We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind

Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure

Author: Robin Friedman

April 24th, 2015

At HoganWillig, we work hard to help our clients keep their homes in the face of a foreclosure.  However, there are times when it does not make financial sense to continue sinking money into an “underwater” home.

If you are prepared to walk away from your property, we can help you explore your options.  Depending on the facts of your case, the attitude of your lenders and your individual goals, one of the following options may be appropriate:

  • Short sale: In a short sale, your lender agrees to let you sell your property for less than the amount you owe on your mortgage, and it accepts the proceeds of the sale as a repayment of your loan.  Ideally, in a carefully negotiated short sale, you can give up the property without owing a deficiency balance for the unpaid portion of the loan.
  • Deed in lieu of foreclosure: A deed in lieu of foreclosure is a way to transfer your property to your lender in place of repaying your mortgage.  The end result is the same as in a foreclosure, but this process may not place a foreclosure on your credit report, and you may avoid owing a deficiency balance after the bank sells the property.

It can be very difficult and frustrating to try and deal with the bank on your own.  Your bank may still move forward with a foreclosure while negotiating with you, or you may end up signing a modification agreement that is NOT in your best interests. Working with an experience lawyer is essential to avoid these pitfalls.

Contact us at 636-7600 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation.

Earth Day 2015: Making the Change

Author: Krystal Chapin

April 22nd, 2015

Over the years, HoganWillig has made it a priority to “go green”. Environmental stewardship is an important aspect of our philosophy and commitment to excellence in our community. As a firm, we encourage our attorneys and staff to be actively involved in promoting sustainability. We have devised and implemented programs to conserve resources, to reduce our carbon footprint, protect the environment and promote the benefits of sustainability to our people and the greater business community.

In February of 2010, we relocated our main office to 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York where we serve as the anchor tenant in this state-of-the-art, green-certified building. While the amount of space we are occupying increases as we grow in number, our building allows us to reduce our carbon footprint through many environmentally-friendly and productivity-enhancing features. The building features energy efficient lighting, heating and other systems. Our offices promote energy efficiency through motion-sensitive light switches and energy star-compliant office lights and appliances.

HoganWillig has also instituted a paperless practice. We encourage clients to use telephone and email as the primary sources of communication in their matter in order to reduce the amount of paper used. To make this possible, our firm has implemented software programs to reduce paper consumption for internal and external communications, document and case management. HoganWillig has also instituted effective recycling practices and significantly reduced our paper consumption. We continually seek to minimize the volume of paper used in printing, copying, data storage and communication.

A Native American proverb states, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. At HoganWillig, we strive each day to do our part in making the Earth a better place for the future. Here are some easy tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint and make the Earth a little greener!

  • Invest in a glass water bottle in order to cut down on the waste caused by plastic bottles and paper cups.
  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Don’t let it run unnecessarily!
  • Ride a bike, use public transportation, or carpool when able: Fewer cars on the roads means less pollution in our air!
  • Recycle old electronics: Broken computers can be brought to local electronic recycling centers and repurposed into new machines.
  • Keep reusable shopping bags in your car: You’ll be more likely to remember to bring them shopping with you.

Claim Your Lost Money

Author: Krystal Chapin

April 21st, 2015

New York State has over $13 billion in lost money. Lost money is private money that has been unclaimed. Banks, insurance companies, corporations and the courts are among the many organizations required by law to report dormant accounts to the State Comptroller. These organizations must attempt to notify you by mail and publish the information in newspapers. Despite these efforts, many funds remain unclaimed and are turned over to the Office of the State Comptroller. Some types of unclaimed funds accounts include: bank accounts, court funds, dividends, estate proceeds, insurance benefits, stocks, and security deposits. According to a local news station who released a story about this service, within one week, Western New Yorkers had claimed $311,836 in lost funds.

These funds are not just exclusive to individuals. If you own a business, the funds could be in your business’ name. Be sure to search different names you may go by, misspellings, or first initial.

This is a free service offered by the Comptroller’s office. Visit the following link to search to see if you have any lost money owed to you: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/

There is also a website to search the U.S. Federal government’s unclaimed funds database. Follow this link to access: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Government-Unclaimed-Money.shtml

Digital Estate Plan Facebook Tool

Author: Krystal Chapin

April 17th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the importance of securing your digital assets in your estate plan. This week, I stumbled upon a new Facebook feature that will further help you preserve your digital assets. Legacy Contact is the new Facebook function that allows users of the social network to authorize another person to access and modify their accounts after they pass away. This gives the chosen individual the ability to update your profile picture, write a post to be displayed on the memorialized page, and download an archive of your photos, posts, and profile information for safe keeping. Your Legacy Contact is even given permission to permanently delete your account, if that is your wish.

Though the idea seems somewhat morbid, this new system makes it much easier for family members or friends to take care of your Facebook account. These types of accounts often feature some of our most sentimental and important pictures, videos, letters, and memories.  Ultimately, this tool is for the people you care about in your life to be able to cherish your memory. Your passing will be hard on everyone, but giving loved ones the ability to memorialize your account or delete it may help bring them closure. Below are the steps on how to set up this feature.

  1. Log in to your Facebook account
  2. Go to your Account Settings > Security > Legacy Contact
  3. Type in the name of the individual you would like to designate as your Legacy Contact
  4. At this time, you will have the option to send a message to this person alerting them that they have been selected. If you decide to forego the message, they will be notified by Facebook once the company becomes aware of your passing.
  5. Lastly, select whether your will grant permission for your Legacy Contact to archive your data and if you wish to have your account deleted.

At HoganWillig, we understand the concerns our clients may have regarding their own care, as well as the special worries clients have when they are overseeing the care of a loved one. Our Estate Planning & Elder Law team utilizes a comprehensive approach to meet the individualized needs of our clients. We work with a variety of resources, legal tools and techniques to meet the goals and objectives of our clients and their families. Call us to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff members today at 716-636-7600.

Getting Government Payments for Children with Disabilities

Author: Robin Friedman

April 14th, 2015

Parents who have children with disabilities face a myriad of legal, medical and financial issues.  There are a host of government programs which can provide assistance in a variety of forms including housing and medical coverage.  Two programs, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Social Security Income(SSI), provide cash.

In order to obtain the proper benefits, applicants need to understand three core differences between the programs:

  1. SSDI is an insurance-base program whereas SSI is means-tested.

Two criteria need to be met in order to obtain eligibility in either program.  For both programs, one criteria is that an applicant must demonstrate that he or she is classified as disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To do so, among several factors, it must be shown that an applicant’s impairment renders him or her unable to work at a job in which he or she can earn $1,070 or more per month. (This figure, set in 2014, is adjusted periodically by the SSA).

The second criteria is different for each program.  To attain SSDI, the applicant must have worked for ten(10) years.  If he or she has done so, eligibility should be granted regardless of any other factor.

For SSI, though, the work history is irrelevant.  SSI is designed to meet the needs of the elderly and blind, as well as disabled, to insure that they can pay for food and shelter.  To be eligible, one’s income has to be meager, if non-existent, and resources (i.e. liquid assets) cannot exceed a small amount (typically $2,000).

  1. Each program provides different access to healthcare.

If an individual receives SSDI, he or she is generally eligible for Medicare after two years. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers routine hospital services and most but not all primary care.

If a person receives SSI, he or she typically qualifies for Medicaid benefits immediately. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid usually pays for all primary care for its recipients.

  1. The amount of cash benefits can vary.

The SSDI payment is based on the earning record of the recipient. The SSI payment is a flat $733.00 per month (augmented by a small supplement by most states).

In short, it is possible to receive both SSDI and SSI.  If an individual’s SSDI payment is less than the SSI amount, SSI will supplement the difference.  So, for example, if a recipient gets SSDI in the amount of $533.00 per month, SSI will pay $200.00 per month to get the overall payment to $733.00.  On the other hand, if the SSDI payment is more than $733.00, that will be the only benefit received.

If you have any questions, please call us at 636-7600,

File Tax Returns on Time

Author: Linda Grear

April 13th, 2015

If you owe more taxes than you can afford to pay when you file your tax returns, don’t fail to take action. Make sure to file the tax returns on time. That way, you can avoid a penalty for filing late. Here are some tips if you are unable to pay all your taxes by the due date:

  • File on time and pay as much as you can.  You should file the tax return on time to avoid a late filing penalty. Pay as much as you can with your tax return.  The more you can pay, the less interest and late payment penalty charges you will owe.
  • Pay online with IRS Direct Pay.  IRS Direct Pay is an electronic payment option available from the Internal Revenue Service. It allows you to schedule payments online from your checking or savings account with no additional fee and with an immediate payment confirmation. It is quicker than mailing in a check or money order. To make a payment or to find out about other payment options, visit IRS.gov/payments.
  • Pay the rest of your tax as soon as you can.  The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than the interest and penalties charged for late payment of tax. You may want to take a loan or use a credit card to pay the tax balance.
  • Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  You don’t need to wait for the IRS to send you a bill to ask for an installment agreement. You can use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can even set up a direct debit installment agreement so you
  • If you pay with a direct debit plan, you won’t have to write a check and mail it on time each month. That means avoiding more penalties for late payments. If you cannot use the IRS.gov tool, you can file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request instead. You can view, download, and print the form on IRS.gov/forms anytime.
  • DO NOT ignore a tax bill.  If you get a bill, don’t ignore it. The Internal Revenue Service may take collection action if you ignore the bill. Contact the IRS right away to talk about your options. If you face a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you.

To find out more about the  Internal Revenue Service collection process, check out the IRS website at :  IRS.gov.

For more information, please HoganWillig at (716)636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices in Buffalo, Lancaster, and Lockport.

Special Enrollment: Circumstances Which Allow You To Change Your Health Care Benefits

Author: Krystal Chapin

April 10th, 2015

Healthcare enrollment season has come and gone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your benefit choices are set in stone. There is a special enrollment period that is offered year-round. In order to participate in this special enrollment, one must undergo an eligible, major life change (i.e., having a child, marriage). This means that up to 60 days from when this life event occurs, you can change your coverage elections. Below are a few examples of life events that qualify a change in enrollment.

  • Once you turn 26, you can no longer be covered by your parent’s insurance policy. It is important to begin researching plans well before this birthday in order to be sure you do not miss the short, 60-day window.
  • A change in marital status also constitutes an eligible life change. Whether you are recently married, divorced, or widowed, you qualify for the special enrollment period.
  • If you welcomed a baby into the world this year, it’s likely that you’ll have to change or increase your healthcare coverage.
  • A change in employment allows you to also change your healthcare plan. A big decision to be made is where you enroll in an employer-based coverage plan or a marketplace plan. Since companies typically cover part or all of your premium, employer-based coverage often makes the most sense. However, be sure to shop around to see if you can find something more affordable on your own.

Be sure to review your healthcare plan each year, before the enrollment period ends on February 15th. It is important to review your plan, before you a automatically re-enrolled, to make sure it suits you and your family’s needs.


We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind