We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind

Short Sales of Property On The Rise

Author: Robin Friedman

March 26th, 2015

Suppose you can’t  pay your mortgage, and you can’t sell your house because you owe more than it’s worth.  You’re in a real jam.


You can stay until the sheriff shows up with the move-out order.  Or, as more people are doing these days, you can try to escape your debt with a short sale.


Put the house on the market, and find a buyer willing to pay less than the mortgage amount.  Then convince the bank to eat the difference, letting you off the hook for the remaining debt.


Are short sales of property on the rise? The answer is yes.. Short sales accounted for 25% of all residential sales in 2014.  Recent changes on the rules regarding short sales by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac resulted in many more short sales being approved prior to foreclosure.  The rules require less documentation from the consumer.

There are many driving forces.  For consumers and lenders this is a less traumatic and more controlled event.  Lenders now realize they will sustain smaller losses if they approve a short sale rather than approve a foreclosure.  Buyers prefer to purchase from an owner, who can give disclosures and information about the property rather than buy from an anonymous bank who has no information about the property.  Another driving force is that the foreclosure process continues to take more and more time due to increased litigation, regulations and delay tactics by consumers.

Is this a positive sign or a sign of more trouble ahead for the housing market? The answer appears to be yes and no.  On a positive side, a short sale helps preserve communities.  Besides having a higher price point, it is less disruptive to neighborhoods as the property typically will not be vacant or vandalized.  Short sales create the benefit of having property occupied with a family that is able to buy services, keep up the property and pay real estate taxes.

On the negative side, large numbers of short sales also opens the potential for fraud.  Some argue that short sales are actually part of the housing market’s problem as it reflects the negative sentiment about the housing market.  It says that lenders and investors only approve short sales because they do not see a real recovery.  The people who are buying are typically not first time homeowners but investors who are purchasing real estate at discounted prices to use as rental properties.

The law surrounding sale/purchase of an “underwater” home is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique.  For more information contact the real estate attorneys at HoganWillig at 636-7600.

Couples: How To Manage Money Together

Author: Hogan Willig

March 23rd, 2015

Yours, mine, and ours. These are some key words to think about when beginning or revisiting a conversation concerning money management with your partner. Some couples don’t put that much thought into the merging of finances – but that is a big mistake. Money can become a source of conflict and tension that can easily be avoided with open dialogue and planning. However, there is no “best” method to money management. Every relationship and situation is different. It is important to be well informed about the options so that you, as a couple, can choose the best plan that fits your needs. The most important factor in discussing finances is agreeing equally on a plan that works for both of you.

Joint accounts offer the most transparency in money management. Both individuals have full access to the account and can remain fully aware of the money flow. For this plan to work, the idea shared must be, “this is our money”. This plan can be troublesome for couples in which one or both of the individuals want autonomy over spending without the watchful eye of the other.

Having completely separate bank accounts allows each individual the opportunity to manage and control separate amounts of money. This option usually works well for couples in which both partners have careers or in situations in which one member has debt or bad credit. Having entirely separate accounts allows the other spouse’s finances to remain unaffected. This may also be a suitable option if you or your partner have markedly different spending habits that could cause friction if the money was merged.

The most common method is a combination of the above outlined situations. This scenario provides a small amount of autonomy, yet also offers an easy way to manage joint expenses. A common system used is to place a portion of each person’s earnings into the joint account to pay bills. Another option is to deposit all income into the joint account and to set up an allowance for each individual to spend on whatever they wish.

Learning how to best manage your finances together will be a trial-and-error method. Plans that work for Mr. and Mrs. Jones, won’t necessarily work for you and your partner. It is important to learn about your personal income and expenses and to develop financial knowledge together. Track last year’s expenses in order to learn where your money is going. This information can be crucial in learning how to effectively manage money and to reach your financial goals.

It is becoming common for those with assets contemplating marriage, or already in a marriage, to consider viable options available to protect their assets in the event that marital bliss turns sour and ends in divorce. It is important to know the implications of choosing to combine assets, such as money, into a joint account. In order to protect yourself and your assets, consider meeting with an attorney and financial planner to set up a plan that works for you and your spouse. These professionals will be able to address any concerns and create a financial strategy catered to your unique situation.

What’s a Fixture vs. Removable Property?

Author: Robin Friedman

March 19th, 2015

From a legal standpoint, when equipment, decorations, or appliances become affixed or fastened to the real estate, it becomes a fixture and is supposed to be transferred as part of the sale, unless there is an agreement providing otherwise. What are some of the factors determining whether something is a fixture?

Method of attachment. Is the item permanently affixed to the wall, ceiling or flooring by using nails, glue, cement, pipes, or screws? Even if you can easily remove it, the method used to attach it might make it a fixture. Examples include built-in surround sound wiring, lighting fixtures, built-in speakers into the wall, custom built-in cabinetry.

Adaptability. If the item becomes an integral part of the home, it cannot be removed. For example, a floating laminate floor is a fixture, even though it is snapped together. Built-in appliances are properly considered fixtures, especially custom items. That includes your Sub Zero refrigerator and Viking Range/Oven specially selected for a gourmet kitchen. Free standing appliances, however, are generally not considered fixtures.

There are, of course, plenty of gray areas with fixtures. Wall mounted flat screen TV’s, surround sound speaker systems, electronic dog fences and collars, and decorative mirrors are a few coming to mind. These gray areas are the cause of most disputes surrounding fixtures.

Disclose All Exclusions/Inclusions in Listing

The opportunity to address fixtures, inclusions and exclusions starts when the home is listed. Agents should identify all potential fixture issues ahead of time, and disclose them on MLS either as included or excluded in the sale. If the sellers want to take their new Bosch dishwasher with them to their new home, they had better disclose it ahead of time so the buyer knows ahead of time.

If items are left unaddressed in the agreements, you’ll have a situation similar to mine with the removal of surround sound speakers and a stressful walk-through.

For more information on a real estate matter and services we offer, call HoganWillig at 636-7600.

Digital Asset Estate Plan

Author: Krystal Chapin

March 16th, 2015

A key facet of the 21st century estate planning that many people overlook is a digital estate plan. With our lives becoming more engrained in technology each day, it is important to protect these assets too! A solid digital estate plan will lay out your digital assets- both financial and social and help your family determine if your digital property has any financial value. Some common digital financial assets are such like online bank and brokerage accounts and purchasing accounts on online markets such as Amazon, Apple, and Ebay. Digital social assets would be those that serve a more emotional significance, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts. It is important to provide directions to loved ones on how to access and handle these accounts upon your death. Below are some important steps to take to ensure your digital estate plan is in order.

  • Make sure to inventory your accounts. Nothing would be more stressful to your family than to have to try to track down all the possible social media pages, emails, and shopping sites you frequented. Start by working from memory to list all these websites and accounts. Keep the list near your computer or workstation. That way, when you visit one that hasn’t been listed, you can promptly write it down. Try to update this inventory once a year or whenever you change a password or open a new digital account.
  • Compile you passwords and login information separately. Your will becomes a public record when you pass away, so don’t put this information in it. This could easily lead to identity theft and financial losses if it lands in the wrong hands. One option available is to store this information in a safety deposit box at your bank. An online option is storing the information on an online safe-deposit box like passwordbox.com or securesafe.com.
  • Appoint your “digital executor”. Make sure this person is tech savvy and that you can trust them to carry out your wishes. In your will, be sure to give this individual authorization to access, control, or delete your accounts.

It is important to document these wishes in your will or in a codicil to your will. The best way to securely store and legally bind this critical and sensitive information is with an attorney. HoganWillig’s experienced Estate Planning and Elder Law group can help you and your family with all your planning needs. Our team utilizes a comprehensive approach to meet the individual desires of our clients. Call us today to set up an appointment with our dedicated staff at (716) 636-7600.

Are You Ready For Spring?

Author: Krystal Chapin

March 12th, 2015

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. It can sneak up quickly, so make sure your home is prepared for the season to come with these helpful tips! Not only will you be proactive, but some of these tasks will give you a chance to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!

  • Wash all pillows and curtains to help reduce allergens and dust mites.
  • Change smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
  • Clean out and organize the kitchen’s pantry and cupboards. Get rid of any items that are past the expiration date and think about donating the items that are still good, but you just won’t use.
  • Inspect the basement for mold that may have formed during the thaw.
  • Swap your heavy, winter blankets with your lighter, spring linens! Be sure to wash and thoroughly dry all bedding before stowing away in plastic bins or vacuum-sealed storage bags.
  • Check and clean out gutters. Make sure the gutters are clear of debris and that water can flow freely and away from the house. Improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space.
  • Cut back any tree limbs or shrubbery that may have begun to brush up against the home or roof. This will prevent possible damage as well as create better ventilation.
  • Inspect your garden hose and faucet for dry rot and freeze damage that may have occurred during the winter months.
  • From the ground, inspect your roof. Look for broken or missing shingles, cracks, or other areas that may need repairs. For your safety, it may be wise to consider hiring a professional to take care of any work that may need to be done.
  • Once the snow melts, clear away any remaining dead foliage and weeds from your lawn and flowerbeds.

These ideas are just a few of the many ways to keep your home in top shape for spring’s arrival. However, your home isn’t the only thing that needs some spring cleaning! The next few months are a great time to reevaluate life from a legal perspective as well! Come into HoganWillig and let us SPRING into action to help you with ALL of your legal needs. Call us today at (716) 636-7600.

Factors Considered by Car Accident Lawyers in Assessing Your Case

Author: Krystal Chapin

March 5th, 2015

A car accident, regardless of the severity, is a frightening and stressful event for an individual to experience. Unfortunately, the winter months bring increased risks for accidents due to the weather and the hazardous road conditions it causes. Numerous stressors arise as a result of an accident, such as insurance claims and bodily injuries. Those involved may have to worry about recouping costs for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and anything else owed as a result of the accident. These factors make the hardship much more difficult to manage on your own, which is why the knowledge and assistance of an experienced car accident attorney is crucial. If you are thinking about pursuing a personal injury case, here are some of the factors an attorney will take into consideration in their process of determining whether or not a case is potentially promising before advising a client to move forward in pursuing a claim.


A huge factor in determining whether your claim is worth pursuing further is the injuries you sustained as a direct result of the collision. If an individual only received minor bruises and cuts from an accident, it is unlikely that an attorney will be able to build a case for compensation. Many insurance companies will take care of smaller claims filed in a quicker, more reasonable manner. However, it is the claims that involve serious injury and property damage that will need the expertise of an attorney to recoup a fair settlement.


One of the top things a lawyer will look into is who the insurance companies have determined to be liable for the motor vehicle accident. Depending on the state and specific details of an accident, there are a few different types of negligence that may be in play. If you are found to have any portion of the fault in the accident, it can significantly reduce your chances of receiving a settlement. It is important to let your attorney know immediately what percentage of the accident, if any, is deemed to be your fault.


It is known that the more evidence you are able to provide for your case, the better. This is no different in a car accident case. Your attorney will have a higher chance of successfully arguing for higher compensation for you, if there is proof to back it up. Evidence such as witnesses, police reports, photos of injuries and from the crash scene, and medical reports and bills are all crucial in building a stronger argument to win your claim.

Funds Available

Many people file personal injury lawsuits without considering the fact that the other party involved may not have the funds to provide for the incident even if they are ordered by the courts to pay. Before much of your own time and money is spent pursuing a claim, your attorney will assess the insurance policy and assets of the defendant to decide if the claim is worthwhile, and in your best interest, to pursue further.

These are just a few of the many factors an experienced car accident attorney will consider in advising you on your potential case. If many of these factors align positively, then an experienced lawyer should be able to pursue your claim with confidence. At HoganWillig, we pride ourselves on the knowledge, experience, and understanding of our personal injury department in handling all types of claims, including motor vehicle accidents. Call 716-636-7600 today to speak with our knowledgeable staff.

Spring is almost here!

Author: Robin Friedman

March 3rd, 2015

Everyone loves the month of March… Spring is here, flowers are beginning to bloom, March Madness brackets are being formed, and everyone’s favorite green beer holiday is being celebrated every single weekend.  Tons of bars have drink specials to entice you to come in and celebrate being Irish, even if you aren’t Irish.  However, these bars are not the only people looking for you this celebratory season; the police are out in full force, waiting to bust you for a DUI.  If you find yourself pulled over for a DUI, please call the attorneys at HoganWillig at 636-7600.  You need an experienced DUI attorney to help you fight these charges because believe us, no amount of Irish luck will be able to save you from the harsh consequences that a DUI conviction has in store.


We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind