Tag Archive | "Law Tips"

5 Hot Tips On Trust Administration

If you are involved in trusts, this is your opportunity to brush up. I have five tips for you on trust administration from Ellen Deeter, a lawyer with extensive background in the area. Ms. Deeter spent most of the past 35 years working in bank trust departments, including as senior trust counsel.  Ellen generously agreed to share her expertise with Law Tips readers.

Tip #1 – Read the entire trust agreement!

• After you have read the trust agreement from beginning to end, including the “boilerplate”, read it again. And then a third time.

• Next, write out a synopsis of the trust agreement, highlighting key provisions. Pay particular attention to the provisions identifying the beneficiaries (current and future), noting mandatory and discretionary distributions, termination provisions, and allocations between principal and income.

• Every time you receive a request for a distribution refer back to the document and make sure that the request is:

1. from someone entitled to receive it.

2. for a purpose that is allowed in the document.

Tip #2 – Read and know the Indiana statutes on trusts (make Indiana Code Title 30 your friend).

• In addition to the Indiana Trust Code, also become familiar with the Indiana Probate Code, the Uniform Principal and Income Act, Total Return Unitrusts. Don’t forget the Internal Revenue Code and the provisions governing the taxation of trusts.

Tip #3 – Establish a process, follow it consistently; communicate.

• Don’t wait until you get a request from a beneficiary for a discretionary distribution to let him or her know the type of information you will need to evaluate the request. Establish ground rules ahead of time for how the request is to be made and the types of documentation that they will need to provide.

• Explain to beneficiaries that the trustee has a duty to both income beneficiaries and remaindermen.

• Let beneficiaries know how the trust (and beneficiaries) are taxed on income earned in the trust and when to expect to receive their Schedule K -1s.

Tip #4 – Understand the difference between accounting income and accounting principal.

Become familiar with the Indiana Uniform Principal and Income Act. Read the document to detennine if the trust agreement makes provisions contrary to the act (which it may) or whether the trust agreement gives the trustee discretion on allocating receipts and disbursements between income and principal.

• Explain to the beneficiaries what the term “net income” means. General (simplified) rule: interest, dividends, rents, royalties less 1/2the trustee fee.

Tip #5 – Document your files.

• Beneficiaries are entitled to inspect your files. Remember that as you write notes to the file.

• Beneficiaries have been known to be litigious (surprise, surprise). Keep copies of all correspondence and emails. Make written, contemporaneous notes of telephone conversations and meetings. Follow meetings up with letters confirming the discussion

Ms. Deeter’s bonus tip: Realize what you DON’T know and engage professionals to assist you. 

I hope you polished your trust administration skills through Ellen Deeter’s review. If you would like to take advantage of the CLE program that includes her discussion of trusts, look for the Video Replay or On Demand Seminar of 120 Hot Tips in Probate, Guardianships, Trusts and Tax by Clicking Here.

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Ellen M. Deeter earned her J.D. magna cum laude from Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis in 1982. She started her career as an inheritance tax examiner for the Indiana Department of Revenue in 1978. Since that time Ms. Deeter has spent most of her career with bank trust departments, including Indiana National Bank, Wachovia Bank, N.A. and Merchants National Bank. She recently retired from The National Bank of Indianapolis, where she worked in various roles over 18 years, including serving as the Manager of the Personal Trusts and Estates Group and as Senior Trust Counsel.  She also is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Ten Reasons to Use Supplemental Jury Questionnaires

I want to welcome Law Tips participant, Inese A. Neiders, Ph.D, J.D., jury consultant from Columbus, Ohio. She assists lawyers in trial preparation, jury selection and trial presentation. It’s a pleasure to be sharing Dr. Neiders expertise with our readers.

How do you accurately and fairly test potential jurors’ qualifications? Do you believe that some prospective jurors are intimidated or influenced by another juror’s oral answers? Can you recall each answer you hear from each person interviewed? Dr. Neiders brings you her seasoned opinions on these and other issues encountered in the jury selection process.  Here’s her food-for-thought:

Ten Reasons to Use Supplemental Jury Questionnaires

The cornerstone of a good jury trial is the selection of a jury that is, to the greatest extent possible, free of bias. It is the duty of Court and counsel to select such a jury and to remove those potential jurors who will not be able to follow the court’s instructions and evaluate the evidence fairly.

In testing the qualifications of potential jurors to serve free of bias and prejudice, the voir dire of a prospective jury can be greatly enhanced by the use of a good jury questionnaire. Jury questionnaires are now widely accepted by the courts as a tool of modern science practice that can be cost effective and time saving in jury selection.

The important reasons for the use of a supplemental jury questionnaire:

  1. Assure Fairness for All: Both sides of the case and the Court have input in drafting the questionnaire. Everyone has equal access to the information generated by the instrument.
  1. Ask Better Questions: The questionnaire allows for a larger number and greater variety of questions of each juror. The variety of types of questions that can be drafted by the jury consultant and counsel (open ended, multiple choice, or forced choice) and the use of reliable “lie scales” can produce a better understanding of the jury than traditional oral examination.
  1. Save Time: Having each juror answer each question in writing in advance of oral examination avoids repetitious questions to the panel. Help from the jury consultant provides a chance to study and analyze responses and conserves attorney time for more strategic work.
  1. Assure Better Recall: Even attorneys with great memories tend to lose recall of juror responses to oral questions over a period oftime. This can be particularly troublesome in a case involving a lengthy jury selection process. Being able to turn directly to the jurors’ written response aids recall and analysis.
  1. Save Money: Among the tools available to help in jury selection, questionnaires are less expensive than mock juries or opinion surveys. The lower cost makes this valuable tool more widely available.
  1. Learn More about the Literacy Level of Jurors: Written answers of potential jurors can reveal a great deal about the ability of the jury to understand the case. This is especially critical in cases dealing with difficult legal issues, scientific evidence, or complex testimony, particularly from expert witnesses.
  1. Learn about All of the Jurors: Uniform questions to the entire jury panel assure that all the jury candidates, not just those in the box, answer all of the questions. The uniformity of questions also guarantees that each juror is presented each question in the same manner. Important issues are less likely to be overlooked for jurors who may be questioned late in the proceedings.
  1. Protect Jurors from Contamination by Other Juror Answers: The requirement of answering privately, in writing, insulates the panel members from being influenced by the way lawyers phrase questions or by the answers given by other, more articulate jurors. They will be unable to learn from others the kinds of answers that can assure selection to, or excuse from the panel.
  1. Get Better Answers from Jurors: The less-pressured atmosphere in which the questionnaire is administered makes it more likely that answers will be truthful and thoughtful. They are more likely to be the juror’s own response rather than no response or a response copied from others. The privacy afforded eliminates the tendency to try to please the judge or lawyer asking an oral question.
  2. Be Better Prepared: Even if the Court rejects the use of your questionnaire, or if circumstances change and you decide not to use it, the work in preparing is not wasted. The question development and pretesting with the jury consultant will assure that you are going to be prepared for court.

Jury questionnaires are just one tool to use to measure attitudes in jury selection. In high profile cases, those with high potential penalties, when bias and prejudice are particular concerns, a unique case or venue, the use of jury questionnaires prepared with the help of competent consultants is indispensable.

I appreciate Dr. Neiders contribution to Law Tips. Hopefully her review provided you with ideas to contemplate as you prepare for your next jury selection. ICLEF litigation seminars that can assist you further are available statewide as Video Replay Seminars or from your home or office as On Demand Seminars. Take a look at:  “Special Issues in Automobile Accident Cases,” “Trying the Traumatic Brain Injury Case,” and “Recent Developments in DUI Defense.”

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About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Inese A. Neiders, Ph.D., J.D. is a jury consultant who assists lawyers in trial preparation, jury selection and trial presentation. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from The Ohio State University and her J.D. is from Case Western Reserve. She has assisted lawyers in jury selection throughout the country. Learn more about her at www.juryselectionexpertise.com.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Divorce Law v. Estate Law: What Divorce Lawyers Can Do To Protect Clients’ Estate Rights

Welcome back to Law Tips. I hope you took advantage of the insights Kent Jeffirs, shared a few weeks back, to kick off this two-part segment on the issues that can arise when one party dies before the final dissolution decree is entered. (Click Here to read, or scroll down) Kent’s continued guidance this week moves specifically into what divorce lawyers can do to protect clients’ estate rights. His foremost piece of advice is: Advise divorce clients about estate and beneficiary designation issues early and often!

In many cases (especially those involving employer sponsored plans) there is no clear answer to the questions that arise when a client dies who failed to change his or her beneficimy designations following a divorce. Therefore, the first and most urgent advice any lawyer should give a divorcing or recently divorced client: CHANGE YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS ASAP!

Divorce lawyers must advise, advise, advise. While a divorce lawyer may not be able to force clients to change their beneficiary designations (even when they are clearly in such clients’ best interests), divorce lawyers do not want to leave themselves exposed to claims that “you never said that could happen” by former clients or their family members. When it comes to making proper beneficiary designations, an ounce of prevention could be worth a substantial inheritance or years of contentious litigation.

Divorce lawyers must discuss issues of estate planning and beneficiary designations with their clients at the very beginning of representation and while the divorce is pending. If allowed to change beneficiary designations prior to the divorce being filed or while it is still pending, advise clients to change their designations unless prohibited from doing so by a court order. If the divorce is already filed or if there is a restraining order or provisional order already in effect prohibiting any changes to beneficiary designations, consider petitioning the divorce court to provisionally allow specified changes to designated beneficiaries based on the hardship or inequitable results that would occur if a party died before the divorce was finalized.

While this may seem overly precautious to some for provisional orders when there is no immediate threat to the health or life of a client, the small effort necessary to include such provisions in provisional orders and to make such beneficiary changes before or at the time the divorce is filed or even while a divorce is pending is nothing compared to the financial devastation that could occur to the deceased client’s family members without such changes. Remember, the surviving spouse in a divorce where no final decree of dissolution was entered can claim any individually titled property he stood to lose in the divorce, all jointly titled property as the surviving co-owner, plus a spousal allowance of $25,000 and an intestate or elective share of any assets of the deceased spouse’s estate that were titled in her name alone if the surviving spouse was fortuitous enough to have his spouse die while the divorce is pending.

In furtherance of divorce lawyers documenting their disclosure and advice concerning these issues, it is recommended that divorce lawyers include in their engagement agreements that it is the client’s responsibility to make appropriate changes to his or her estate plan and beneficiary designations and request that the client provide the attomey with a copy of any beneficiary designation changes for the attorney’s file when the client changes their beneficiary designations.

Finally, upon the entry of the dissolution decree and the finalizing of the representation, divorce lawyers should send an appropriate closing letter which sets forth all of the client’s responsibilities following the entry of the final dissolution decree including the client’s responsibility to make appropriate changes to his or her estate plan and beneficiary designations. Just as suggested above for inclusion in engagement agreements, the closing letter should also request that the client provide the attorney with a copy of any beneficiary designation changes for the attorney’s file when the client changes their beneficiary designations.

Thanks again to Kent Jeffirs for his generous contributions to Law Tips. FYI, Kent offers a comprehensive discussion of the situations you may encounter with your clients during his CLE presentation, addressing subjects such as, executors, ERISA and divorce court jurisdiction. If you are interested in the Video Replay or the On Demand Seminar of  “The Main Event: Divorce Law vs. Estate Law & Designated Beneficiaries,”  Click Here.

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About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Kent A. Jeffirs is a sole practitioner in Crown Point, Indiana, who for the last 22 years has concentrated his legal practice in estate planning, probate and trust administration, guardianships, real estate and small business counseling. In 2007, Mr. Jeffirs was one of the first group of Indiana attorneys to be board certified as a Specialist in Wills, Trusts Estates by the Indiana Trust and Estate Specialty Board. He has also testified in court proceedings as an expert witness on probate matters. Mr. Jeffirs received his B.A. degree, with honors, from the University of Notre Dame, and his J.D. degree, magna cum laude, from Indiana University, Bloomington.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Mistakes Lawyers Make in Medical Malpractice Cases: Expert Carelessness

Welcome back to Law Tips for an expansion of  the discussion on how to avoid the issues that can cripple a medical malpractice case.  This week our faculty participants, Linda Chezen and John Boren, delve into the concerns surrounding inadequate expertise in evaluation of the case.  Their overall alert is: ….woe betides the attorney who does not adequately explain the standard of care, show causation, and prove/justify the amount requested as damages.”

Inadequate expertise in evaluation of the case: Relying on an expert who is not one!  And/or is not recognized by other experts.
The need for a witness that is not only an expert but very creditable and professional in his or her presentation is paramount. A firm that utilizes experts with questionable credentials will eventually get branded with its carelessness. I still remember the med mal case I tried where the plaintiff’s expert was not a medical doctor and the jury decided for defendant because the plaintiff did not have a “real” doctor.

There are societies and other professional organizations in which an expert can list membership but all are not equal. For medical doctors, The American Board of Medical Specialties is the key credential for an expert. The ABMS is a non-profit organization that oversees standards and certification for all twenty-four recognized medical and surgical specialties. Truly Board-Certified specialists are known as Diplomates and are identified by the words, “American Board of…”  preceding the name of their specialty. For example, “Diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine”. Other copycat “boards” employ similar sounding names though they may not use the designation of “American Board”.

Utilizing an expert with questionable credentials may not keep you from getting to trial. If you need trial experience, using a fake expert can get you the experience- if not the verdict you want.  For other professionals and scientists, knowing how to evaluate the credentials of the person and the organizations is a critical skill. Questions to ask:

1. Would they have you as a member?

2. What do the university faculty know about the society?

3. The right expertise may not be an M.D.

a. Toxicology- Society of Toxicology

b. Alcohol- Research Society on Alcohol

c. Neuroscience – Society for Neuroscience

At the least, have a non-testifying expert evaluate the case.
It feels great to get that favorable expert review on a challenging case you just accepted. This may be a good time to breathe and get a second opinion, particularly when the issues are complex and the trial expenses will be high. An additional opinion from a non-testifying expert will help establish that the first expert’s analysis is on target and may give supplemental insight into the case. Non-testifying experts often remain with the case to serve as strategic consultants whose work may be protected from discovery by work-product rules. This approach can provide long-term savings in terms of both time and money.

Where to find the best medical expert witness:
Have someone familiar with the medical world and the academic qualifications evaluate expert’s CV and experience. Do not stop with your own witnesses but have the same process for the opposing side’s experts. Compare the witness to the stars of the specialty and other potential expert witnesses.

Know who is doing relevant research. See http://report.nih.gov/
“Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools provides access to reports, data, and analyses of National Institutes of Health research activities, including information on NIH expenditures and the results of NIH supported research.”

Thanks again to Linda Chezem and John Boren for illustrating the dangers that could jeopardize medical malpractice cases. Be sure to check in here at Law Tips next week for tips from our Medical Malpractice experts on avoiding the wrong experts when evaluating your case. Meanwhile, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the excellent CLE presentation on Mistakes Attorneys Often Make With Medical Malpractice Cases through ICLEF’s On Demand CLE programming.

ICLEF also has Advanced Medical Malpractice on June 24th, as a Live In-Person only Seminar, Click Here.

Resource: Marian Langley JD, reference article: Seven Mistakes Attorneys Often Make With Medical Malpractice Caseshttp://www.ilawconnect.com/blog/seven-mistakes-attorneys-often-make-with-medical-malpractice-cases

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
John D. Boren opened his law practice in Martinsville, Indiana, in 1979 and joined with Steve Oliver to form the partnership of Boren and Oliver in 1981. Together they have  pursued numerous cases for injured clients with successful representation against the largest corporations in the world. John has also successfully defended numerous clients charged criminally, including the defense of a twelve year old boy charged with murder. His areas of practice include personal injury, medical malpractice, major criminal defense and DUI.

Hon. Linda L. Chezem is a Professor and Adjunct Professor with Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine as well as a former Indiana Appellate Court Judge. She resides in Mooresville. Judge Chezem’s expertise reaches into several areas. For instance, due to her extensive background in underage drinking laws, she teaches law students, graduate students and lawyers about ethical and legal issues in alcohol research. She also focuses on animal use and production law and, on the human side, informed consent and certificates of confidentiality.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy HurleyLaw Tips blogger, has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page. Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy.  She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you onLaw Tips.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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