July 1996
Fisher's Law Office

Welcome to the NEWSLETTER of Fisher's Law Office, providing you with legal information you can use in your everyday life. If you have questions about what you read in this newsletter, please call us today.

In this Newsletter we explore the three major phases of life and legal implications of each phase: childhood, adulthood and old age.


Childhood brings substantial interaction with the legal system of the United States:

1. When you are one year old, you must have a social security number because of an international treaty the U.S. signed with Mexico and Canada called NAFTA.

2. Children are the frequent subject of custody law. This law is contained in Florida Statutes, Chapter 61, dealing with dissolution of marriage and in Chapter 742, dealing with paternity. One half of all children are born out of wedlock. If you are the parent of such a child, you must have the paternity of the child determined by a court. Remember, it's not enough to sign the birth certificate. Illegitimate children have problems with child support, health insurance, death benefits and parentage. Don't let your child remain in limbo: legitimize your children now.

3. Sometimes the government takes children away from their parents. The right to do this is written in Florida Statutes, Chapter 39. Be careful. The State of Florida has a very aggressive campaign of taking children from their parents. If you don't have a typical "middle-class" lifestyle, don't raise your children in Florida.

4. All children should be in their parents' Wills. If a child is born after his parents' will is written, he is called a "pretermitted heir" and the child may be included in the Will automatically (Florida Statutes, Chapter 732).


As we grow up, our responsibilities increase:

1. The first thing adults should do is register to vote. The twenty-sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified and became law in 1971. (This was the most recent amendment to the U.s. Constitution.) It states that the right of citizens of the U.S. age 18 and over to vote shall not be denied. You should register and vote if you are at least 18 years old.

2. Many adults are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Under the law, the State must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place before they can stop you (see Terry v. State, 392 US 1, (Sp.Ct. 1968). For instance, if you have failed to use a turn signal or follow any other traffic laws or if one of your lights doesn't work, then the police have a reasonable suspicion to stop and question you. Once you are stopped, the police can determine whether they have probable cause to arrest and charge you with the crime of drunk driving.

3. Many people as adults want to open up a new business. Here is a partial list of some of the tax returns that must be filed under the law.

Name of Tax Return

Form UCT-6

State Unemployment Tax Return
Form 1040 Federal Individual Tax Return
Form ES 1040 Payment Voucher for Quarterly Tax Payments
DR-15 State Sales Tax Return Application
DR405 State Personal Property Tax Return
DR601C State Intangible Tax Return
Form 1120 or 1120S Federal Corporate Tax Return
Form 940 Federal Unemployment Tax Return
Form 941's & ES1040 Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return
Form 8109 Federal Payroll Tax Deposit Coupon
Form 1553 Federal Application for "S-Corp" Election

Remember, failure to file these forms on time could result in severe penalties. Moral? See your lawyer whenever you start a new business.

4. Responsibility for children in divorce is contained in Florida Statute Chapter 61; Florida has adopted child support guidelines that require children receive between 11% and 24% of your net monthly income (see Florida Statute 61.30). And beginning in 1995, the clerk of the court can write a letter to the Division of Drivers Licenses and cause your driver's license to be suspended for non-support (see Florida Statute 322.058). Child support is full of traps for the unwary; think carefully before you parent a child.

5. Other Adult Responsibilities. All divorcing parents should provide their children with health insurance coverage. Florida Statute 61.13(1)(b) requires divorcing parents to make provision for child support if insurance is reasonably available to them.

6. Taxes. Florida has no income tax, but the federal government imposes a 12.2% social security tax, and a 2.9% medicare tax on your income. In addition, you must pay a 15% to 39.6% income tax depending upon your income. Always pay your taxes on time to avoid penalties and interest.

7. Personal Savings Rates and Adulthood. It is estimated that the average net worth of American adults is only $1,000.00. The Wall Street Journal reports that personal income as of April 1996 for the entire U.S. population is over six thousand billion dollars and that total savings were only 204 billion dollars per year in the U.S. Moral? Don't be a statistic-save for your retirement beginning now.

8. Adults who work often have 401k pension plans. Watch out for all employer sponsored 401K retirement plans! The U.S. Department of Labor has only 372 investigators to inspect over $700 billion in 401 K retirement plans. Many employers steal the money in these plans or negligently invest workers' money. For instance, the Wall Street Journal recently found a doctor in New Mexico who "invested" his workers' pay into a Ford Mustang; another bought gold coins and artwork with workers' money! The Color Tile Company invested their workers' money in its own stores and then went bankrupt. Moral? Check into your 401K plan investments before it's too late. If you don't like what you see, call a lawyer.

9. Don't get cheated out of a paycheck. Before you retire, make sure you remembered to pick up your last paycheck. If you forget to pick up a paycheck for one year, the money escheats to the State! (See Florida Statute 717.115)

10. Homeowners Insurance. Red alert! If Florida has another hurricane, get ready for huge increases in homeowners insurance! Under a little known law, the State of Florida insures over 895,000 privately owned homes in the State. If a storm hits, there is no money to pay for the loss. Under the law, all of Florida homeowner insurance policyholders will be assessed a special tax to pay back the cost of rebuilding the homes the State of Florida insured. In 1992, hurricane Andrew caused insured losses that exceeded $20 billion. It is estimated that a $50 billion storm is possible in our lifetime. If even a "small" storm hits Florida, get ready for homeowners insurance costs to skyrocket!


Elderly people need to know about medicare, medicaid, Wills, estates and probate:

1. Medicaid is a program of free medical care for poor people. Medicaid will pay for nursing home care if you have no money. However, the government will "look back" to see whether you have made any gift transfers in the last thirty-six months. Any transfers of your wealth to others during that time will make you ineligible for medicaid for a period of time depending on how much money you gave away. Moral: See a lawyer to properly plan your nursing home strategy. Consider getting nursing home insurance if you can.

2. Medicare - Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers the elderly and disabled. Currently 4 million disabled and 33 million elderly people participate in this program. It is estimated that this program will run out of money by the year 2001. As of 1996, medicare is running a deficit of $2.6 billion per year! Medicare spends over $116 billion a year. Interestingly, only one of five beneficiaries ever make claims under this program. However, these 20% of all eligible medicare recipients incur over $15,000.00 in medical bills each per year which the government pays! Moral? Don't plan on having medicare around after the year 2001. The money will all be spent on current beneficiaries. Consider getting private insurance to cover your medical care in old age.

3. Wills and Estates - Elderly people should consider writing a Will. In Florida, all Wills should be witnessed by at least two people and have a self-proving affidavit signed by a notary, the witnesses and the testator. Fisher's Law Office charges $100.00 to write a simple Will.

4. Probate is the process by which the wealth and assets of the decedent are transferred to his loved ones. In your Will, you should always specify a responsible person called a personal representative who can distribute your assets to your loved ones after your death.

5. Elders are often the victims of financial fraud. There are 28 million senior citizens with investment income. Fraud is rampant! To be safe, never invest in anything but FDIC insured certificates of deposit from a bank in your own city; Always have a lawyer or CPA, or both, carefully examine the prospectus and financial statements of any company or investment before giving your money away. Remember--In all of 1995, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initiated only 486 enforcement actions despite the fact that thousands of investors were ripped off by con artists. Be very cautious investing your hard-earned money!