Be Careful About Joints Accounts (October 31st, 2014)

A recent case from the Court of Special Appeals held that a person is not an “owner” of a bank account simply because her name was on the account for the purposes of allowing withdrawals. In Wagner v. State of Maryland, a father added his daughter’s name to his bank account so she could withdraw money in the event he was not able to go to the bank. There was no agreement that his daughter would have access to the money for her own use. Despite this, the daughter took nearly $125,000 from the account. She was charged with theft.

She argued that because she had the right to withdraw funds, she could not be charged with theft. The court disagreed, holding that while she did have the right to make withdrawals, she could only lawfully use the money for her father’s benefit. When she took money for her own use, it became a criminal act.

People who have their names added to a bank account for the convenience of the primary account holder must be careful to use any money they withdraw for the primary account holder’s benefit. All expenditures should be documented in the event proof is necessary to avoid the suggestion of criminal conduct. The moral of the story: Just because your name is on the account does not make it yours. If your name is added to an account and the understanding is that you can use the money for your own benefit, get something in writing to protect yourself in the event it is challenged later.


Rory N. Parks Joins WHFL (September 30th, 2014)

Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, LLC is pleased to announce that Rory N. Parks has joined the firm as an associate, practicing primarily with debt collection. He assists individuals, businesses, and homeowner and condominium associations recover overdue accounts.

Prior to joining WHFL, Rory worked as a legal intern at the Federal Communications Commission and as a law clerk for a personal injury and family law firm. After graduating from law school, he served for a year as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Stephen M. Waldron in the Circuit Court for Harford County.

Rory was born and raised in Baltimore County and was home-schooled until eighth grade, when he began attending St. Paul’s School. After graduating from St. Paul’s, Rory attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, where he graduated magna cum laude.   He double-majored in Spanish and International Relations, and studied in Chile.  He is highly proficient in Spanish.

Rory received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Maryland Journal of International Law. He is admitted to practice in Maryland.


Court Saves Failure to Assign Retirement Benefits (July 31st, 2014)

In many divorce cases, one spouse’s retirement benefits can be divided between the parties so that the other spouse receives a beneficial interest in the retirement plan.  In such cases, the retirement plan administrator is notified of the division and when benefits are paid, they are paid to each spouse accordingly.  It is important that the plan administrator be notified about the new division because if not, despite a court order, all of the benefits will still be paid to only one spouse.

It gets more complicated when the spouse with the retirement benefits dies, and names someone other then his ex-spouse as the beneficiary.  Then, the surviving spouse gets nothing.

In Robinette v. Hunsecker, that’s exactly what happened.  The parties never told the plan administrator that there was an agreement that the ex-wife would receive some of her former husband’s retirement benefits.  He died, and named his second wife as beneficiary.  The court held that since the parties had an agreement, it was inequitable for the second wife to receive the ex-wife’s benefits.  The court ordered that all future benefits be paid in accordance with the parties’ agreement, and that the second wife had to pay to the ex-wife the amount of benefits she should have received.  The courts don’t always save people from their own inaction, but in this case they did what the parties intended.


WHFL Successful in Court of Appeals Workers’ Compensation Case (July 21st, 2014)

In an appeal brought by Stephen S. Winegrad of Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s finding that a worker who seriously injured himself while working was an employee entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  In Elms v. Renewal by Anderson, the employer argued, unsuccessfully, that Elms was an independent contractor not entitled to benefits.  WHFL argued that Elms was an employee because the employer exercised control over his work.  The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that since Elms was a common law employee, no analysis was needed under Section 9-508 (statutory employer).  This means that Elms is entitled to benefits for his injury.

Stephen S. Winegrad and Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt regularly represent injured workers in worker’s compensation claims and third-party claims.  Please contact Mr. Winegrad if you have a claim or have any questions.


Sheldon Levitt Recognized for Volunteer Work (April 16th, 2014)

Sheldon H. Levitt, Esquire, has been recognized for performing pro bono work through the Maryland Volunteers Lawyers Service. In its monthly e-newsletter, MVLS described a matter where Mr. Levitt represented a woman in a bankruptcy case, giving her a clean start free of suffocating debt. View the article here:

MVLS Link

WHFL believes strongly in providing legal services to those in need and encourages our attorneys to accept referrals from MVLS.


Happy Holidays! (December 18th, 2013)

We wish our valued clients and friends, neighbors, and all others a peaceful, happy, and joyous holiday season.  Please remember to help those less fortunate than us by a donation of time, money, or food or toys to a charity of your choice.  Let’s help make it a wonderful time of year for everybody.  Click here to learn how WHFL is involved in our community.


Ask a Lawyer (May 1st, 2013)

Question: A client asked me whether she needed a living will. She and her husband prepared wills many years ago and wanted to know “whether a living will is the same as our Last Will and Testament?”

Answer: No, they are not the same. This is a fairly common question even though living wills and testamentary wills are very different. A testementary will, commonly just called a will, is a legal document that directs how your estate will be distributed after you die. Living wills, on the other hand, have nothing to do with your estate, but instead address your healthcare and end-of-life needs while you are still living — hence it is called a “Living Will.”

Although no one expects it will happen to them, many people suffer catastrophic injuries or illnesses that render them incapable of communicating their healthcare wishes to others. Family members confronted with a loved one in such a situation are often conflicted as to the type of medical care that should be provided. It is not uncommon for one family member to push for life sustaining measures, while another pushes for only palliative care. Sadly, this scenario lends itself to family conflict at an already stressful time.

Rather than force your family to make decisions for you, your living will tells your family and medical providers precisely the type of treatment you want to have in the event that you become unable to voice your wishes. You may want to have life sustaining treatent, or direct that all life sustaining measures withdrawn. You could direct that no emergency procedures be used to extend your life.

In the event that you or someone you know needs a “Living Will” or other estate document, please do not hesitate to let us know. We will be glad to assist you.

Sheldon Levitt is a partner and attorney at Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, LLC.  Send any questions to slevitt@whfl-law.com

 
Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, LLC has prepared this post for  informational purposes only. It is not guaranteed to be legally accurate or current. Nothing contained herein shall constitute legal advice and access to this post is not intended to and does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Please seek legal counsel before taking any action based upon information contained within this post.


Rachel M. Hess Named as Director (April 30th, 2013)

We are pleased to announce that Rachel M. Hess, Esquire was named as a Director of the Home Builders Association of Maryland Land Development Council. The Council offers services and special interest programs covering government relations and representation, educational opportunities, marketing exposure as well as the exchange of ideas to promote high standards within the development industry. Through its Awards of Excellence program, it also recognizes developers who have made significant contributions to outstanding land development projects by showing resourceful uses of land and sensitivity to the environment.


Rachel M. Hess Guest Speaker on Community Associations (April 17th, 2013)

On April 16, 2013, Rachel M. Hess, Esquire, was the guest speaker for the Baltimore County Bar Association, Real Property Committee, concerning the creation and initial operation of condomunium and homeowner associations. She also addressed recent relevant case law and legislation.  The event was well attended and very informative.

Ms. Hess focuses her practice on representing national, regional and local residential and commercial developers, builders and management companies throughout the real estate transaction process. Her new and existing clients routinely rely on her experience and intimate knowledge of real estate law to determine the most feasible structure of the project to accomplish the client’s goals while reducing potential liability. Ms. Hess regularly advises and counsels clients relating to the structure and formation of all types of commercial, residential and mixed-use projects.


Same-Sex Marriage is Here (December 10th, 2012)

After the Maryland legislature passed a law to permit same-sex marriage, Maryland voters approved a ballot measure that makes the law valid. Beginning next year, same-sex couples will be able to marry and share the same rights as all other married couples. Before getting married, we encourage same-sex couples (and other couples) to consider Pre-Marital Agreements—especially those who have been together for a while and have accumulated assets.

A Pre-Marital Agreement permits the parties to decide before the marriage issues of property rights and support, avoid arguments in the event of divorce, and clarify financial issues. With divorce rates so high, even with the best intentions it would be foolish not to consider making a Pre-Marital Agreement so that if divorce does happen, you will have already resolved all issues between you. This leads to a less traumatic and less costly divorce.

We can help you prepare a Pre-Marital Agreement.  Just contact us to schedule an appointment.