July 26, 2017

Gain Financial Freedom in your Pursuit of Happiness!

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Every year I re-read the Declaration of Independence and meditate on the amazing freedoms I enjoy (and sometimes admittedly, take for granted). This year I have been studying the history of Bankruptcy in America and came across this wonderful book called Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence by Bruce H. Mann.

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After reading a bit of this book, I realized how incredibility blessed we are to have the laws that allow us to file Bankruptcy with ease of process, and without judgment or fear. It wasn’t always that way and not everyone who suffered from crushing debt was given that second chance. It took years and a lot of legislation to get the laws where they are today; the laws that protect debtors from their creditors.

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I believe the secret to happiness is the freedom of choice. When you choose to take the first step to get out of debt you begin on the road to financial freedom. Bankruptcy will help you keep your home, relieve you of unsecured debt, keep your utilities on and give you the freedom to start over. It was the best thing that ever happened to me (read my personal Bankruptcy story here) and was my own declaration of independence.

We’re Moving!

We are packing up and moving down the street…

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…to 50 Cherry Street, Milford, CT 06460.

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The new office will be open for business on February 1, 2017.  To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 203-713-8877.  Thank you!

My Gift to You and Yours!

 

Everyone over the age of 18, especially parents of young children, need a simple Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney (these documents together are formally called an “Estate Plan”).

Estate Planning can be given as a gift to others and/or it makes a great New Year’s Resolution for yourself.

As a mother, and an attorney, the importance of planning for the future is at the top of my list!

Therefore, my gift to you this holiday season is 25% off all estate planning packages for the month of January 2017.  Please feel free to share this with your friends and family.

The process of making an Estate Plan is as easy as 1-2-3: First we talk, then I create the documents and lastly, you come in to visit me and sign them.

To arrange a free consultation in person or over the phone, call our office at 203-713-8877.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday!

With much love & gratitude,
Theresa Rose DeGray
Attorney at Law

PS: Stay tuned for lots of exciting announcements, information, seminars, videos, blogs and much more in 2017!

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Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)

Notice to All Members of the Connecticut Bar and Authorized House Counsel

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Effective January 1, 2017, new Connecticut Practice Book Section 2-27A will require, with certain exceptions set forth in the rule, all members of the Connecticut Bar and attorneys certified to be Authorized House Counsel (AHC) in Connecticut to complete a minimum of twelve hours of continuing legal education each year, at least two hours of which shall be in ethics and professionalism.  Certification of compliance with the MCLE requirement will be done during the following year’s online registration process (e.g. the attorney or AHC will certify his or her 2017 compliance when registering in 2018).

The Commission on Minimum Continuing Legal Education has been established to aid attorneys and AHCs in understanding the rule and complying with it.  The Judicial Branch has also established a dedicated MCLE website at http://www.jud.ct.gov/MCLE/, where attorneys and AHCs can view the MCLE rule, FAQs developed by the Commission, forms, and a videotaped seminar conducted on November 7, 2016 regarding MCLE.  An attorney or AHC who watches the videotaped seminar may take 1.5 hours of MCLE credit in ethics/professionalism that can be carried over to the attorney’s or AHC’s 2017 twelve hour MCLE requirement.

Unlike many other states, Connecticut does not certify courses or providers. Connecticut lawyers are urged to independently review Practice Book §2-27A and make their own determination that a course qualifies for credit towards their MCLE requirement taking into consideration the delivery and content requirements of the rule.  If a course has been approved for CLE credit in another jurisdiction, then it automatically meets the content and delivery requirements in Connecticut, subject to the caveat that credit hours are awarded in Connecticut based on “actual instruction time” (e.g., 60 minutes of instruction time equals one credit hour of Connecticut CLE).

If after visiting the MCLE website and reviewing the information provided there, an attorney or AHC has a question about the MCLE rule, the attorney or AHC may contact the Commission at MCLE@jud.ct.gov for further information.

3 Essential Tips for Hiring the Best Probate Lawyer

Last week, I talked about some of the benefits of hiring a probate attorney. If you’re sold on the idea of hiring a probate attorney to help you through the Will or probate process, but you’re not sure how to go about hiring the best attorney, this post is for you! I’ve come up with some great tips to follow when hiring a probate lawyer that will ensure that you find the best probate lawyer for you.

  1. Ask the right questions. Once you have a few free consultations set up, you want to ask the right questions during these consultations, to make sure that you fully understand the attorney’s qualifications. Ask questions such as:
  2. Find lawyers that offer free consultations. If you’re like me, you don’t like making impulse buys. You want to do your research and figure out who the best attorney is for you. The good news is that you can actually do this! If you find lawyers that offer free consultations, you can meet with several lawyers before deciding which one you want to retain. At no cost to you, you can get your questions answered and get a feel for the lawyer you’re meeting with and decide if you want to retain that lawyer or not.
    • How long have you been a probate lawyer? You want to find a lawyer that has experience in the field so that you know he or she has worked with cases similar to yours. Experience can make a lawyer a valuable asset.
    • Do you have any client testimonials? Client testimonials, whether on file or on a website, can give you the information that you need from people who have been in your shoes. If you see reviews from many satisfied customers, the lawyer is probably effective and efficient.
    • What would you do in _____ situation? Test out a situation and see how the lawyer responds. Especially if there are uncommon aspects to your probate process or Will, see how the lawyer would handle that situation.
    • What do you charge? If the attorney beats around the bush or won’t give you a straight answer, they might have hidden fees. If a lawyer is upfront and honest about their fees, you can probably trust the quote that they give you.
  3. Check out the reputation. Client testimonials are great ways to get a feel for customer satisfaction, but they’re not the only way. Sometimes, lawyers will only show you the best reviews that they get, not necessarily the reviews that give the most accurate picture of customer satisfaction. For this reason, you should consider asking friends or coworkers for suggestions of probate lawyers that they have used in the past. This feedback will probably be honest and it will come from people that you can trust.

Finding the right probate lawyer can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be! If you follow these tips, you will be able to find the right lawyer for you! To set up your FREE consultation with me, click here!

Formal Probate vs. Informal Probate

There are two major kinds of probate – formal probate and informal probate. These types of probate are similar but they have a few distinct differences that should be noted. If you are trying to split up the assets of a deceased loved one, and you and your family are considering using the informal probate process as opposed to the formal one, there are some things that you should know.

Probate vs. Informal Probate

Probate, as I’ve mentioned, occurs when an executor files a probate petition with the court and handles the affairs of the deceased according to his or her Will. Informal probate is similar to probate, but it differs in that it can be done without the supervision of the court.

When to use Informal Probate

If you and your family are considering using informal probate, there are some things that you should consider. Informal probate works best in situations where the assets amount to $50,000 or more. All parties (creditors, heirs, executor, etc.) must agree to the informal probate process, and it must be stated in the Will of the deceased that informal probate can be used. If at any time a party in the proceedings decides that he or she wants to switch to formal probate, he or she can file a petition with the court to allow for formal administration. If you decide to use informal probate, you do not have to hire an attorney, but it is still advised that you do so. At any point during the informal probate process, you can hire an accountant, a tax preparer, or a probate lawyer to assist you in understanding the finances and law involved with the estate.

Deciding to use informal probate will depend on your individual situation. If the Will that is left behind by the deceased is a complex document with room for interpretation and questions, you might want the court to give guidance where there are questions. In this case, you should use probate. On the other hand, if the deceased’s Will is clear and straightforward, you might not need the help of the court. In this case, using informal probate can help to make the probate process faster.

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Formal probate and informal probate are similar, but depending on your personal situation, one might be more effective than the other. If you are trying to determine which form of probate will be more useful for you and your family, it is in your best interest to contact a probate lawyer. He or she can consider your individual circumstances and make an informed suggestion based on it. A probate lawyer, like me,  can also answer your questions and make this process run smoother in general. Contact me here.

Choosing an Executor for My Will

Choosing whom to name as the executor of your Will is a big decision. You are essentially deciding who will be in charge of your affairs once you are gone. You need to pick someone that you trust not only as a person, but someone you trust to be organized and prepared to take on this responsibility. This article will serve to help you decide how to choose your executor and who would be a good person to choose.

Who can I choose?

Before we get into who you should choose as the executor of your Will, let’s talk about who would qualify as your executor. Many people think that they can only pick a family member to be the executor. This is not the case. While many people do choose a family member to serve as their executor, you can pick a person or an entire trust company. If you have a large and complex estate with a lot of property and assets, you should consider choosing a trust company to be your executor. If you have a smaller estate, you can choose a relative or a friend, so long as he or she is at least nineteen years old.

If you cannot find anyone to act as your executor, you can have the Public Trustee be the executor of your Will. You will want to contact the Public Trustee before you actually naming it in your Will.

Who should I choose?

Ultimately, you want to choose someone that you can trust as your executor. To this end, consider the following when deciding who to name as your executor:

  • Ask someone who’s not in your family. A close friend or a business associate that you know on a personal level would be a good choice for an executor. Sometimes it is easier for friends or business partners to be unbiased when carrying out your wishes than it is for family members.
  • Ask a family member. When considering who you can trust the most, many people choose their spouses, parents, or children. For this reason, many people choose adult relatives to act as their executors.
  • Ask professionals. Like I said, large and complicated estates are oftentimes best handled by trust companies. Likewise, you can choose a lawyer, trust company, or financial expert to take care of your estate if you feel it will be too much for your friends or relatives to handle.
  • Age. Being an executor is a great responsibility. While your executor can be 19 years or older, you might want to choose someone who is older than 19 or 20 and mature enough to handle this job.
  • Qualifications. You don’t have to hire someone with a lot of law or financial experience, but you should choose someone who is mature and responsible. So long as your executor has access to advisors, he or she does not have to be a professional.

As you can see, choosing your executor is a largely individualized process. The right choice for you might be different for someone with a different family situation and estate. When choosing your executor, consider the size of your estate and the character of the person you choose. So long as they are honest, trustworthy, organized, and responsible, it doesn’t really matter if they are your friend, family member, or a professional. For more information, contact me here.

The Role of the Executor

Being named as the executor of someone’s Will is an honor. The deceased clearly trusted you with a very important task – taking care of his or her affairs once he or she could not, and ensuring that all debts are paid off and the remaining assets and property are given to the rightful heirs. This is a big responsibility and it can seem, at times, like an overwhelming job. If you have been named executor of a loved one’s Will, there are some things you need to know about this responsibility.

Do I Qualify as an Executor?

Because an executor has to deal with laws and finances that are oftentimes complex, you might think that only an expert in these fields would qualify as an executor, but this is not necessarily the case. Anyone can be an executor so long as they fulfill what is called fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duty refers to the duty to act honestly and with good faith in order to represent someone else. This means that you must be an honest and impartial person in order to be an executor. If you feel that you have these characteristics, you can be an executor.

What Does the Executor Do?

An executor has many jobs including:

  • Paying debts. The executor will have to notify creditors of probate proceedings and pay off any debts that the deceased has.
  • Paying taxes. Similarly, the executor is in charge of filing the final income tax return on behalf of the deceased. This income tax return should be filed for the start of the tax year up to the time of death.
  • Identifying the deceased (or decedent’s) property and assets.
  • Managing the decedent’s assets and property until the inheritors can take them. This duty could include deciding to sell securities or real estate or deciding to hold onto them.
  • Supervising the decedent’s property as it is distributed to the inheritors. The executor has to make sure that the property and assets are distributed to the right people according to the decedent’s Will.
  • Establishing a bank account for the estate. This account will be used to store money owed to the decedent.
  • If necessary, filing the Will in probate court.
  • Determining the necessity of proceedings in probate court.
  • Taking care of general details. This might include dealing with notifying credit card companies and banks/federal agencies of death.

As you can see, fulfilling the role of executor is no small task. If you think that you are up to the challenge, you will have many responsibilities. At times, this role can be confusing and overwhelming. If you ever feel like this is the case, you can contact a probate lawyer such as myself for guidance. I can give you the answers that you need and walk you through this experience. Even if you are not ready to retain my services, I offer free consultations, so we can meet together and discuss your situation at no cost to you. If this sounds like a good option to you, contact my office today!

Guest Blog by Julie Avellino | Life is always changing…

Life is always changing and as adults nearly every change has a real estate component. Big changes, positive and negative, often catch us off guard. Occasionally, we are given the luxury of planning for a big change. Whether you have the chance to plan or not if you’re at a personal crossroads it’s important to take a deep breathe, step back and take deliberate action so that you find the opportunities hidden within the change. A few phone calls should be placed asap; to a lawyer, a realtor and to your financial planner/banker. If you don’t have these people in your life already now is the time to build your team of trusted advisors who have only your best interest in mind and who have been through similar scenarios many times before with their clients. A team of trusted advisors does not include co-workers, friends (tangible or virtual), strangers or even most relatives; each of those groups will have their own baggage and experiences, they instinctively want to be involved which often leads to riling things up and they will impose their experiences on you. When life is giving you a change it is also presenting you with a chance to manage that change and its outcome to best suit your unique needs. Don’t let the opportunity get clouded with the anecdotes of others. Lean on and confide in your trusted advisors.

realtorlogoAs a Realtor and a divorce coach I often work with clients who are at the end of a marriage (I also work with clients who are experiencing other life changes such as downsizing, retiring, selling “mom’s house”, etc).  Often times selling the family home becomes part of the divorce agreement but there are a lot of emotions wrapped up in that transaction. I am typically the only advisor who represents both parties during a divorce, since they will find their own team of attorneys, financial advisors, etc.  Here is where I work not just as a Realtor but also in a capacity to manage the process of the sale and to limit the impact of the transaction on the family. As a Divorce-Realtor I take great care to get both parties to agree the items needed to be accomplished with the sale of the home. I will also speak with attorneys and financial advisors to give them my professional opinion on the value of the home as it sits today as well as the value of the home should deferred maintenance be addressed or updates be made.

Perhaps the most common question I get from divorcing couples is about whether or not to invest in a major renovation before selling the property.  I think this is the result of HGTV and its constant stream of “flip” shows. This decision can have great financial impact on the couple and I give it thorough research before giving my final recommendation. Here’s a look into some of my process:

1)      What condition is the home in now? If the property is in great disrepair and will limit the buyer pool to cash buyers only, deferred maintenance should be addressed if financially possible.

2)      If the home is dated and minor updates (removing wall paper, painting, landscaping) will have an impact on the selling price and length of time the property is on the market they improvements should be done if financially possible.

3)      If one party is interested in doing a major renovation project (remodel the kitchen is the common one) we need to dive deeper in the motivation.

  1. Does on person really not want to sell the house? Is this a stall tactic?
  2. Is one person trying to spend money prior to the divorce to avoid having to split savings?
  3. Is there enough upside benefit in the post-renovation sales price vs. the length of time to complete the project to warrant the project?
  4. Who is doing the work? Will the project be a DIY disaster with low budget finishes and shoddy workmanship? Can the couple agree on reputable, licensed contractors?
  5. Who will manage the project and who will decisions on cost overages be managed?

These are just a few of the scenarios I walk through with my divorcing clients so that I can provide them with a clear financial picture as it relates to their shared property.  If you have a property in Connecticut that needs to be sold and aren’t sure what steps to take first to ensure you get top dollar at sale, we should talk. I’d be happy to help you determine what the next best steps are for you and your family.

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Julie Avellino is a licensed Realtor in Connecticut and has been selling residential real estate for 11 years. In addition to working with divorcing couples, first-time sellers and first-time buyers as a Realtor Julie is also an inspirational writer and speaker addressing topics including divorce, children, entrepreneurship and life in general from her unique perspective.  Julie’s love of photography supports all of her interests by showcasing her listings professionally as well as supporting her writing pieces. You can learn more about how Julie can help you with your real estate needs at www.FirstTimeSelling.com and you can read her writing, learn about her divorce coaching programs and see her other creative work at www.julieavellino.com  Julie can be reached at justsayjulie@kw.com or call or text at 203-414-9479.

Please Join Us for a Fun & Fabulous Evening in October!

As the Vice President of the Milford Network of Executive Women, I am pleased to invite you to our annual scholarship fundraiser called Girls Night Out on October 27, 2016, from 5:30 to 8:30 P.M., at St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church in Orange, CT.

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I will be hosting a Vendor Table at the event which will spotlight my Law Firm, Consumer Legal Services, LLC.  We will have a Free Raffle and give away an Estate Planning Package to the lucky winner.

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The event will include shopping (clothing, jewelry, etc.), entertainment, a fashion show, food & wine tastings, a lottery tree, general raffle and silent auction.

Men and Women are welcome, and all proceeds go towards the Phyllis Holt Scholarship Fund which helps dozens of women further their education and careers year after year.

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Please join us and bring friends! Purchase tickets by clicking on the link below.

Thank you for your support!

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PURCHASE TICKETS HERE!

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.