529A Accounts for Disabled Individuals

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) became law in December 2014.  Similar to the 529 college saving plans, ABLE allows people with disabilities and their families to put aside funds for disability-related costs.  Set up by the state and administered through financial institutions, the income from qualified 529A Accounts for Disabled Individuals accrues tax-free.

The law defines qualified individuals as those eligible for benefits under the Social Security Act title II or XVI.  In addition, if a physician has diagnosed blindness, medical or mental disability causing significant impairment to an individual aged 26 or younger and the condition has existed or will exist for at least one year or is likely to end in death, the individual has eligibility.

Depending on state law, the qualified accounts cannot exceed an annual limit of $14,000 although individuals can set-up their account in any state offering 529A plans. States may allow contributions as a tax deduction but federal law does not.  Anyone can contribute money which normally qualifies as a tax-free gift.  As long as the total ABLE account does not exceed $100,000, the individual remains eligible for SSI benefits, a change from the previous means-tested limit of $2,000. [Read more…]

Excellent Service

Eric, has taken me through two divorce modifications with negotiating partners that were, to put it charitably, highly aggressive, lacking in full disclosure and not always reasonable. Throughout it all, Eric kept his eye on the ball and his calming influence with our opposites was instrumental in securing outcomes that were very closely aligened with our original objectives. I would readily recommend Eric.

David, divorce client

Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Many parents-to-be wonder just how much time from work they can take off when their child is born.

Effective April 7, 2015, under Massachusetts law, men and women will both be covered under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), which makes them eligible for eight weeks of job-protected leave related to the birth, adoption, or court-ordered placement of a child in their home. The original MMLA provided female employees the right to take eight weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child, without any provisions for male employees or in cases where a child was placed in the home by court order (for example, a guardianship or a foster care situation.)

The amendments to the MMLA provide that men are also eligible to take the eight weeks off to bond with the new child, under the following circumstances: [Read more…]

Estate and Advanced Care Planning is for Single People too

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Being single doesn’t mean you do not need an estate plan. Single people need to be taken care of if they become incapacitated and also want to have a say in how their property is distributed after their death. Single people often have unique considerations when planning for the future. Married couples most often have their spouses act as their fiduciary in the event of incapacitation or death. Older couples with adult children general have their children designated to make decisions when they or their spouse can no longer do so. Single people without children need to involve friends or other relatives in their medical emergency and end of life arrangements. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where the Commonwealth has to appoint a stranger to make decisions for you.

Documents used to convey what should take place if a single person becomes incapacitated can include a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy or other advance care directive and/or an authorization under HIPPA rules. Employing one or more of these documents will authorize your agent to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able. [Read more…]

Child Custody – In the Best Interests of the Children

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and parenting arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine if arrangements are “in the best interests of the children”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, seek competent legal representation and hire an attorney who can ensure that you have a parenting plan that you are comfortable with and is able to meet the necessary legal requirements.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody. When a couple files for divorce, both parents are presumed to be granted temporary shared legal custody. This allows both parents to have equal responsibility (and rights) concerning major decisions like medical care, education and religious development. Legal custody does not cover the day-to-day decisions such as what to have for dinner or what time to go to bed. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about the schooling or religious upbringing of children can surface. Having an attorney can ensure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law. [Read more…]

White Collar Crimes in Massachusetts

posted by Eric Schutzbank

White Collar Crimes in Massachusetts cover a broad range of financially motivated nonviolent criminal activities including embezzlement, fraud, employee theft, and forgery. They can also include internet-related crimes such as identity theft and credit card fraud. Statistics show these crimes account for over $400 billion in losses to the U.S economy alone.

In Massachusetts, penalties for white collar crimes are especially serious; therefore, it is important to seek the counsel of attorneys who are experienced in defending these types of crimes to ensure the best outcome.

Common Types of White Collar Crimes:

  • Financial Fraud: Conspiracy to commit or committal of insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, insider trading, healthcare/welfare fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  • Corruption: Bribery, violation of laws by a public servant or official, or unethical behavior by a local or government employee for personal gain.

[Read more…]

Massachusetts Holds Parents Accountable for “Social Hosting”

posted by Eric Schutzbank

It’s well-known that the legal drinking age in all states, including Massachusetts, is 21. Less know, however, are the liabilities associated with “social hosting”. Social hosting refers to providing alcohol or other substances to a minor that is not your own child on your property or in an environment you control. Especially during graduation time, some parents reason if they provide alcohol at a party at their private residence in a safe environment, ensuring that minors do not drink and drive, they are not committing a crime. Massachusetts’ “Social Host” law says that they are. Consider the consequences and situations covered by this law:

  • You could pay fines and go to jail. The penalty in Massachusetts for “social hosting” is a fine up to $2,000 and/or prison time for up to one year. Of course, if injury occurred, such as if a child died in an accident after leaving your home, you could be convicted of more serious crimes, resulting in a longer prison sentence.
  • You could pay civil penalties as well. Providing alcohol to minors makes you liable for their actions. You could be sued for millions of dollars if that child injuries himself or another person after consuming the alcohol you provided. Since homeowner’s insurance will often not cover injuries as a result of criminal activity, you may be personally responsible for financial damages.

[Read more…]

Longtime Lowell law firm moves to N. Andover

By Dan O’Brien | Lowell Sun

LOWELL — A longtime family law firm has moved its offices from Gorham Street to North Andover.

After 20 years in Lowell, Berid & Schutzbank, LLC, recently made the move to 800 Turnpike St., Suite 304, in North Andover.

In a phone interview Monday, managing member Eric Schutzbank said the move was made to create a more centralized location for a client base that has extended to the North Shore and into southern New Hampshire, as well as for “balance of work-life issues.”

“I live here in North Andover, so this move allows me to work closer to home,” he said.

Schutzbank said the firm was originally formed in 1980 by his former partner, Maxa Berid. He joined the firm in 1995, working in Lowell until a month ago.

“I have a strong affinity and fondness for Lowell,” Schutzbank said, noting he had worked for a time with the National Park Service.

Berid retired from litigation in 2010, and as counsel earlier this year, leaving Schutzbank as the firm’s lone attorney. The only other employee is Alison Dorsey.

Berid & Schutzbank practices family law, including divorce, custody, removal, parenting issues, child support, grandparents’ rights, as well as criminal law, guardianships and elder issues.

Schutzbank, a family-law attorney and criminal-defense lawyer, is a former president of the Greater Lowell Bar Association.

Recording the Police with Your Smartphone – a Constitutional Right or Unlawful Wiretapping?

posted by Eric Schutzbank

In the era of ubiquitous personal technology, it may seem that we have an unbridled right to use our smartphones to photograph or record anything and everything. We may particularly want to record the police to verify that they are serving and protecting the public and not violating individual rights. Be careful, even here in our great state of Massachusetts, the police can still lawfully charge and arrest you for recording them in certain circumstances.

Recently, a woman was charged with unlawful wiretapping by the Springfield police for recording her arrest. The Springfield Republican reported that a 24 year-old woman was arrested for disorderly conduct and the police discovered in her possessions a smartphone with the audio recorder activated. When she was arrested, the police claim that Ms. Dziewit had yelled that she was recording the entire incident. Subsequently, the police further charged her with violating the Massachusetts law prohibiting wiretapping. In Massachusetts, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a maximum $5000 fine to record any conversation without the consent of all parties. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 272 § 99. [Read more…]

We Have Moved To Our New North Andover Location

Berid & Schutzbank, LLC is pleased to announce as of July 9, 2014 our new office location will be 800 Turnpike Street, North Andover, Massachusetts.

After twenty years in the great city of Lowell, we are moving to a more centralized location to better serve our clients throughout the Merrimack Valley, Southern New Hampshire, Boston North Shore, and the Greater Lowell area.

As a well-established law firm in this region, we are committed to the continued pursuit of excellence, effective communication, and the strictest personal and professional ethics as well as the utmost concern for our clients.

We continue to concentrate in family law (divorce, custody, removal, parenting issues, child support, contempts and grandparents rights), criminal law, guardianships, and elder issues.

We invite you to contact us at our new office location if we may be off assistance to you now or anytime in the future.

Thank you.

New Office Information

Berid & Schutzbank, LLC
800 Turnpike Street, Suite 304
North Andover, MA  01845

Tel: (978) 655-4282
Tel: (978) 459-8845

Fax: (978) 655-3693
Email: eschutzbank@berid-schutzbank.com
Web: www.Berid-Schutzbank.com