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