mortgage interest deduction, real estate, taxes

News about the mortgage interest deduction!

New York title insurance

The Mortgage Interest Deduction

One of the critical pieces of any real estate investment, the mortgage interest deduction (MID), has always served as something of a bi-partisan political football!

For those who may be unfamiliar the MID allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on their mortgage from taxable income (subject of course to certain IRS rules) making it one of the only tax breaks for a large number of Americans.

With the GOP preparing to meet at its Convention August 27th in Tampa, compromise language in its platform was agreed to yesterday concerning the  mortgage interest deduction in the overall context of rewriting the tax-code of the United States.

The language states that short of any complete simplification of the tax-code by Congress that the MID would be preserved at all costs.

This deduction is critically important to all homeowners but particularly to those in the all-important middle class that both political parties are fighting for in the presidential election coming in November.

From The Wall Street Journal, “Allies of the real-estate industry on Tuesday succeeded in adding compromise language to the GOP platform supporting the mortgage-interest tax deduction, a day after they lost a fight on the issue.

The overnight turnaround on the issue reflects the real-estate industry’s continued lobbying clout – and the mortgage deduction’s ongoing curb appeal for voters – as Congress begins the process of streamlining the U.S. tax code…” (Source)

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At Hallmark Abstract Service our pledge to our clients is to deliver on 100% of what they expect from a title firm each and every time that they trust us with one of their valuable transactions.

Service, attention to detail, fast turnaround times, going the extra mile in every aspect of the transaction and reasonable pricing on non-policy related fees. These are just some of the things we focus on and that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment and we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, Owner

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

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business interruption, Business management, business preparedness

Business continuity and disaster preparedness!

Hallmark Abstract Service New York Title Insurance

How prepared is your business for an event that has the potential to shut you down, force a dislocation of key employees and/or potentially compromise your stored data?

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a presentation given by a gentleman whose expertise fell in this area that most of us are aware needs to be addressed but that typically isn’t. It’s kind of the business equivalent of estate planning for individuals.

He spoke about crisis management, business continuity planning and information protection that is in essence contingency planning for some exogenous event that is beyond the control of a business, unforeseeable and that could be devastating to the ability to conduct operations.

It would be a plan that once implemented “will mitigate those risks and protect critical business functions, assets and information with fast, comprehensive emergency response a key component to recovery.”

This type of plan will of course vary from business to business and from industry to industry but the basic premise is the same. Maintaining some semblance of business as usual that will keep a going concern going!

An example that he used was a steam-pipe rupturing in the heart of mid-town Manhattan that caused the evacuation of office buildings in the general vicinity. It was an evacuation that would last for an undetermined amount of time.

For companies that were unprepared for this type of event the result would have been devastating with critical information unaccessible, employees and management dislocated and business basically coming to a standstill.

Contrast that to a company that had a plan in place, systems and information duplicated and stored offsite, key personnel knowing exactly where to go and the ability to at least maintain a necessary level of operations until either the crisis passed or further plans were developed and implemented.

If anyone would like to see the Powerpoint from the presentation write to Mike Haltman at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com and he will forward it to you.

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At Hallmark Abstract Service our value proposition is to deliver on what it is that our clients expect from us each and every time that they trust us with one of their valuable transactions.

Service, attention to detail, fast turnaround times, willingness to go the extra mile and reasonable pricing on non-policy related fees are just some of the things we are focused on and that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment where we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, Owner

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

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Ethics, social media

Social Media, Ethics and the Practice of Law

At the ABA Annual meeting in Chicago that finishes up today social media and ethics have a clear place on the agenda!

When it comes to communication with clients, prospective clients or colleagues anyone who is reading this article surely will understand that social media and other technology has changed the landscape for doing business.

No longer are mailers or letters the sole option for networking, marketing or basic communicating. However, with this relative ease of use comes the associated danger of making some statement or comment that in some way could be construed as an ethics violation.

With that in mind the ABA House of Delegates is going to be considering the recommendations put forth by the Commission on Ethics 20/20.

In the meantime, according to an article Law.com, these are some suggestions for weaving through the potential minefield! Some  sound extremely common sensical but in that case reiterating the obvious never hurts!

Social media and ABA ethics!

1. REMEMBER THAT THE SAME RULES APPLY.

Blogs, social networks, Twitter, and the like remain relatively new forms of media, but the same old ethical rules apply. In fact, these new media generally do not require new rules.

Even the Ethics 20/20 Commission, after studying these issues for three years, concluded in a Dec. 28, 2011, report, “In general, we have found that the principles underlying our current Model Rules are applicable to these new developments. As a result, many of our recommendations involve clarifications and expansions of existing Rules and policies rather than an overhaul.”

2. DO NOT BETRAY CLIENT CONFIDENCES.

Exhibit A for how lawyers can get themselves into trouble online is Kristine Ann Peshek, the former Illinois assistant public defender whose law license was suspended for 60 days because of her blog postings that authorities said exposed client confidences.

Peshek believed and maintained that she was blogging about her clients anonymously. Bar authorities, however, concluded that she provided sufficient detail in some posts to allow specific clients to be identified.

My advice: Do not blog about your own clients or cases, except as to details that have unequivocally become public, such as when a case of yours is reported in an appellate opinion. There is plenty else for you to blog about.

3. AVOID INADVERTENTLY FORMING ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS.

Many lawyers don’t answer consumer questions in Q&A forums on sites such as Avvo and LinkedIn for fear of forming an attorney-client relationship.

The Ethics 20/20 Commission takes a reasonable approach to this issue, suggesting that this danger exists only when the lawyer gives the prospective client a “reasonable expectation” that he or she is willing to form an attorney-client relationship.

A lawyer can participate in these forums but also disavow any “reasonable expectation” by expressly using cautionary language and disclaimers in an answer. Keep your answers generic, avoid addressing highly specific facts, and expressly state that your answer should not be considered legal advice.

4. DO NOT SOLICIT.

Ethical rules prohibit lawyers from soliciting potential clients for pecuniary gain. Fear of solicitation keeps lawyers off of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Such fear is unfounded.

No question, a lawyer could solicit through any of these media — but the lawyer would have to be trying very hard to do so. For it to be a solicitation, it has to be targeted at a specific individual and intended to be perceived as an offer to provide legal services. Merely engaging with the public in an online forum of any kind is not solicitation.

5. STEER CLEAR OF UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE.

In my opinion, the current rules against unauthorized and multijurisdictional practice are archaic and senseless in today’s highly connected world. But they remain the rules. If you are admitted only in one state, you cannot give legal advice in another state.

To my knowledge, there has never been an ethics complaint against a lawyer for answering questions online in a Q&A forum or for participating in a discussion on Twitter or elsewhere online.

Even so, lawyers are well advised to refrain from giving fact-specific advice online — and to include disclaimers in any answers they provide to consumer questions. There is a big difference between educating about law and advising about law.

6. UNDERSTAND THE RULES ON RECOMMENDATIONS.

ABA Model Rule 7.2 says, “A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services.” Does this mean you cannot provide an endorsement of a colleague on sites such as LinkedIn or Avvo? Absolutely not, provided nothing of value is exchanged. But can you promise to provide an endorsement if the other attorney promises to endorse you in return? That quid pro quo could be seen as an exchange of value.

The ABA 20/20 Commission provided a very different example. One law firm distributed free T-shirts emblazoned with its name. It then offered a chance to win a prize to anyone who posted a photo on Facebook wearing the firm’s shirt. “The firm arguably gave people something ‘of value’ (the shirt and the opportunity to win a prize) for ‘recommending the lawyer’s services’ and thus might be viewed as running afoul of the existing version of Rule 7.2,” the commission wrote.

7. REMEMBER THE RULE ON TRIAL PUBLICITY.

ABA Model Rule 3.6 limits what a lawyer can say about his or her own cases. The rule says that you cannot say anything that “will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.”

Consider Florida lawyer Mark O’Mara, who recently launched a social media campaign on behalf of his client George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer accused of killing teenager Trayvon Martin. O’Mara’s efforts included a blog, Twitter account and Facebook page — was that not meant to somehow “prejudice” the matter? This is a very gray area, but one lawyers should be mindful of when they blog or tweet about their cases — and another good reason not to blog about your own cases in the first place.

8. MAKE NO FALSE OR MISLEADING STATEMENTS.

If the profession were to have only one ethical rule, it would be this: Do not misrepresent yourself, your services or your capabilities. This is embodied in ABA Model Rule 7.1, which prohibits false or misleading communications. Social media offer a powerful form of marketing, especially for young and less-experienced lawyers.

In the enthusiasm to build a practice, lawyers should be cautious not to overstate their capabilities and experience.

9. BECOME COMPETENT IN TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA.

You will not find anything in the ABA Model Rules or your own state’s ethical rules about competence in technology. Yet it only makes sense: The best way to stay out of trouble with any medium is to understand how it works. If you are uneducated about technology and social media, you are more susceptible to tripping up.

Although the Model Rules are silent on this, the ABA 20/20 Commission has proposed to change that. The commission has suggested that the comment to Model Rule 1.1, on competence, be amended to require that lawyers not only maintain competence in law and practice, but also in “the benefits and risks associated with technology.”

10. USE COMMON SENSE.

To me, it all comes back to this. Exercise common sense in your use of social media and you are unlikely to get into trouble.

Think carefully about that blog post before you hit publish. Consider all 140 of those characters before you send out a tweet.

Always be mindful of that now-old saw, “If you wouldn’t want to read it on the front page ofThe New York Times, don’t post it online.”

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