Jillian J. Bokey Joins WHFL (April 27th, 2018)

Winegrad, Hess, Friedman & Levitt, LLC, is pleased to announce that Jillian J. Bokey joined our firm in February 2018. Jillian will concentrate her practice in general real estate matters, land use, zoning and planning, and general civil and real estate litigation.

Jillian graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, and a minor in the Legal Environment of Business. Upon relocating to Baltimore, Jillian started her career in the property management industry, serving in a variety of positions at an Owings Mills-based property management company.  While working at her full-time job, she attended law school at night.  Also, during law school, Jillian served as Managing Editor for the University of Baltimore School of Law Journal of International Law, as a Student Fellow of the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for International and Comparative Law, as a Research Assistant for Professor Kimberly Brown, and as a Research Assistant for Professor Nienke Grossman.

Jillian is a member of the Maryland State and Baltimore County Bar Associations. Prior to joining our firm, Jillian was an associate at a law firm in Annapolis, where she focused on real estate litigation.

Jillian was born in Pennsylvania, but now makes her home in Maryland with her husband and son.

You can reach Jillian at 410-581-0600 or at jbokey@whfl-law.com.

New Ground for Divorce (March 9th, 2016)

There has been a significant change in Maryland law that gives residents an option to obtain a divorce without any waiting period and without having to prove fault.  Previously, someone seeking an absolute, or final, divorce had to prove adultery or usually be separated for at least one year.  That often created a hardship as adultery is difficult to prove, and having to live separate and apart can have a severe economic impact on the parties.

As of October 1, 2015, that all changed as parties wishing to obtain a divorce may do so by mutual consent.  This new ground for divorce is available to parties if all of the following four conditions are met:

1. The parties cannot have any minor children in common;

2. The parties must have a written settlement agreement, signed by both parties, that resolves all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property;

3. Neither party can file a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and

4. Both parties must appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

If all of the above conditions are present, parties can obtain a divorce as soon as the settlement agreement is signed.  This allows divorcing couples to plan ahead and move on with their lives quickly and separately without having to wait twelve months as was so often the case.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about a divorce or are in need of our services.

Joint Accounts – Part 2 (January 6th, 2016)

Last year, we wrote about a case where a daughter was charged and convicted of theft for taking money out of an account on which she was a joint owner with her father and using that money for herself. The daughter was convicted of theft in the trial court, and on appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, the conviction was affirmed.

The Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, agreed to hear the case and just handed-down its decision. In a lengthy 4 – 3 decision, the court affirmed both lower courts in rejecting the daughter’s argument that she could not be convicted of theft for taking money from an account in her name. It held,

“that: (I) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for theft where the individual willfully or knowingly obtained or exerted unauthorized control over funds—belonging to another—contained in a joint bank account without the other’s knowledge or consent and with the intent to deprive the other of those funds; statutorily granted authority permitting a party to a joint or multiple-party account to access and withdraw funds in the account does not confer ownership of the funds in the account to that party such that, as a matter of law, the party cannot be guilty of theft; and (II) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for embezzlement (fraudulent misappropriation by fiduciary).”

The dissent argued that the decision interferes with family relationships, and could allow a parent to criminalize behavior that had been approved simply because of a change in the parent-child relationship.

A warning to the wise. If you have a joint bank account with another person, you may want to consider having something in writing that addresses whether the funds in the account are truly owned by each account owner, or whether access of one or more account owners is limited to using the funds for another owner’s benefit. Such an agreement would clarify for all parties the nature of the relationship so that no misunderstandings, or criminal cases, will result.

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

A recent case from the Court of Special Appeals (on appeal to 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:


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.