Need problem solving?
That's what I do. I have been fixing legal and financial problems for consumers, families, and workers for over 30 years as a Senior Staff Attorney with the (formerly) world's largest pre-paid legal services program, the UAW Legal Services Plans.
Over those years I've handled a range of legal matters from complex civil litigation, to bankruptcies and debtor/creditor rights matters, to elder law issues like nursing home planning, and more. (See what matters I am handling now here.)
After many years working for a not-for-profit law firm I have established a solo private practice law firm. I hope to service the thousands of my former clients as well as new ones. That now will include small business owners. My practice covers the Monroe County area, primarily, including Greece, Gates, Henrietta, Webster, and more. I also service clients from the Buffalo and Syracuse areas and even NYC.
My new office is located in Henrietta, NY, at 140-A Metro Park just across the street from the Monroe Community College Campus (south entrance). (Get directions here.)
September 30, 2016
I have a new program for clients with cash-flow and/or debt management problems. Do not listen to those who tell you to file bankruptcy when bankruptcy is little help or the wrong plan for many people and most of my client base. They are other, better options for most. I can analyze your situation at LOW COST and advise one or more of six options.
I have a new Quick Resolution and Tips page providing information and guidance to empower clients to help themselves on many topics. Check it out on this site! (Click on Want Quick Resolutions in the Menu bar on the left side of the page.)
April 15, 2016
I have a new Blog providing topical legal information. Check it out on this site! (Click on BLOG in the Menu bar on the left side of the page.)
February 29, 2016
I am now handling rental evictions both Landlord-side and Tenant-side.
I am also handling tax disputes with the IRS and NYS Tax Dept. See more details here.
July 16, 2015
The initial Firm Newsletter -The Debt Management Issue--is available as a free document download here. You can sign up for automatic delivery of future editions here.
July 16, 2015
I have been experimenting with a new service-offering "Quick Resolutions" handled in a single phone call and/or letter drafting or documents review, with advice. Prices are as low as
$50 per resolution. Clients seem to love the ease, immediate attention, and LOW Price! See more details here.
June 16, 2015
I am now handling estate matters, including probates of wills, administrations, and representing heirs and beneficiaries of estates. Get more details here.
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I try to inform, counsel, and empower regular folks (i.e., consumers, families, workers) to not only get what they need in an often complex, difficult, and indifferent world but to understand how they can help themselves.
I run a modern, technologically-efficient, and productive practice keeping overhead down in order to provide legal services to my clients at low cost.
Let me help you obtain the rights, remedies, and respect you need and deserve, at affordable prices for most people.
I am now a referral attorney for the Western NY area for ARAG.
ARAG was founded more than 75 years ago to help everyone to assert their legal rights and created an insurance solution that offered the means to obtain justice, regardless of financial status. ARAG has grown to offer legal protection for all situations in life.
It’s tax season! Is the IRS looking for you?
Here are some things to consider about income tax issues:
1. SCAMS: As I noted in my previous blog posting on May 27, 2016, there are plenty of scammers out there trying to fool you into thinking that you are in trouble with the IRS or New York State Tax Department and conning you into paying them money. They call you and demand payment for bogus arrears and ask for your charge card information and other personal identification.
More recent scammers are sending emails with links to bogus web sites where they also seek charge card and other personal information. The cleverest one is a fake IRS tax notice that claims you owe money as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obama care.) These notices look like real IRS CP 2000 notices saying your income doesn’t match the information reported on your tax return.
Don’t fall for any of this! Don’t be a victim!
The tax authorities will never assert an arrears claim by phone, social media, or email. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of any of these claims, contact your tax preparer or give my office a call at 585-67-8529.
2. tax identity theft: Sometimes scammers will have obtained enough personal identification to file bogus tax returns in your name without your knowledge. This can cause all kinds of problems for you regarding collection attempts, credit reporting issues, and confusion when you file your own “real” return.
The best ways to avoid tax identity theft?
• File your tax return as early as possible.
• Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
• Know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.
• Check your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure there are no unauthorized accounts.
3. Tax arrears management: Sometimes you legitimately owe tax arrears. It happens for all kinds of reasons but if you know that you will owe the tax authorities money make sure you file a timely return, regardless. Don’t ignore the problem.
By filing the return, even if you can’t pay timely, you will avoid additional penalties. You also will avoid being unable to discharge older tax obligations in a bankruptcy, if you ever need one. In addition, if you have to negotiate a workout of some sort at some time with the tax authorities, having a record of timely filing will make it much easier for you to negotiate a more favorable program.
If you have problems with the tax authorities of almost any kind, they can be fixed. If you need help, please call my office. I have over 30 years of experience in dealing with both the IRS and the New York State Department of Taxation and can sincerely say that I have resolved client problems in almost every case on favorable terms.
Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don't reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don't ask for information that way.
Read the seller's description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like "refurbished," "vintage," or "close-out" may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.
Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare "apples to apples." Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.
Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order? A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.
If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.
Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.
Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization's website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the "s" stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.
If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly with the seller, buyer, or site operator. If that doesn't work, file a complaint with:
A recent article in the Buffalo news (http://bit.ly/2fpDUUO) highlights the difficulties faced by innocent debtors who have to deal with dishonest or overly aggressive debt collectors.
A lot of people have debt, sometimes because of their own poor decisions but more often because of unfortunate job losses, health problems, and overwhelming financial difficulties that can happen to anyone, anytime.
Responsible debtors will do what they can in an honest attempt to address their obligations. However, that doesn't stop dishonest or overly aggressive debt collectors from harassing debtors, lying to them about going to jail for not being debts, or exploiting their circumstances by padding debts, making false claims, attempting to collect debts which are legally uncollectible, and more.
No one should have to put up with this kind of activity. Sometimes, the governmental authorities discover this kind of activity and put an end to it, as noted in the article. However, most of this bad activity goes unnoticed by those authorities and innocent folks are deceived, harassed, and exploited by these bad actors.
Debtors should be aware that they do have rights under both federal and state law to deter and control these activities. If you are a debtor, you have a right to insist upon written verification of the debt and the amount. You have a right to be free of collector contacts during unreasonable times and improper places (like your workplace.) You have a right to know whether the debt being collected is legally uncollectible because of the statute of limitations, meaning it is too old to be subject to legal collection. You have the right to force the collector to stop collection activity entirely upon your request.
If you are being challenged by these types of collectors, assert your rights!
If you believe you need help, you can contact my office and I will bring my 30+ years of experience dealing with collection activity to bear on your behalf.
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has again promulgated new consumer-friendly rules, this time for prepaid account users. Prepaid accounts are those where consumers pay for transactions and access funds electronically using a plastic card, often issued by employers.
Up until now, however, consumers had few rights and remedies, using these cards.
The new rules require free and easy access to account information, require error resolution rights and protections for lost cards and unauthorized transactions, and up-front disclosures of costs and other terms and conditions.
For example, before offering credit the issuer must ensure consumer ability to pay; it must provide a monthly billing statement and reasonable time to pay, and limits on late fees and interest charges. Most importantly, there are protections (similar to but not as extensive) for the consumer from unfair practices by issuers like those of regular credit cards.
More information can be found at this link:
Marketeers are again pushing hard to sell reverse mortgages. If you are over the age of 72 and want to cash out on any built-up equity in your homestead, you may qualify for a reverse mortgage.
You can convert your homestead equity into a monthly annuity or a lump sum cash amount. You can use the income and/or proceeds to supplement your cash flow, pay for home repairs and improvements or other bills, or spend some or all of the money on recreational wants like that long-delayed vacation to Hawaii.
A reverse mortgage may work for you depending on your circumstances. Keep in mind, that drawing upon the income and/or lump sum will reduce the value of the home which you may wish to will to children or other dependents. If you take a lump sum, and need to apply for Medicaid later for acute nursing home care, that lump some may disqualify you from Medicaid eligibility. Also, the costs associated with placing a reverse mortgage are generally quite high– you are giving up monetary value simply in the placement.
Nonetheless, if you have a significant need for cash flow subsidies or lump sums for bills or emergencies, a reverse mortgage may be a good option. Federal law does require you to obtain guidance from a designated counselor to help you decide. That doesn't necessarily mean that you will get the clear information and unbiased guidance that you want.
My practice has been reviewing reverse mortgage programs and guiding consumers for years. I provide unbiased, informed, and experienced guidance. If you are considering such a program, you may wish to contact my office for assistance BEFORE you commit.