New York State Assembly Passes Paid Family Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law which allows eligible employees who work at businesses with 50 or more employees, and select employees who work at governmental organizations or certain schools with less than 50 employees, to take 12 unpaid weeks from work for specific family issues, such as when a new baby is born or when a family member is ill. However, due to gaps in the federal program, only about 20 percent of new mothers are eligible under FMLA. The New York State Assembly has expanded the parameters of FMLA by passing the Paid Family Leave Act on March 17, 2015, which mandates pay for employees taking leave. The bill is pending in the State Senate.

According to Spotlight News, under the Paid Family Leave Act, a worker is entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wage, up to a certain amount. The program will be funded out of New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance program, which is supported by funds from employee payroll deductions.

Some critics of the Paid Family Leave Act argue that this mandate will have huge ramifications for employers, workers, and taxpayers. Frank Castella Jr., for the Poughkeepsie Journal, stated that New York State businesses may resort to layoffs or reduced hours for employees. Castella cites that with the burden of both the proposed minimum wage increase and the Paid Family Leave Act, businesses may have to close unless they raise prices of products and services. The new law will increase taxes and fees associated with payroll, and result in a loss of productivity. Castella calculates that the 12 weeks of leave will equate to 25 percent of a business’ productivity.

If you own a business and are concerned over the Paid Family Leave Act or other business law issues, contact an experienced attorney who can protect and advise you of your legal rights. The Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams is dedicated to advising businesses in all legal matters. For more information, call the Hobson-Williams, P.C. toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.

CFPB Report Finds Many Borrowers Are Unable to Pay Back Auto Title Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a study which showed that the vast majority of borrowers who take out a single-payment automobile title loan cannot afford to make the payments and need to take out additional loans to pay it off.

The study, which was reported by The New York Times, showed that the car title loans — which are due in 30 days — can keep borrowers in debt for months as extra fees and interest are added to the loan amount. Although those who take out the loan usually have one month to pay it off, some states require the loan to be paid off in as little as two weeks.

Consumers take out a car title loan when they are short of cash or have an unexpected expense. They borrow the money for a short amount of time at a high interest rate and put up the title to their vehicle as collateral. The lender determines the amount based on a percentage of the car’s value and holds onto the title until the loan is repaid.

Of the 3.5 million single-payment loans issued by nonbank lenders and examined by CFPB, about 20% of all borrowers had their vehicles seized for failure to repay. Only 12% were “one and done,” meaning they paid off the loan — including fees and interest — in a single payment within 30 days, the report stated.

Hobson-Williams, P.C. offers a full-service debt collections department that aggressively collects bad debt accounts receivable. The firm’s debt collections attorneys adhere to all federal and state debt collection laws when dealing with debtors. We will handle your debt collection matters with speed and efficiency which results in a high collection ratio. For more information, call 1 (866) 825-1529.

The Importance of a Last Will and Testament

Perhaps the most surprising fact reported following the death of musician Prince Rogers Nelson was that the celebrity died without a Last Will and Testament. As mentioned in a previous blog article, Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota court seeking the appointment of a Special Administrator. The circumstances surrounding the celebrity’s death is not uncommon, as 55 percent of Americans do not have a will or an estate plan in place, according to LexisNexis.

Wills are an important part of estate planning to consider, even for young people. They protect the succession of assets and ensure that the intended beneficiaries are able to access those assets, according to the deceased’s wishes. To accurately reflect the wishes of an individual, a Will should be reviewed and re-drafted every decade or so or when personal circumstances change.

Some of the factors that may affect an individual’s decision to draft a Will may include a person’s medical condition and family medical history; participation in the armed forces; level of involvement in dangerous recreational activities such as alcohol and drug consumption; health and fitness habits; and desire for financial independence.

When it comes time to draft a Will, a person should list his or her assets and desired beneficiaries. It is just as important to include digital assets, such as access to photos/videos, documents and other files, passwords and sensitive accounts (such as a savings account), as it is to consider physical ones. When drafting a Will, it is important to take into consideration extenuating circumstances, such as the unexpected death of a beneficiary. An individual may name a contingent beneficiary if his or her primary beneficiary or beneficiaries predeceases him or her.

Without a Will, the fate of a person’s estate, stocks, savings and other holdings could be decided by the state. Without a Last Will and Testament to provide clear guidance for the division of estate and assets, a deceased’s loved ones may encounter stress and be forced to endure costly legal battles to settle the estate following the loss of their loved one.

When considering drafting a Last Will and Testament, it is important to contact an experienced estate lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions that affect both you and your loved ones. If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advance Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

Landlord Who Bilked Banks out of Millions of Dollars Sued for Harassment

An East Village landlord who was recently arrested for allegedly taking out millions of dollars in loans through fraudulent means is also facing a civil lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. According to an article by Crains New York Business, it is alleged that the landlord illegally harassed tenants in the rent-regulated apartments he owned by attempting to have them evicted so he could charge higher rents.

Steven Croman, who owned 140 buildings in Manhattan, obtained $45 million in loans from New York Community Bank and Capital One Bank between 2012 and 2014 by exaggerating the amount of income his properties generated, according to Schneiderman. That allowed him to obtain favorable terms with the banks. In addition to these allegations, the Attorney General’s office claims that Croman racked up over $1 million in unpaid fines he amassed for construction and building code violations. The violations came when Croman instructed construction firms to perform work without a permit as a way to get the tenants to move out. The work also exposed the tenants to lead dust.

According to the lawsuit, Croman and his company 9300 Realty, would buy up apartment buildings with rent-regulated units, then buy out the tenants so he can increase the rents. Those who refused the buyouts were subject to lawsuits. He would also not deposit the tenants’ rent checks then claim they were behind in their rent. He hired a private investigator who — along with some of the 9300 Realty employees — allegedly used intimidation tactics on the tenants to get them to move out.

If you feel that your rights as a lawful tenant have been threatened or violated, contact Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. to learn about the protections available to you under New York State Law.

New York Required to Hand Over Records on Disabled Patients

On March 18, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that the Cuomo administration and New York’s Justice Center must disclose records related to the abuse of disabled and mentally ill patients in the State’s care. Disability Rights New York (DRNY) has requested records involving disabled youths and adults who were allegedly abused, on multiple occasions but all of the requests were denied.

The plaintiff, DRNY, is an organization that advocates for the protection of the civil and legal rights of people in New York with disabilities. They have the obligation to investigate the abuse of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. To fulfil that obligation, DRNY wanted to see the full investigative reports that New York Justice Center completed, including the names of staff accused of committing abuse or neglect, names of those who filed complaints, and clinical records. The Justice Center is a New York State run state agency established to protect people with special needs from mistreatment, and often investigates abuse allegations throughout the state.

During the trial, the Justice Center argued that it should be allowed to redact information such as names and details in clinical records before handing over records. The Judge disagreed, and stated that if the Justice Center did not turn over the records or provided records that were redacted information, DRNY’s mandate to advocate for disabled New Yorkers would be impeded.

Taking proper care of the disabled and elderly in our society who depend on us is of the utmost importance. If you have questions about the care of a disabled or elderly loved one, contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help. For more information, contact Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

The Musical Icon Prince May Have Died Without a Will

According to documents obtained by People Magazine, Prince did not have a Last Will and Testament. Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota Court seeking the appointmeprincent of a Special Administrator.

Sources report Prince’s sister as stating, “I do not know of the existence of a Will and have no reason to believe that the Decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,” states the document, which was filed in Carver County Minnesota.

An Administrator is appointed to settle an estate after a person has died.  A petition must be filed with the court and a personal representative must be appointed.  The personal representative is responsible for the following:

  • Collection, inventory, and appraisal of assets of the person who has died.
  • Protection of the estate’s assets.
  • Payment of decedent’s debts.
  • Distribution of the remaining assets to the proper parties as provided by law.

According to a survey conducted by FindLaw.com, 35% of those surveyed had a Will but individuals over the age of 65 did execute a Will. Without a Will, property passes according to the State’s intestacy laws.

Some sources believe that Prince’s current estate is valued at over $300 million dollars. The failure to execute a Will may result in his property being distributed in a manner contrary to what he may have wanted during his life.

If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advanced Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

Protecting Loved Ones from Elder Abuse

Finding professional and caring home care services for an elderly family member can be challenging.  Families express concerns over the prevention of elder abuse and how they can protect a loved one’s legal rights.  Seeking advice from an experienced elder law attorney can help you make the right decisions when it comes to your elderly loved ones.

There are several forms of elder maltreatment, including emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, and financial abuse.  Some studies report as much as 25 percent of elderly adults are abused in some fashion at the hands of caregivers.  Caregivers can be paid employees or family members.

One obstacle in remedying elder abuse is identifying it in the first place.  Older adults may have dementia or other health issues, that may cause them to have a disheveled appearance.  Separating the cases where an individual’s grooming issues are caused by maltreatment, as opposed to it being an effect of medical and psychological concerns, is not as easy as one might think.  Additionally, it may be necessary for caregivers to take precautions, such as physical restraints, to safeguard an individual’s safety.  Each case must be analyzed on an individual basis because the circumstances may lead to a finding of maltreatment, or may be a justifiable safety measure.

Another obstacle facing abuse is the secrecy surrounding issues of elder abuse.  According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are approximately 65.7 million informal and family caregivers in America.  Due to such a high number of family and informal caregivers, many times elder abuse is not discussed or reported.  Aside from instances of intentional abuse, caregivers can often suffer from fatigue and lack of resources to adequately care for their loved one which can lead to unintentional neglect or abuse.

Choosing the right caregiver and planning for long term care are very difficult and important decisions you and your family will have to make.  Contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help.  For more information, contact Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

Caregivers Kept in the Loop with NY CARE Law

The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act (CARE), signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on October 14, 2015, has been fully enacted as of January 7, 2016.  The law requires hospitals to allow a caregiver to be added to a patient’s record when being admitted.  The law goes further in requiring hospitals to keep the caregiver well informed about how to care for the patient, even training the caregiver before the patient is discharged.

In New York, there are approximately 4.1 million New Yorkers acting as caregivers, often for a family member, and many times unpaid.  Caregivers are usually lacking in proper training because they are family or friends, which can increase the number of patient hospital or doctor visits.  The New York State Senate estimates that the total value of unpaid care reaches approximately $32 billion each year.

CARE was enacted because of the strains on the health system, based on the fact that patients are often readmitted to a hospital when not receiving professional care at home.  Additionally, in many instances caregivers are not kept updated about the patient’s care and what treatment is necessary after discharge.  CARE enables caregivers to be better prepared to meet the needs of their loved one, which in turn will hopefully avoid preventable medical costs down the line.  This law also comes at minimal cost to the taxpayers of New York, but substantially benefits the growing population of elderly individuals.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a loved one, it is best to consult with an experienced elder law attorney who can guide clients in making the necessary arrangements and help with protecting the rights of the caregiver and patient.  The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are available for consultation by calling 866-825-1529.

Operation Cocoon

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Protection Agency are working together to combat a new trend of drug traffickers who fool seniors into becoming international drug mules.  Traffickers either forge a relationship with seniors or promise inheritance or other monetary incentives.  In targeting the elderly, traffickers hope that the drugs pass through security undetected.  This scheme has worked to some degree because eighty-three U.S. citizens who fell victim to drug trafficking tricks have been arrested in foreign countries since 2013.

Operation Cocoon, an initiative to identify seniors before leaving the U.S. as drug mules,  has been successful in preventing some seniors from boarding international flights and facing jail time in a foreign country.  According to the New York Times, approximately 272 kilograms of methamphetamine, 209 kilograms of cocaine, 4 kilograms of ecstasy, and 11 kilograms of heroin have been confiscated under Operation Cocoon.

Some seniors, though, have not been so lucky.  One such man, J. Bryon Martin, is now serving a six-year jail term abroad for smuggling almost 2 kilograms of cocaine.  Mr. Martin, a seventy-seven-year-old retired pastor from Maine, met an individual he knew as “Joy,” who eventually asked for his help in transporting what he thought were real estate papers.  Mr. Martin trusted “Joy” because they had an online relationship for about five years before she asked him to travel to Peru and then onto London.  During Mr. Martin’s layover in Spain, authorities opened up the packages thought to contain paperwork, and found the drugs.

Operation Cocoon has helped prevent many seniors from traveling abroad as drug mules, but there is still progress that needs to be made.  One challenge for authorities is the fact that drug traffickers are not typically located within U.S. borders.  Traffickers are also savvy and seem to know ways in avoiding detection.

The initiative must start at home: caring for our elderly and choosing the best care specialists is essential in preventing our older loved ones from being victimized.  The Law Offices of Hobson-Williams, P.C., help clients protect their loved ones and are experienced in handling other elder law and guardianship issues. The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are available for consultation by calling 866-825-1529.

No COLA Means Higher Medical Costs for Seniors

Approximately 65 million people collect Social Security benefits on a monthly basis, including retired and disabled workers. Typically the government adjusts Social Security benefits annually to reflect cost-of-living increases. The government recently announced that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2016. This is only the third time in the past 40 years that the Social Security Administration has not increased its payments.

The result of the no increase in COLA will be higher medical costs for retirees and disabled Social Security recipients. This will have a significant effect on those with Medicare Part B as COLA typically covers premium increases. In instances when COLA does not cover premium increases, the “hold harmless” law exempts roughly around 70 percent of seniors from coming up with the difference in premium costs in cases where the premiums are directly taken out of Social Security payments. The effect of no COLA in 2016 will mean that the remaining 30 percent will be burdened with the increase in premiums that would have otherwise been distributed across the board. It is estimated that premiums could be raised by 52 percent, causing a burden on already limited-income households.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that this effect on premiums was unintended and that a resolution is being discussed with members of Congress. The government has not yet released details on 2016’s premiums, so those on Medicare are in a difficult position. Medicare has opened enrollment for seniors to change their coverage, but with uncertainty regarding premiums, it will be challenging for them to make educated decisions.

The crux of this issue is that two individuals, both receiving Medicare, can be paying drastically different premiums for the same care depending on whether they collect Social Security benefits or not. This brings up concern about intrinsic fairness. “There is no reason why two people with the same income should pay different Medicare premiums based on whether the money is coming from a Social Security check or a checking account”, said Richard Thissen, President of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

It is important to plan ahead for retirement as many unexpected expenses may arise, particularly regarding healthcare costs.  If you are in the process of planning for retirement, it is best to consult with an attorney who can guide you in making the necessary arrangements and help you protect your assets. The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are available for consultation by calling 866-825-1529.