Author: Nicole Francese

Drafting a Will or Power of Attorney? Here’s Why You Should Hire a Lawyer

There is no substitute for consulting with a lawyer who can provide legal advice that is correct, current, complete, and customized to your particular situation. In this day and age of do-it-yourself online document preparation, the lure of quick and easy seems alluring, and it also appears to cost less. The problem is that the documents prepared by these online cut-and-paste sites may not be as effective as one custom-created by an attorney.

The process of preparing a Will, contract, or other legal document is not as simple as filling in the blanks on a standardized form. In limited circumstances, a “standard” form is an acceptable, cheap alternative. However, most of the time, using downloaded legal forms is risky. In important matters, the last thing people want is mistakes in their legal documents. Even small errors can have big ramifications.

For example, we represented an estate in which the deceased person left his entire estate to his “children.” The problem was that he had no biological children; all of his children were stepchildren. The individual used an online website to prepare his Will, which did not ask the correct questions and then left the man’s estate to his “children.” This critical mistake cost the family significant time and money to rectify the situation. Petitions needed to be filed, hearings held, and a lot of other legal work had to be performed in order for the “children” to receive the inheritance that the deceased intended.

Lawyers do far more than “fill in the blanks.” They ask questions, they search for nuances that could arise, and make certain that the documents they prepare are appropriate for and tailored to their clients’ particular situations.

That’s why when you need documents prepared you should contact an attorney who will ask the right questions now and avoid situations that can create major problems down the line. If you need a Will or other estate documents prepared, send us an email or give us a call at (610) 446-3457. We will listen to you, ask questions, and do everything we can to draft documents that meet your needs.

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Florida Supreme Court Alters CLE Rules to Withhold Approval from Programs with Diversity Policies

When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better. That quote from Pat Wadors highlights the importance of listening to diverse points of view. Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t agree.

In April, the Florida Supreme Court announced that it would not approve any Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course submitted by any sponsor “that uses quotas based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in the selection of course faculty or participants.” The Court issued this pronouncement after the Business Law Section of The Florida Bar adopted a diversity policy for CLE panelists.

Florida’s ruling is far from the norm. Most states require lawyers to take a certain number of CLE courses every year to maintain their licenses. The majority of states either encourage or have policies relating to the composition of CLE panels, so that attendees can benefit from diverse viewpoints. For example, the American Bar Association requires that that CLE panels with three or more panelists have diversity based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other.

To justify its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court cited past U.S. Supreme Court decisions, concluding that the CLE diversity policy is inconsistent with anti-discrimination laws. However, fair and equal opportunity is best achieved when people from all backgrounds and experiences participate. Policies like the one adopted by the ABA help eliminate bias and expand diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Let’s hope that the Florida Supreme Court reconsiders its Order and recognizes the importance of and the need for diverse viewpoints to help its state’s lawyers understand the issues facing them.

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Yes, You Can Pay A Fact Witness – Sometimes

Whether, and when, and how much, you can pay a fact witness who is testifying is an ethical dilemma for lawyers. Fortunately, there is guidance for attorneys to help them figure out when they can, and when they can’t pay a fact witness. Attorney Daniel J. Siegel, Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee explains the ins and outs of the situation in his column in the Summer 2020 issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer, the quarterly magazine of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Siegel’s article focuses on Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 3.4, which seems to prohibit paying fact witnesses. However, there are circumstances where it is allowed. According to the Pennsylvania Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee Formal Opinion 2019-100, lawyers can pay a fact witness for two reasons. First, for expenses reasonably incurred in attending and testifying. Second, reasonable compensation for loss of time in attending and testifying.

What is considered reasonable will vary on a case-by-case basis, but payment of fact witnesses will always be subject to RPC 3.4(b)’s explicit disallowance of compensation that is “contingent upon the content of the witness’ testimony or the outcome of the case.” Since payment arrangements may be disclosed during discovery or cross-examination, these arrangements must be transparent.

Click here to read Dan Siegel’s column. Dan’s and his firm, the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, provide ethical, and techno-ethical guidance and disciplinary representation for attorneys. Give them a call at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email.

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Another Pennsylvania Supreme Court Victory for Injured Workers; Attorney Dan Siegel Authored Friend of the Court Brief

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled yet again that injured workers cannot lose their wage loss benefits based on an unconstitutional Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). In its June 16, 2020 decision in Dana Holding Corp. v. WCAB, the Court ruled that injured workers are entitled to wage losses retroactive to the date of the IRE, provided their case was in litigation when the Court issued its landmark Protz decision declaring the IRE process unconstitutional. Click here to read the decision in Dana Holding.

Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, co-authored the Amicus (Friend of the Court) brief for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ), which sought reinstatement of the injured worker’s benefits. Attorney Siegel was also the author of the PAJ’s Amicus brief in Protz, and is the only attorney who served as counsel in both landmark decisions.

Over the past decade, Attorney Siegel has served as counsel or Amicus counsel in cases preserving or extending the rights of more injured workers and others than any Pennsylvania lawyer. His firm regularly represents injured workers and other injured in accidents and from other causes. If you need an attorney, give us a call at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email and learn how we can help you.

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