Welcome to Slusser Law Firm
Slusser Law Firm is a full-service legal firm in Hazleton, PA, serving all of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
New personal injury clients are assured of receiving a call back from a lawyer within one hour any time of the day or night, because we know tragedy doesn't only strike from 9 to 5.
‘Home improvement’ projects may actually lower a home’s value
A number of home improvement projects can actually lower the value of a home by turning off potential buyers, according to an interesting article published by Yahoo! Finance that Hazleton Attorney Chris Slusser wanted to share.
The following projects might make you happy if you’re staying in your home for a while, but they can be a bad idea if you’re planning to sell soon, according to the article:
• Converting a bedroom. Most buyers would much rather see a four-bedroom house than a three-bedroom house with a home gym. And if you do convert a bedroom, make it easy to turn it back into a bedroom – and never remove a closet.
• Swimming pools. Not everyone loves a swimming pool. Many buyers see them as a big maintenance expense, a danger to small children, or a potential lawsuit.
• Elaborate landscaping. You certainly want your landscaping to look nice, but extremely elaborate plantings, pools and waterfalls can make buyers think they’ll have to spend a fortune on maintenance.
• Colored trim and textured walls. Buyers know they can repaint walls, but trim is very hard to repaint, and textured surfaces are very hard to remove.
• Hot tubs. Many people are squeamish about the idea of using someone else’s hot tub. And a built-in tub can be hard to relocate.
Heated car seats blamed for burns
It's been a long, cold winter here in the Hazleton area. Local residents are doing what they can to stay warm.
Heated car seats can be wonderful on a cold winter morning. But over time, these seat heaters can stop functioning properly – and when they do, injury can result.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received well over 1,000 complaints in the past decade about heated car seats that have caused burns or, in some cases, even caught on fire.
While driver’s manuals typically state that heated seats shouldn’t reach a temperature above 105 degrees, seat heaters have been known to malfunction and reach temperatures higher than 150 degrees. You should be aware that a temperature of 111 degrees is hot enough to cause a burn, and a 120-degree seat can cause a third-degree burn.
Most car seats do not have a safety mechanism to detect overheating and turn the heater off.
The risk is particularly serious for people with neuropathy and other conditions that cause nerve problems, because they may not be able to feel how hot the seat is until it’s too late. Neuropathy can be a side effect of diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, certain types of cancer, and other conditions.
Estate planning is key for Hazleton-area residents
Attorney Chris Slusser of Hazleton wants you to know that about a year ago, Congress dramatically raised the federal estate tax exemption, which for 2013 was $5.25 million (or $10.5 million for a married couple). This action caused some people to mistakenly believe that they no longer need to think about estate planning if their assets are less than $5 or $10 million.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. And people who don’t keep their estate plan up to date are making a big mistake that could still be very costly to them and their families.
There are a multitude of reasons for this, but here are just a few:
Protecting your heirs. Many of the techniques that people have used in the past to avoid estate taxes – such as trusts – have lots of other purposes in addition to saving taxes.
For instance, leaving assets to someone in a trust can protect them over the long term if they’re not good at managing money. Trusts can also shield children from losses in the event they get divorced, face a lawsuit, or start their own business. And if you have children from a former marriage, a trust can be a way to care for your new spouse if something happens to you, while still protecting your children.
Trusts can also protect children and grandchildren if they should ever have a problem with gambling or other addictions, or if they have special needs.
All of these benefits still exist regardless of the level of the federal estate tax exemption.
Other kinds of taxes have gone up. While the federal estate tax is less of a problem, other taxes – such as income and capital gains taxes – have increased recently. There’s also a new 3.8% surtax on investment income.
So you should know that techniques such as trusts, LLCs and family limited partnerships, which in the past were used primarily to avoid estate taxes, can also be used to reduce these kinds of taxes, by giving you the flexibility to funnel income and capital gains to family members in the lowest tax brackets.
Techniques such as charitable remainder trusts can also be used to shift income taxes from current years until post-retirement, lower-bracket years.
And with capital gains taxes going up, it’s increasingly important to use estate planning to adjust your heirs’ basis in the property they inherit.
Most of the time, if a person dies owning assets that have appreciated in value, his or her heirs receive the assets with a new, “stepped-up” basis as of the date of death. Suppose Martha buys some stock for $50,000, and many years later it’s worth $90,000. If Martha sells it, she’ll have to pay tax on a $40,000 capital gain. But if she dies and leaves the stock to Lou, then Lou will have a “stepped-up” basis of $90,000, and if he sells it right away, he won’t owe any tax.
While capital gains basis is typically stepped up at death, it isn’t always, so it’s important to engage in estate planning to make sure your heirs aren’t stuck with a large and unnecessary tax bill.
Health care costs. If you’re not super-wealthy, health care costs in later years can be a bigger destroyer of wealth than the estate tax ever was. It’s critical to consider health care in retirement as part of a complete estate plan.
State estate taxes. While the federal estate tax is now a problem only for the very wealthy, many states impose their own estate taxes, and these often kick in at much lower thresholds. New Jersey, for instance, imposes a tax on all estates with assets of more than $675,000. Six other states have estate tax thresholds of $1 million or less. It’s still important to plan around avoiding these taxes.
In addition, some states impose inheritance taxes. Inheritance taxes are different from estate taxes, because estate taxes are paid by a dying person’s estate, while inheritance taxes are paid by the dying person’s heirs. Inheritance taxes don’t depend on where the heir lives; they’re based on where the dying person lived or owned property. So if you live in Florida but you inherit assets from a relative in Arizona who owned property in Iowa, you might owe Iowa inheritance tax.
In some states, the inheritance tax rate varies depending on the heir’s relationship to the dying person – so a child might pay one rate, a cousin might pay another, and a lifelong friend might pay yet another.
It’s important to plan for this, too, if for no other reason than to compensate your heirs if you’re going to saddle them with unexpected taxes after you die.
Family issues. Estate planning has always been about more than just taxes, or even just financial assets. It’s about family. What will happen to your family home, or a beloved vacation home? What will happen to a family business? If you have minor children, how will they be taken care of? Who will receive possessions that have sentimental value? Will your children feel that they’ve been treated fairly, and be encouraged to get along and use their legacy in accordance with your values?
All these issues can (and should) be dealt with in a complete estate plan, which the attorneys at Slusser Law Firm can prepare for you.
Here’s another reason injured people should act quickly
You might be familiar with “statutes of limitations,” which say that you have to file a lawsuit within a certain time period after you suffer an injury, or else lose your rights.
But you might not know that some states also have a “statute of repose.” This is a law that usually applies where someone is injured by a product, and it says that any lawsuits have to be brought within a certain period of time after the product is first sold – regardless of when the injury occurs.
If a state has a 10-year statute of repose, then any lawsuits over a defective product must be brought within 10 years after the date of the first purchase.
So suppose you bought a used car today that was first sold in 2002. If the car had a defect that caused you an injury, but there was a 10-year statute of repose, you’d be unable to sue the manufacturer at all.
Some states have statutes of repose for medical malpractice cases. For example, if a doctor botched a procedure, but the complications didn’t show up until many years later, you might be unable to be compensated.
That’s why it’s so important to consult the Slusser Law Firm in Hazleton, PA, as soon as you’ve suffered an injury. Even if a statute of limitations says you have a year or more before you lose the right to file a lawsuit, a statute of repose might expire within months, weeks or even days.
It’s also a good idea to keep records of purchase dates for major products, such as automobiles, appliances, power tools, play structures and swimming pool drains. That way, if something goes wrong, you’ll have information you might need in order to preserve your rights.
Contact a Hazleton personal injury lawyer at Slusser Law Firm to represent your interests.
Contact Slusser Law
The Slusser Law Firm
1620 N. Church Street, Suite 1
Hazleton, PA 18202