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June 30, 2012

Navigating Divorce: Is Your Spouse Hiding Assets?

Hiding and attempting to hide assets from a spouse is more common than most people think. While most people have a tendency to think that the husband is the one that may attempt to hide marital assets, women also attempt to hide assets, and both parties arrive at divorce court thinking that they should have more of the marital assets than they are entitled. In actuality, in divorce situations where one spouse is attempting to hide marital assets, it is usually the husband who is trying to commit this sneaky, unethical and illegal behavior.

The spouse who may suspect that the other partner is attempting to hide assets can take some precautions to expose the guilty party of any wrongful deceit. It begins with hiring a competent professional divorce team. One of the tools at the disposal of such professional team is a lifestyle analysis. The analysis process takes the married couple through a process where total living expenses are calculated and compared with stated and/or reported income. If there is a deficit between outgoing cash and income, it is usually an indication that one of the parties is attempting to hide income.

Other attempts to conceal assets include the following:

  • Stashing money in a safety deposit box or some secret hiding place
  • Purchasing items that are easy to conceal or overlook the value
  • Deferment of salary, bonuses and commissions
  •  Stock transfer
  • Overpayment to creditors

These are just a few tricks that one party may try in order to conceal assets or hide income. Any time a spouse starts changing behavior patterns; this should trigger a red flag. Such changes may include additional and sudden “business trips”, opening additional bank accounts and being secretive about income and expenses, especially when it appears that exaggerations of expenses and significant decreases in revenue for the business owner. The spouse who is attempting to hide assets may have safeguards on his or her computer and is secretive concerning passwords to various online accounts.

The key to ensuring that one spouse is not attempting to hide assets is by being involved in all financial aspects within the household and any business, if applicable. Attempting to expose a spouse who has systematically been hiding assets over a lengthy period may be a difficult task, if not impossible. Failure to share in all financial matters should alert one to the fact that his or her spouse may not be honest.

It is also important to not only show interest but become involve with any interests or hobbies your spouse may have, especially at the beginning of the relationship. One of the parties may have an interest in collecting things of significant value that most people are not aware of, such as art, antiques, coins, stamps and other collectibles. Some of these assets, such as coins, are readily transported away from the marital residence and easily sold for cash, without leaving any type of paper trail.

Both parties need to have at least some idea of what types and amounts of assets that either or both of the individuals have purchased. In situations where a collection may have significant value, each party should have some type of documentation to support any claim they may have concerning such assets within the marriage.

The best stance that either spouse should take is that they do not deserve to be treated unfairly and that neither has to become a victim in a divorce situation. If one suspects the other of attempting to conceal marital assets, he or she should seek the advice of his or her forensic accountant so that proper actions may be taken.

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May 24, 2012

Personal Injury Claims: How to Avoid The ‘Claims Cowboys’

Frequenting our television screens on a daily basis, we are all familiar with the scenes of the reconstructed fall followed by an presenter telling us about the sizeable cheque that the injured party received on a ‘no win no fee basis’. Said informant then encourages us to ring the number that appears on screen if we have been affected by a similar accident.

The advertisements make the process seem so simple and risk-free that it is no surprise that many people are left wondering what the catch is. It’s important to realise that if you have been injured as a result of an accident which was not your fault then you could be eligible for compensation.

However it is fundamental to appreciate that the process is unlikely to be as simple as ringing a phone number and consequently receiving a cheque in the post. With rising claims of ‘ambulance chasing’ salesmen approaching injured parties in hospitals making proposals of accident compensation claims, it is increasingly important that you make the right choices regarding your personal injury claim.

How do I know if my injury firm at legitimate?

In order to ensure that you receive the best support possible, it is important to ensure that the legal firm you choose to deal with are professional and experienced in dealing with personal injury claims.

Choosing the right solicitor can be a difficult task however it is an important one. A good solicitor should not be looking for quick sales instead they should be focussed on fully understanding your situation and working to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve, both financially and medically.

Ensure that you are dealing with a qualified solicitor from a reputable legal firm who have a strong background in successful personal injury claims. Good personal injury firms tend to offer initial advice free on a no obligation basis to ascertain whether you have a potential claim. This could prove a good opportunity for you to raise any queries which you have.

Be wary if you are approached directly by salesmen after your injury. Do not feel obliged to discuss your situation with them. They may quote large sums that you could be rewarded however with personal injury claims, there is no way of telling exactly how much compensation that you could receive until a full investigation has been completed and liability has been accepted.

Who should I turn to for personal injury advice?

The few ‘claims cowboys’ out there should not be associated with the legitimate personal injury firms who have years of experience in offering claimants an honest and dedicated end-to-end service to help them get all the compensation that they deserve.

You should not feel pressured or rushed into anything that you do not want to do. Your personal injury solicitor should help ensure that you are informed and consulted every step of the process.

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April 30, 2012

Protecting Your Personal Assets in Your Relationship

Starting out in a new relationship is one of the most exciting things in life. You have stars in your eyes, butterflies in your stomach, and you are so elated that you have found your lifelong soul mate. When you are in this part of the relationship, you think that nothing could ever go wrong, but unfortunately the reality is that there is a strong chance that this may not be the last relationship you will ever have. This is not to say that you should prepare for the worst, but you should definitely protect what you have worked so hard for.

Plan for the Best and Prepare for the Worst

Be an optimist with a pessimist’s plan. If you are going into a relationship with the thought that it will fail, then it probably will. The best course of action is to go into a relationship with the thought that it will succeed, but putting into place the right actions for a just in case can help you as well as your partner. You not only want to protect yourself, but you want to protect them as well. Although it is a tricky subject to cover, if the two of you can work together through it, you can most likely work through anything.

Lay it All Out on the Table

When your relationship gets to the point that it is becoming a partnership, you will need to take some serious action. Whether you are moving in together or even getting married, there are things that you will need to know about each other. In order to accomplish this task, you will need to each lay your finances out for the other to examine. You both should share your credit report, banking information, bills, assets owned, retirement and investment accounts, and anything else that has to do with assets and liabilities. If you have an open and honest relationship, this should not be an issue. By doing this, you will be transparent with each other and you will know how to proceed.

Know the Law

Having an understanding of the laws in your state when it comes to joint property is important when it comes to your relationship. You should know at what point your debts and assets become shared. In most cases this immediately happens upon marriage, so make sure that you have all of the information you need before tying the knot. In some cases there is a certain timeframe where your relationship is considered a legally binding partnership that hold the same responsibilities as a marriage. There are also some states that will allow cohabitation agreements. Make sure that you know what laws apply to you and your relationship before getting too far into it.

Relationships are not started with the plan to fail, otherwise you would have never started the relationship in the first place. Not only that, you wouldn’t hand all of your assets over to someone without first knowing what they are going to do with it and probably not without some sort of protection for you if things go wrong, so don’t do it in your relationship. Get to know all about your partner, including their financial status, so that you know the kind of road you are headed down.

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April 17, 2012

Robotic Advice Alarms Legal Profession

Azimov would not have been surprised to see the practice of law changing radically around the world. According to recent news reports, the once-highly esteemed lawyer profession is now being threatened by robots and supermarkets.

The fields of automation and robotics have made great inroads into a lot of professional disciplines. From car manufacturing to space exploration and from pharmacology to accounting, software programs and robotic solutions are being increasingly employed not only to augment operations but also to completely replace human professionals.

Until now, the legal profession has seemed to have largely escaped the threat of robots due to the decidedly human scope of the discipline. The legal industry still operates on the premise that hiring excellent lawyers with many years of experience is vital to win a case. The reason clients retain prestigious law firms with the right connections is because it increases the odds of a successful outcome. Prediction and intuition are important aspects of the practice of law, but robots may perform better in such aspects by means of computerized analysis.

Lex Machina, a technology firm that started as a Stanford University project, has compiled an encyclopedic database of patent and trademark case law that can interpret complex data. Sophisticated interpretation of the law is how law firms make a living, and it is through this interpretation that attorneys are able to predict likely case outcomes. By stripping away human perception, Lex Machina interprets data using computational modeling that is free from the pitfalls of human error. It would take an army of lawyers charging many billable hours to perform the work that Lex Machina easily accomplishes in a short time.

While robots are not expected to replace attorneys in the courtroom in the near future, computer automation has already replaced several attorneys in law firms in at least one particular area -e-discovery. The tedious process of e-discovery involves looking for relevant case data by combing through massive amounts of records stored in electronic formats. For law firms looking to significantly reduce expenses by trimming staff, e-discovery is exactly what they need.

As if being replaced by robots wasn’t unceremonious enough, lawyers will now have to worry about losing their clients to supermarkets. A new law in the United Kingdom is paving the way for banks and supermarkets to sell legal services to their customers.

The Legal Services Act opens the door to Alternative Business Structures, a type of business run by legal service providers who aren’t necessarily lawyers. Under this new legal arrangement, UK supermarket chains such as Tesco would be able to offer legal services to their customers. Solicitors in the UK have naturally criticized the new law, explaining that the quality of legal services will be decimated. The new law also encourages the creation of mixed practices under one roof; for example, financial and legal advice could be dispensed in the same office.

The Tesco supermarket chain has already expressed interest in offering affordable legal services to British customers interested in saving money. Tesco already offers banking services in their stores, and it expects to sell residential mortgages to shoppers later this year.

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March 25, 2012

Three Myths About Bail Bonds

When you or someone you love has been arrested, emotions can run high. Instead of getting concerned and worrying about “worst case” scenarios, educate yourself about the bail process.

Here are three myths about bail debunked.

1. If a family member can’t pay your bail bond, you stay in jail.

Although a family member is allowed to post the money required for your bail (if any), you can also have friends take care of this for you.
The basics of bail are fairly simple. You are innocent until proven guilty, so after your arrest, the court must gather evidence to convict you of wrongdoing. Likewise, you are allowed to obtain a lawyer to defend you. Bail is a document that states you can be set free on the condition that you will return for your court date(s). You may have to pay a certain amount of money for bail as a deposit of sorts. This increases the likelihood that you will return to court if there’s a good reason why you may not want to.

A family member or friend that pays the amount requested for your bail bond is called a guarantor. This person is responsible financially if you do not come back to court for trial (of course, you are also legally responsible for deciding not to return, too).

2. There is no rhyme or reason to bail amount.

This is untrue, too. The court has many reasons for setting bail at the amount they choose to set it at. One factor in determining bail is the severity of the crime. If a crime is very minor, there may not be any money required for a bail bond. If the crime is more serious, the amount can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Also, the court may consider the evidence, as well as your general character and past criminal record when determining bail amounts.

3. You have to come up with the whole bail amount.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about bail and bail bonds. The only time you have to come up with the total sum requested for bail is if you “skip” bail, or do not show up in court when you are required to. If you do what’s asked of you, typically only ten percent or so of the total amount needs to be paid to the bail bond agent.

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