I worked in lending. I SUGGEST --  Find the right lender that will protect you and your personal  information, perform the tasks needed to present you with a loan package in a timely manner ready to close. Too many lenders still promise ridiculously low rates and will take pretty much forever to close a loan. Others promise really fast turn times, but the rates are much higher than other direct lenders. Unless a consumer is in a big hurry - they should shop rates and check performance. Always get pre-approved, not pre-qualified and stay in budget. The lending business is full of unscrupulous people who have no inclination to help the consumer - they are after a payoff and a commission. Be careful. If you want some general advice about lending and lenders, give me a call. I'd be happy to offer suggestions. 


Remember that any cash "gifts" (that includes stocks) which you intend as  CHRISTMAS gifts to relatives,  are maxed out at $16,000 per donee. And giving/gifting is "rebooted" at the end of each year. In other words, Gifting to someone on January 1st 2016 applies to 2016, not 2015, even if you intended it to apply for this year. The maximum of $16,000 applies to 2015, and 2016. I am not a tax attorney,  so if you have questions on what you can and cannot gift to a donee find  and retain a tax attorney and consult your accountant before gifting. There are also lifetime limits.    


A client called me after his mom had died. He wanted to know if Proposition 13 ( The Law Protecting Real Estate Tax increases) could be used by him and his sister. The simple answer was simple and not so simple. My answer was yes - there is a one-time exemption for transfer to children and if title transferred to him and his sister they would retain the tax basis for  the home. Unfortunately he had title to the property changed to his sister and her daughter (leaving him off title), then back to him and his sister as joint tenants. With that second change of title, the exemption was lost. If you have questions about title and transfer rights check first with an attorney. 



Medicaid has a 5 year waiting  period regarding asset transfer. If mom or dad are placed in a  long-term nursing home medicare pays for the care, but if there are non-tranfered assets. However there are exceptions to the rule, but those decisions, if any need to be made before mom or dad pass. If the home is owned by them and the Medicare costs run well beyond liquid assets (and they rarely don't) the State will lien the home, and eventually sell it. If the bills exceed the equity in the home, the family will get nothing.  Consultation with an attorney, proactively, might save a family a lot of money including saving an ancestral home the State liening and then selling your mom or dad's home.  



 Thomas v Dang (12/7/2015) Plaintiff loaned defendant over $100,000. The SELF-REPRESENTED defendant (worth millions according to her own trial testimony) never raised a Statute of Limitations defense even though plaintiff sued her almost 20 years after the loan was made. (A "loan on demand" is due on the date of the loan thus a complaint must be brought within 4 years). 
The Appeals Court didn't rule on that issue, but in dicta offered that had the Defendant brought it up,at trial, she would have defensed the claim. 
Moral of the story? If you are "worth millions" and decide to represent yourself, you might lose a lot of money. Call me for a consultation. Had Dang called me, it would have cost her about 1% of what she ultimately paid. 



When Arguing a case or defending a claim in Small Claims, keep in mind that, by statute, the Rules of Evidence will not apply, nor will they be used. It’s informal and often, for an attorney a headache. Even when one appeals a Small Claims Judgment (on appeal, you are allowed to have an attorney) Small Claims Commissioners are often more interested in speed than evidence. I have argued cases in front of Commissioners who want to hear the evidence and do take the process seriously. I have also argued Small Claims appeals  in front of Commissioners who treat their appointment as something akin to Knighthood. They will interrupt testimony, ignore litigantsss and simply refuse to listen attorneys. One Appeal I wasn't allowed to cross examine a plaintiff.  If you have the time, and believe evidence will be more important than emotion, a party to a Small Claims case should seriously consider employing their right to an appointed judge. Judges take their jobs seriously and usually will not interrupt testimony. Nonetheless speaking with an attorney before appearing for either the Small Claims trial or the Appeal is critical.