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A Tree Falls and Causes Damage to Persons and Property—Who is Liable?

 By Lindsey C. Franklin

​When a tree or limb falls and causes damage to property or persons, who is liable for the damages? The answer under Georgia law can be complicated, but generally depends on the answers to three questions:

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275 Hits

New Tax Proposals

 By John A. Meier, II

​Imbedded within all the news about Covid and other domestic issues can be found news about new tax proposals. However, much of that news is very confusing. If you search "Biden Tax Hikes" on the internet, your search will return over 31 million hits. With this much information, there is little chance that the average person can understand what is truly being proposed. However, there appears to be some proposals that are receiving a lot of attention. The most significant proposals that affect many of our clients are the increase of the maximum income tax rates, including the capital gains rate, and the elimination of the step-up in basis of inherited assets. Changing the rates is simple; just change the rate(s). Tax rates have been increased and decreased many times over the years and will change yet again. Congress certainly seems to know how to change tax rates! Making changes with long-standing cost basis concepts will be more difficult.

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  88 Hits
88 Hits

Tax Sales: Untapped Market with Significant Returns?

​By Cody W. Lyons

As the recovery from the Great Recession began, and with the introduction of many television programs depicting "house-flippers" earning huge profits on distressed homes purchased at foreclosure auctions, many new investors have entered the market of acquiring assets through judicial and non-judicial foreclosure sales. These foreclosure sales are often conducted by lenders on the courthouse steps after a borrower has defaulted on one or more of its obligations to a lender. A relatively newer and lesser-known type of asset acquisition opportunity is government-imposed tax sales.​

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  305 Hits
305 Hits

Traps for Unwary Landowners: Selling Undeveloped Land to Developers

By Nicholas P. Flint

In response to a number of recent factors, from COVID-19 to riots and higher inner-city crime rates, many states across the country are experiencing a new wave of "urban flight" (see https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-urban-flight-11592777032). In Georgia, the suburbs of Atlanta and even rural parts of the state have seen a sharp uptick in demand for existing and new housing, mostly from Atlantans seeking refuge and additional space.

Residential real estate prices are through the roof, and subdivision developers are licking their chops, especially with the relatively large supply of undeveloped land as compared to urban areas. The result: developers cannot buy land and build houses fast enough.
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  221 Hits
221 Hits

Use of Separate Writings for Gifts of Personal Property

​By John A. Meier, II

It is official: You can now use letters or lists to convey personal property to others as part of your estate planning. Effective January 1, 2021 the laws in Georgia changed to make the use of writings that are not part of a Last Will and Testament, such as letters or lists, binding on the Personal Representative of an estate (such as the Executor) and the other beneficiaries named in the Will. The use of gift letters and lists has always been fairly common practice, but those letters and lists were not legally binding on the Executor or beneficiaries. In many situations, the beneficiaries honored the wishes of the person writing the letter or list. However, if a beneficiary did not like the way the gifts were to be made as set forth in the letter or list, the Personal Representative could not be made to honor the deceased person wishes.

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  304 Hits
304 Hits

A New Tool to Fight Government Takings: Declaratory Judgments

​By Michael P. Bain

In Georgia, if a County, City, or governmental agency takes or affects your property or property rights without first filing a condemnation lawsuit and without paying you for the property taken and any damages caused, then you can file a lawsuit called an "inverse condemnation" action against that government. Such an inverse condemnation action has been, until recently, the only means by which to ensure the government does not completely violate your constitutional rights by its acts. As of January 1, 2021, however, attorneys representing landowners have a new tool in their toolkit: a declaratory judgment action.​

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  185 Hits
185 Hits

Guardianship for Your Special Needs Child

By Lindsey C. Franklin

​In Georgia, a child becomes a legal adult when he or she turns 18. At that time, your child will be legally able to make decisions on their own behalf, including such things as signing a lease agreement, entering into contracts, and exercising other such legal rights. For parents of children with special needs, this milestone presents a moment at which the parents must decide whether their child is capable of caring for his or her own needs. Depending on the severity of a child's special needs and other factors, parents may decide to petition the court for guardianship and/or conservatorship to retain the ability to make decisions about their child's healthcare, housing, food, clothing, and financial matters.

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  313 Hits
313 Hits

Protect Your Investment: Purchase and Sale of Commercial Real Estate

​By Cody W. Lyons

​Commercial real estate purchase and sale agreements, or PSAs, often appear overwhelming and complex, typically consisting of numerous pages of contingencies and 6-month or greater due diligence periods. Therefore, it is imperative to protect your interests at the outset, whether you are acting as a purchaser or a seller of commercial property. There are always obvious points of contention between a purchaser and a seller of real estate: Purchase price, due diligence period, contingencies, etc. Nonetheless, certain methods may be employed to protect a purchaser or seller that do not necessarily generate opposition or controversy from the other party to the transaction.

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  256 Hits
256 Hits

Biden Tax Plan Legal Advisory

By Anthony Cammarata Jr.

​With Democrats now in control of both the U.S. House and Senate, there are a host of changes to the tax laws that could be passed by Congress in the near future. President Biden's various tax proposals and intentions (collectively, the "Biden Plan") are comprehensive and contain propositions ranging from individual income tax increases to corporate tax reform, which will result in higher taxes for corporations as well. This advisory is meant to highlight some of the Biden Plan proposals for which individuals and companies should start seeking professional legal and tax-planning advice in preparation of their enactment.

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  363 Hits
363 Hits

A New Year's Resolution for Landlords: Start Preparing Now for a Potential Bubble Burst

 By Anthony Cammarata Jr. and Nicholas P. Flint

​While many of us may be happily leaving 2020 behind, the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately may follow us. In particular, the ramifications from missed or otherwise deferred rent payments are threatening a significant portion of the U.S. renting population, and the eviction bans previously put in place by questionable government "orders" that have protected tenants will soon expire. A bubble may be forming in the U.S. real estate market, and it is imperative that residential and commercial landlords plan now for a potential burst of that bubble in the new year.

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  330 Hits
330 Hits

Financing for Your Small Business: SBA Loans You Need to Know About (Part I - SBA 7(a))

 By Andrew T. Smith

​At some point over the life of a company, entrepreneurs will likely need to obtain financing in connection with the operations of their businesses. A business may need additional capital to replenish inventory, acquire machinery and equipment, cover wages for employees, or even make monthly rent payments to avoid an interruption in operations. When it comes to business financing, "SBA Loan" is a term that every business owner should be familiar with.

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  340 Hits
340 Hits

Georgia, It’s Time to Get Serious About Series LLCs

By Nicholas P. Flint

​​In recent years, limited liability companies (LLCs) have emerged as the predominate form of business entity in Georgia and throughout the United States, outpacing the number of new corporations formed by a margin of nearly five to one. LLCs offer a number of benefits, including flexibility and ease of operation, limited liability, and pass-through taxation.

When it comes to limitation of liability, generally speaking the members of an LLC are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the LLC. But while LLC members are not themselves personally liable for the LLC's debts, the assets owned by the LLC are still subject to being seized to satisfy the debts of the LLC. Therefore, particularly in the context of real estate, business owners will often form one LLC per parcel of real estate or project, in order to limit the liability to that property alone, since only the assets owned by that LLC would be subject to claims or lawsuits arising against that LLC. However, there are costs and administrative burdens associated with forming and maintaining a number of separate LLCs.

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  981 Hits
981 Hits

A Breakdown of Shared Property Rights

​By Rebecca N. Ciupak

For many people, one of the biggest milestones in life is buying a home, and that moment becomes even more special when it involves buying a home with a significant other. But did you know that there are several options for dividing ownership of property where more than one person is involved? In fact, the property rights an individual holds after purchasing property often hinge on which form of ownership the parties choose.

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  614 Hits
614 Hits

The Rights of Neighbors After Re-Zoning Decisions

By Cody W. Lyons

​Zoning is a vast and complex arena of law which can be discussed at length; this article merely highlights the rights of property owners and the procedures to follow when a property owner has been victimized by an unfavorable re-zoning decision. Generally, zoning commissions are bound by a comprehensive plan, which is designed to operate as a guidebook for future uses of land based on present and foreseeable needs of the community. However, local zoning boards are given a large amount of discretion and too often stray away from the comprehensive plan when doing so suits their personal interests or preferences.

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  357 Hits
357 Hits

Buyer Be Informed

By David L. Walker, Jr.

​My colleagues and I have written in the past about the doctrine of caveat emptor, which is commonly understood to mean "buyer beware." The term references the legal premise that a buyer of real estate is responsible for inspecting the property and structures that are on it to determine whether there are any defects or other conditions on the property that would interfere with its suitability for the use and needs contemplated by a buyer. Absent some form of fraudulent concealment or active misconduct by a seller, a buyer takes the property "as is" with no remedy for defects in the property.

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  359 Hits
359 Hits

Halloween Legal Myths

By John A. Meier, II

​With Halloween being near, these are some legal Myths that may be of interest:

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  454 Hits
454 Hits

Estate Planning for Your Modern Blended Family

By Lindsey C. Franklin 

​Remarriage after divorce creates uniquely blended family units that often involve navigating relationships with stepparents and children from previous marriage(s). Having complex family relationships, however, does not mean that your estate planning cannot be crafted to meet the needs of your blended family upon your death. These key estate planning tips are some of the many strategies that can help you avoid legal and financial headaches in the future:

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  404 Hits
404 Hits

Prelude to an Eminent Domain Lawsuit: The Administrative Review Conference

By Michael P. Bain

​If the government wants your property for a road or some other public project, you will usually be approached first by a negotiator. If you are unable to get the price you want from a negotiator, your next step, in many instances, is an administrative review. This "review" procedure is offered by the Georgia Department of Transportation, as well as many counties and municipalities, who view it as a last chance to reach an agreement before filing a lawsuit. The person whose property is sought by the government will usually receive a letter advising that you have ten days to ask for a review. The letter will request that the recipient provide the condemning authority with the lowest amount you are willing to accept to sell your property or rights, and will ask for support of these contentions. Once a timely response is sent, follow-up communication from an administrative review officer is usually sent to set up a time to discuss the property.

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  517 Hits
517 Hits

Choosing the Right Attorney to Handle Your Personal Injury Case

By John F. Connolly 

​So, you have the misfortune to be in a motor vehicle accident. Maybe a distracted driver turned left in front of you, or someone on a cell phone ran into your bumper from behind, or, worse, a drunk driver hit you on the interstate. Whatever the circumstances, you now face medical bills, missed time from work, and the pain and suffering that comes with a back injury, broken arm, muscle spasms, sore ribs, or whatever other injury you may have suffered in the accident.

As you face these issues, you may find yourself with many questions: Who pays for my medical bills? How do I get my car fixed? When can I get back to work? Do I really have to deal with that insurance adjuster? Should I get a lawyer?

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  446 Hits
446 Hits

Frequently Asked Questions for Employers Regarding COVID-19

By Anthony Cammarata Jr. 

While it may feel as if we have been dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic for a long time now, developments in COVID-19 guidance and regulations pertaining to employers are still relatively new and unclear. There have been times during this pandemic where I have had to reluctantly provide my corporate clients with the typical lawyer answer: "It depends." Unfortunately the laws regarding COVID-19 and how they will be interpreted and applied are still relatively unsettled and continually evolving, and it will take some time before enough cases have worked their way through the system to give us a clearer picture of the landscape.

That being said, at this point we can provide some basic guidance to employers on how they should handle certain situations. Below are several answers to frequently asked questions I have received from clients about the latest developments on the virus and its effects on the workplace:
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  484 Hits
484 Hits