Archive Page 2

Steinbrenner family might face tax battle

ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, posted an article titled Family of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner might face tax battle – ESPN New York. As my loyal reader(s) may recall, this is something I touched on a few months ago in a short post which was cleverly titled: Certainties: Death – Yes, Taxes – Probably, Death Taxes – Depends.

The ESPN article points out that there are legislators attempting to enact legislation which would allow for the retroactive collection of estate taxes. This hardly seems fair or, as attorneys like to say, equitable. We are governed by the rule of law. The current laws read that there are no estate taxes due for deaths that occur in the year 2010. If Congress wanted to require the payment of estate taxes it had years to get something done before the repeal kicked in. They failed to do so. It is also their inaction which will allow the estate tax to pick back up in 2011 with lower exclusion amounts and higher rates than the year 2009. At least we know the rules and can plan for 2011.

Who Are You?

Breitbart’s Big Government blog posted an article about Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge’s interaction with some camera-wielding, question-asking students along with the footage of the encounter:

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In the video, the Congressman repeatedly asks the individuals “who are you” and then gets a little more forceful than some people believe was appropriate. At one point he says “I have a right to know who you are.” Now it has been a few years since I had a Constitutional Law course, but I do not recall a right to “know who you” are anywhere in the Constitution.

David Weigel of The Washington Post authored an article which asks Who TMZ’d Rep. Bob Etheridge? I found the use of TMZ as a verb particularly interesting. To me, to be TMZ’d means to be hounded on the streets while being questioned about petty things and photographed in potentially compromising situations. I do not view a paparazzi in the same way I view a journalist. Yes, I believe freedom of the press is essential to a free society. But I have serious concerns about the paparazzi mentality that is so prevalent in our society today. When Britney Spears was photographed getting out of a car without any panties the photographs were posted on TMZ and other such sites and were reported on by traditional media outlets as well. Never in any of the reporting did I hear anyone question whether it is appropriate to take pictures of a celebrity’s crotch and distribute them throughout the world. Society just seems to accept that there are people who earn a living taking photographs of people (who happen to have a higher status of notoriety) and post them for all the world to see (the more embarrassing the better). Further complicating matters is the fact that TMZ and the National Enquirer are starting to actually break substantive stories, beating traditional media to the story.

This brings me back to Rep. Etheridge. Put yourself in his shoes. He is not Brittany or Lindsay. He probably is not accustomed to paparazzi-like encounters on the sidewalk, much like most of the general public would not be prepared for such an encounter. There you are walking down the street and all of a sudden people start filming you. Granted, the students were not initially doing much other than filming, but who could know how the encounter was going to transpire. If I were in that situation I hope I would have just kept walking. I realize he is an elected public official and held to a higher standard, but I’m not sure that I would have reacted any differently.

Seatbelt Laws Suck

Over Memorial Day weekend law enforcement across the country took part in the “click it or ticket” campaign, issuing tickets to unbuckled motorists. Why is it the government’s job to protect me from myself? I have no problem with laws that penalize adults who fail to buckle children. If I am in an accident and am injured or killed because I was not wearing a seatbelt that was the consequence of my actions. I could also be injured or killed while wearing my seatbelt. There is no direct impact on the public whether I am wearing it or not.

But I have a big problem with police being able to use a driver’s lack of seat belt use as a basis to initiate a traffic stop which can lead to the officer finding evidence of other crimes. I routinely speak with clients that are facing felony drug charges from traffic stops that began as a failure to wear their seatbelt.

I routinely wear my seatbelt on the highway and in bigger cities but I want that choice to be my own, free from concern whether my decision will result in a roadside interrogation simply because I chose not to wear it.

After You Clean Your Desk, Clean Your Office (and Your Computer)

Lawyerist.com seems to have a theme going. Today I read Improve Your Practice with an Uncluttered Office which also referenced the clean desk article I previously discussed. One point of the article is that clutter wastes time and the author states that “Even “paperless” offices can have computer clutter, making it difficult to find a particular form, template or motion that you know you did, but that you cannot remember where or how you saved it.”

I think that digital clutter is even more of a problem that physical clutter. There is only so much space to hold physical junk, even the people profiled on A&E’s show Hoarders have to cram their belongings into whatever size space they have available. But with digital junk it is much easier to let things pile up, even if you do not have a medically diagnosed pathological condition (but if you do, here are some resources).  Hard drive space is relatively cheap these days and it is so easy to save multiple drafts of documents, scan every piece of paper that enters your life and worst of all copy all of these files to another folder so that you end up with multiple versions of the same file.

I spent hours yesterday, letting the process run in the background while I did actual legal work,  transferring files from several different external hard drives onto one big network drive and I plan to go through the files at some point to purge duplicate and unneeded files. Our office servers have not been cleaned up in quite a while either but it seems like such a daunting task to undertake. I am probably the only person in the office who knows how much open hard drive space we have and I’m sure there are few people around the office that give any thought to creating duplicate files, either intentionally or by accident.

Another reason I think digital clutter is worse than physical clutter is the time required to sort and review the files, especially if they have nondescript file names. I can pick up a stack of paper and run through it pretty quickly to see that it can all be trashed but it could take considerably more time to process a group of Word document or PDF files if the file names do not provide enough information. I am still looking for some quality file preview software that would allow me to see what the file contains without having to open the file in the native program. I have used Explorer View with good results but I am interested to see what other people are using on their Windows computers for this function. I am also in need of some affordable (or free) duplicate file fixing software that can scan network drives.

How do you handle digital clutter? What are your recommendations for software to help with this problem? I would appreciate any insight you have.

Desk: Clean It Off or Pile It Up?

I admit it, I have mild anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I had to travel out of town yesterday and today for court and as entertainment for the drive I listened some podcasts from the David Allen Company on Getting Things Done. When I got back to my office I read a post by Kendra Brodin entitled Productivity… and a Clean Desk on Lawyerist.com. These kind of things interest me. Sometimes it is more interesting thinking about how to process and organize the things I need to do than actually doing the thing.

I agree that having a clean desk is helpful for my productivity. My problem is I work with slobs. They would rather pile file upon file on their desk until they cannot even use their desk as anything other than a visual reminder of all of the things that they have to do. Somehow they are able to function in this environment, but I agree with Ms. Brodin that they would be more productive with a clean desk.

Why should I care if their desks are clean? I’ll give you a reason, it causes more work for me. The slobs tend to lose more files which at a minimum means they will stop in my office to see if the file is in my office. But a deeper problem is the perception that I am not working as hard. Because they associate having a big pile of unorganized chaos sitting on their desk as an indication of all the things that need completed, they view my clean desk as an indication that I am getting very proficient at mine sweeper or solitaire. Obviously I am not busy since I can see the wood grain on my desk.

I have given up on trying to change the slobs, but I sometimes wonder if I should throw a stack of files on my desk every once in a while and maybe even have some boxes of files strewn about on the floor. I would wager that such an environment would make the slobs think that I am hard at it but in reality I would find it near impossible to concentrate on the task at hand.

So, who is right? Clean it off or pile it up? Does a clean desk enhance or hinder productivity?

Catching Up With Fat Daddy

It’s been a while since I checked in around here and if anyone out there was disappointed I apologize. It has been a very busy month but things are getting back to normal, sort of.

Hot Momma has been putting in a lot of time in her small business which has required me to spend some more time with the kids and around the house. Luckily I am able to telecommute relatively easily and have a fairly flexible schedule.

Thing 1 is constantly amazing us with her intelligence and abilities while Thing 2 is staring to blossom into a little person with her own personality. I guess my only complaint is that they both seem to have extreme early-onset  pre-pubescent attitude disorder. If things don’t go their way, watch out. But shortly after their blowup they return to sweet, pleasant little girls.

I have continued to take pictures of every meal for my Photo Food Journal and have had mixed results. This past month there has been a lot of stress with my job and Hot Momma’s business so my emotional eating tendencies crept in a little more than I would like. But because I was documenting through photographs everything I ate I was still more mindful of my meals and did not backslide as much as I may have in the past. I had more burgers and pizza this past month but still stayed away from candy and other total junk.

I plan to devote more energy to establishing a consistent exercise regimen now that my world has calmed down a little. I am far from a morning person but that seems to be the only time I can consistently devote to exercise. So not only do I have to start a new exercise habit, I have to start a new getting my fat butt out of bed early habit.

I read another book last month: The Eat-Clean Diet for Men by Robert Kennedy and Tosca Reno. I thought it had some useful information and some interesting recipes. One particular part really got me:

“The human body is designed to be vital, robust, active and brimming with physicality – that urge to run, fly, swim and simply do is part of the joy of being human. The tragedy comes when the body is no longer capable of completing these actions. It does not make sense to reject the simple logic that consuming more nutritious foods will help you turn your life around, enabling you to once again feel the expression of joy rather than sorrow.”

There are so many things that I would like to do that I am not capable of doing with my present body or if I am capable it is much more difficult than it could be. Tomorrow is a new day and the work towards a more vital body and a more satisfying life awaits.

Certainties: Death – Yes, Taxes – Probably, Death Taxes – Depends

I met with a couple yesterday for some preliminary information on estate planning and once again I had to explain that things are not very clear at the moment regarding estate taxes. In 2009, the federal estate tax exemption was $3.5 million with a 45% tax rate. In 2010 there is an unlimited exemption as the estate tax has been repealed. Some have said that 2010 is a great year to die if you have a multi-million dollar estate. In 2011, unless Congress changes the law, the exemption level will fall to $1 million with a 55% tax rate.

I came across an estate tax internet resource guide put together by Trusts and Estates magazine that has articles on the fate of the estate tax and suggestions for practitioners. The article at the end puts a damper on the whole “die in 2010” plan as the TaxProf Blog points out that the re-enactment of the estate tax in 2010, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, likely would pass constitutional muster.