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

Trusts have benefits, but wills are also important

Estate planning is often a daunting prospect for people in New York and other states. Knowing when and how to establish trusts -- and making sure wills meet the legal requirements -- could be daunting. A will is a document to ensure the testator's wishes are carried out, but certain assets cannot form part of a will.

Life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans have beneficiaries written into them and can therefore not be bequeathed to anybody in a will. Regardless of what the will says, these assets will typically go to the people who are named in the policies. It is important to note that a 401(k) plan will go to the current spouse unless that spouse legally agrees that it could go to someone else.

Fatal motorcycle crash may lead to wrongful death claims

As many New York residents know, a motorcycle can be a fun and easy way to travel, whether for practical purposes or for leisure. Unfortunately, though, accidents involving motorcycles and larger vehicles, such as cars and trucks, are not uncommon, and in most collisions, the people on motorcycles tend to receive the brunt of the injuries. In one such case, wrongful death lawsuits may follow a fatal collision involving a pickup truck and a motorcycle that killed a Syracuse couple.

The incident happened on a recent evening on Route 49 near Constantia. According to police, the westbound motorcycle collided with an eastbound pickup truck. The truck had made a left turn into a parking lot and apparently had not seen the smaller vehicle. Both occupants of the motorcycle were thrown from the vehicle.

Parents file medical malpractice suit after twin dies

New Yorkers surely have empathy for the parents in another state who lost one of their 2-year-old twin girls. The family recently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the twins were born prematurely in Aug. 2016. The mother of the twins worked at Hopkins' labor and delivery unit at the time of their birth. Her employer carries her medical insurance, and this may complicate the issue.

According to the complaint, the examination of the twins after their birth included ultrasounds. Allegedly, the nurse practitioner noted that one of the twins had an abdominal mass, which might turn out to be neuroblastoma. The same nurse practitioner also indicated in the report that the infant should undergo another ultrasound within seven days after discharge from the hospital.

Wrongful death claims might follow 2-vehicle crash

Another deadly car accident occurred along the same road in New York state that also claimed the life of a man on Christmas Day. The latest wreck killed two people and sent three severely injured women to a hospital on a recent Friday. The crash investigation is ongoing, and officers noted that alcohol was not suspected of playing a role, but toxicology test results remain pending. Wrongful death claims may follow.

A preliminary accident report indicated that a westbound vehicle struck another car that was pulling out of a parking lot. The 35-year-old driver of that car and his 31-year-old passenger died at the crash scene. The other vehicle's three occupants, all in their twenties, suffered severe injuries. They were taken to a medical center in Albany.

A brain injury caused by a crash could be life-changing

Victims of car accidents in upstate New York may suffer the consequences for many years. This is more likely for anyone who suffered a brain injury. Therapy and medical treatment could continue for extended periods, and mounting medical bills may become overwhelming. Brain trauma could even occur without a penetration wound.

Brain trauma consequences could impair coordination, balance, ambulation, strength, endurance, and fine motor skills. Furthermore, cognitive deficiencies may affect communication, language, memory, perceptual skills and information processing. In many cases, victims of traumatic brain injuries develop psychological problems as they struggle to adjust to disabilities.

Slip and falls give rise to complicated premises liability suits

Slip-and-fall accidents can leave the victim with a whole lot more than embarrassment. In fact, they could cause injuries with long-term consequences. The New York civil justice system allows people to pursue financial relief, even if the victim is partly to blame. Many premises liability lawsuits involve injuries resulting from slip or trip-and-fall incidents.

Slip-and-fall hazards can be indoors and outdoors. Frequent causes include wet or slippery floors indoors and snow or ice outdoors. Damaged or improperly lit stairways are potentially treacherous, and potholes or other neglected maintenance on sidewalks and parking lots can also cause serious injuries. Not all slip-and-fall accidents make viable legal claims; for example, slipping on a wet floor where warning signs are clearly visible may be partially or entirely the fall victim's fault.

The benefits of wills and trusts in estate planning

Many people in upstate New York may not understand that estate planning has various benefits while the testator is still alive. Although wills, which form a part of estate planning, ensure that the deceased person's wishes are honored, other aspects of the planning could deal with living plans. Careful planning can help an individual to accomplish several tasks. Including a revocable living trust or a will in estate planning allows a person to determine to whom he or she would like to pass property and assets upon his or her death.

The documents are not one-size-fits-all but drafted to suit the unique needs of the testator. With a trust, he or she can state when heirs should receive the property and whether there are restrictions or conditions to receiving the inheritance. This is a useful feature for those who have minor children. The difference between the two options is that a will has to go through the probate process in court while a revocable living trust does not. The trust cannot only save time but also expenses.

Car accidents: Head-on crash claims 5 lives

Lives are at stake each day on the roads in upstate New York and across the country. Car accidents often cause severe injuries, and too often, lives are lost. The dangers were underscored by a head-on crash that claimed five lives on a recent Sunday evening. Reportedly, this accident occurred on State Route 79 shortly before 5:30 p.m.

According to a preliminary accident report, the driver of an eastbound SUV, occupied by five people, appeared to have attempted to pass another eastbound vehicle without making sure that the road ahead was clear. Before the SUV driver could complete the pass and return to the eastbound lane, he encountered an oncoming pickup truck. A deadly head-on collision followed.

Wrongful death: Most accidents are preventable

Even with all the safety features of cars, accidents continue to cause catastrophic and even fatal injuries. Motorists in upstate New York are always at risk of crossing the paths of reckless and negligent drivers, meetings that often result in accidents that lead to personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Sadly, most car accidents are preventable, and so are the consequences.

Learning how the most common collisions occur might help drivers to avoid involvement. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that over 50% of severe auto accidents in 2016 were front-impact collisions. Along with head-on crashes, this category includes collisions with trees, walls, telephone poles and other stationary objects. The IIHS data indicates that one in four accidents in 2016 were side-impact collisions -- also called T-bones or sideswipes. Failure to cede the right of way often causes these accidents.

How does an asset protection trust differ from other trusts?

Trusts are established as a part of estate planning by many people in upstate New York. Trusts can create financial legacies for surviving loved ones, and some use them to minimize estate taxes. Individuals who are concerned about legal action to attach some of their assets have additional options in the form of asset protection trusts.

A revocable living trust is used to protect assets to be passed on to beneficiaries like a spouse, children and others. The person drafting the trust can manage and change it during his or her lifetime. In contrast, an asset protection trust is irrevocable. Transferring assets into an irrevocable trust make the trust the owner of the funds, managed by a trustee and not changeable.

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