September 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.


Do not forget the following important list of items you need to have before you close on a house:

1. Termite Report - Have your new house inspected and make sure that it is free of termites before you go to the closing.

2. Roof Report - You should have the roof inspected by a licensed contractor. If the roof leaks, you should have it repaired before you buy the house.

3. Insurance Binders - Make sure that you have homeowners' insurance on the house before you take possession of it at closing. Homeowners' insurance is very difficult to get because of hurricanes, burglaries and high claims in Florida.

4. Survey - Read the legal description on the property and make sure it makes sense. Then take the "legal description" of the property to a licensed land surveyor to conduct a thorough survey of the property. You want to make sure there are no encroachments and that the property you are buying is really the property where the house you want is located.

5. Elevation Certificate - You need an elevation to get flood insurance. You should obtain flood insurance even if it is not required because of the high probability of flooding in Florida.

6. Approval by Homeowners' Associations - Make sure that any homeowners' associations approve of you, your children, your trucks, campers or vans; some neighborhoods even ban clothes lines! Get your approval in writing.

7. Satisfaction of Mortgage or Mortgage Payoff Estoppel Letter - Don't buy a house with a mortgage or other debts. You should always have a full title search and make sure that all debts and liens on the property are paid off before you buy. Watch out for IRS (internal Revenue Service) liens and mechanic's liens in particular.

8. Closing Statements - You should always get a closing statement at the closing showing exactly how your money is being applied.

9. Deed - Make sure you get a Warranty Deed that guarantees you ownership of the property no matter what. Always have a lawyer review any proposed Deed showing ownership of property you want to buy.

10. Bill of Sale - You should always get a Bill of Sale, especially if there is personal property involved in the sale. For instance, if you are buying a washer or dryer, you should get a separate Bill of Sale for these items. These will be necessary for tax and other reasons.

11. Seller's Affidavits - You want to make sure that if the seller is single, that they swear to this fact in an affidavit. If the seller is married or was ever married, their husband or wife's signature on the Deed to you may be required. You may want to run a public records search of the seller to make sure that they are not foreign. If they are foreign, then you have to give the IRS 10% of the purchase price with few exceptions. Failure to pay the IRS will result in you having liability.

12. Mortgage Assumption Package - If you are assuming a mortgage, you should make sure that the lender approves of your making payments. Otherwise, they may declare the house in default and foreclose on you.

13. Purchase Money Mortgage and Note - If in fact you are buying the house with a mortgage, you want to make sure that the mortgage is in proper form and that any promissory note has terms that you can live with.

14. Homestead Exemption - Make sure that you apply for Florida's Homestead Exemption for any house you buy in Florida as soon as possible after purchasing the house.

15. Get title insurance - Always get a policy of title insurance when you buy a house.

16. Pollution - Have your house and land inspected for pollution. Don't buy polluted property under any circumstances.


Don't worry. You can order items out of State and pay no tax. It's true. Under a little known Supreme Court of Florida case styled DOR vs. Share International, Case No. 86481, July 18, 1996, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that mail order companies that have very limited contacts with the State of Florida do not have to charge sales tax on their goods. Of course, once you receive the goods, you are supposed to pay a use tax just as anyone is supposed to pay a use tax for goods they bring into the State of Florida.


Did you know that almost as many people die from guns as car accidents in the United States? It's true. In the United States, 40,000 Americans were killed last year by guns. In Florida, 2,300 people were killed with guns. Many people say that people who own guns should have insurance just as people who own cars are required to have insurance. If you feel strongly about this, you may want to write your legislator.


Always follow these ten steps if you are involved in a car accident.

  1. Call an ambulance for anyone hurt.

  2. Report the accident to the police.

  3. Obtain the name and address of all of the people in the other car.

  4. Obtain any witness names and addresses.

  5. Obtain the license number and State of registration of the other car.

  6. Measure any skid marks made by either car.

  7. Do not admit responsibility or sign anything.

  8. File any accident reports with the State of Florida you are required to file.

  9. Do not tell anyone about your insurance limits.

10. Go immediately to your insurance company and report the loss. Also, make sure you call your lawyer if you are ever involved in any car accident, no matter how small.


You're not alone. Here are some shocking statistics about television in America.

* 68.6% of people admit that they watch T.V. while eating dinner.

* 70% of day care centers have televisions on where children can see them.

* A survey of 4 to 6 year olds showed that they enjoyed watching T.V. more than seeing their fathers.

* The average child spends 3-1/2 minutes a week with their parents and 1,680 minutes watching television. Is there any doubt what's wrong with America?


Make sure that you don't take any substance that would negate or distort the results of the urine test. If you do, you are guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by up to 6 months in jail. See Florida Statute 817.565.


  1. Do go to a lawyer early in the process.

  2. Do attempt to mediate your dispute without attorneys present. More cases are settled in mediation than ever before.

  3. Do make a full financial disclosure on court approved forms. This is now mandatory under Florida Supreme Court rules that went into effect in January 1996.

  4. Do correspond with your children if you can't see them.

  5. Do call your children if at all possible to communicate with them and tell them you love them.

  6. Do allow access by the other parent if you have custody of children.

  7. Do send your children an allowance or pay your children an allowance if you have custody. This will build financial responsibility on the children's part.

  8. Do get counseling for yourself and take a "long view" of the process. The divorce will pass in time and you will go on with your life.

  9. Don't attack or threaten your spouse or do anything violent. This can only hurt you in the divorce proceeding.

10. Do not steal or hide money. The court usually finds out about such acts and generally punishes a person who commits them.

11. Do not use the children as a football in an attempt to hurt the other spouse. In the end, only the children are hurt by such actions.

12. Do not lie to your lawyer under any circumstances.

13. Do not obstruct and prolong a divorce. Divorce takes long enough as it is. Don't delay the proceeding by telling your lawyer to stop and then go again.

14. Do not ignore courtroom decorum. Being polite to the court and to judges goes a long way towards resolving your case in a way favorable to you. Do not fail to dress properly for court.

15. Do go to the divorce class offered by your local junior college. In Pasco and Pinellas, this is now mandatory under Florida Statute, Chapter 61.21.


* Make sure you have a Will. If you die without a Will, then the State of Florida's intestate statute (Florida Statute 732) will state where your property goes upon your death.

* If you live in a house with your wife or husband, make sure their name is on the Deed with you. Otherwise, when you die, your spouse will only inherit a life estate and the remainder interest will be owned by your children. It is very difficult to sell property titled in this way so always title your homestead in joint names.

* If you are wealthy, make sure you give at least $600,000.00 to your "lower heirs" or to a "bypass trust". This is the safest way to make sure that you take advantage of the $600,000.00 estate tax exemption provided under federal law.

* Be careful with joint accounts. Joint bank accounts with others go directly to that person regardless of what your Will says. Through such an estate plan, you may burden the beneficiaries of your Will with estate taxes on your joint bank account. Also, you may mistakenly distribute your estate unequally when using joint accounts. Lastly, you might need the money yourself during your life. Don't put property in joint names without consulting a processional.

* Be careful with gifts. Any gifts over $10,000.00 require the following of a 706 gift tax return.

* Always tell your personal representative where your Will is located. Tell the personal representative to take the Will to the probate court in the county where you lived within ten days of death. Tell them to take the receipt and a copy of the Will to a competent lawyer to discuss probate of the estate.

* Always negotiate with the attorney before you allow them to represent you in a probate. Set time deadlines and a budget with the attorney.