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Binghamton Law Blog: Covering Topics from Personal Injury to Estate Planning Law

Trusts: Powerful vehicles to bequeath estates to young children

Most people tend to avoid thoughts about their own mortality. However, New York parents of young children should consider the possibility that an accident or illness might claim their lives before their children reach adulthood. Such thoughts might bring up many questions about wills, trusts and investment accounts, and the pros and cons of each option.

Some advisers maintain that using trusts to bequeath estates to children is the most efficient way in which to achieve the goal. Trusts can guarantee the availability of funds whether the children are still dependent or adults. If parents should die while their children are young, a trust can provide funds to finance their care, school and college educations as well as their entry into adulthood.

Medical malpractice claim might follow missed TBI diagnosis

A violent jolt or blow to the body or head can cause traumatic brain injuries. Mild traumatic brain injuries are not always evident on EEGs, CT scans and neurological examinations. However, New York victims of such accidents might not realize that the absence of evidence does not necessarily mean there is no cerebral injury, and such a missed diagnosis could lead to medical malpractice claims.

TBI can also be caused by the brain being penetrated by a piece of shattered bone if a bullet or blunt force trauma damage the skull. In most cases of first-time mild traumatic brain injuries, symptoms disappear within about three months. However, even MTBIs can have severe consequences if they go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, and in some cases, they are even ignored. The problem with this is that subsequent MTBIs are likely to have more severe and more persistent symptoms.

Premises liability: How safe will trick-or-treating be this year?

Halloween is around the corner, and New York residents will likely have safety on their minds. Knowing that strangers will enter their properties, homeowners might be wise to make sure no hazards exist that could lead to premises liability claims. However, they might also be concerned about the safety of their children who will enter the properties of others who might not have taken due care to prevent injuries.

Leaving the porch light on typically invites trick-or-treaters, but even injuries to uninvited people on someone's property might lead to liability claims. Unenclosed swimming pools and spas also pose risks for young children, and playground equipment at a home where children go for candy could be seen as attractive nuisances. If they cause injuries, the property owner could be held accountable.

Trusts: Why would Burt Reynolds leave his son out of his will?

Following the recent death of actor Burt Reynolds, it was revealed that, although he left a will that was established in 2011, he excluded his son from it. However, this was reportedly intentional, as Reynolds chose to provide for his son in a trust. People in New York might question the reason why some choose to provide for surviving loved ones in trusts rather than wills.

The first benefit involves estate taxes, which are payable on estates that exceed $5.6 million. By instead leaving assets in an irrevocable trust, it removes them from the taxable estate and allows for other assets to form part of the exempted $5.6 million. Even though Reynolds' estimated estate value is below the exemption amount, he might not have known that when he drafted the will seven years before his death.

Wrongful death: Passenger succumbs to injuries in DWI crash

Getting into the car with any driver is a decision that must be carefully considered. This is frequently underscored by news reports of crashes caused by impaired drivers who leave their passengers critically injured or dead while the drivers often walk away unscathed. Many such accidents lead to wrongful death lawsuits filed in the civil courts of New York.

According to a police report in Suffolk County, a 45-year-old man from Hauppauge was arrested on a recent Monday after an accident that occurred in the early morning hours. Reportedly, the driver smashed into an unoccupied parked car shortly after 3 a.m. The crash caused severe injuries to the 40-year-old passenger who was in his vehicle.

The risks of premises liability while visiting a New York hotel

Attending a conference or a public occasion at a New York facility could turn out to be a nightmare if the venue owner or manager fails to take due care to prevent guests' injuries or illnesses. If a conference attendee or visitor to a trade show suffers any harm during his or her stay, there might be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit. While there is an endless list of things that could go wrong, a few common hazards exist in the hospitality industry.

Slip-and-fall accidents are most common, and hazards that cause them include loose carpets or rugs and wet floors caused by negligent janitorial work or leakages. Loose hand railings, damaged stairways and debris on walkways can also lead to falls. Visitors to trade shows often trip over extension cords snaking over the showroom floor to presentation equipment, speakers and other electronic needs of exhibitors.

Trusts and wills are best drafted with experienced legal counsel

While many New York residents fail to establish estate plans, those who do often make unintentional mistakes. Drafting a will and creating trusts are best done with the guidance of experienced legal counsel. One of the biggest mistakes is neglecting to review estate plans at regular intervals to ensure life events, such as deaths, births, marriages and divorces, are reflected and that the necessary modifications are made to keep it current.

Naming an inappropriate executor of an estate could cause problems. Many people choose one of their children without considering potential nasty sibling rivalry and even legal battles that could develop after a parent's death. Choosing an executor that is not a close family member might be wise. When it comes to the idea that everything should be split equally between the children, it might be wise do that with money and not items or objects. Situations could arise in which an object has emotional importance for one sibling while a brother or sister might see the monetary value instead.

Car accidents: Attempted U-turn puts car in path of motorcycle

Motorcycle riders in New York often put their lives on the line when they take to the roads. Bikers typically suffer severe injuries in motorcycle vs. car accidents. This is because they have none of the protection that automobile occupants have.

Police in Sangerfield say one such a crash is currently under investigation. Reportedly, it occurred shortly after noon on a recent Thursday. A 73-year-old man, who was westbound on Route 20, decided to make a U-turn. However, he allegedly failed to notice an oncoming motorcycle that was heading in the same direction. With the car directly in the path of the bike, a collision could not be avoided.

Asking the necessary questions might prevent medical malpractice

In New York and elsewhere, the time leading up to a surgical procedure is usually stressful. Regardless of the reason for surgery, there will always be risks of failure and anxiety about the consequences of failure or errors. Patients who are scheduled to undergo surgery are advised to ask some pertinent questions -- not only to be prepared but also to protect their rights in the event of surgical errors, negligence or another type of medical malpractice.

After carefully choosing a surgeon, the patient will be entitled to know exactly what to expect and what the procedure will entail. A patient could even take a friend or family member along to take notes or even record the conversation with the doctor. Before the surgical procedure occurs, the patient must sign a form of consent, and it is crucial to understand what permissions are being granted. If it turns out that a different procedure was performed that what was authorized, there might be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Even some celebrities neglect to prepare wills or trusts

A survey by a senior care resources company recently indicated that more than half of the adults nationwide, including in New York, have not done estate planning. This means that many people die without wills, one of which was the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Despite knowing that she had a severe illness, she failed to make sure that her affairs were in order before her death. For many people, acknowledging their mortality is too emotional.

In the case of Aretha Franklin, the state in which she lived will take control of her estate. The probate court of her county will oversee the division of her assets, which would likely go to her four children. It includes retirement accounts, property and other assets along with the income from her extensive music catalog. However, not all heirs are equipped or prepared to manage significant financial inheritances, which underscores the importance of estate planning.

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