Legal Funding Company Ripped off 9 /11 Responders

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan against New Jersey based RD Legal Funding Company.

The company allegedly defrauded 9/11 first responders suffering from cancer and other Ground Zero-related illnesses out of millions of dollars by luring them into costly advances on compensation fund and settlement payouts by lying, or failing to disclose essential terms of the deals.

Known as Lawsuit Loans, these programs are attractive to plaintiffs awaiting judgments or settlements in civil lawsuits and personal injury cases. The fine print in these deals contain additional costs and charges that dramatically increase the actual cost of these loans.

When a person contacts one of the lawsuit loan companies that offers pre-settlement lawsuit funding, the company contacts the plaintiff’s lawyer to ascertain what the net settlement will be. Then, based on that estimate, the company will offer a cash advance to the plaintiff. The amount advanced can range anywhere from $500 to $50,000, depending on the case. This is a rip off, because the actual interest rates on these loans can end up costing the borrower in excess of 100% of the amount loaned.

These funding companies also attract heirs in estate matters. Many heirs of estates realize that, even in the absence any protracted family disputes, it may take a relatively long time to collect their benefits under the legacy. When people have an urgent need for cash, they turn to such funding companies for a quick fix. However, the money provided to them is at exorbitant rates.

Our advice is that a pre-settlement funding company should be your last resort, when you have no alternative sources of funding like friends or relatives. And if you do end up using this option, make sure you get all the details spelled out and clearly disclosed by the funding company in the terms of the contract.

Please remember to consult your lawyer and CPA before you sign any contracts with these funding companies.

For any assistance in this regard, please contact Jeffrey Weinstein Estates Attorney, on 212-693-3737

If You’re Living Separately, Get A Divorce

In this blog, we discuss the difficulties that may arise for children in inheritance matters when their mother has been estranged from her husband and does not get a divorce. We take the example of a couple, that was living separately without getting a divorce. They had been living separately and apart for the last 30 years, having no contact with each other whatsoever.

Upon the death of the wife, the husband stands entitled to claim a 50% share in her estate. The reason? They were not legally divorced. This raises an interesting question for inheritance law: Is it right, when parties have been living separately and apart for many years, for the husband to legally claim a share of his estranged wife’s estate, even though he was absent from the decedent’s life for years?

The time period apart is of no legal consequence. However, if the children can prove that the husband abandoned his wife, he may be barred from claiming a share of the estate. The relevant rule states as under:

EPTL 5-1.2.5:  Disqualification as Surviving Spouse.

A person maybe disqualified from claiming a share in his/her spouse’s estate if he/she abandoned their spouse.

The test to determine what constitutes abandonment is provided in the 1941 New York Surrogate’s Court case, In re Barc’s Estate 177 Misc. 578., which states:

“In order to attain a determination that a surviving spouse has abandoned her spouse, under EPTL 5.1.2, those contending for such a result must demonstrate, first, that departure from the other spouse actually occurred; second, that it was without the consent of the one left behind; and, third, that it was “unjustified,” in other words, that it did not occur in consequence of the fault of the person abandoned.”

Establishing abandonment may be difficult to prove without adequate documentary evidence.

So to conclude, please remember three important suggestions:

  1. If you are not living together with your husband/wife anymore, break up, complete the process and obtain a legal divorce.
  2. If your spouse has abandoned you, consult your lawyer to seek an assessment of your documents.
  3. If a parent wants to leave his/her inheritance to the children, then he/she should create a Will, otherwise insurmountable delay will accrue in the probate process, all to the discomfort of the children.

For any assistance in this regard, please contact Jeffrey Weinstein Estates Attorney, on 212-693-3737

Water Damaged Will

In the case Estate of Torleiv Larsen, 2016 NYLJ (Richmond County Surrogate Court) Alexander James Larsen, decedent’s grandson and sole distributee, sought to admit a document purporting to be decedent’s will. The document had sustained water damage and the signatures of decedent and attesting witnesses were wiped away.

The question before the court was whether an original will, not having the decedent and attesting witnesses’ signatures- which were wiped of as a result of water damage- could be admitted to probate. It answered in the affirmative.

The will had been placed in decedent’s home safe in the basement, which was flooded in January 2016. The decedent believed the safe was waterproof and did not check the safe’s contents until his grandson opened it to get the will, after the decedent’s death.

Even though the signatures were wiped from the original will, a conformed copy of the will, in the drafting attorney’s possession, was submitted to the court along with the original. The copy included the signatures of decedent and attesting witnesses, who provided an after death affidavit of attesting witness.

Article 14 of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) provides the conditions for a destroyed will to be admissible to probate:

  •  1407. Proof of lost or destroyed will.

A lost or destroyed will may be admitted to probate only if,

  1. It is established that the will has not been revoked, and
  2. Execution of the will is proved in the manner required for the probate of an existing will, and
  3. All of the provisions of the will are clearly and distinctly proved by each of at least two credible witnesses or by a copy or draft of the will proved to be true and complete.

In a 1950 NY Surrogate Court’s case, In re Christensen’s Will, 197 Misc 152, a damaged will was upheld because “the testatrix never intended to destroy her will and that the testimony of the subscribing witness, together with the correct copy of the said will, justify the admission to probate of the questioned document as the last will and testament of the decedent.”

A copy of a will was upheld by a Louisiana Court when it was determined that the original will was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the decedent did not intend to have it revoked.  In re Succession of Dalier, 19 So. 3d 8 (La App 4 Cir 2009).

In Larsen, the Court found that the three prongs of SCPA 1407 were proven and facts clearly indicated that decedent never intended to revoke his will, as he placed the will in what he believed was a waterproof safe in his basement. The Court stated it was satisfied with the validity of the document offered for probate, and admitted the damaged will to probate.

For any assistance in this regard, please contact Jeffrey Weinstein Wills & Trusts Attorney, on 212-693-3737