Welcome to the NEWSLETTER of Fisher's
Law Office, providing
you with legal information you can use in your everyday life.
1. What is the easiest place in the world to get
Answer: Malaysia. An Islamic court in the country
of Malaysia declared in July 2003 that Muslim men can legally divorce
their wives by sending a mobile telephone text message three times that
states: "I divorce thee." Under Islamic law, if a man declares
to his wife that he wishes to divorce her three times, then he is legally
2. Act now in order to take
advantage of the Florida Department of Revenue's tax amnesty program.
Beginning July 1, 2003 and ending October 31, 2003,
the Florida Department of Revenue will grant tax amnesty to Floridians
who admit they owe state taxes. If you have failed to pay intangible
taxes, sales taxes, use taxes, real property taxes, personal property
taxes, excise taxes or other taxes to the state of Florida, this is
your opportunity to come forward and tell the Department of Revenue
about your tax problem and deal with it without paying penalties and
without paying penalty interest rates. If you have tax liabilities,
see your lawyer today and consider paying the tax you owe before the
amnesty ends October 31, 2003.
3. With all of the tax changes in the federal
law, here are a few pointers to help you with your taxes and investments:
(a) The tax on dividends has been reduced
to 15%. If you don't have a "taxable account" (a brokerage
account holding stocks or mutual funds), now is an excellent time
to consider opening one because the tax on earnings from such accounts
is so low.
(b) To qualify for the 15% tax rate, you must own a stock on
the day the dividend is declared (the "ex-dividend" date)
and for more than 60 days during the 120 day period surrounding the
(c) If you have a child born after 1986, you are entitled to
extra child credits beginning in 2003. See your tax professional to
see if you qualify for the additional credits.
4. Residential real estate red alert.
(a) Is real estate about to crash? According
to several housing experts, the value of real estate may be negatively
affected by the recent increase in long term interest rates.
(b) If you have a home that has appreciated substantially,
now might be an excellent time to put your home on the market.
(c) If you have a variable interest rate on your home mortgage,
watch out. Your payment could go up, along with long term interest
rates. Consider getting a fixed rate loan over 15 years if you can
afford do so.
(d) Lastly, be aware that the foreclosure rate is at an all
time high in the United States. The cheapest place to buy a home is
often the courthouse steps where homes are sold in foreclosure sales
for the loan balance and even lower amounts.
5. If your home does go
into foreclosure, here are some tips to possibly save your home.
(a) Most lending companies do not hold
the mortgages that they originate. They instead sell them to large
organizations such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. These organizations
will often work with you to "capitalize" the missed payments
and have you resume making payments.
(b) Be cautious when you use debt counselors to help you renegotiate
credit card and loan balances. Credit counseling companies are often
owned by the credit card companies themselves and they may have conflicting
interests in the course of advising you. Remember, the credit card
companies will do anything to get you to pay them back even if it's
not good for your long term financial health.
(c) Keep talking to your lender if you have missed a mortgage
payment and your loan has not gone into foreclosure in the court system.
As long as a debtor continues to talk with lenders, the lender often
will delay putting a house into the legal process of foreclosure.
(d) If your loan has already gone into foreclosure and a judgment
is entered, the court will set a sale date. If you truly wish to save
your home and you have enough money to pay the payment but not credit
cards and other debts, consider filing bankruptcy. This will delay
the sale of your property and will allow you to reorganize your finances.
Often after discharging all of your credit card and other debts in
bankruptcy, there is enough money to pay the mortgage.
(e) Most mortgages have a clause which allows a debtor to reinstate
the mortgage (pay up all of the missed payments and resume making
payments under terms of the mortgage). Read your mortgage carefully
and see whether you can make a demand for reinstatement under the
terms of the mortgage.
(f) Remember, lenders do not like their loans to go into default
and will often do anything within reason to work with you to have
your mortgage considered current. Florida is unique in how quickly
it allows foreclosures to take place. For example, in the country
of Argentina, all loan foreclosures have been put on hold for over
one year. While this is good for homeowners who do not have to make
their payments, it is a disaster for banks and others who have loaned
money. The irony of Florida's efficient legal system is that lenders
are more willing to loan money when they know they can quickly foreclose
if a borrower defaults on his loan.
(g) Lastly, always be careful about borrowing against your
home so that you don't overextend yourself and end up in a foreclosure
situation. If you are in a foreclosure situation, don't hesitate to
seek legal help. Fisher's Law Office is here to help you.
6. Divorce checklist.
Here's a checklist of items to consider and secure
whenever a divorce is eminent:
(a) Always secure copies of your U.S. federal
income tax returns, W-2's, bank statements, 401(K) or other savings
statements, credit card records and titles to property. Don't forget
your payment book for your car, your car registration and car titles.
You may want to keep these documents in your car so that if you have
to leave your spouse at a moment's notice, you already have the documents
you'll need in a divorce case.
(b) If you have children, go to the Fisher's Law Office website
(http://www.fisherslawoffice.com) and do a calculation of child support
for yourself to have an idea of how much money you will have coming
in (or that you'll be paying out) after you are divorced.
(c) Write down the following information to give your lawyer:
the date you were married, your full legal name, your address, the
county where the marriage was last intact, social security numbers
for all family members and dates of birth for all your children. Also,
write down the addresses where your children have lived for the last
five years and the people they lived with.
(d) Go to your employer and determine the value of your retirement
benefits. Make sure you consider all aspects of your retirement benefits
when getting divorced including pensions, 401K, non-pension post employment
benefits (such as health insurance or other benefits). Obtain a "summary
plan description" from your human resources department for your
(e) If children and custody are an issue, write down the names,
addresses and telephone numbers of your child's teachers, social workers,
doctors, day care workers and others who have information about your
(f) Consider seeing a psychologist to get an evaluation on
yourself. Don't have a written report prepared unless the outcome
(g) When you visit with a lawyer, have an idea in mind as to
what you want in settlement of your divorce. Ninety percent of all
divorces settle amicably but you cannot have a settlement unless you
are able to tell your lawyer what exactly you want him to put into
your divorce agreement.
(h) Before you meet with your lawyer, make a list of questions
for him to answer. Lastly,never hesitate to get a second opinion after
seeing one lawyer.
7. What are some methods you can use to collect
child support from a former spouse?
(a) Florida allows a non-paying parent
to be held in contempt and jailed for failure to pay child support
and to have wages garnished by income deduction order.
(b) Florida has a very strong statute (Florida Statute, Section
61.13015) that allows for a petition for suspension of professional
licenses. For example, a doctor, a CPA or another person licensed
by the state of Florida can lose his license if he does not pay any
child support delinquency within 30 days of service of a notice of
(c) Florida Statutes, Section 61.13016, allows for suspension
of a driver's license and motor vehicle registrations. The process
(1) A parent who refuses to support their
child or who fails to comply with a subpoena to appear for support
proceedings is eligible to have his driver's license suspended.
(2) A notice may be sent to the non-paying parent saying
that if the child support isn't caught up, the obligor's driver's
license will be suspended.
(3) The notice must state (a) the terms of the order creating
the support obligation; (b) the period of the delinquency and the
total amount due; (c) that notice will be given to the Department
of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles unless the obligor pays within
20 days or enters into a written agreement to pay or files a petition
to contest the delinquency.
Moral to the story: Don't be a victim of a former
spouse or parent of your child. Exercise your right to collect child
8. What should you do if a loved one dies?
(a) The process of giving the deceased
person's property to loved ones named in the Will is called "probate".
The process should not be a lengthy one if the attorney and the personal
representative work diligently and efficiently.
(b) Locate your loved one's original Will. The Will should
name the personal representative (executor).
(c) Make a list of property, bank accounts and other holdings
of the person who died. This is called an "inventory".
(d) Make a list of the debts of the person who died.
(e) Carefully check the mail of the person who has passed away
and gather any account statements or bills to add to the Inventory
and the list of debts.
(f) Once the funeral has taken place, obtain a copy of the
paid funeral bill.
(g) Obtain copies of the death certificate from the state of
Florida. Usually a lawyer will need at least two or three copies of
the death certificate.
(h) The personal representative should preserve the property
of a decedent. For example, a decedent's car should not be driven
and any property of the decedent should be protected during the probate
(i) The personal representative should make an appointment
to see an attorney and bring all of the above to him. Don't be afraid
to interview several lawyers about their experience with probate and
estate matters. Also, make a specific fee arrangement before hiring
a lawyer. The attorney should write a letter to the personal representative
outlining the terms of the agreement.
9. Here are some consumer
tips to prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud.
(a) Be very cautious using ATM cards. Some
ATM machines have been programmed to "skim" personal bank
account information for later use by criminals.
(b) According to a recent article in the New York Times, at
least 21,000 people have had their personal information "skimmed"
by criminals. The criminals stole millions of dollars using the information.
The fraud included ATMs used in Florida.
(c) This new nationwide problem is particularly bad in California,
Florida and New York. Once a thief obtains your bank account information
and personal identification number (PIN), he can charge things to
your credit card or take money out of your bank account. At least
one criminal has been prosecuted for this crime. A man named Iljmija
Frljuckic was deported from the United States but came back into the
country and was caught using credit cards improperly after stealing
the numbers using an ATM machine that "skimmed" consumer
(d) ATM fees are already outrageously high and there is no
reason to take a risk of losing your money to fraud in addition to
the high fees.
*Moral to the story? Consider cashing a check to
get cash instead of using your ATM card even with your local bank.
10. Retirement update.
Are you thinking about retiring or cutting back
on your amount of work? Consider the following:
(a) Find a backup part-time job to keep
(b) Most people consider their retirement options long before
they retire by finding something else to do to keep them occupied
whether it be hobbies, volunteering or new employment. If possible,
try to find a part-time job that includes health insurance (assuming
you're not old enough to qualify for Medicare).
(c) Consider setting up an "S" corporation"
so that after you retire, you have an entity to receive any income
you may earn from your endeavors in retirement.
(d) Remember, most people need approximately 60 to 70 percent
of their pre-retirement income in retirement. Check your savings and
investment plans as well as income possibilities well in advance of
retirement to make sure you've saved enough for retirement.
(e) When it comes to depleting your savings, remember that
retirement experts say that you should plan on withdrawing no more
than five percent (5%) of the principal amount you have saved from
your retirement plan every year.
(f) Before you retire, consider paying off all real estate
and consumer debt.
(g) Remember that you may not want to live in the same house
you've lived in particularly if your existing house is a large one.
Consider downsizing in retirement.
(h) Lastly, consult an attorney to make sure that you make
the right retirement options with your employer and that you have
an estate plan including a Will.