morrislawcenter, Author at Morris Law Center

Quiet Title Actions

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about quiet title actions. As you may or may not know, my firm practices in the area of estate planning, real estate and business law. So, quiet title actions are part of our repertoire. We file quite a lot of them each year.

To give you an idea, quiet title actions are needed when you’ve got a cloud on title. If you look at the chain of title for the property at issue, and there’s some kind of problem— let’s say there’s an old lien that shouldn’t be there anymore or there’s a lean that should have been removed but was never removed —then many times you’re going to have to file an action in court for quiet titles to clear the title, so that you can obtain title insurance on the property.

Most of these things come up because an individual goes to sell their property and then finds out that they cannot.  For example:

I had a potential client call me. He has a property that he listed for sale.  He went into contract with a buyer.  He was ready to close when the title company told him that there was a problem with title.  Specifically, there was an old deed of trust in the chain of title that had not been reconveyed.  So, there was this open deed of trust on the property that prevented him from closing on the deal. What we would have to do in this case, because a deed of trust is generally something that is recorded in the chain of title by a bank, in order to remove that from the chain of title, he is going to have to file a lawsuit.

Another example is if there’s something wrong with the chain of title in terms of ownership, like maybe there’s some kind of a rogue deed where the property was deeded to somebody that should not have been on the chain of title. Then, you have to file suit and you’ve got to name all the prior owners on title and try to clear it all out so that you can obtain title in your own name.

Quiet title actions can take a long time or they can be very quick. It all depends on what the person that you’re naming as a defendant is going to do. And that’s true for any litigation case. It all depends on if they’re going to fight back or if they’re going to roll over or if you’re going to get a default judgment against them.

Unfortunately, it is a necessity in many cases where you’ve got some kind of document on the chain of title that hasn’t been cleared and the title company refuses to insure until it is taken care of.

Seller Disclosures in Real Estate Transactions

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about real estate. I bring this up because it comes up so much when I’m talking to potential clients, I get a lot of calls on this subject because most of the time the seller failed to disclose something to them before they purchase the house. When the seller fails to disclose something, what do you do?

In Nevada there’s something called a seller’s real property disclosure (SRPD) form, and it has to be disclosed by law at least 10 days before the purchase is complete. So, before the house transfers to the new owner, the SRPD has to be completed and provided to the buyer. The real estate agent will not sign it or fill it out for you because that is a liability to them since they have no idea the condition of the house.

All you do is check boxes, yes or no, if you know of any problems with certain items including the plumbing, the electrical, the structural. There’s lots of different categories and so if you know that there’s been an issue in the past, even if it’s been repaired, you are required to disclose it. If you do not disclose it, then we may have issues which is exactly why people call me.

For example, I recently got a call where the buyer said “I just bought a house and they didn’t disclose that there was a leak in the roof and my home inspector did not find it when we did the home inspection. What do I do?”

That’s kind of a big open question, so the first thing I ask is what does the SRPD say? Did the seller say anything about the roof? What box did they check? What did they say? Most of the time my buyer says, no, they didn’t disclose it, they said there were no issues with the roof. The next question I always ask is how much did it cost to repair? And I asked this question because a lot of people, this is a theme with litigation in general. You’ve always got away the economics. Does it make sense to file suit? Because filing suit is very expensive. Of course you’ve got to hire an attorney, you’ve got to pay the attorney, you’ve got to pay the court costs. It’s going to take a long time. It’s going to be emotionally draining. So you’ve got to think about whether it’s really worth it.

So the damage question is always the key. How much did you have to spend to repair this? Because that’s going to factor into whether you want to spend money to pursue it. If it’s a small minor repair, of course, common sense tells you that you don’t do anything. You just walk away and forget about it.

Let’s say my potential client says the damages are $5,000. That’s how much it costs to repair the roof. At that point, if we know that the seller didn’t disclose it and we know the damages are 5,000, the next question is do you think the seller knew there was a leak? What evidence do you have that the seller knew that this was happening before he sold, and he intentionally checked the ‘no’ box on the SRPD?

That’s also a key item legally. Like do they know what they did? Did they do an intentionally? In our roof example, the potential client said that when a roofer went up there, they could see evidence that this had previously leaked and there was staining, and so it appeared that the seller would have known.

There’s another step involved before you get to court. If the SRPD was from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors (GLVAR), the form says that the parties agreed to mediate. So, you’ve got to go to GLVAR mediation first before you get to court. A lot of times this is a good idea because it’s very inexpensive and maybe you can resolve it without having to actually file suit.

Another thing to remember is that travel damages can be awarded. What does that mean? Well, if the seller fails to disclose something that they know they knew on SRPD and you incurred damage, then you may be able to recover travel damages, which is basically triple damages for the actual amount it costs you to repair. That’s, that’s the key. So in our roofing example, he theoretically could potentially be able to recover three times the amount of damage.

It would only be on the amount of actual damage. And when I say actual damage, I mean the actual cost of repair. So we’re not talking about the roof was leaking and you had to go sleep somewhere else for the night. I mean, we might be able to get that in, but that’s not as clean and clear as just the actual cost that it was to repair the roof.

If you buy a home and you discover a defect that you didn’t know about before and that wasn’t disclosed and you think the seller knew about, then you may have a case and you can always call our office and talk to us about it.

 

Power of Attorney Over Financial Decisions

Today we’re going to talk about power of attorney over financial decisions. I know I’ve mentioned them previously, so I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what they are and make sure everybody understands. So, whenever we do an estate plan, even the most basic one, we always include the option of a springing power of attorney over financial decisions.

It’s called a springing power of attorney because it “springs” into action only in the event of your incapacity. It doesn’t do anything unless you’re incapacitated. With this document, you nominate a power of attorney to be your financial power of attorney to make financial decisions for you in any event of your incapacity.

The reason you would do this is because if you’re incapacitated, you still need to pay your bills—your mortgage, gas, electric—the typical bills. If you’re an individual, then you probably need one of these documents, so that you can give that authority to someone else and they can pay your bills and get into your bank account to do so.

Again, I just want to emphasize that this only springs into action when you can’t make your own decisions. Whoever you nominate isn’t going to be able to do anything unless you’re incapacitated.

In this document you are able to customize it, so you don’t have to give them the authority over every financial decision, you check the boxes for the things that you want to give them authority over.

I emphasize individuals because many times with married couples, they have joint accounts. So, if one’s unavailable, the other one can go ahead and get in there and do what they need to do cause they’re both on the account. Even with married couples, there’s some accounts that are only individual accounts and if you need access to them, then you’re going to need this power of attorney. We also still do it for married couples in case they’re both incapacitated at the same time.

Power of attorney over financial decisions is something that is important for basically any estate plan. It’s a safety provision that helps in the event of an emergency.

For more information, please contact our Las Vegas estate planning attorney at (702) 323-6952.

Power of Attorney Over Health Care

Today’s article will focus on power of attorney (POA) over health care, which is also known as a DNR (do not resuscitate). In prior blogs, I’ve generally discussed estate planning and wills. When you do a living will with an attorney, it usually comes as a package that includes POA over health care and POA over financial decisions.

To be clear, we are specifically discussing Nevada power of attorney over healthcare decisions.  However, each state has different questions and requirements. In Nevada, there is a form for the POA. There are different variations of the form, but every one of them has five questions, no matter who you’re getting this POA from, it’s going to have at least five questions and the questions ask whether or not you want to pull the plug in certain circumstances. So, the reason that this type of a document is important is because this is going to come into play when you’re still alive, but you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.

Once you nominate somebody to act as your agent, you’re also giving them guidelines. So, you’re telling them what you want them to do in certain situations. It’s not going to cover every situation because life can get crazy and you can’t cover everything, but it gives the agent an understanding of what you want to happen in an emergency. It also makes it easier for the people that you leave behind so family members aren’t at odds or having to go to court to make a decision.

I always recommend you only nominate one person. That’s because if you nominate two people, then we’ve got a problem if one of them disagrees with the other cause they have 50/50 decision making power. Then you always nominate a second in case the first person isn’t available. This is particularly true when you’re talking about married couples since they usually nominate each other, which is great but what if they’re both in an accident together and they both are unconscious. So, you always want to have somebody else that can step in.

Another thing I always tell my clients is that they want their agent to live in the United States because if they don’t live in the United States it becomes very difficult to enforce and get the person here to make the decision.

I mentioned living wills earlier. Just to be clear, a living will and a POA over healthcare are not the same thing. A living will includes a POA over health care and is a little bit more in depth about what the person wants, and to make sure that it happens. Another place that you’re going to see the term living will is the Secretary of State. Once you do a POA over healthcare you have the option of lodging it with the Secretary of State. The reason you would do this is because then it’s available for ER doctors to pull it up in the event of an emergency.

Hopefully no one ever needs this document.  However, it is a very important document.  Most people do this so that it makes it easier for the people that you leave behind to make that really hard decision. It also can potentially avoid court in certain situations.

 

3 Choices for Seniors Looking to Downsize Their Current Homes

Written by: Jim Vogel of ElderAction

One of the most pressing, and often emotional, decisions that seniors can face when looking to downsize to a smaller home is how to handle their current home. That home can be filled with so many memories and so many financial options, but it can also be filled with added burden for seniors looking to retire. So if you are thinking about downsizing your home during retirement, here are some ways you can deal with your old home:

 

Rent Out Your Home to Earn Some Extra Income

 

Are you planning on moving into an assisted living facility? If so, you should research local facilities and prices before you handle your current home. Many assisted living facilities provide the same services for seniors but come with different costs. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that assisted living communities are designed to provide independent living arrangements for seniors in apartment-style homes, alongside beneficial assistance with daily living tasks, such as bathing, cooking or taking medications. So if you don’t need help with your daily care or routine, then an alternate senior community may be a better fit for you and your retirement budget.

So what do all these choices have to do with your current home? Well, if you decide to move into an independent living community or an assisted living facility, you could always rent out your home to pay for the monthly costs and build more equity. If you play your real estate cards right, you could turn a nice profit by renting out your current home. Before you take this major step, though, you need to be aware of the potential costs of turning your home into a rental property. Aside from the costs to maintain your home, you may also be responsible for additional tax payments on that additional income, and you could end up spending a small fortune attracting potential occupants to your new rental property.

Sell Your Home to Gain Retirement Freedoms

 

If freedom is the focus of your downsizing move, you may want to just sell your current home outright. To avoid the headaches of having your home sit on the market for months, you should use a few real estate tricks to up the appeal to potential homebuyers and help it sell faster.  Start by picking the right real estate pro to list your current home and take care of any needed repairs, so you don’t have any surprise expenses pop up on inspections. By selling your home before you downsize, you can possibly retire mortgage-free to save yourself some stress.

Keep Your Home in The Family to Preserve Memories

 

There are so many reasons to hold onto the family home, and there are several ways to pass your home onto your family members. If you want to relieve yourself of financial burden, you could always sell your home to loved ones, but treat this home sale like any other by using brokers, lawyers and assessors to ensure that everyone walks away feeling like they were treated fairly.

You could also gift your home to family members, but this comes with some special considerations, too, like tax burdens for those family members or even income implications for yourself. Consult with an Attorney and a CPA to obtain further information on this subject.  According to Attorney Sarah Morris, “Depending on your needs, desires, and financial situation, a Trust may be the answer. Each client is unique, which makes a strategy session with an Attorney and a CPA critical.”  So, keep these in mind before you decide to give your children the gift of your family home.

Lastly, you may be thinking of just holding onto your old home, in order to keep it in the family. Owning a second home can come with additional burdens and costs, though, so weigh all of your options carefully before you make your ultimate decision.

Deciding what to do with your current home can stir up some strong emotions. What’s most important, though, is keeping those personal feelings from hindering your ability to make a practical decision about your current home. Making the wrong choice could derail your downsizing plans, or at least make the process of moving to a new home more stressful.

Do Wills Help You Avoid Probate?

I receive a lot of questions from potential clients about wills and there’s a common misconception that if you have a will then you will avoid probate. That’s not necessarily true in most cases.

You wouldn’t do a will in order to avoid probate. What a will is, is a document that outlines your wishes and what will happen when you pass away. In that document, you have the ability to name―what’s called a personal representative of your estate―which is the executor of your estate or the manager of your estate. This is only a temporary position until everything has been distributed to the heirs, so it’s not a long-term commitment.

This representative will go by the terms of your will and make sure everything is distributed accordingly. So, a will gives you the ability to control where your assets go. A lot of people do this just to make sure that everything goes where they want it to because if you don’t have one of these, the court is going to have to look to the statute to determine how your assets are distributed.  This is called intestate succession. There are intestate succession statutes in every state, including Nevada, that guide the court as to who will receive your stuff when you pass away. For example, if we have a married couple that has one child and the husband passes away and there’s no will, then what’s going to happen by Nevada statute is that 100% of the community property will go to the wife, 50% of the separate property will go to the wife and 50% of the separate property will go to the child, whether the child is a minor or not.

To expand on this, Nevada is a community property state, so the community property would automatically go to the wife. But the separate property of the husband is what would be distributed 50/50 to both the wife and the child. It goes down from there. So, if you aren’t married and you don’t have any children, then it would go to your parents. If your parents aren’t alive, then it goes to any siblings you have. If you have no siblings, then it goes down the line. And at the end, if you have absolutely no heirs that the Court can determine, then the court has to give your assets to the state of Nevada. It doesn’t happen very often, but it can happen. This is why people do wills because they want to make sure that their assets go to the people, they want them to go to.

In sum, with a will you have the ability to name the manager of your estate and decide who gets what. That’s the benefit of having a will versus just going by the statute because then you have absolutely no control.

Many people also have certain heirlooms that they want to go to certain people. If that’s the case, then that’s something that you can do within will as well. You can also include lists. Let’s say you have a Rolex and you want it to go to your daughter or your son then you can include that in the will and it’ll go to the right person. The reason to do this is because it helps your heirs, in other words, the people that you leave behind. Because if you don’t, then a lot of times, unfortunately when someone passes away, everybody gets very upset and there’s inner family fighting about who gets what. So at least if you have a will in place, they have a guideline and they have to abide by it.  It prevents or at least controls some of the fighting. And that’s another reason if you do have heirlooms to go ahead and designate who they go to rather than leaving it up to everybody to decide because there may be some fighting involved.

So that is why you would want to will―it’s the most basic estate plan that you can have and most attorneys, including my firm, provide it as part of a package. If you get a will, then you’re also going to have two other documents in this package. One is called a power of attorney over health care and one is called a power of attorney over financial decisions.  I will discuss these two other documents in another blog.

 

For more information, please contact our Las Vegas estate planning attorney at (702) 323-6952.

Example of Attorney review of a Commercial Lease

Before signing a commercial lease agreement, you should always have an attorney review it, as you are likely to have to live with it for years to come. Here at Morris Law Center, we love to review contracts, and then assist with revisions if needed. The excerpt below if from a memo we wrote to one of our clients upon reviewing their lease agreement. As you will see, Landlord has been abbreviated to LL.

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Executive Summary: The harshness of Article 15, coupled with there not being any way for the LL to be in default, are my primary concern. I would insist on revisions there. Otherwise, please review the memo to determine what is of concern to you.

Red Flags

  • Article 15: is extremely harsh with very short time periods for a tenant default. Furthermore, there is not a section defining LL default. So the LL basically can not default. Not acceptable.

Potential Concerns

  • Article 1.1.B and E: this was also a concern of XXXXX. In the LOI it sounds like you [tenant] are going to XXXXX. However, in the lease the LL has complete discretion. It implies that the LL will work with you on XXXXX, but does not require it. This should probably be cleaned up depending on if you want XXXXX.
  • Article 1.K
    • XXXXX noted concern regarding the “LL’s reasonable discretion with respect to noise levels.” If you are concerned about this we can press it with the LL. However, considering the term “reasonable” is practically meaningless, I am not particularly concerned if you want to let it go and focus your negotiation capital on more important revisions.
    • The item that brings me a little bit more concern is that you are responsible for all licensing. When I am negotiating a lease on behalf of a client that requires a privileged license, we normally negotiate a clause that allows an out if your license is denied for some reason. For example, maybe the city issues a moratorium on liquor for 12 months, or maybe one of your partners comes up with a felony and your entity can’t be licensed. This clause could have a notice or even a buyout like 60 or 90 days rent.
  • Article 6.1: you are required to open within 180 days of commencement, which does not account for potential delay or extension.
  • Article 10: the lease does not appear to specify your % responsibility for the CAMs. Most leases have the total sq ft and well as your sq ft, which allows that calculation. You should only pay our % of the CAMs. They have to charge only your share, but we could also get that explicitly added to the agreement.
  • Article 11.1.B: make sure you are ok with the levels of insurance required. $1M/$2M for liability and the same for liquor.
  • Article 14.1.A: the lease is not transferable without permission, at the landlord’s sole discretion. It would be preferable to revise that permission will not be reasonably withheld. Also, you can not move to another entity of your own without permission.
  • Exhibit C
    • Are 1 – 7 sufficient?
    • Do we need to pick location of stubs?
    • Approval over the roof: the contractor noted concerns about insulation.
    • The contractor also noted concerns about the timeline for work in the case that LL causes a work stoppage.
  • Exhibit D(4): you have to show proof of having $500k liquid within 30 days.
  • Exhibit D(5): You should not be locked into [a specific contractor]. This should be cleaned up.
  • Exhibit E: per the guaranty, you are personally on the hook for the rent plus attorney’s fees if they sue.

Items of Note

  • The LLs’ LLCs XXXXX and XXXXX are in good standing.
  • Your LLC is active and in good standing. However, there are two items of concern:
    • You should have a litigation law firm, like the “award winning” Morris Law Center, as your registered agent. This is where lawsuits go, so you want it in the hands of an attorney. It also conveys professionalism aka intimidation to anyone who might sue you.
    • I am not familiar with your business structure, but I have some indication that you already have a location in XXXXX. Assuming that is correct, I must insist that each location be in a different LLC to allow for insulation from liability. That may already be the case, but if not we need a new entity.
  • I would love to work on your business license if that would be helpful. This is my favorite area of practice… helping people get a business open.
  • Article 2: you need to exercise your right to extend at least 180 days prior to expiration of the term, via certified mail.
  • Article 19.16: is a mutual attorney fee provision. Prevailing party gets their fees paid by the other party.
  • I used to deal with Mr. XXXXX [LL] regularly back in the day when I was XXXXX. He was a friend of a friend. I never had an issue with him, and have not heard anything bad about him.
  • Exhibit D(6): all the improvements you pour into the property become part of the building.
  • Exhibit F: look it over to make sure you don’t have any concerns.

Give me a call any time, including over the weekend, to discuss further.

Best Regards,

Brian

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Here at Morris Law Center we love to help you maintain control of, and protect, your business. Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation before anything is set in stone.

6 Tips & Tricks for Depositions

A deposition is testimony, under oath, outside of the courtroom, and recoded by an official court reporter. It can be very intimidating to sit across from the opposing side’s attorney to answer questions about what you know regarding a case. Aside from the obvious things to get ready for a deposition, like preparing with your attorney and dressing appropriately, we wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks for answering questions once you’re in the deposition.

1. LISTEN

First, always make eye contact with the individual asking you the questions and listen carefully and intently on what he or she is asking you. If at any point you are confused by the question, or do not understand, politely ask the questioner to repeat or rephrase the question. It is important that you fully understand the questions being asked of you, therefore, if anything is confusing it is okay to say so in order to have the question asked in a way you do understand.

Listening to the way the question is asked allows you to determine if the attorney is being overly friendly or aggressive to attempt to get additional information out of you. These are two of many tactics employed by attorneys to get information out of a deposed person. The overly friendly attorney will want you to think of them as a friend, so you want to provide additional information, whereas the aggressive attorney might try intimidating you into doing the same.

2. BREATHE

After each question asked, stop and take two deep breaths before providing your answer. This pause allows you to comprehend and contemplate the questions being asked. It also provides your attorney an opportunity to object before you provide any information. It is okay to take your time in answering the questions. The official court record will not provide the amount of time it took you to answer, so take the time if you need it.

3. YES OR NO

Many of the questions will allow yes or no answers. If asked a yes or no question, provide a yes or no answer, and then stop talking. You do not need to provide any explanation for the questions, and in fact doing so can hurt your case. Which leads us to our next topic…

4. DON’T TALK TOO MUCH

Talking too much during a deposition will not help anything. Providing additional information is not required. You are only required to provide a truthful answer to the specific question asked of you. Avoid long explanations or stories that are off topic. Tell the truth in the fewest amount of words possible, and then, again, stop talking.

5. DON’T PLAY GAMES

This means don’t do things to aggravate or annoy the opposing counsel. Saying you “don’t recall” or “don’t understand” for every single question (when you really do) is also not helpful during a deposition. Evading the questions will not prevent the questions from being asked, and the requirement that you answer them truthfully. It’s best to just be straight forward, answer the questions, and get through the process.

6. ALLOW SILENCE

Another well known tactic that an attorney may employ to obtain additional information is to ask their question, wait for an answer, then lean back in their chair and be completely silent while maintaining eye contact. The idea here is that people generally do not like awkward silences and will fill the silence by talking more. The attorney wants you to give your answer, and then fill the following awkward silence with more details on the answer you just provided. Don’t fall into this trap. If you have given your true, complete answer, allow the silence!


Depositions can be a stressful experience, but the more you know about what to expect allows you to be better prepared. If you need assistance in preparation, or just have questions about being deposed, feel free to contact us for a complementary consultation.

And finally, as we always say, “If you think you need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney before anything is set in stone. We love answering questions!

Things To Look Out For In Marital Trusts

The following blog has been transcribed from our podcast Around the Gavel: Episode 2. Look up “Around the Gavel” on Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Play, and iTunes to listen in.


SARAH: Hi, and welcome to our new show Around the Gavel. I’m Sarah Morris and attorney partner, as well as the CEO, of Morris Law Center. Today we are going to be talking about the pitfalls of marital trusts. Estate Planning is one of my favorite areas of practice, so I’m very excited to get going on this. As always, please subscribe and leave us an honest review on your podcast platform.

Today we’re going to talk about the possible pitfalls of marital trusts and generally what a marital trust is in Nevada in particular. Let me say, I am not talking about any other state. If you wanted to dive deeper into this, you can always give us a call.

So marital trusts- sometimes this term is used, and people don’t really know what they’re talking about. It’s not a completely defined term, but what I wanted to talk about today is something that’s come up twice now in the last two months. I’ve had clients bring me old trusts that are marital trusts. When I say marital trusts, I simply mean that the two people who created the trust are married. That, to me, signifies it’s a marital trust of some sort.

So I’ve recently received two marital trusts that were done, you know, 10 to 15 years ago where one of the spouses has already passed away, and now the remaining spouse has come into my office and says, “Okay, a lot has changed since we drafted this thing, and I want to change some stuff.” Well, the problem that has presented itself in both these situations is that because one of the spouses has passed away, we are very limited in what we can do in terms of amending the trust because of the way these particular trusts were written. A lot of times marital trusts in the past were written because they were trying to avoid taxes upon the first spouse’s death. It’s not like that so much anymore because the tax laws have changed, and particularly in Nevada we do not have an estate tax. The federal estate tax exemption is so high that most clients are not going to qualify over and above that anyway, so they don’t have to worry. So that isn’t a reason to do it now. Now, of course, the tax laws are probably going to change and maybe we’ll go back to that, but for the moment it’s not an issue. So a lot of times, historically speaking, people would do it for tax advantages.

One of the things I’ve run into lately with these older trusts is a situation where we’ve got a husband and a wife who’ve set up a trust. Nevada’s a community property state, so they may put in both a separate property and a community property into this trust. So what happens when one of them dies? The trust dictates. The trust says, Okay, when one of the spouses dies, the trust is split into two separate trusts. Within these two separate trusts, there is one for the deceased spouse- his 50% of the community property interest of whatever he put in, plus his separate property interests. That’s the deceased spouse’s trust; it is now unchangeable. You can’t do anything different with it. It’s going to sit there, and the trustee he designated 15 years ago is the trustee for that trust. You can’t change it because he’s gone.

Then the other trust, which is called the survivor’s trust, is for the spouse that is still alive. This trust is for his or her half of the community property interest, plus his or her separate property. Since he or she is still alive, they can amend this trust. This means they can change their trustees, and they can change the beneficiaries of their trust. However, in regards to the other trust, they can’t do anything with it.

So in the latest example, the client actually designated the successor trustee, meaning the trustee that would be in place after both of them passed away, to be Bank of America. Normally in these simpler trusts we don’t see someone designating an actual professional trustee. This is usually because you have to pay a certain fee, which might make it more costly for the heirs and the trust. So usually people will designate a family member, or a friend, or a CPA. However, in this case, they designated the bank, which is fine. It’s just now we’ve got a bank trustee for the husband’s portion, and the wife wants to switch her trustee and her beneficiaries. What I had to tell her was she can absolutely do it for her portion, but she cannot not do it for his portion.

That is one of the major pitfalls in marital trusts. Again, I hesitate to even use that terminology because it’s a certain kind of trust, but there are people who use that term for different things. So I’m not saying every trust is like that. I’m just saying to watch out for it.

A pro for why people use a marital trust is because sometimes we’ve got husbands and wives, and it’s our second or third marriage. They’re coming in with kids from one marriage and then kids from another. In these cases, they usually want to make sure their own children that they didn’t have with their current spouse, simply put, gets their stuff. In that respect, these trusts are good because we can always write in that their portion in the community property does split into two trusts. This is where the two trusts work. So if one spouse dies, we can split it into two trusts now. We don’t want anything to change for the one that died because we want to ensure that their wishes are carried out. It doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily trust the other spouse, but sometimes that is the case. Sometimes it also means that they simply want to make sure their heirs are taken care of. So it can be a pro, and it can be a con. It’s just something to think about when you’re considering a marital trust.

So like I said, if you have any other questions, or if you want to dive deeper into it, or if you’re interested in marital trusts, please feel free to give our Las Vegas estate planning attorney a call and we can discuss it further.

Should You Go To Law School?

The following blog has been transcribed from our podcast Around the Gavel: Episode 1. Look up “Around the Gavel” on Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Play, and iTunes to listen in.


SARAH: Hi, welcome to Morris Law Center’s podcast. I’m Sarah Morris, and today we’re talking with my partner, Brian Morris, and Sydney Soder, who is a paralegal at our firm. She’s actually the managing paralegal. So the big question today is: Do I want to go to law school?

SYDNEY: [laughs] Yes, so a lot of people consider going to law school. A lot of people think it’s something they should do but don’t necessarily know why they should do it. I think the big question is, why did you both choose to go to law school?

BRIAN: Well, my story is probably not one I would want others to emulate. My undergraduate degree is in business, specifically information technology. During my final year during undergrad, I took real estate law one and two. The professor was a lawyer. I got to know him and went to his office hours. We talked about it. I decided it sounded like a good idea, so I applied. I went for it, which in retrospect was not very well thought out [laughs]. I really did not have a solid understanding of what it meant to be an attorney until well after graduating from law school.

SARAH: Yeah, it’s funny because I have a sort of similar story in that it’s not necessarily the way to do it at all [laughs]. I went for my undergraduate degree, and I had a double major in classical history and art history, which I love both of those subjects dearly. However, there wasn’t much to do with those. When you have a degree in those subjects, you either keep moving for a PhD, go to a Master’s program and get a PhD, or you do something totally random and unrelated. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went to law school, not really thinking it through at all. I thought, Okay, I’ll take the LSAT. If I do well, I have really good grades, and if I get into enough law schools and one that I like, then I’ll go. So that’s what I did.

However, I had no idea what it was about. I’d never worked in a law firm. My grandfather was an attorney, but I didn’t even know him because he passed away before I was born. So there really was no knowledge going into it [laughs]. So I would not necessarily recommend it, although it is a nice foundation to have in general. I value the law education, whether you’re a lawyer or not, just to be able to understand the system and how it operates.

SYDNEY: So would you guys say that you enjoyed law school?

SARAH: I think I could have enjoyed it more. I was so determined because I went straight from undergrad to law school. I did not take a break at all. I went through undergrad in three and a half years, and I went through law school in two and a half because I did summers. I just tried to race through it and get it over with. I didn’t necessarily enjoy it, but I got through it, like it was a job basically. In retrospect, I would have definitely tried to take my time more. I would have taken the full three years and really tried to enjoy it as much as you can enjoy law school.

BRIAN: For my own experience, I certainly had some good times with my friends in law school as far as making friends, getting to know people, and things like that. As far as law school itself though, I did not like it at all. The reality is that it’s taught by law professors, not by attorneys. It’s taught by academics. It’s an intense academic setting, and they make, in my view, very little attempt to apply the theories in a practical way that is useful to what you’re going to be doing after law school.

SARAH: Yeah, I would echo that because I did not learn anything there about being a real attorney. It was all academic, which is great except that you get out there and you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s like learning it all over because the practice of law is very different from going to law school. It’s a great foundation to have to be a lawyer, but it doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer. So there’s that big distinction.

BRIAN: I want to mention law school full time is three years. The usual process is to spend the entire summer after law school studying for the bar exam. You would then take the bar exam at the end of the summer. I spent the first two weeks of bar study getting myself rather upset about the fact that we would have a year long class on constitutional law. Then in the bar review, they did a four hour course, told you everything you needed to know, all the practical pieces of constitutional law, what you needed for the bar exam- done [laughs]. So the difference of spending an entire year talking about obscure academic theories that aren’t even on the bar and don’t end up being useful in any way- it actually shocked me how the bar review course was able to condense years at a time into a couple hours.

SARAH: Yeah, I agree completely because there were even things- I’m sure you’ve had the same experience- that weren’t taught in law school but you were expected to know for the bar. These things probably weren’t taught because there wasn’t enough time since we were talking about all the obscure stuff. Again, not to say that this stuff isn’t important and that it doesn’t contribute to society as a whole and that people don’t need to know all this stuff, but the reality is that law school doesn’t teach you how to how to actually be a lawyer. It just gives you that foundational basis. I think it also weeds out a lot of people, which is important as well. We don’t want to have an over abundance of lawyers. We already have that, but we got to limit it somewhere [laughs].

BRIAN: There were certainly people that really enjoyed the academic exercises. Normally they would be sitting in the front row, and you would call them gunners because they would shoot their hand up before the professor even asked the question [laughs]. You know, they would want to talk about what they think about it and whether they think it’s fair or not. So there are people that really enjoy the theory and the academics of it. I just think that the two of us are much more practical.

SARAH: Yeah, and to be fair, the two of us are practicing attorneys. The people that are more interested in the academics are usually the ones that go on to be professors, but the people that actually want to be lawyers, I think they just try to get through it, and they then hopefully go on to be successful attorneys. They always say when you go to law school, and I think it’s really true, that the- I forget what the A and B students are. They’ve got to be, like, professors. But the B minus, the C plus, and the C students are all the actual attorneys [laughs].

BRIAN: I think the joke was that A students are professors or work at really big firms, while the people that are actually practicing on average are not those academics.

SARAH: Right, so I don’t think, you know, if you get B’s and C’s in law school, you’re not going to be successful. That’s crazy. You actually might be really successful. You might be more successful than the A’s and B’s.

SYDNEY: So focusing less on the theory and more on the overall practicality.

SARAH: Yes.

SYDNEY: So if you had to name it, what do you think the purpose of the obscurity of the education is? Why do you think it focuses on the obscure theory versus the practical application of law?

SARAH: I think to weed people out, so there’s less people that become attorneys, which thank you, that’s fine with me [laughs]. I mean, it’s already hard enough. There’s already enough attorneys. I really do think it’s probably to weed people out, so it’s not over abundant.

BRIAN: I guess what that raises for me is that there’s a certain desire by the law school system as a whole to maintain appearances. What I mean by that is a law degree is a juris doctorate, so we’re sort of pretending to be doctors, like medical doctors. Like, I technically have a doctorate. So I’ve heard there’s been a lot of debate- well, I don’t think there’s been a lot of debate, but I have heard the debate about whether the third year of law school is necessary at all. In mine and Sarah’s opinions, it is not necessary. I’m assuming in Sarah’s opinion; it’s not necessary in my opinion. You’re not really learning. The sort of curve of diminishing returns has probably flattened out by the end of the second year. However, the dean of the law school wants to make sure that everybody knows that a law degree is more of a big deal than a Master’s degree in biology or something like that.

We’re actually jumping from an undergrad degree supposedly to a doctorate. So they spread it out over three years. It’s super academic, which requires them to go in depth into obscure things that really aren’t practical and that you won’t ever use. However, that could be remedied to some extent if there were changes made in law school to where it was practical to practicing. There could be classes in the third year about how to run a firm, how to bill, how to actually practice. There really just aren’t practical classes in law school.

SYDNEY: Something else I wanted to talk about- Brian, you mentioned this before, and you sort of touched on it earlier when you were talking about how you learned more in your bar prep course than you did in certain classes in law school. Would you recommend taking a bar prep course before going to law school?

BRIAN: Yeah, I’m not going to say I would recommend it to the extent that I think it’s necessary, but certainly I think that it’s a good idea. I would have liked to have taken it because you end up with, you know, you have that bar study book, and it has the outline of every class with everything you basically need to know already in it. You can be prepped on the classes and kind of be ahead of everybody there, trying to study more for the bar as you go. When I actually ended up finishing law school and googling articles and blogs about bar study, I really didn’t use my outlines from law school. I didn’t use anything from law school. I completely started over with bar study and did my outlines in a completely different way, which would have been nice to think about ahead of time.

SARAH: Yeah, I don’t know the answer because I don’t remember. It’s been 16 years, which is longer than Brian, so I don’t know. All I know is I spent eight hours a day for three or four months and treated it like a job, studying for the bar. So I suppose it might be helpful. I guess I’m sort of not in the same boat as him. I agree it might be helpful, but at the same time I would wait until you take the courses [laughs].

SYDNEY: I just have one last question. If you weren’t practicing, what would you use your legal education for?

SARAH: That’s a tough question [laughs]. Well, I don’t know. Yes, you’re right- it can be used as a basis for other things if you’re starting out. Since I run the firm, it’s a really good basis for running a business. It’s not necessary, of course. There are plenty of successful people that run businesses that don’t even have a college education, but it does help in running a business.

BRIAN: As far as the question is seeking, a specific response of a position that is not as a lawyer-

SARAH: Now you’re sounding like a lawyer [laughs]. Go ahead.

BRIAN: Maybe running a marketing firm for lawyers or something like that. I think I could do really well in high end residential real estate or commercial real estate because those types of transactions would normally need an attorney. That would be something where I would be able to read the contracts and handle them myself. In almost any position, you’re going to need an attorney. Even here at this law firm, we reach out to other attorneys outside of our practice area to ask questions about running our business on a regular basis. You’re going to use your experience from practicing. I don’t know if you’re going to use the academics of law school.

Sarah, if someone came to you and said, I’m considering going to law school. What should I do?

SARAH: I would tell them not to do it [laughs] unless they really had a passion and if I saw that passion, like I do in Sydney. To be clear, I see passion.

BRIAN: But I’m talking about somebody off the street.

SARAH: I would tell them no way. No. The reality of the situation is most attorneys are miserable. They hate practicing law. It’s true. Check the stats and do your Google research, but most people are miserable doing it. It’s a hard career path to take. People think lawyers make a lot of money, and that’s not true at all. There are plenty of lawyers that don’t make a lot of money. If you want to make money, go into business. Don’t be a lawyer. There’s only the top few that actually make the big bucks, so don’t do it for money. That’s not the reason to go to law school. However, if you have a passion for the law and you’re genuinely interested, then it’s worth it. Otherwise, I would say absolutely not. Go find something else.

SYDNEY: What about you, Brian?

BRIAN: I guess my initial response would be to gain some experience with the legal field. Not everyone has the opportunity to be the managing paralegal at an award winning law firm like Morris Law Center, but there’s no excuse. Just call up a law firm and ask them to let you come in and work for free. Go volunteer at the district attorney at the public defender, the criminal side of the law, or volunteer at a real estate law firm. You’ve got to actually go and see what it’s going to be like.

The other major factor, which is more on the economics, you have to give up at least three years of your life- maybe four if it’s part time, which is also possible. You can do law school part time for four years. You have to give up three years of your life, three years of income, and take on debt. The UNLV law school, I think, is $30,000 a year right now. Even if you were able to earn $30,000 a year during that time and you give that up, plus you go $30,000 a year into debt, you’re giving up three years of your life and $200,000 worth of opportunity costs because not only are you not working, but you’re paying tuition. So does that really pay off in order to go work at the legal aid center? [Laughs] Maybe you’re going to end up with a ton of debt.

SARHA: Yeah, I think the real question is why do you want to go to law school? You know, that’s the kicker. Like, okay, should I go to law school? Why do you want to go? It’s all about why you want to go. As long as it’s not that you want to go because you want to make money, then we might continue the conversation. If it’s because you want to make money or you just want the status of being a lawyer, don’t do it. It’s not going to work for you.

BRIAN: The other thing to mention, which I’ve said to Sydney before, is if your passion really ends up there, there is no excuse for not going to law school. There is a way to make it happen. It’s little known. I didn’t know this until I was finishing law school, but it’s much easier to transfer into a school than apply there directly. So maybe you can’t get into Harvard, but if you go to a lower rank school the first year, they’ll probably let you transfer in the second year because they want your money and you’re not on the statistics. It comes down to how bad you want it, not whether it’s possible. You can go live in an apartment in Arizona for a year or some other place that has a lot of schools.

SARAH: Michigan has a lot of law schools you can get into, by the way. Thomas Cooley- everybody can get into Thomas Cooley [laughs].

BRIAN: Michigan has, I think, the lowest ranked law school. So anybody can go to law school in Michigan [laughs]. But what are you willing to give up to go to law school? If this is what you’re committed to, then move to Michigan [laughs], get an apartment, go to the first year of law school, and then transfer to UNLV the second year. But there is no ‘can’t’ about it. It’s either you want to do it or not. What are you willing to give up to do it?

SARAH: Agreed. I think that’s a great note to end on- a very positive, upbeat note because that’s totally true. If it’s something you want to do, there’s a way to do it. So thank you guys! Thank you for tuning in, you guys that are listening. Be sure to leave any comments.

BRIAN: Review us on the podcast platforms, Spotify, iTunes, etcetera. We’re also on all the usual social media channels. We’d be very happy to have you follow us on any of them.

SARAH: Let us know if you have any topics that you would like discussed.