Our Success Stories
Client contacted our office for assistance in canceling a lease agreement for a commercial property. Client?s wife operated a business independently and solely on her own, but Client provided a guaranty on the lease agreement. Unfortunately, Client?s wife passed away several months ago. Client received a notice of Default, Demand for Possession and Demand for Payment for a past due balance on rent owed. Our attorney wrote a letter advising the landlord of the situation, and offering a settlement for the past due rent in exchange for a termination of the lease agreement without penalty. A settlement was reached after some negotiation between attorneys. Savings to Client, $138,000.00.
Client contacted our office for assistance in obtaining a refund of money he paid for a real estate education program. Client had attended a three-day seminar about a real estate program and left intrigued, but not sure this program would fit his lifestyle. After being contacted by the company on several occasions, Client decided he would try the program and paid the course fee. Client is a truck driver, and although he is on the road for most of the week, he tried to fit the program into his schedule, but soon realized it was not going to work. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to contact the company and cancel the contract. Our attorney wrote a letter to the company advising that Client will not be able to use the program, and demanded a refund of the fees paid. In response to our letter and follow-up conversations, the company agreed to refund the cost of the program. Recovery for client, $10,994.00.
Important New Update: 2017 Tax Reform Law In Relation to Estates & Gifts
The Tax Reform made substantial changes to estate and gift tax. We thought the following was a good summary:
Currently, each person may transfer up to $5.49 million without incurring Federal gift, estate or generation skipping transfer taxes (collectively referred to as ?transfer taxes?) during life, at death, or by combination. Married couples may transfer a combined $10.98 million. Property transferred in excess of the exemption is subject to tax at a rate of 40%.
The Act provides for a doubling of the exemption amount to approximately $11.2 million per person, adjusted annually for inflation. Married couples will be able to transfer a combined $22.4 million. This doubled exemption is scheduled to remain in effect for 8 years and will expire at the end of 2025. Property transferred in excess of the increased exemption will continue to be taxed at a rate of 40%.
In addition, the annual exclusion from gift tax for direct gifts and gifts to a trust which are subject to a Crummey power will increase to $15,000 (a married couple may make gifts of $30,000 per recipient). This change is due to inflation and not the new legislation.
Also, it is important to note that the rules regarding income tax basis remain the same. Thus, a donor?s basis in property which is gifted will ?carry-over? to the gift recipient while property owned at death will receive a ?step-up? in basis equal to the date of death value.
Noteworthy Georgia Supreme Court Decisions From 2017
The Supreme Court of Georgia was founded in 1845 and is the highest court in Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court reviews decisions from trial courts and rules on the constitutionality of state laws, death sentences imposed from criminal cases, election contests, and petitions from Georgia Court of Appeals? decisions. Currently there are nine justices, and in 2017 they decided an astonishing number of cases — 400 cases to be exact! For those of you are ardent followers of legal events and developments around our State, we present a few notable decisions of 2017:
GOLDSTEIN GARBER & SALAMA, LLC v. J.B.
A prominent dental practice had reason to rejoice when the court decided to overturn a $3.7 million jury award to a female patient who was sexually assaulted by a male nurse anesthetist. Even though the anesthetist had been found guilty of the crime and for assaulting other patients, the Court found no professional negligence by the practice because it could not have foreseen his assaults.
MARTIN v. SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA II, L.P. et al.
The Court reinstated a $35 million dollar jury award to the family of a man severely beaten by a gang outside Six Flags Over Georgia. The man suffered permanent brain damage. A Cobb County jury awarded $35 million to the family and apportioned 92% of the fault to Six Flags and 2% of the fault to each of the four attackers. The Georgia Court Appeals reversed and ordered a new trial because too much of the fault was apportioned to Six Flags. The Court ruled that Six Flags did not protect the man from ?unreasonable risks? and should have foreseen a gang attack on park patrons. There was evidence that the park knew that some of the gang members had worked at Six Flags and that the facility was in a high-crime area.
LEBIS v. THE STATE
This case made international headlines when the Georgia Supreme Court reversed its own decision. In October of 2017, the Court threw out a woman?s felony murder conviction, and then in December of 2017, the same Court restored the conviction. The woman and her husband were involved in the shooting of a Clayton County police officer. Her husband had pulled the trigger, and even though she was not physically present at the time the shooting took place, she was held to account for the actions of her husband, as a party to the crime or co-conspirator.
HENRY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION v. S.G.
The Georgia Supreme Court sent a strong message to educators: a school cannot expel a student for fighting back in self-defense. A student identified as S.G. was expelled from school under its zero-tolerance policy after she was involved in a fight. She was pushed by another student and punched the student. During her disciplinary hearing, she did not use the words, ?self-defense? and the school district did not consider her actions as self-defense. The Court held that the Georgia self defense law, which provides that there is no requirement to retreat when a person unreasonably believes he/she is at risk of harm from another?s imminent use of unlawful force, also applies to schools.
FREEMAN v. THE STATE
In this controversial decision, the Court found that giving the middle finger to a religious minister is protected under free speech and was not illegal. The Court overthrew the disorderly conduct conviction of a man who flipped a church pastor the bird and angrily stared at him during a church service in Flowery Branch. The man did not believe in public education and was homeschooling his children, and disagreed with the pastor?s sentiments towards teachers. The Court did not find the man?s conduct to be threatening or conveying fighting words which could have placed the pastor in reasonable fear of his safety of his life, limb, or health.
LATHROP et al. v. DEAL, GOVERNOR et al.
Under the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, the state or its political subdivisions, agencies, and departments are shielded from lawsuits unless it gives its assent. This is based on the age-old English supposition that ?the king can do no wrong.? The Georgia Supreme Court upheld this principle, in this case, when it struck down the constitutional challenge brought by three physicians against the State?s 20-week abortion ban. They had named the Governor, Attorney General, Fulton County District Attorney and other officials in the lawsuit. The Court advised the doctors that they could sue the individual officials in their personal capacities, as a potential work-around solution.
THE STATE v. COHEN et al.
The Court ruled that the plain language of the Georgia law makes it unlawful to video record a person in the privacy of their home without their consent. The decision overturned Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk?s decision to throw out criminal conspiracy charges against the former housekeeper of Waffle House Chairman and her two attorneys for secretly videotaping him in compromising situations in the privacy of his home. But the Court upheld the lower court?s decision to dismiss extortion claims against the defendants. The recordings were used in connection with a sexual harassment case brought by the former housekeeper against her boss. The Court reinstated a single count against the former housekeeper for allegedly conducting the unlawful surveillance.
2018 Firm Holiday Closings
Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 15 (Monday)
Good Friday- March 30 (Friday)
Memorial Day -May 28 (Monday)
Independence Day- July 4 (Wednesday)
Labor Day- September 3 (Monday)
Thanksgiving- November 22 & 23 (Thursday & Friday)
Christmas- December 24 & 25 (Monday & Tuesday)