South Carolina has an administrative rule regarding resolution of Family Court cases. It requires that all cases be settled or mediated within 365 days from the date of filing. This can lead to hardship for both litigants and attorneys. Although a year may sound more than sufficient to resolve a case, that is only the case when both parties (and both of their counsel) wish for fast resolution of the case. Of course, this isn’t always the case.
Even more concerning is that if a Temporary Order for child custody, visitation, support, alimony or payment of debts has been entered, the stroke of a pen can end this obligation. Family practitioners now tend to track this and try to schedule accordingly. But, be aware of this issue and help your attorney timely and promptly move your case through the system so that you will not find yourself on the receiving end of an Order of Dismissal. This will result in the need to refile your action and requesting the court to reinstate the prior Temporary Order, a process that could take as long as 60 or more days.
In South Carolina, there is no automatic “right of survivorship” in real estate. So, make sure your deed is joint for your elder parents and also has the additional language necessary to create this right of survivorship. Give us a call if you need your deed checked. If we have the document, it will take less than five (5) minutes. I read this post on a blog, and although I take a slight exception to the Medicaid Recovery possibility on a principle residence of a surviving spouse, it is worth a discussion and review by a qualified elder attorney. The post I came across is as follows:
Q: Father is in a nursing home with Medicaid paying. Mom is still at home. If my father dies and mom is still in the home, will Medicaid place a lien on the home? Should we have a new will drawn up for my mother changing the beneficiary from my father to her children? Would the house then be hers when my father passes away, since they are co-owners, or would Medicaid be able to take all of the assets if sold, or would they only be able to take his half from the estate?
A: All good questions. In most cases when a house is co-owned, ownership will pass to the surviving owner when one passes away. So just in case your mother passes away before your father, the entire ownership of the house should be transferred to her in order to protect it from a Medicaid claim for reimbursement. As you suggest, your mother also would be well advised to update her will, either bypassing your father entirely or creating a trust for his benefit. What makes most sense depends on your parents’ circumstances and the laws in your state. I strongly recommend that you consult with a local elder law attorney to determine the best approach.
I read with great interest in The State Newspaper how a law firm in my small state is fighting the rising cost of health insurance with a great idea. Collins and Lacy (no relation to me) was fighting ever-increasing health insurance premiums. They came up with a positive-management and creative approach to help their employees to help themselves. Generally, they provided a wellness and step program that offered an iPad and iPod to the winners – or more accurately – losers in the program. I am sure it also increased productivity, decreased missed days and added to the firm camaraderie. So, I hope we can all find similar approaches to this that will help us as a community, state and nation get healthier. I know as an employer that I hope I can also motivate and manage my team in such a positive and productive fashion.
I have been a licensed attorney since 1997 and have years of experience in many different areas of law, including representing start-ups and small business owners. But, I have a newly found respect for these clients. Today marks Day 100 of Collins Law Office, PLLC’s operations and it has been a very valuable experience. Just one example was trying to work my way through what was supposed to be made easy by the South Carolina Business One-Stop website, but that is a different blog altogether. When I gave up with that and went with the traditional telephone approach, it took me over two hours just to get a S.C. Unemployment Registration Number for the fast-approaching Payroll Returns deadline. I am not trying to indicate that I am any busier than any other business owner, but I don’t have time for this. I need to be practicing law and helping my clients! This is what I love to do. Of course, I have been helping clients deal with governmental red tape my whole career. But when you are on the receiving end of the red tape, it gives you a whole new appreciation. So, can we solicit Congress for a National Small Business Owners Appreciation Day? We have everything else, and I think we need a day to recognize all the hard work, stress and aggravations that they must endure just for being the backbone of our local, State and national economies.
Margaret A. Collins, Esquire
Collins Law Office, PLLC
Post Office Box 2199
Columbia, SC 29202
Facsimile: (803) 808-3312
Today was a very rare day. I went to Family Court, got called for the case and was in and out of there in less than ten (10) minutes. But, that isn’t what made it rare, but trust me when I say that sequence of events is, in and of itself, extremely rare. The rarity to which I refer is as follows: I had the pleasure of going to Court with a client that was going for all the right reasons. My fees and expenses, the process server, $175 in filing fees and his time and effort away from work and most of all, the stress of a lawsuit and the drama associated with it were all reasons for him not to even be there. But, he was there to do the right thing. It was all for the benefit of a child that wasn’t even his. It is inspirational and is really even better than earning a large fee when someone is there for all the right reasons to his detriment. The judge clearly saw the same thing I did and ruled in his favor, but I think I may have seen the corners of the judge’s mouth also curl up in satisfaction and warmth for what this man did. But for attorney-client privilege, I would praise him directly. But, suffice it to say he made my day and I wish all cases were as satisfying and rewarding. Kudos to you, Mr. X and I commend you for doing the right thing.
The events in Japan have been absolutely horrific. I have watched the news and seen so much devastation and need, it is overwhelming at the though of it. I attended a fundraiser last night for an organization near and dear to my heart and felt good for contributing. But, I did not feel really that good. I felt I helped in a small way, but I didn’t really make a difference by my single contribution. It was only a little bit of money, which is something that is in short supply in a new law firm. Also, that really may sound funny to some, especially in these difficult financial times. But, as the wise words of Tom Brokaw illustrates, is just a little bit of money really making a difference? Don’t get me wrong – it is critical to contribute and a bunch of people even giving a little can make a difference. But, I think that we need to challenge ourselves even more.
Attorneys are required to “volunteer” by way of appointments from the Court. In many of these cases, I have felt that I made the world of difference in the lives of children as a Guardian ad Litem. The joy and satisfaction I get in helping these children is immeasurable. Now, I am looking to make the same difference in the lives of just one of these earthquake/tsunami/nuclear fallout victims. I would ask you to contemplate how you, too, could truly make a difference in just one person’s life. It doesn’t have to be the Japanese and it doesn’t have to be cash money. But, the rewards you will make to another (and to yourself) may just change your whole outlook.
A SDNY federal district court held that federal agencies must turn over metadata with Freedom of Information Act request responses. In National Day Laborer Organizing Network v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency was not allowed to merely produce .pdf files and had to also include all document metadata. This is a groundbreaking extension of prior practices and may radically change the manner in which government agencies must store their data. However, this court (and Judge Shira A. Scheindlin) has provided other ground-breaking rulings in e-discovery issues that seem to take hold. To all my clients, friends and family involved in the public sector and/or information technology companies that are public vendors, this trend is worth noting and may be worth following. This ruling does not currently change private discovery responses and would not have any immediate impact on non-governmental entities.
Margaret A. Collins is the founder of Collins Law Office, PLLC in Columbia, South Carolina. Her general practice has included local government representation and information technology transactions.