MY OCTOBER NEWSLETTER HAS SOME PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT HOW TO GET STARTED WITH YOUR ESTATE PLAN
My Estate Planning Law Report for October has been posted in the publications section of deconcinimcdonald.com. You’ll find in it some practical suggestions about how to prepare for planning your estate, or if you already have an estate plan, how to approach updating it.
I don’t have any specific examples today, but I am struck by how there continues to be such widespread misunderstanding of the first amendment. I see regularly news reports and commentaries that seem to accept the premise that offensive statements can, or should, be outlawed.
It’s really pretty simple: There’s no exception to the first amendment for statements that offend. Remember when a high official in the Catholic Church said recently that speech is not protected if it is “hate speech… intended to ridicule another religion?” That is not the law. The government can’t prohibit a statement just because its content is offensive.
Yes, there are certain categories of speech that can be outlawed without violating the first amendment, but statements that offend are not one of those categories.
Don’t just take my word for it. Read the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, decided in 1992.
I have not been paying a whole lot of attention to the home mortgage situation, but I did notice last week that the Wall Street Journal reported on an announcement that the federal agencies that provide backing for home mortgages will lower the down payment requirement to as little as 3%. Just for some perspective, that would mean you could get a loan on a house up to $333,333 with a down payment of less than $10,000!
I also read a couple of pretty lucid commentaries in Bloomberg View about the decision to lower the down payment requirement. First this one, which makes an interesting observation about what happened in the residential lending market only a few years ago:
"…once the housing boom of the 2000s began, everything got messy. It was a frenzy compounded by three big errors:
1) Credit standards shifted from the borrower's ability to service the debt to the lender's ability to sell the loan to a securitizer
2) Automated underwriting was compromised by banking staffers
3) Overwhelming volume led to documentation errors."
Then I read this commentary, opining on the downside of (re)adopting policies that make home loans easier to get:
"But there are huge drawbacks to housing, too. Leveraged bets are great when they pay off; when they don’t, they leave you dead broke. Especially a bet on a large, illiquid asset such as a house. Put a homeowner into one of these gambles at the age of 35, send the local housing and job markets south a few years later, and the end result is a broke middle-age person with trashed credit in desperate need of a good rental unit. Which legislators should know, because we seem to have a lot of them around right now.
You also end up with a much more unstable housing market. When a huge segment of the market has negative equity or has equity too low to cover the substantial costs of a sale, then in any economic downturn, you are going to end up with a lot of foreclosures. Those foreclosures will, in turn, depress both the housing market and the broader local economy.
…most of us still haven’t managed to shed the idea that buying a house is a good way to get some unearned bonus wealth. Too many people managed to do just that for too many years. We think of 2008 as an aberration, rather than reversion to the mean. And that’s a costly mental error."
Those comments strike me as pretty insightful.
ATTEMPTED THEFT BY DEED
According to a newspaper story, a thief in Queens, New York, recorded a fraudulent deed naming himself as the owner of an uninhabited house (but that still had a houseful of the real owner’s personal possessions in it), then moved in with his two adult sons. When the real owner called the police, the thief told the police that he had purchased the house.
The thief was eventually arrested, but it’s still not clear (at least from the follow-up newspaper article) when the owner will recover possession of the property. To me, that’s the scary part of this incident: apparently, the police would not or could not remove from the house people who never had any legal right to be there.
BLOG COMMENT OF THE DAY
That’s a quote attributed to Bruce Lee, the famed martial artist and actor. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. He’s advocating action (of course). Don’t get paralyzed by indecision. When confronted with a difficult or unpleasant task, the way to start is to identify a step you can take right now toward accomplishing the task, no matter how small that step is, and do it.
It is true that sometimes, problems solve themselves if you leave them alone for a while. It is also true that if you are stuck, letting something sit for a while, then coming back to it, can often result in new insight that helps you complete the task. Too often, however, those can just be ways to procrastinate. My solution is to let a tough task sit for a little while, then grab it and get it done whether I have any new insight or not.
Did you know that (according to Wikipedia), the pallbearers at Lee’s funeral included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and George Lazenby? That’s quite a cast, right there.
It's a subject I have touched on in the more specific context of driverless cars, but the more general idea of technological advances, and specifically automation, "destroying jobs" and hence destabilizing society is given a pretty good debunking in this post.
My Estate Planning Law Report for September, now posted in the publications section of deconcinimcdonald.com (or, if you prefer, dmyl.com), is the first in what I anticipate will be a series covering practical suggestions for getting started on planning your estate.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.