Estate Planning Seminar for LGBT and Same Sex Couples

Engel Law Offices is excited to announce that we are presenting at a seminar regarding estate planning and legal issues for the LGBT community.

The first session is February 28, 2011 at Wise Guys Comedy Club in Syracuse NY. The session begins with a networking session at 6:00 and presentation at 6:30. We will be discussing health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney.

Hope to see you there.

Phone Calls and Email Policy

One of the biggest complaints about lawyers is that as a profession we don’t return telephone calls and ignore emails from our clients or potential clients. This practice if true, is one that is disrespectful to the client and other members of our profession.

My policy is to try to return calls or emails within 5 hours. I never want a client to feel that their matter is being ignored or that they are not important to me. While there are times that I will refrain from taking calls during the day, I always set aside time both in the morning and afternoon to respond to telephone calls and emails. In that respect, the client can have a connection with me quickly, and if I need time to review or research a matter before giving a definitive answer I will let the client know.

Staying accessible to the client is important. That is why my Iphone is linked to my office email and if I am out of the office for an extended time my phone is forwarded to my cell so that the client does not feel unimportant.  Not only is knowledge of the law an important factor for a good attorney but so is being available to respond to their needs, questions and thoughts.

Todd Engel

New No Fault Divorce Bill becomes effective in New York

On August 16 Governor David Patterson signed into law three bills that will change the landscape of matrimonial law in New York State. The reason it is important now is that they become effective on October 16th so planning needs to be taken now.

The first bill provided that there is an additional cause of action in New York providing for No Fault Divorce. The second bill will allow the Court additional opportunities to examine maintenance issues. The final bill provides for interim attorneys fees so that the monied spouse is responsible for interim fees during the course of matrimonial litigation and that the nonmonied spouse is not at a disadvantage due to their lack of financial ability to afford what can be mounting and daunting legal fees.

The bill getting the most attention is the addition o a no fault cause of action. This brings New York in line with the other 49 states n the country allowing for a divorce to end for no certifiable reason. The benefit to this cause of action is that when parties are just no longer compatible they can get a divorce without creating additional pain that existed under the previous causes of action. It means that people don’t have to create language that fits within cruel and inhuman treatment.  Ultimately it will allow for people to eliminate some of the acrimony generally viewed in a fight over cause.

The second bill passed deals with the examination of maintenance or spousal support both on a temporary and permanent basis. This will allow the courts to examine specific factors in setting temporary maintenance.  Maintenance is important and sometimes vital to to keep the non-monied spouse  in the same lifestyle and have the same financial stability that was available prior to the break up of the marriage.

The third bill provides for interim counsel fees when there is a financial disparity between the parties. One of the fundamental aspects  of litigation is that attorneys need to be paid! The financial ability for one side to pay or not pay should not be a detriment to the ability to be represented in a divorce. This will allow for both parties to get proper and adequate representation during a matrimonial action. This will equal the playing field so that the party with money doesn’t bury the one without in legal fees.

Todd Engel

What to look for when hiring an attorney

When looking to hire a new attorney there are five things you should always consider.

1. Comfort Level

When you initially reach out to the new attorney, are you comfortable with the manner he or she contacts you? Do you actually have the ability to speak with the attorney who will be handling your matter when you call? Are your initial questions answered? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may want to consider looking at additional attorneys. At Engel Law Offices, you will speak to the attorney representing you immediately, there will be no middle man for intake purposes. You will have access via email to that attorney. At Engel Law Offices, communication is the cornerstone to a good attorney client relationship.

2. Size of Office

Can the attorney service your needs fairly? Law firms run the gamut from solo practitioners to firms with hundreds of attorneys. A solo practitioner like myself can represent people with all types of legal needs. Smaller offices can and do provide individualized attention to your needs.  Larger offices may fit your need and if that is so, then utilize their services, but please remember that you are hiring the lawyer and need to be able to have a working relationship with him or her. At Engel Law Offices, effective and quick response times are instrumental to our communication with the client. It is important that you feel that your case is important and that the office is available and accessible to you, the client.

3. What are you looking for?

A lawyer in a general practice can and oftentimes does represent an individual in all aspects of their legal needs. Whether it is buying a new home, selling a business, divorce, or estate planning, a general practitioner can handle those needs for you. Attorneys who specialize are great and having a referral network for a general practitioner to utilize makes sense for those situations when the client needs specialization.  A firm should be small enough to know who you are yet diverse to handle your needs. At Engel Law Offices, we strive to build relationships with our clients so that you will feel like you have a life long lawyer.

4. Does the attorney represent individuals with needs like yours?

When you call for an initial intake, do not hesitate to inquire about the lawyer who will be representing you. All lawyers should be candid with their experience level and comfort level with the fact scenario you place before them. At Engel Law Offices if you call with a matter that is not part of our practice areas, we seek to find you a suitable attorney given your situation.

5. Flat fee/ hourly rate

Economics is an important consideration in any relationship. Presently there is a trend for attorneys to move to a flat fee billing system. What this means is instead of charging an hourly rate for certain services, there is a set fee for the legal work determined at the beginning of the working relationship. If that relationship expands, the attorney may revisit the fee, however when a firm does a flat fee billing system, it is rare for that to happen. This benefits the client because their budget is fixed for purposes of legal fees for a certain matter. At Engel Law Offices, we assess your case and if flat fee billing is appropriate, we utilize that method.

A significant portion of our matters can be handled in this way, including certain aspects of commercial litigation, estate planning, estate administration, business matters, real estate matters, and equine matters can all be billed in a flat fee manner. Personal injury litigation is still based on a contingency fee and those fees can be discusses when you call Engel Law Offices.

Should you be searching for an attorney, please consider Engel Law Offices. We are lengths ahead of the field.

Todd Engel

Engel Law Offices

214 N. State Street                                                               1104 Middleline Road

Syracuse, NY 13203                                                           Ballston Spa, NY 12020

315-295-1450                                                                       518-490-1770

[email protected]

www.engelatty.com

www.twitter.com/toddengel

Why I love being a general practitioner

I love being a general practioner!

I represent corporations and individuals in such a wide and varied area of the law. I handle matters involving business planning and ultimate representation, estate planning, civil litigation, personal injury litigation, real estate, and equine law.  I have and do represent people criminally, as well as in Family Court.

Each day and case offers me a new opportunity to expand my knowledge in the law. But more importantly, it allows me to guide and assist my client in a way that is best for them. While each practice area may be different in scope and focus, the goal at the end of the day is always the same; get the best result for the client.

While each practice area has definite differences, they all excite me and keep me interested and involved. I love that one morning I can be working on a complaint in a personal injury matter and that afternoon I can be working with a family to figure out how best to plan their estate.

The saying goes variety is the spice of life. With my practice, my life is therefore definitely spicy! Which is how I like it.

Todd Engel

Engel Law Offices

[email protected]

Moving My Practice

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce that effective December 22, 2009, I will be relocating my practice to 214 N. State Street, Syracuse, NY 13203. My new telephone number will be 315-295-1450. My new fax number will be 315-478-1687. My email will remain [email protected] My Saratoga office remains at 1104 Middleline Road, Ballston Spa, NY 12020.

I will continue to represent individuals and small businesses in the following practice areas:

• Estate Planning and Adminstration
• Trust Drafting and Implementation
• Business Development and formation
• Personal Injury Litigation
• Commercial Litigation
• Equine Matters, including partnership formation, syndication, licensing issues, or any other associated matter.

I look forward to this new opportunity and am excited to continue to provide the quality personal based representation you have come to expect from Engel Law Offices. Please contact me with any questions regarding this move.

Wishing you and your family the best during this holiday season.

Todd

The audacity of people

I realize that the story I am about to share may not compare to the swindling that Bernie Madoff executed, but from my perspective it is actually worse. In today’s Syracuse Post Standard, there was an article detailing the scheme conducted by Jerome Feldman involving those must vulnerable: families in need of a transplant.

Allegedly, Feldman concocted a scheme where he would solicit opportunites to obtain a transplant in the Philippines if money was sent to his bank account in DeWitt, NY. The individual awaiting the transplant was instructed to wire $70,000 into Feldman’s bank account. Medical staff would then be available in the Philippines to conduct the transplant, or so Feldman said. The problem was, once the patient flew to the Philippines, no organ was there and the money was gone.

Feldman preyed upon those individuals who are looking for any hope possible for their loved one. I know, I was there; not one of Feldman’s victims, but a family member of a person on a transplant list. My mother was on dialysis for 15 years, before her death in 2006. She started with home dialysis and progressively needed the centers. She did it three times a week, and it prolonged her life. For about 10 years of the dialysis she was on the transplant lists until she became so compromised with additional illnesses that she had to be removed. Every time the phone rang, we hoped it was the transplant center letting us know that a kidney was there. We came close, but never found that perfect match. So, I know firsthand the desire to gain more time through obtaining a new organ.

Feldman’s acts were not acts of kindness. They were not acts of benevolence from one man to another. He was motivated by one thing: greed. Taking advantage of those people who are looking for any hope necessary is in my opinion the lowest form of the low. For the families who are suffering at the hands of Jerome Feldman, I am deeply sorry. For those of us who were families of people either waiting for or receiving transplants, it proves that we must go through the system for the private market organ transplant is fraught with thieves and miscreants who only want to take advantage of the situation.

Jerome Feldman Story

Todd Engel

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Equine Law: Am I Just Horsing Around?

One of my favorite areas of practice is my equine law specialty. No, I am not just horsing around!

Since 1977, my family has owned and raced thoroughbred horses. We have been fortunate enough to race horses throughout North America and presently run horses at Aqueduct. We have raced at tracks from Oaklawn Park to Woodbine in Toronto. We have raced most frequently in the New York circuit. It is a wonderful experience and nothing is quite as thrilling as watching your horse running down the stretch going for the finish line. The question is whether a horse needs a lawyer?

No, the horse doesn’t need a lawyer, but others certainly do. I represent owners with respect to setting up the legal entities that make sense for their needs There needs to be agreements by and between the partners. There needs to be corporate resolutions in order to establish the business entity properly. Remember, while horse racing is a sport, and can be a lot of fun, the ownership of horses is intended to be a business.

If the business is successful, then tax issues are at play. Income taxes, sales tax, and other tax issues are continuously changing and need to be evaluated. The stimulus bill just signed by President Obama has created excellent tax advantages for horse ownership including depreciation of up to $250,000 for horses put into service during 2009. Sales tax issues can be reviewed and assessed dependent upon the state where a sale takes place.

Should a horse become extremely successful, there are additional legal issues to look at. These center around stallion syndication and arrangement of stallion servicing. Negotiating arrangements with the various farms where the stallion is to stand is necessary. Drafting agreements between the owner of the stallions and the owners of the mares is also required.

The racing side also has its need for equine attorneys. Licensing issues for owners, trainers and jockeys are an integral part of equine representation. Should a trainer or jockey have to serve a suspension, quality representation is necessary to protect their rights. Negotiation with the State Racing and Wagering Board can keep a trainer or jockey from having to serve a suspension and therefore keep the trainer or jockey from losing necessary income. Should a hearing be necessary, the lawyer can conduct the examination of witnesses and effectively represent a trainer, owner or jockey in front of the Board.

Horse racing is a thrilling sport. Proper assistance can make sure you remain in the game for the long haul.

Todd Engel

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Legal Planning in a Different Economy

When I look around my community, I see a totally new and evolving economic paradigm. Sure there are layoffs everywhere. Circuit City closes and there are 30,000 fewer jobs. Magna may close their local plant eliminating what at its height was 8,000 jobs in the automobile industry. Five years ago, who would have ever thought that Lehman Brothers would no longer be in existence? If you ask me, it is a time for opportunity to grow and develop a business.

Globally the economy is shrinking. This is no surprise from picking up the newspapers. However, that offers an opportunity for an enterprising person to open and develop a new business. In my view, the old economy of manufacturing and big business is no longer viable in today’s marketplace. The manufacturing is being accomplished in other countries where the costs of doing business are less. These only makes sense in a capitalistic society, if I can make it cheaper and sell it on the marketplace, then why do I need to pay the overhead, taxes and other costs of manufacturing in this country. So, how are we going to survive and what can a lawyer do to help?

The best way to reinvigorate the economy in times such as the now is to invest in ourselves and be creative. For some, that means thinking outside the box of what they know to look for employment in new areas. For others, it is to examine what their strengths are and to start their own business. My thinking is the small to medium sized businesses are going to drive this economy forward because those are the businesses that are going to roll up their sleeves and move us forward through creative work. What industry that is in is to be determined. However this is an exciting time to be involved in legal representation of small closely held businesses.

How does a lawyer help you? A good business lawyer can help in each facet of business planning. Whether it is setting up a good quality business plan., determining the right entity to begin this venture with, whether it is a solo proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability partnership, or corporation, a lawyer can guide you through the process and help fill out the appropriate documentation. A lawyer will work with you to project financing needs and developing strategies for obtaining startup capital. A lawyer can advise as to the tax implications of owning versus renting your business location and other depreciation techniques. Use a lawyer at the beginning who you trust, and it can be mean money saved down the line.

Todd Engel

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WHY LAW AND WHY SPECIALIZE?

More often than not, people I meet invariably ask me what I do for a living. It is common place to ask that question, because it allows you to learn more about the person you are interacting with. I always answer that I am a lawyer. Never do I say that I am a certain type of lawyer. I let that conversation develop over time.

I then am asked why you became a lawyer. The short quip is that I am genetically predisposed, after being the third generation in my family to practice law. That is a flippant response that really does not touch on the real reason I became a lawyer. I have a desire to help people and the law offers me that opportunity to help my clients achieve their goals and desires.

So, then the question as to what type of law I practice comes up. For the first ten years of my practice, I said I was a general practitioner. I wanted to be that lawyer everyone went to for issues from cradle to grave. I did divorces, I did DWI’s. I did trusts, estates and probate. I even dabbled in Worker’s Compensation. I was everywhere and spread very thin in what expertise in any subject I could provide. I had a choice to make, I could specialize and find my niche or continue to spread myself across all aspects of the law and not truly have a focus for myself or my clients.

I changed that starting this year. I am now focused on wealth development and preservation. Sounds great Todd, but what does that mean? It means that I am focused on establishing and representing small and closely held businesses from their inception through successful operation. It means that I represent individuals in making sure that their assets are protected for the future. It means that I will make sure that the estate planning necessary for individuals meet their needs and the needs of their family. It means that I will make sure that assets survive for children and future generations. I also will work to determine the best ways to make sure any charitable gifts are done in the best manner.

Todd Engel

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