Legal News for You

“Ponzi-Like” Scheme Highlights Risks of Pre-paid Funerals

Here’s an important article about pre-paid funerals: “Ponzi-Like” Scheme Highlights Risks of Pre-paid Funerals.


In Iowa, Gun Permits for the Blind Seen as OK

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 9, 2013 1:03 PM on

Thanks to the way Iowa’s gun laws are written, the Hawkeye State is seeing a strange and controversial result: Iowa officials are issuing gun permits to blind people.

Iowa, like all other states in the nation, allows the carrying of certain concealed firearms in public with a proper state-issued permit. And Iowa law seems to agree with visually-impaired Iowans like Michael Barber, who told the Des Moines Register he doesn’t believe “eyesight is necessary” to properly firing a gun.

Is it really legal to allow those who can’t see the right to carry around a firearm?

Iowa’s Concealed Carry Law

Passed in 2010, Iowa’s SF 2379 provided that starting in 2011, Iowans who meet the law’s training requirements and apply for a permit, with some exceptions, must be issued a license to carry a concealed firearm.

That includes blind individuals like Barber, who may literally not be able to hit the broad side of a barn with a firearm.

On the other hand, one Iowa sheriff insisted that “blind people can be taught to shoot guns,” which may explain why at least four Iowa counties have issued permits to visually impaired citizens, reports the Des Moines Register.

Each state can legally promote its own gun regulations restricting public gun possession. Like many other states, Iowa does prohibit felons, minors, and drug addicts from obtaining gun permits — just not the blind.

Discrimination Against the Blind?

While many Iowans worry about issuing permits to those persons who cannot even obtain a driver’s license due to their impairments, the executive director of Disability Rights Iowa told the Register that denying these gun permits might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA and most state public accommodation laws prevent discrimination against an individual based on a recognized disability, like blindness.

However, some states like Nebraska and South Carolina require “proof of vision” to be presented before issuing any person a concealed carry permit, reports the Register.

In January, in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, blind performer Stevie Wonder spoke openly about the idea of persons with similar impairments owning and carrying guns. Wonder called the idea “just crazy,” reports The Huffington Post.

Crazy or not, it appears blind Iowans may legally be able to pack both a cane and heat.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act (Fiscal Cliff)

On January 1, 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the “2012 Act”) that was passed by Congress during the past 72 hours, bringing closure to the main tax aspects of the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations that have been ongoing since the November election.

Among its many tax provisions, the 2012 Act makes permanent the $5.0 million gift, estate, and generation-skipping tax exemption amount that was put in place temporarily for 2011 and 2012, plus inflation adjustments going forward.

The 2012 Act also provides for a flat 40% tax rate for any transfers in 2013 and future years that exceed the gift, estate, or generation-skipping tax exemption amount.

One of the most important features of the 2012 Act is that it makes permanent the “portability” concept whereby the unused estate tax exemption amount of the first spouse to die can be passed to the surviving spouse for later use by the surviving spouse (either during life or at death). This would give the surviving spouse a total of the deceased spouse’s exemption and the surviving spouse’s exemption, subject to limitation if a later marriage occurs.  Because of this feature, it is less important for married couples to have a “Bypass” or “A-B” trust, which creates complications for the surviving spouse.

Other notable changes for 2012 in this area include an inflation adjustment to increase the annual gift tax exclusion from $13,000 to $14,000 per donee.

These significant gift and estate tax law changes will hopefully bring a degree of stability to an area of tax law that has been under constant revision and uncertainty for the past twenty years.

For the charitably-minded – One interesting provision in the 2012 Act relates to charitable contributions made from IRA’s for those who are over age 70 ½ and take “required minimum distributions” (“RMD’s”). The 2012 Act extends the prior “charitable rollover” treatment from 2010 and 2011 law to 2013 charitable contributions of up to $100,000 from an IRA. It also allows individuals who took their 2012 RMD in December, 2012 (but apparently not during the prior 11 months of 2012) to make charitable contributions prior to February 1, 2013 of up to $100,000, and have such charitable contributions treated as if made in 2012 from their IRA, thereby offsetting the 2012 income from their RMD.

Trivia Time: Little Known Facts about Wills and Trusts from

[author: Jennifer King]

Legal News for You Historically, a “will” was used to distribute of real estate after one’s death and a “testament” was used to dispose of personal property. Today those instructions are combined into a single document, called a “last will and testament.”

British Scientist James Smithson make a bequest in 1829 in his last will and testament, instructing: “I then bequeath the whole of my property… to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” Curiously, Smithson had never visited the United States.

The record for the longest will ever probated is held by an English woman, Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook. Although her estate was only valued at about $100,000, her last will and testament ran 1066 pages and 95,940 words.

In contrast, the shortest known wills are each three words long. Indian Bimla Rishi’s will read “all to son” and German Karl Tausch’s read “all to wife.”

A recent study estimates that 11 percent of Britons have included their Internet passwords in their last will and testament.

In Alberta, Canada, your last will and testament is automatically invalidated when you get married, but it remains valid when you get divorced.

Famous Americans who died without a valid will include Sonny Bono, Kurt Cobain, John Denver, Chris Farley, Howard Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his last will and testament, the late actor and comedian Del Close requested that his skull go to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre so he could “play” Yorick in Hamlet after his death. The executor of Close’s estate couldn’t find anyone willing to remove his head from the body, so he was eventually cremated intact. His executor then gave the Goodman another skull (purchased from a local science supply store), which has been used in several plays.

The “will of Uah” is the oldest-known will in existence. It was found in a tomb in Egypt and dates to 2548 B.C. In it, Uah leaves all of his property to his wife Teta.

Historians have also found a power of attorney from Mesopotamia that dates to 561 B.C. In it, a man authorizes his brother to conduct business on his behalf.

Although some estate planning tools have been used for thousands of years, others are much more recent. In September 1976, California became the first state to legalize the use of the living will, which gives people control over their end-of-life medical treatment.

Facebook Organ Donation Can’t Take the Place of a Proper Living Will


On Tuesday morning, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on ABC that he added an organ donation tool on Facebook, which would allow donors to put on their timelines their decision to donate organs.

Shortly thereafter, organ donation organizations began receiving phone calls and emails with people interested in becoming organ donors. Zuckerberg said that he was motivated in part by his late friend Steve Jobs and in part by his girlfriend, a medical student.

The Facebook tool will be yet another way for prospective organ donors to specify their wishes to donate their organs upon their impending death.

Organ donation requires that the donor be brain-dead but kept alive by machines. A person can usually designate themselves as an organ donor on their drivers’ license or by specifying their wishes to loved ones.

But one of the most effective ways to specify organ donation is through an estate plan.

How does an estate plan tie into organ donation? When people think of an estate plan, they often think of the disposition of their assets upon death.

A full estate plan has many documents. Some of these documents are related to incapacity and health care decisions. Specifically, an advance health care directive can specify your wishes in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions.

For prospective organ donors who want to be more precise or specific about their organ donation wishes, they can specify these types of things in the health care directive.

While the Facebook tool certainly helps people make and memorialize their decisions on organ donation, a Facebook timeline by no means replaces a solid estate plan.

Nevertheless, Mark Zuckerberg’s new idea has shed light on the issue and importance of organ donation.



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