on this ground, it is usually on the basis that the decedent suffered from some kind of mental incapacity, such as senility, dementia, insanity, or was under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Minors are not considered to have testamentary capacity unless they are married or serve in the military. The witnesses who signed the will usually will testify as to whether or not the decedent had testamentary capacity at the time the will was written.
–          Fraud, forgery, or undue influence: You may contest a will on this ground if the decedent was manipulated into leaving all or much of the estate to the manipulator.
–          New Trumps Old: If there is a newer, valid will than the one going through the probate process, then the new will trumps the current will. This is why dates on wills are so important.
–          Validity: In Florida, the will must be signed by two witnesses. If the will is not considered valid according to Florida state law, then you have grounds to contest it.

If you think you have grounds to contest a will currently going through probate, then you should contact a probate attorney to discuss your rights.

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Why Should You Hire an Attorney as Your Real Estate Closing Agent?

A real estate closing is the final transaction of real property between buyer and seller. On the closing date, the property is officially transferred from buyer and seller, but there is much more to the closing process than meets the eye.

It is a good idea to hire a real estate attorney to assist you with:

Closing Agent-          Reviewing and negotiating specific terms of contracts, such as the purchase and sale agreement.
–          Requesting title searches, surveys, mortgage payoff letters, condominium and homeowner’s association documents for the property, etc.
–          Preparing or evaluating all legal documents for the closing, such as the warranty deed, title policy, mortgage, HUD-1 settlement or closing statements, and more.
–          Properly recording all documents.

If the title search is not done correctly or there are missing documents, the buyer could end up with unknown liens or encumbrances on the property that will become their responsibility.

Under Florida law, it is a third-degree felony for anyone besides a lawyer to give legal advice, including realtors and title companies. This means that if anything goes wrong during the closing process, and legal action needs to be taken, you could incur an overwhelming additional cost. In order to protect yourself and your investment, you should hire an attorney as your closing agent so that if any problems occur, they can be resolved in a reasonable amount of time with minimal additional costs.

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Family Petition for Citizenship

Family PetitionOne of the paths to U.S. Citizenship can be in the form of a family petition. U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) may petition for relatives to immigrate to the United States. U.S. Citizens may petition for parents, spouses, siblings, and children. LPRs may petition only for spouses and children.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration, and you must be at least 21 years old to petition for a parent.

There are two different categories when filing a family petition: immediate relatives and family preference categories. There is an unlimited amount of visas available for “immediate relatives” of U.S. Citizens. These include unmarried children under 21, spouses, parents, and widows/widowers under certain circumstances.

Family preference categories are subject to a limited number of visas. If the total number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of available visas, then applications are put on a wait and processed in the order they were received.

The length of time to process the petitions varies from case to case. Mistakes on the application, failing to follow instructions, and missing documentation can delay the process. An immigration attorney can help you through this process by ensuring that you apply for the right visa category and that all of your paperwork is filled out correctly.

If you choose to petition without an attorney, mistakes may be made and your petition could potentially be delayed or denied.

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If your home is NOT a Short Sale, Say So!

NOT a short saleIf you are selling your home and it is not a short sale, say so on the listing.

Because of the housing crash and foreclosure crisis, short sales have gotten a bad rap for taking too long to close. Banks are getting better about approving short sales, but it usually takes weeks or months, and, in some cases, buyers become so frustrated that they back out of the deal.

A study by real estate professors at Florida International University and University of Southern Mississippi shows that by advertising your real estate property listing as “NOT A SHORT SALE,” it will sell quicker and for more money. The study concluded that, on average, homes advertised as not short sales sold eight weeks faster and sold for 2-5 percent more.

Source: Sun Sentinal

Weird Wills Part 2

Celebrity Fever

Audrey Jean Knauer, who died in 1997, left $300,000 to her favorite celebrity, Charles Bronson, whom she had never met in person. Her family contested the legality of the will, but in the end, Bronson ended up taking $150,000 from the stranger he had never met before, claiming that he planned to donate it to charity.

“Beam Me up, Scotty”

When Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original Star Trek series, died, his ashes were flown into space on a Spanish satellite and shot out as the satellite orbited earth, per his request.

(Wo)man’s best friend

Carlotta Liebstein, a German citizen who died in 1991, left 139 million Deutschmarks to her dog Gunther III and his heir, Gunther IV.

weird willsInanimate Heir

Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian Novelist who died in 1910, left all of his possessions to the stump of a tree in his will.

Pringles

Frederic Baur, the creator of Pringles who died in 2008, requested through his will that his ashes be interred in an empty Pringle container. His children were wary of the request but followed their father’s wishes.

What weird things would YOU put in your will?

Leave a comment or email us. We’ll post the best answers next month.

How to Make Large Online Purchases

Online PurchaseOnline purchases are almost as common as going to the mall nowadays. People buy everything online: clothes, collectibles, toys, and even cars.

Anytime you buy or sell something online, you have the potential to become a victim of fraud. If you are the buyer, the seller may not deliver your item, and if you are the buyer, the seller may not pay. Sites like EBay have put procedures into place to protect this type of thing from happening, but when you are making a large purchase, relying on these procedures is not the best idea; You should use a reliable escrow service to process the deal.

If you are going through an individual broker or buying a car or other large item through a non-reputable source, then it is that much more important to use an escrow agent.

We have seen too many people who have had the joys of buying their dream car turn into a nightmare of litigation. If you are thinking about purchasing anything online or from overseas that has a large sales price, contact Boyer Law Firm, PL to act as your escrow agent.

If you have fallen victim to online or overseas purchasing fraud, contact Boyer Law Firm, PL to discuss your potential litigation case.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

New Investment Fraud

investment fraudThe Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), whose mission is to “protect the citizens of Florida and the financial service industry,” issued a warning for investors on March 14.

An international company called Profitable Sunrise is promoting risk-free loans and promising investors a 2.15% daily return on their investment. They are using biblical quotes to lure investors and attract interest. Seven states have already issued the company Cease and Desist orders.

Profitable Sunrise is not licensed by the OFR to sell securities.

Before you invest with anyone, OFR says that you should:

–          Become fully educated on the products in which you are investing
–          Become fully educated on the business you are investing in and the business’ owners
–          Verify the license of the company with OFR
–          Seek another opinion
–          Keep a paper trail
–          File a complaint if you fall victim to fraud.

And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you need a second opinion on an investment or need to file a fraud complaint, contact Boyer Law Firm today. We can help you whether you are a foreign investor or a domestic investor.

Source: Press Release

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What is a B-1 visa?

A B-1 visa is a temporary business visa allowing foreign nationals and their families to be admitted to the United States for up to six months. In order to qualify for a B-1 visa, the principle applicant must be able to demonstrate that his purpose for visiting the United States is in regards to a legitimate business matter, he plans to stay in the U.S. for a specific, limited amount of time, he has the funds to cover the cost of the trip, he has a residence outside of the U.S., and certain other guidelines applicable to anyone entering the United States.

People who come to the United States on a B-1 visa usually come for one of the following reasons:

–          To consult with a business associateb-visa –          To travel for a scientific or educational purpose, for a professional or business convention, or for a conference.
–          To settle an estate (probate)
–          To negotiate a contract
–          To participate in short-term work training
–          To transit through the U.S.

Certain air crewman may also enter the U.S. as “deadhead” crew with a B-1 visa.

In order for B-1 applicants to have their families accompany them, the family members must each petition for a B-2 visa.

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Florida Ports

Florida PortsA new report, “the State of Florida Ports,” has been released by the Florida Ports Council. The report details the economic status and impact of each port.

The report details the funding and planning being taken into account in order for the ports to accomplish their goal of creating jobs, boosting economic activity, and capturing future international and domestic business for Florida. Florida seaports are competing with seaports from other states to achieve these goals.

In order to meet the funding requirements to keep the port running, Florida seaports have embraced private-public partnerships, meaning that they receive funding from federal and state agencies, as well as private-partnerships.

As a result of this funding, Port Everglades has been able to contract with Florida East Coast Railways in order to facilitate easier transportation of items coming into the port, Port Miami has invested over $2 billion in various improvements to support cargo and cruise growth, and Port Tampa has contracted with CSX and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners to complete a multipurpose design meant to handle ethanol cars or intermodal containers.

“This is an extremely competitive business and Florida’s ports have already stepped up to the plate.”

Source: Dredging Today

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Weird Wills Part 1

A Last Will and Testament is not only a list of the deceased’s assets to be distributed. It is also intended to fulfill the last wishes of the decedent, and some people have had some pretty weird wishes when they die:

Millar

Charles Vance Millar was a Canadian lawyer and investor who died in 1926. He was known for his great sense of humor, and this was carried over to his will. Among other things, Millar left his vacation house in the custody of three people he knew hated each other, and left the cash value of his estate to the woman who gave birth to the most number of children in a span of ten years. Four women, who birthed nine children each, split the cash prize, amounting to $125,000 each.

dining tableBowman

John Bowman, a Vermont tanner who died in 1891, provided a $50,000 trust for the maintenance of his mansion and mausoleum because he believed that he would be reunited with his deceased wife and two daughters. The will called for servants to serve dinner every night in case the family returned from the dead and decided they were hungry. This was carried out until 1950 when the trust ran dry.

Houdini

Harry Houdini. The famous magician, who died in 1926, left his wife a “secret code” – 10 words chosen at random – that he would use to contact her from the afterlife. His wife held séances on Halloween for 10 years, but he never appeared.

Bentham

Jeremy Bentham, an influential philosopher who died in 1832, wanted his body to be dissected in public, as part of a lecture on anatomy, and then his skeleton and head to be preserved and stored in a display cabinet. His body currently sits on public display at the University College London, a school that he had a large part in creating.

What weird things would YOU put in your will?

Leave a comment or email us. We’ll post the best answers next month.

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Securitization Revamp

US dollar bill with bandaidsThe Federal Housing Finance Administration announced on Monday that it plans to establish a new business entity that will be jointly owned by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Their goal is to create a new securitization infrastructure that will revamp the US housing market and prevent future “bubbles” in the market caused by misaligned incentives, shoddy lending, and reckless money grabbing.

FHFA Director Edward DeMarco said the enterprise will initially be owned and funded by Fannie and Freddie, but the overall goal is to create something of value that could be sold or used as a foundational element of the mortgage market in the future. The entity is designed to be flexible in order to meet the goals and direction of policy makers initiating housing finance reform.

FHFA hopes that this rebirth of securitization will allow banks to lay off some of their risk in granting mortgages and prevent a repeat of the last housing crash.

Source: Forbes

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STEM Business Owners Needed

STEM workersDespite the slump of the U.S. economy, “STEM” careers and companies (science, technology, engineering, and math) are always in demand because the US economy is in need of more of these workers than the US education system can produce.

Eighteen percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants, according to a 2011 report by the Partnership for a New American Economy. These companies generate $1.7 trillion and employ 3.6 million workers.

One quarter of all engineering and technology-related companies founded in the United States from 1995-2005 had at least one founder who was an immigrant, according to a study by researchers at Duke and Harvard Universities.

Many of these workers depend on the extremely limited H1-B visas, which is a main concern in the immigration reform debate. However, there is a different approach a STEM worker can take: open their own business and obtain an E-2 investors visa.

Source: Immigration Policy

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Orlando Debt Collection Scam

Debt Collection ScamThe assets of and Orlando-based debt collection company were frozen by Attorney General Pam Bondi after its employees were accused of collecting debt through illegal means.

The company goes by the names Vanderbilt & Associats, LLC and Buchanan Capital Management. The employees of the company were allegedly posing as police officers and government officials in order to scare victims into paying the so-called debts. The company is also accused of collecting debts they were not authorized to collect because they didn’t exist or had already been paid. Authorities say that some victims were scammed out of more than $200,000.

Merril Miller, the owner of the company, claims that the enterprise is a legal collection agency and denied instructing his employees to pose as law enforcement officers.

“If I was [going to be arrested] he would’ve arrested me right here.” Miller said.

Miller’s company was served with a warrant on March 1, 2013. Authorities seized 50 computers in order to go through the hard drives to search for evidence and additional victims.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors, whether the debts are legitimate or not, you have rights. Keep a log of all communications with the debt collection agency and contact an attorney.

Souce: WFTV

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OZ: The Great and Legal

Sam Raimi, director of the new film “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is being very careful not to infringe on the rights of the 1939 classic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” even though the movie is supposed to be a prequel.

freeimage-1676332He was told that anything unique to the movie that was not in L. Frank Baum’s book series was off-limits, but discussions about what that entailed occurred on-set every day. Raimi told the Huffington Post about wanting to have beautiful rainbows when the wizard first appeared in Oz, but the legal department was afraid people may think he was going “somewhere over the rainbow.”

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t even have rainbows in this damn thing,’” Raimi said.

Although many debates occurred regarding what was off-limits, one thing was for sure: the ruby slippers were out. Raimi said he didn’t even ask how much it would cost to be able to incorporate them in the film.

So why is Raimi being so careful? To avoid a lawsuit. Copyright infringement is serious, and the resulting litigation can amount to an exorbitant amount of money. If your copyrighted work has been infringed on, or you want to copyright a piece of intellectual property  you should contact an Intellectual Property attorney today.

Source: Huffington Post

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SCAM ALERT: Businesses Do Not File Annual MINUTES

Annual Minutes scam

A new scam is in the works to fool business owners as it comes time to file their annual report. A company called Compliance Services, based out of Tallahassee, is sending business owners what looks like an official letter asking them to file their “Annual Minutes” for $125. These notices are not from the state or any other government agency.

Business owners are required to file their Annual REPORT, not their Annual MINUTES. The annual minutes should be kept by the business for its own records.

If you receive a letter asking you to file your annual minutes, ignore it or contact an attorney. If you have already received the letter and paid it, contact the State Attorney General’s office.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

Outdoor Recreation is a Booming Industry

Outdoor RecreationOutdoor recreation is a $38.3 billion dollar industry in Florida, according to a study done by the Outdoor Industry Association. The industry creates 329,000 jobs, $10.7 billion in wages, and $2.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. Florida is second only to California.

“Americans spend almost twice as much on outdoor recreation as they spend on pharmaceuticals each year,” Will Manzer, chair of the OIA Board of Directors said. “And outdoor recreation supports twice as many jobs as the oil and gas industry.”

OIA supports over 4,000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives, and retailers of outdoor recreation clothing, shoes, equipment and services.

The outdoor recreation industry proved itself by standing strong through the recession, when many Americans have to choose wisely where to spend their money. If you love the outdoors, you may want to consider investing in your passion by opening a business in this industry because more and more people are escaping the big city to experience the outdoors.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

Establish Your Business on a Solid Foundation

freeimage-6830945When starting a business, it is important to build a solid foundation. The first step is to establish the business as a legal entity, such as a corporation or LLC. It is a good idea to hire trusted legal counsel in order to ensure that you do not miss critical steps in the formation of your business and protection of your assets. Deciding which type of entity you should open is only the beginning of how a Business Law Attorney can help you.

As part of starting a business, you will be required to file corporate paperwork, which is a form of contract. You should also have a Shareholders Agreement or Operating Agreement. These documents should all be reviewed by an attorney.

Other incorporation services include obtaining an EIN number, creating a bank account, and advice from trusted legal counsel.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is different than most types of insurance such that it covers events that have already happened. Title insurance is insurance guarantees that you own the home you are purchasing, informs you of any liens or encumbrances on the property, and protects you from any unknown claims of ownership or interests in the property.

Title InsuranceBefore title insurance will be granted, a title search must be performed. A title search will check to see that the seller of the property is the only owner of the property, will check for banks that may have an outstanding mortgage on the property, and will search for liens and unpaid taxes.

The list from a title search can be daunting, which is why most title insurance companies require a qualified third-party to do the title search in order to ensure that any of the previously mentioned issues are taken care of, or at least accounted for. The title search minimizes the risk of the insurance company offering the title insurance, which allows them to offer it for a low, one-time fee.

If a proper title search is not done and title insurance is not purchased, the buyer could end up buying a house with a large lien on it, potentially bankrupting the buyer. Even worse, the buyer could buy the house from a seller that was only a partial owner or not the owner at all.

*Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com