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Negotiating Legal Fees

Questioning an attorney bill is not that uncommon in today’s world. In fact, state and local bar associations both consistently report that fee disputes are some of the most common complaints that they receive against lawyers. This has even led some states to start up certain attorney-client fee dispute programs to resolve the issues. While attorney fees are most certainly not cheap, it is important to remember that in most cases the fees are, indeed, justified.

Lawyers typically have a few different types of fees, those of which include fixed fees, conditional fee arrangements, contingency fees and their general hourly rates. Fixed fees are fixed prices that may include just the lawyer’s fees or some additional aspects of the service. Conditional fee agreements are a sort of “no win, no cost” agreement. If you lose your case, in general, you will not be required to pay a fee. However, you still may be held liable for some out-of-pocket expenses, such as court fees. If your lawyer agrees to represent you under a contingency agreement, they will be able to claim a certain percentage of any money they win on your behalf plus expenses.

It is important to keep in mind that when a lawyer is handling a case for you, they are helping to make your life easier. They eat, sleep and breathe your case from start to completion, handling stressors so you don’t have to. Essentially, your problems are now their problems. They work early mornings and late nights diligently to complete your case in a timely manner, and, if need be, will represent you in court.  When a lawyer is working on your case, they’re giving up time that could be devoted to other cases and the ability to earn money on other cases.  Lawyers are, no doubt, worth all the money they are asking and it is important to be respectful of their work when it comes to asking for a fee reduction. Lawyers know the true value of their work, and, if they are reputable, then they will not go out of their way to charge you an amount of money that is unfair. It is necessary to keep their hard work in mind, and someone asking them to lower their fees may come across as rude or insulting.

Lawyers are expensive, but you get a lot for your money. If you are unhappy with your attorney’s fees, the best way to go about handling the issue is to be open and honest. Explain why you are incapable of paying the fees, and if there are any other options for you. Many lawyers offer a variety of fee arrangements such as flat fees, deferred payments, reduced scale of representation or offer different payment plans. Lawyers may, oftentimes, have the ability to assign work to junior associates to keep costs lower, such as a combination of associates, paralegals or partners. However, if a high level of obligation is required for your case, the legal fee can only drop so much.  You never want an attorney working for you that is dissatisfied with the fee they receive.  How effective will a dissatisfied attorney be?  Reducing the cost of legal services past a certain point, may result in a reduction in the lawyer’s service to the client.

At Hobson-Williams, P.C., we understand that facing attorney fees may be overwhelming for some. Rest assured that our lawyers are on your side, and would never charge you more than what your case is worth. We are here to help you, and we will do everything in our power to get your life back on track for a price that is beneficial to everyone involved. Call us today at (718) 210-4744 for more information or to schedule a consultation.

Do I Need to Make a Living Trust, or is my Will Enough?

Part of estate planning is determining how you will distribute your property and to whom at death.  It is very important to have a will, otherwise your property will be distributed by intestacy, and may not be distributed according to your wishes.  While wills and trusts have some elements in common, they serve two separate functions.

In New York State, a will is a written document that must contain a signature at the end witnessed by two people.  The purpose of a will is to name beneficiaries who will receive property after your death.  A will is revocable and can be destroyed by a physical act such as burning or tearing, by operation of law such as divorce, by presumption (for example, after your death the will cannot be found), or by a subsequent will.  Accordingly, a will may be revised many times during one’s life.  In a will, an executor for the estate and guardians for children may be named, and instructions for wishes to be carried out may be listed.  Upon death, a will goes through the probate process and becomes a public document.

A trust is a relationship between the person who funds the trust (the settlor), the trustee (the person who manages the trust), and the beneficiary (the person who benefits from the trust).  As a trust does not go through the probate process, it is much more private than a will.  Avoiding probate is both cost and time effective.   A trust also allows the beneficiary to enjoy gifts from the settlor of the trust during the settlor’s lifetime so that the settlor can see the enjoyment the beneficiary gets from it.  Additionally, a trust is a good option if you want to be able to distribute funds to children who have not yet reached the age of majority.  Generally, living trusts are revocable and allow for the continuous transfer of assets.  Another benefit of a living trust is that, unlike a will (unless you have appointed a power of attorney), if you become incapacitated, the trustee will take over.

It is best to consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether you should consider making a living trust.  Contact an experienced elder law attorney who can best assist you in planning your estate.  Call the Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.

Tenants Awarded Free Rent for Living in On-going Construction

Recently, the New York State Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement with a real estate developer protecting tenants’ rights and prohibiting an unfair buy-out agreement.  In an effort to convert a historic Manhattan apartment building into a luxury condominium, the landlord illegally induced tenants to leave.  Before the developers received approval to put the apartments on the market, they illegally bought out tenants, many of whom had resided at the location for many years.

Several of these units were rent controlled and inhabited by residents who had lived there for decades, some paying only $830 a month.  While construction was on-going in the 44 unit building, residents of 11 units chose to remain in their apartments while they were subjected to loud construction work, dust, debris, no hot water, and general upheaval to their daily lives.  The developer’s plan was to reduce the number of apartments by nearly half to create larger ones, and they offered tenants a fraction of what the apartment would be worth once it was converted to a condominium.  The tenants were offered between $40,000-$100,000 as an incentive to leave their units, although the market value of the units was estimated to be $2 million or more after the conversion.

Due to the illegal behavior of the developer, the Attorney General stepped in and mandated that two years rent be waived for the eleven tenants who chose to remain in the building, $6,000 paid to the tenants who incurred legal fees, and a $350,000 fine to be paid to the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, the Attorney General ordered the developer to contribute $1.24 million toward the construction of affordable housing at another location, since rent stabilized apartments were lost during the condominium conversion.  The landlord is also required to hold monthly meetings to offer the tenants an opportunity to express their concerns.

The building was also been cited for many construction code violations for hazardous conditions and improper asbestos removal.

Landlords have a duty to the tenants inhabiting their buildings to provide suitable housing.  The Implied Warranty of Habitability includes the right to occupy habitable premises free from unhealthy conditions and excessive noise.  In addition, the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment gives tenants the right to live in an abode without disturbances.

If you feel that your rights as a tenant have been violated, contact the skilled New York City landlord-tenant attorneys at the Law Office of Tanya Hobson-Williams. Please contact us online, toll free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights as a tenant and the solutions available to you.

To read more about this issue, click here for an article recently published in the New York Times.

Attorney General’s Office Unveils Nursing Home Abuse Cover-Up

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyAccording to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Dawn Weaver, a Licensed Practical Nurse, pleaded guilty to endangering a nursing home resident and falsifying business records.

These charges pertain to an incident on February 23, 2014, when a 93-year-old Wayne County Nursing Home resident fell while being transferred to the bathroom by a nurse aide. The supervising aide, Weaver, failed to follow nursing home protocol when she neglected to have the resident examined by a registered nurse before she was moved. Furthermore, Weaver failed to use a mechanical lift to remove the resident off of the ground, and subsequently failed to report the incident in the facility’s medical records.

Weaver then signed a facility report stating that the aforementioned event did not occur. More disturbingly, Weaver added that had the event occurred, she would have addressed it. However, when questioned by the Attorney General’s Office, Weaver admitted that the resident fell and that she and the aide manually picked up the resident without telling anyone about the fall. Continue reading “Attorney General’s Office Unveils Nursing Home Abuse Cover-Up”

Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyNew York City rental prices seem to continue to rise without any foreseeable decline.  As a result, reasonably priced housing has become a coveted treasure city-wide.

However, through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) renters who are 62 or older with yearly incomes below $50,000 may be eligible for exemption from all or some increases in rents, carrying charges, capital assessment or voluntary capital contributions.

Recent changes to the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) has expanded eligibility by increasing the maximum annual income to $50,000 from $29,000.

Lawmakers speculate that in the next ten years, New York City will see a 30% increase in the senior adult population. They further point out that New York City is home to the highest number of foreign-born senior citizens in the nation. As a result, more low-income seniors are seeking an affordable place to retire. Continue reading “Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program”

Expert Health Committee Recommends Major Changes to U.S. Health System

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyEnd of life care refers to the treatment of patients in the final hours or days of their lives, as well as the health care of all those with a terminal illness or a terminal condition that has become advanced, progressive and incurable.

A national panel recently appointed by the Institute of Medicine, the research branch of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report on September 17, 2014. The report stated that the United States’ system for handling end-of-life care is largely inept, thus necessitating a major makeover.

The report was authored by a 21-member nonpartisan committee comprised of doctors, nurses, insurers, religious leaders, lawyers and experts on aging. It called for major overhauls in the industry, and noted that many of its recommendations could be accomplished without the necessity of the often slow-moving legislative process.

The  507- page report called for a “major reorientation and restructuring of Medicare, Medicaid and other health care delivery programs,” as well as the elimination of financial incentives that are alleged to encourage expensive hospital procedures over low-tech services like home health care and pain management, particularly for sick and elderly patients. Continue reading “Expert Health Committee Recommends Major Changes to U.S. Health System”

Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. Defends Client’s Marriage to Husband who was declared an Incapacitated Person Resulting in Wife Inheriting $3 Million Dollar Estate

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyOn September 24, 2014, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division: Second Department reversed a lower court’s order annulling the marriage between a younger woman and an elderly man.  The Appellate Division determined that a new hearing on the man’s ability to enter into a marriage contract was warranted. Capacity, in a legal sense,refers to the ability to make a rational decision based upon all relevant facts and considerations.

The case involved an elderly man who was appointed a guardian by the New York Supreme Court to provide for his personal needs and property management. During the course of his guardianship, the elderly gentleman entered into a marriage with a younger woman. After being informed of the marriage, the guardian asked the Court to have a psychologist determine whether the elderly man had the capacity to enter into a marriage. After a hearing and testimony, the New York State Supreme Court determined that the elderly gentleman lacked the capacity to enter into a marriage, and, as a result, annulled the marriage.

On Appeal, attorney Tanya Hobson-Williams, representing the young woman, argued that her client was not given any notice that her marriage would be annulled and that she lacked the opportunity to be heard by the court before it ultimately decided to annul the marriage to her late husband. While the petition to appoint a Guardian for the elderly man requested a determination of the elderly gentleman’s capacity to handle his affairs, neither the Petitioner nor the Guardian ever requested that the marriage be annulled. Essentially, all that was formally requested of the court was to determine matters pertaining to the level of guardianship. Continue reading “Tanya Hobson-Williams, P.C. Defends Client’s Marriage to Husband who was declared an Incapacitated Person Resulting in Wife Inheriting $3 Million Dollar Estate”

Medicare’s Nursing Home Ratings Fail to Give Complete Depiction

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyA recent investigation into Medicare’s nursing home rating system by The New York Times revealed that the high rating of many top nursing homes, is based on incomplete information about the quality and conditions at the homes.

The report found that the 1-5 star medical rating system is largely based on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify. The only data that is subject to review from outside agencies is the results from annual health inspections. As a result, other important measurements of nursing homes — such as staff levels and quality statistics, are mostly left to the nursing home to report to Medicare.

The investigation also revealed that the rating system fails to take into account other potentially negative information such as fines imposed by the state or enforcement sanctions from state agencies.

While federal officials maintain that the rating system can be improved, and that they are working to make it better, many individuals, including former nursing home employees, lawyers and patient advocacy groups, believe that these nursing homes have merely learned how to abuse the rating system. Continue reading “Medicare’s Nursing Home Ratings Fail to Give Complete Depiction”

Attorney General Focuses on Landlord-Tenant Harassment Claim

Tanya Hobson-WilliamsNew York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into the allegedly illegal tactics used to force rent-stabilized tenants out of their homes implemented by multi-million dollar landlord, Steven Croman.

According to reports, the Attorney General is investigating potential violations of city and state laws, including numerous infractions related to tenant harassment.

This week Schneiderman issued a “cease and desist” order to one of Cromans employees, ex-NYPD officer Anthony Falconite.  Tenants allege that Falconite, a private investigator, has engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation in an effort to force them out.

According to recounts by numerous tenants, Croman regularly files frivolous lawsuits, ignores repairs, and resorts to a number of unsavory tactics in an effort to remove current tenants so that he can rent units at much higher rates. Continue reading “Attorney General Focuses on Landlord-Tenant Harassment Claim”

Nursing Home Subject of State Investigation Amid Recent Death

Tanya Hobson-WilliamsThe Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Health have recently commenced an investigation into the July 20th death of a 71-year-old female resident of a Medford nursing home.

According to sources, the deceased, who was housed in ventilator unit, suffered from acute and chronic respiratory failure and had lived on the unit for six years.

The deceased’s family alleges that the victim passed away because she was not attached to her ventilator. Specifically, they claim that the elderly victim died after her ventilator mechanically malfunctioned causing her to be unable to breath.  The family further alleges that the nursing home’s employees disregarded alarms alerting them that victim was not receiving sufficient oxygen.

This is the second death at the nursing home’s 40-bed ventilator unit, which is under investigation. In June of 2014, several Medford employees were charged with various crimes ranging from patient abuse and neglect to falsifying business records in connection to the death of a different resident in 2012. Continue reading “Nursing Home Subject of State Investigation Amid Recent Death”