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

Is there a difference between living trusts and revocable trusts?

People in New York who want to get their affairs in order by establishing estate plans might have questions about the available options. What is the purpose of creating trusts, and what are the differences between living and revocable trusts? Is an irrevocable trust perhaps the suitable option? Setting up a trust is a way of protecting assets, and appointing a trustee to manage them after the owner's death or incapacitation.

A trust is a legal entity into which assets are placed, and a trustee is a person tasked with distributing the assets according to the owner's wishes upon his or her death, or determining how the assets should be invested. There is no difference between a living and a revocable trust -- both refer to a trust whose terms the owner can modify or adjust at any time. Also, beneficiaries can be added or removed as it pleases the owner.

Sudden weather changes can cause unanticipated car accidents

Heading toward the holiday season, no one would want to be in a hospital bed when others count down to the start of the New Year. New York weather conditions in December can change rapidly. Drivers who take to the road when the weather seems fine can face unexpected hazards almost in the blink of an eye. Safety authorities say more people die in weather-related car accidents each year than extensive weather disasters like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Rain, sleet, snow, ice and fog can all cause problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation notes that while rain and wet roadways cause many accidents, dense fog, heavy snow, and blinding rain can suddenly reduce good visibility to almost zero within seconds. Squalls or intense bursts of heavy snowfall can cause slick roads and reduced visibility that take drivers by surprise.

Premises liability: What to do if the elevator stalls

Being trapped in an elevator is the worst nightmare of many people in New York. When it comes to safe transport, elevators are said to be one of the most reliable. However, they do get stuck, and nobody is ever prepared for such a situation. Property owners of buildings with elevators are required to follow a strict maintenance and service schedule to avoid such incidents, and if they fail to do so, they might find themselves facing premises liability lawsuits.

If ever an elevator stops between floors, something is wrong, but occupants are advised to try not to panic. The first thing to do is to push the button that opens the doors, and if the elevator stalled close to a landing, the doors would typically open. However, the car will likely not be perfectly lined up with the landing, and occupants might want to step carefully. If the door remains shut, the Help or Alarm button can be pressed. In some of the newer elevator cars, it might be a Phone button, which will make contact with linked responders.

Take precautions to avoid car accidents during winter storms

This is the time of the year that New York is hammered by storms that make travel extremely hazardous. There is no shortage of car accidents, and sadly, many lives are lost each year in the time leading up to the holidays. However, proactive drivers can take precautions to increase their chances of arriving at their destinations safely.

It might be a good idea for New York drivers to check weather predictions and to only travel when they must. They should also make sure the gas level in their vehicles' tanks is not below half. Drivers should increase following distances to allow enough space for coming to a halt on icy roads, and when snowstorms limit visibility, they should make sure the hazard lights are flashing. If it is necessary to stop due to snow and public works activities to clear the road, drivers should pull off the roadway.

Trusts can provide for surviving loved ones -- even for pets

Pets have become loved ones of many New York families, and making sure they will continue to receive loving care if their owners should die or become incapacitated is something that can form part of estate planning. Trusts can be set up for dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, lizards, snakes, turtles and other pets -- not to forget a beloved horse or pony. A pet trust can ensure that funds are available for routine and emergency veterinary care, boarding, feeding, grooming costs and more.

Identifying the ideal person to serve as a trustee of a pet trust might be the most challenging part of establishing it, and it is essential to make sure that person would be willing to play the role. Would the trustee be the caregiver or would there be a separate person to care for the pet? Matters to consider when establishing pet trusts include the current living standards and level of care pets receive and the care a trustee would be expected to provide.

Difference between medical malpractice and medical negligence

Doctors nationwide, including in New York, have a duty to provide care of an acceptable standard. If that duty is breached, and the breach causes harm to the patient, there might be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, there might be some confusion between medical negligence and medical malpractice -- both of which could lead to tort claims.

If a doctor knows about a patient's symptoms but fails to order tests to help with diagnosis, it could be judged as malpractice. However, if the results of tests or symptoms are misinterpreted, an inaccurate diagnosis could lead to a negligence claim. When it comes to surgical errors, any deviations outside the standard practices or knowingly doing surgery that involves the wrong body part could constitute malpractice. Making a mistake due to distractions or failure to study medical reports and instructions before the surgery will likely lead to a medical negligence claim.

Car accidents: Child struck while walking to school

It is never easy for parents to learn that a vehicle struck their child. Many car accidents in New York involve drivers who failed to keep a lookout for children. On a recent Wednesday, an 11-year-old boy and a friend were heading to school in Binghamton. In an accident of which very few details were reported, a car hit the young pedestrian.

According to a preliminary report by the New York State Police, the incident occurred at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Route 7. Reportedly, the two pedestrians attempted to cross the street in a work zone. The circumstances that led to the car striking the boy is still under investigation. Troopers say no citations were issued at that time.

Special needs trusts can ensure care for a disabled child

New York parents may have concerns about children with special needs who might outlive them. Naming a disabled child as a beneficiary in a will may not be the best option because it could jeopardize that person's eligibility for government support programs. Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and other government programs like subsidized housing and job training typically have restrictions on the income of disabled individuals. However, parents can establish special needs trusts by which they can earmark assets to provide support before and after their deaths.

A special needs trust can be put in place to benefit a child with mental and physical disabilities. It can provide for various needs, and the donor can specify how the funds are to be used. However, the beneficiary's limitations might prevent him or her from managing those assets independently. In that case, the donor can appoint a trustee to watch over the spending of the assets, also making sure that the funds are used as intended by the donor.

Brain injury symptoms might be delayed after a car accident

Car accidents on busy New York roads are not unusual, and even when those involved seem uninjured, various hidden injuries with delayed symptoms could surface. Brain injuries fall into that category, and avoiding a medical evaluation after an accident can have long-term consequences. Even if there is no penetrating brain injury, sudden movement or momentum can cause a mild or severe concussion or contusions on one or opposite sides of the brain.

Symptoms that might indicate brain injuries include headaches, exhaustion, nausea, numbness in extremities and seizures. The victim could also have impaired thinking, responses, concentration, coordination and balance abilities. Furthermore, brain injuries can cause confusion and problems dealing with emotions.

Premises liability suit filed by injured Costco customer

When consumers in New York go shopping, the last thing anyone would expect is to suffer severe injuries due to conditions in the store that are dangerous or unsafe. Unfortunately, it could happen to anyone in any store because not all property owners take due care to eliminate hazards that could harm customers. The prevalence is underscored by the many premises liability claims filed in New York courts.

A 62-year-old resident of New York who allegedly suffered severe injuries during a visit to the store in 2016 recently filed a federal lawsuit against a Costco branch in Brookfield. Court documents indicate that the plaintiff allegedly suffered irreversible brain damage when a steel rod struck him above the eye. He claims to have reached higher than seven feet to get a hold of a product that was on top of the stack. During this process, a three-inch diameter, 40-inch long steel pipe fell from the stack.

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