The Marital Deduction: A Valuable Estate Planning Tool

The federal estate tax marital deduction is one of the most important estate planning tools available to a married couple. The basic marital deduction rule is that, upon the death of the first spouse, the value of any interest in property passing to the surviving spouse is deducted from the decedent spouse’s gross estate. This means that the amount passing to the surviving spouse escapes taxation in the decedent spouse’s estate. Read more

Employment Law: Noncompetition Agreements and Arbitration

Although the Federal Arbitration Act is federal legislation, that is, the law of the land, the frequency with which it is part of standard employment contracts means that state courts, rather than federal courts, are more frequently called on to apply the Act to a contract dispute. Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Act declares “a national policy favoring arbitration.” More recently, it has firmly come down against what it regarded as a state supreme court’s “judicial hostility” towards arbitration. Read more

Real Estate Deals Gone Wrong

The ageless advice to read, understand, and expect to be bound by language in a contract you sign is as sound now as ever. It is especially important with respect to contracts to buy real property, where the financial stakes are often high. Jerome contracted to buy property, delivering a $5,000 deposit to be credited toward the purchase price. An addendum to the contract agreed to by the parties stated that in the event the seller breached the agreement or defaulted, Jerome was entitled to the return of his earnest money and cancellation of the contract, as his “sole and exclusive remedy.” Read more

Business Law & Taxes: Estimated Taxes for Business Owners

Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that isn’t subject to withholding, most notably earnings from self‑employment. Many owners of small businesses—whether operated as S corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies electing partnership taxation, or sole proprietorships—pay their estimated tax using the same IRS Form 1040‑ES that individuals use. Read more

Personal Injury Law: Applying the “Golden Rule” to Liability Arguments

A “golden rule” argument asks jurors to place themselves in the position of a party. For example, an attorney may ask jurors how much the loss of the use of their legs would mean to them or ask them to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Virtually all courts have considered such arguments to be improper if made in regard to damages. However, courts appear to be split as to whether such arguments are permissible with reference to liability.

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Property Law: Standing of Mortgagee Assignee to Bring Foreclosure Action

Both state and federal courts have recently decided numerous cases addressing the issue of standing to bring a foreclosure action. Defendants to foreclosure proceedings often have few defenses, but they should closely scrutinize the ability of the plaintiff to bring the complaint if the plaintiff is allegedly an assignee of the noteholder and not the original lender.

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Business Law: Copyrights & the First-Sale Doctrine

Under the “first sale doctrine,” the owner of a copyrighted item, such as a book or a recording, is free to use it, sell it, lend it, or give it away under whatever conditions the owner chooses to impose.  This doctrine derives from a long line of jurisprudence, see Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908), and is now embodied in the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 109(a) (“[T]he owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.”).

Until now, the extent of the application of the first-sale doctrine to books sold overseas and then imported into the United States remained an open question.

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Employment Law: Discrimination in the Workplace—Cautionary Tale for Employers on Religious Harassment

Although sexual harassment is now a well‑known pitfall for employers, the potential exposure to liability for harassment based on religion often receives less attention. Recent decisions from state and federal courts show, however, that employers must be proactive to avoid potential claims based on religious harassment. See May v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 716 F.3d 963 (7th Cir. 2013); Cowher v. Carson & Roberts, 40 A.3d 1171 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2012).

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