More on Vail

For reasons that escape me, the Nevada State Bar holds its annual convention outside of Nevada. This year Vail, last year Chicago, year before that Austin. Next year New Orleans. By careful budgeting, I generally am able to attend these annual meetings. The topics discussed are generally quite relevant to my practice.

This year, for example, one of the main topics was women and their recent emergence as a dominant force in the Nevada legislature. The question? Were the thousand of new laws passed this year different from laws that would have been passed by a male-dominated legislature?

Of course, there was no definitive answer. We were, however, treated to a discussion of this by woman legislators and it was quite interesting. First, the phenomena, if it be such, was explained by Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall, as resulting from term limits, limits which cleared the field of many otherwise unbeatable incumbents. This was good as it allowed new blood in that body, but bad in the sense that it gave more power to lobbyists, lobbyists not being subject to term limits.

As might be expected, there was no consensus except that, perhaps, since most of the woman legislators were also Democrats, a largely liberal session was the result.

I can’t help but cringing at some of the excesses, whether blamable on women or on Democrats, such as the decision to allow state workers to “unionize”. It will be recalled that the reason for unions, being to force companies to more equitably share profits with their employees, simply does not apply to state workers as state governments are not profit making enterprises. So, whatever they are, collectives of state workers are not unions…they are simply lobbyists, funded by taxes, whose sole purpose for being is to increase taxes. If we are lucky, the current crowd will be replaced by legislators who are not beholden to public collectives. It is obviously unfair to force, say, a $10 per hour waiter, to, under threat of prison, pay taxes to support a lobbying effort to raise the salaries of a $50 per hour state engineer.

Attorney Fees

At this weekend’s Nevada State Bar convention in Vail, Colorado, one of the speakers hit upon a topic dear to the heart of clients and their lawyers. The speaker, a professor at Georgetown law school, started his lecture with maps. Yes, maps. He pointed out how the law is much like a map, in that the client and his lawyer go from place to place. But, unlike maps, there is little in the way of fee reference points. The lawyer simply says something like: “I will charge you $600 per hour but, since I have no clue how hard the other side will fight, I can’t fix the ultimate fee at this time.” So the client can’t budget or assess whether to settle or proceed. If its not a life-changing dispute, the client will often just capitulate or try to represent himself.

The professor told us attendees that help was on the way in the form of analytics…computer programs that show the average high and the average low number of attorney hours for that kind of dispute. I bought one of those programs and plan to learn to use it soon. Fairness to both the lawyer and the client involves some way of knowing the unknowable. At least its worth a try. I will report as I learn how to use the program.

Home equity caution

The media is full of ads trying to get homeowners to borrow on their home, at low interest, and to use the $ to pay off high-interest credit cards, etc.

Just remember: Over half a million dollars of home equity in Nevada is exempt from judgment creditors. To use exempt money to pay off debt, such a credit card debt, which is subject to being discharged in bankruptcy is at the top of the “poor money-management ideas” bucket and rightfully so.

June 5

I’ll likely figure out how to index these Blogs someday, but meanwhile, I will just title them with the date written. I spent most of this morning, doing what I often do: handling living trust problems. This fellow, now deceased, had set up a living trust back in the mid nineties. He had babied it for about 10 years and then forgot about it. So when he died the other day, his bank account and his safe deposit box were in his own name. They were not owned by the trust. I am in the process of deciding between the two available opportunities: Simply file a probate and, as he left a pour-over will, have the probate court distribute the bank account etc to the trustee of his trust or, in the alternative, file a Heggsted suit. Heggsted is available here as the decedent actually listed his bank account and account number on Schedule A to his trust. Probate is simpler, but takes six to eight months. And the executor can open and inventory the safe deposit box. Heggsted is faster but is no help with the safe-deposit box as it is not listed on Schedule A as being owned by the trust. So a petition for an order authorizing my client to open and inventory the safe deposit box would be necessary.