Flood Damage – Is Your Home or Business Covered?

Flood Damage – Is Your Home or Business Covered?

Flooding is the nation’s most common natural disaster, which causes billions of dollars in damage each year. Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damages to your home. Flooding can result from natural disasters such as hurricanes, excessive rain, or events such as excessive snow melt and rising water levels in rivers and lakes due to ice dams or snow melt. Wisconsin was hit hard by flooding as a result of excessive snow melt in early Spring 2019, and many residents contacted our firm to address potential recovery under their insurance policies.

Unfortunately, the fact is, regardless of whether the flooding at your home or business is a result of a natural occurrence, most homeowner’s and business insurance policies do NOT provide coverage for flooding. Additionally, sewer backup or sump pump overflow is not covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy or by flood insurance. This type of coverage must be purchased with a special endorsement on your homeowner’s policy.

Those who live in areas that are at high risk for flooding, based upon government flood zone maps, may be required to obtain flood insurance as a condition of receiving a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. Even if federal law does not require it, a lender may still require that you possess flood insurance. If you live in a high risk area, you may be able to purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

If you live in a low risk flood zone or in areas that typically have a low risk for flooding, flood insurance is not federally required. However, flood insurance may still be worth considering, because over 20% of flood insurance claims come from outside the high risk areas. You will need to check with your insurance agent whether it is possible to purchase flood insurance through a private insurance company or if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program where flood insurance policies should be available for purchase. Based upon the web site www.fema.gov, both Stevens Point and the Village of Plover, the area in Wisconsin our firm is located, are communities which participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

How much flood insurance coverage is typically available through a flood insurance policy? In a one to four family residence, there is typically $250,000 in coverage for the structure itself and $100,000 for the contents. For a business, there is typically $500,000 for the structure and $500,000 for the contents.

There is typically a 30-day waiting period from the date you purchase the flood insurance policy before your policy goes into effect. Therefore, you cannot afford to wait until an imminent threat of flooding before you purchase flood insurance to protect yourself. Additionally, if you have flood insurance, make sure that you do not let your policy lapse, as that will cause you to lose coverage and you may not be in compliance with the terms of your Mortgage Agreement if your lender requires flood insurance.

For more information on which private companies sell flood insurance and to learn additional information on other questions you may have about the National Flood Insurance Program, please check out the following website: www.floodsmart.gov. Another resource you may wish to consult is the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance: www.oci.wi.gov. These are valuable resources that can lead you into the right direction as you consider protecting your home or business from flooding in the future.

 

Important Legal Documents for Young Adults

Important Legal Documents for Young Adults

It can be an exciting time for parents of high school seniors. Many are selecting colleges, technical schools, planning for careers after high school, or perhaps a trip abroad. With all the changes that come with being the parent of a child who is turning 18 and in their last year of high school, in most cases parents are not thinking about the legal change that takes place when a child turns 18.

When a child turns 18, he or she is an adult in the eyes of the law. As a result, parents can no longer make legal decisions for their son or daughter, or even receive information about them that is considered private unless they have their son or daughter’s permission. This can have unexpected consequences and create problems, particularly when the son or daughter is many miles away. The good news is that many of these potential problems can be easily avoided with a little bit of planning. The following are a few of the legal documents a parent of child who has turned 18 should consider putting in place:

1.) Healthcare Power of Attorney.
Many people only think about having someone execute a healthcare power of attorney if they are elderly or have a medical condition. In reality, everyone over the age of 18 should have a healthcare power of attorney in place. A healthcare power of attorney allows someone to appoint another person to make healthcare decisions for them in the event they are incapacitated. In the event a young adult is miles from home and is in an accident or has a medical condition that renders them incapacitated, even if it is temporary, a properly executed healthcare power of attorney will allow his or her parents to make medical decisions on their behalf. If a healthcare power of attorney is not in place, there is no clear decision-making authority and a legal guardianship may be required in some cases.

2.) HIPAA Release.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) is a federal law that protects the privacy of an individual’s medical information. While the HIPAA law provides each of us with important privacy protections, it can also have unintended consequences. For example, parents of a young adult have no legal right to receive any information regarding their adult son or daughter’s healthcare or condition without the son or daughter’s consent. In situations where the son or daughter is incapacitated or otherwise not able to give consent, it can be a frustrating situation for parents who are trying get information on their son or daughter’s condition. This situation can be avoided by having the adult son or daughter sign a HIPAA Release consenting to the release of his or her medical information to the individuals named in the release (e.g., his or her parents).

3.) Financial Power of Attorney.
A financial power of attorney allows someone to appoint another person to obtain information and make financial decisions on their behalf. A financial power of attorney can be limited or broad in scope and can be effective immediately or only in the event of legal incapacity depending on your son or daughter’s preference. Financial powers of attorney can be important if a parent is assisting with financial aid matters, or if a young adult is traveling aboard and wants to allow his or her parents to handle their bank accounts and other financial transactions while they are gone.

4.) Education Release.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s education records and requires that any student over the age of 18 provide written consent before his or her education records (such as grades, transcripts, etc.) can be released, even to parents who are paying the tuition bill. Many educational institutions are proactive and inform parents and students about this requirement. However, some are not, and parents should inquire with their child’s secondary educational institution regarding the requirements for the release of their son or daughter’s educational records.

If you have a young adult in your family and have questions or need assistance with regard to obtaining the above referenced documents, then you should contact one of the estate planning attorneys at Anderson O’Brien who can help you navigate this process.

 

Mueller v. TL90108, LLC a Tale on the Statutes of Limitations

Mueller v. TL90108, LLC a Tale on the Statutes of Limitations

Regardless of the facts, there are certain types of legal cases that restrict the amount of time in which legal action may be taken based on statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations are laws that set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. When that period of time passes, the statute of limitations can be used as a defense to defeat the claim. Such was the case in the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Mueller v. TL90108, LLC.

Like a Bond film, this captivating story of international intrigue has a rare and exotic automobile at the center of its storyline. Specifically, a French handmade 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C with distinguished coachwork.

In 2001 the car (and title to it) were reported stolen. Under the cover of darkness, the thieves had disassembled the Talbot-Lago from a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and smuggled it to Europe.* In 2015 a company purchased the Talbot-Lago for nearly $7 million. This company is listed as TL90108, LLC in court documents. TL90108 is owned by Illinois dental company founder Rick Workman. When the original owners of the Talbot-Lago found out that it had been purchased by TL90108, LLC in 2017, they sued for return of their property when Workman refused to do so.

Despite having a sordid history, the Supreme Court did not actually take into consideration the car’s history. Instead, their decision was based on the statute of limitations. Here, the statute of limitations for the wrongful conversion or detention of the Talbot-Lago was 6 years. The question the Court had to decide is when the 6-year period began. If it began in 2001 when the car was stolen, then Plaintiff’s claim would be dismissed as stale. However, if the 6-year period began when Workman refused to give back the car in 2017, then the claim was still timely. Because the statute in question very clearly states the 6-year period begins with the theft OR when the wrongful detention began, the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed Plaintiff’s claim to move forward. The ultimate question of who owns the Talbot-Lago remains unresolved.

*The thieves remain at-large and were not part of the Mueller v. TL90108, LLC lawsuit.

 

Credit Freeze

Credit Freeze

Nearly half of Americans may have had their information stolen in the massive Equifax data breach revealed last week.  One way to protect yourself from further harm is to freeze your credit.  A credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report and prevents credit cards, loans, and other services from being approved in your name without your consent.  You can place a credit freeze on your account by calling each of the credit reporting agencies listed below.  For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Credit Freeze FAQs.

Equifax: (800) 349-9960
Experian: (888) 397‑3742
TransUnion: (888) 909-8872

You can also choose to contact the three agencies by mail. Below is their contact information and copies of their individual form letters.

Equifax
PO Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
Equifax Form Letter

Experian
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Experian Form Letter

TransUnion
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
TransUnion Form Letter

 

IRS Tax-Related Identity Theft

IRS Tax-Related Identity Theft

When you hear “identity theft,” you probably think of a thief stealing another person’s Social Security number, obtaining a credit card, and charging the maximum possible until the credit card is in default and is deactivated by the creditor due to nonpayment. Unfortunately, there are many types of identity theft. Tax-related identity theft is the number one complaint from consumers during tax season. From 2011 to October 2014, the IRS estimates that it has stopped over 19 million suspicious tax returns.

The most common form of tax-related identity theft occurs when fraudsters use a person’s stolen Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. Fraudsters obtain the names and Social Security numbers often with the help of corrupt insiders with access to this personal data, including tax preparers, health care billing clerks, state employees and debt collectors. The fraudsters file the phony returns by themselves electronically or even with the help of crooked tax preparers. Often, the taxpayer will discover that he or she is a victim of tax fraud when an IRS notice is received stating that more than one tax return was filed with the taxpayer’s Social Security number, additional tax is owed, or that the already-filed tax return reports wages from an employer who did not file a W-2 for the taxpayer.

In the event of a tax-related identity theft scam, the IRS urges taxpayers to immediately do the following:

(1) File an FTC complaint; (2) File a police report; (3) File the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039; (4) Follow state-related procedures to report identity theft; (5) Contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on the taxpayer’s account; (6) Close any financial accounts opened without the taxpayer’s permission; and (7) Respond to all IRS notices and continue to file the correct tax return.

The IRS also urges taxpayers to respond promptly to any IRS correspondence in order to facilitate resolving the situation. However, a typical tax-related identity theft scam may take roughly 180 days to resolve. If questions arise during the process, the IRS recommends calling its Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 to assist.

Once identity theft is reported to the IRS, it will assign a unique six-digit number – an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) – to the victim each year in December by U.S. mail. The victim may create an account and user profile at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get-An-Identity-Protection-PIN to monitor his or her IP PIN. The IP PIN is required for a victim to file all future tax returns to prove that he or she is the rightful filer of the return. If the IP PIN is ever lost, the victim can log on to his or her IRS account or can call the Identity Protection Specialized Unit. The IP PIN is not required or valid on state tax returns.

For a final note of caution, the IRS never contacts taxpayers by email or social media, and it asks taxpayers to forward any fraudulent communication purporting to be from the IRS to phishing@irs.gov. The IRS warns also that an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent, either threatening a taxpayer with arrest or deportation if he or she fails to pay immediately, is a scam. Another scam variation includes the caller requesting a taxpayer’s financial information in order to send a refund. The IRS requests that any information regarding these telephone scams be reported at 1-800-366-4484 or at
https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml” target=”_blank”>https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml”>https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml so that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is able to investigate these impersonation scams.

Apple Obtains Verdict of $1,051,855,000 against Samsung

Apple Obtains Verdict of $1,051,855,000 against Samsung

On April 15, 2011, Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, iPod, and iPad devices, sued Samsung, maker of a variety of smartphones, in United States District Court for the North District of California. Apple’s primary claims were that a number of Samsung’s products infringed on Apple’s patents and trademarks. As a quick primer on patent and trademarks: (1) A patent is the “exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention for a specified period (usu. 20 years), granted by the federal government to the inventor if the device or process is novel, useful, and nonobvious.” 35 U.S.C. §§ 101-103; (2) A trademark is “a word, phrase, logo, or other graphic symbol used by a manufacturer or seller to distinguish its product or products from those of others.” Black’s Law Dictionary (7th ed.). To receive federal trademark protection, a trademark must be: (1) distinctive rather than merely descriptive, (2) affixed to a product that is actually sold in the marketplace, and (3) registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.
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