Conservative Christian Law

Hello Everyone!

If you are receiving this letter, it is due to the fact that you have allowed me the honor of helping you with your legal needs over the past several years. Whether I have created your estate planning documents (including Your Will, Revocable Living Trust, Powers of Attorney, and Living Will), have helped you to create a corporation or LLC, have assisted you with the buying or selling of a home, have directed your family in the process of administering a trust estate, have handled the probate estate of a loved one, have assisted in the appeal of a VA claim, or have helped you in the process of dealing with a personal injury or medical malpractice case, I greatly appreciate your trust in my abilities as your attorney.

As we are in a new year, now is the perfect time to review the documents that we have created in the past or think about the legal needs that you or your loved ones may have in the upcoming year. If you are interested in reviewing your documents or you would like to discuss your future legal needs, I will continue to provide you with the same level of hard work and service that I provide to all of my clients.
Please remember to contact me if you or your family and friends need legal advice or counsel in the following areas:

1. Preparation or update of Estate Planning documents, including but not limited to:
* Last Will and Testament
* Revocable Living Trust
* Powers of Attorney for Financial and Medical needs
* Living Will
* Ensuring the proper funding of your assets into a Revocable Living Trust
* Indicating the proper beneficiaries of your financial accounts
2. Buying or Selling Real Estate
3. Creation of a Corporation or LLC
4. Estate administration, including the administration of a Revocable Living Trust
5. Probate cases and administration
6. Counsel regarding Personal Injury or Medical Malpractice cases
7. VA appeals

I look forward to continuing to serve you with your legal needs. If you have any questions, or if I may be of assistance at any time to you or your family, please do not hesitate to contact me at the number listed below.

Respectfully,

Jeremy Ramsey
Attorney at Law

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Live or Let Probate, Part 1

If you watch the news or read a newspaper shortly after some noted celebrity dies, it is always remarkable how quickly the media turns from the so-called notoriety of the deceased person’s life, to “What did the individual state in their Will?” Of course with our world’s obsession with gossip and materialism, it is no stretch of the imagination to see this type of question. However, in the legal profession, when I observe these situations, I always ask the question, “Why didn’t their attorney do more for them than just write a Will?”

Most people will face a time in their life when they start to realize that they are not immortal. It is at that time that they begin to worry about what will happen in the future to their possessions and how will they take care of their loved ones when they leave this earth. In that time most people will ask around to find an attorney or simply find an ad in the yellow pages or on the internet of an attorney who supposedly practices estate planning. When they meet with the attorney, he or she will write them a Will. After all, that’s what everybody does, right?

What most people do not realize is that when they meet with the attorney who writes their Last Will and Testament, they are very likely to have the following results:

  1. The attorney actually completed a very simple legal document and, quite possibly, did the least that they could for the client.
  2. The attorney hopefully did not charge a fee that was too extravagant, because what they did not tell you (most likely) is that after your death, your family will probably re-hire that same attorney and pay a much larger fee, because……
  3. Your estate is most likely to go through the Probate process.

Now, as I am often asked, “What is probate?” Is it completely evil, a four letter word, one of the most malicious court process ever invented? The answer is usually, “No.” Let me answer it by stating that probate, in its simplest form, is the legal process where the State, where the person lived in, begins and completes the process of distributing the deceased individual’s possessions. The reason why a person has a Will is due to the fact that a Will is essentially a letter of instruction advising a probate judge of how the deceased person’s estate is to be distributed. The bottom line is that when you only write a will, you have essentially guaranteed a one-way ticket for your family to go through the probate process.

So, what is so wrong with the probate process? There are several points to keep in mind when thinking about whether or not to allow your estate to someday be probated, they are as follows:

  1. Probate usually takes a long time to complete. All states have an amount of time established which indicates the minimum amount of time that a probate estate must remain open for, but the average time is six months. However, if your estate is contested, due to family fighting, creditors, etc. You are most likely looking at the probate process extending into many years. I have handled many probate cases and have never been able to close a probate case in less than a year. That is not to say that a probate case cannot be closed quickly, it is just very rare.

 

  1. Due to the fact that the probate case will most likely take a minimum of a year to resolve, it will be an expensive process. This includes court costs, newspaper publication fees, and of course, attorney’s fees. I personally try to charge flat fees on most of the cases that I handle, but with probate, a flat fee is usually impossible, due to the fact that it is so difficult to know how long the probate case will take. If your estate is contested, be prepared to have your children spend thousands of dollars on legal fees with the probate process.

 

  1. The probate process has to be published in the legal section of your local newspaper where you resided before your death. So, in addition to the fees associated with this, it also means that your probate information is public information. If you don’t want to let the world know about the value of your estate and who it goes to, as indicated in the statement regarding celebrities, then probate is not the choice for you.

 

  1. Due to the high visibility of your probate case as indicated above, your estate runs a higher risk of having claims and challenges filed against it in the probate court. This could occur even if the claims are frivolous in nature.

So, the moral of the story is: As a good steward of the resources that God has given you, going through the probate process is very often a bad idea. If you are planning for the future, which we all should do, take some time to research this process and find an estate planning attorney who is well versed in these concepts to provide you with the necessary counsel on how to avoid this issue. Probate can be avoided and there are some very simple steps to take in order to accomplish this important goal. What are they? You will have to tune in next week to see my next part for the answers!

Is America a Democracy?

For those of you who have read my earlier blog about battling ignorance, this will be a continued discussion on how to become more informed and finding a cure for ignorance.  For those who have not read my previous blog, please feel free to do so. 

One of my favorite Presidents was James A. Garfield, which might prove to be surprising, as President Garfield was only in office for 200 days before being assassinated.  One of the main reasons that I appreciate President Garfield is due to his very astute quotations and beliefs about government.  I believe that one of the best quotations from Garfield is the following:

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress.  If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate
ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.”

I use this phrase often when I teach courses to my students and I have referenced it many times in my discussions with people regarding politics.  However, there is one small change that I would make to this quotation, in that I would replace the phrase “Congress” with “Government.”  It is absolutely true that we the people are responsible for our government, as they are our employees and they are supposed to be working for us.  However, can we really expect much of our government when we spend our time in frivolities, foolish endeavors, and ignorance? 

I have read many research studies indicating the poor education status of the United States today, especially as it pertains to laws and government.  One need not look far to see that more people today can identify the members of the Simpsons family, tell you who won American Idol, and countless other pointless entertainment facts rather than tell you their God given rights that are protected under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  In fact, a few years ago Newsweek asked 1,000 adult United States citizens to take America’s official citizenship test and found that 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. More critically, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6% couldn’t even circle Independence Day (the Fourth of July) on a calendar.  If you would like more evidence on these abysmal results, feel free to contact the Rutherford Institute, which is an excellent legal organization that I regularly use information from in my college courses. 

So, getting to my point; a few years ago there was a little bit of a hullabaloo at the Capital building in Madison, Wisconsin.  If you will recall, several people decided that it was their Constitutional right to break into the building illegally, occupy the premises for many weeks, refuse to bathe, shut down school systems, and act in mannerisms that were lacking integrity.  The sad part is that most of the occupants of this event did not even know why they were at the event or what it was about. 

At one point, there were several individuals in the Capital building holding banners that stated that what they were doing was a “Democracy.”  Now, I realize that we all have a right to peacefully assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as indicated under the First Amendment and I hope that most of the people there were looking to achieve this, but was this really what was happening?  Was this really what a Democracy looked like? 

I have asked many clients and students over the years if they know what type of government we are given in the United States and the one constant response that I receive is that we are a “Democracy.”  But is this really true?  Did the Founding Fathers state this in any of their writings?  What does the Constitution state about this?

So in my constant goal to cure ignorance, I looked to the Wallbuilders organization regarding the writings of our Country’s Founding Fathers regarding a Democracy and found that most were not in favor of a Democratic government at all.  As proof, here are some sample quotations and the men who stated them:   

Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. James Madison

Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few. John Adams

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. John Adams

The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived. John Quincy Adams

A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils. Benjamin Rush

In democracy, there are commonly tumults and disorders. Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.

Noah Webster

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage. John Witherspoon

So, clearly it was not the intention or the primary goal of many of our Founding Fathers to create a Democracy in the United States.  But the question remains as to what form of government are we supposed to have.  A simple reading of the Constitution in Article IV, Section 4 gives us the answer as follows:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

 

So what does that mean?  I have asked this question of many people only to get a blank stare and a general look of confusion.  President James Madison provided the answer to this by stating the following:

“In a republic, it is not the people themselves who make the decisions,
but the people they themselves choose to stand in their places.”

This means that in a Republican form of government, we elect people and those people must represent us by making decisions that reflect the will of the people.  If you want a law to be passed, then educate yourself and find the candidate who best represents what you believe in and vote for that person.  If your candidate loses the election, then try all the harder the next time, but don’t break the law and violently invade buildings to see your face on the television. 

The question remains however, of whether or not we really have a true Republican form of government.  It is now reported that now, more than ever in our history, we have the most elected millionaires in our federal government.  People who do not live paycheck to paycheck, who don’t worry about the skyrocketing price of gas at the pump, who get the best doctors, houses, cars, etc.  In other words, people who don’t know what real work is like.  Can people like that really represent our needs?  To answer this, I simply need to refer back to the quote from President Garfield.  When we the people are ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, our government will be the same.  Perhaps we do have a Republic after all?

As always, my hope is in God.  I have read the entire Bible many times and will continue to do so and the great news is that in the end, God and his people win!  However, it is still my hope that the people of our great nation will follow the instructions of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

 Perhaps if we do, our elected officials will follow the same path?

 

“A lady asked Dr. Franklin ‘Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy’ — “A republic,” replied the Doctor, “if you can keep it.” ”

—Anonymous, from Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787

— President James Monroe

 

Should a Christian Prepare an Estate Plan

I have had this question presented to me many times in my years helping people plan for the future and it is a valid and extremely important question to ask.  It is surprising to me that so many people delay in making this decision or simply refuse to act on it at all.  I have had several people come to me for estate planning assistance and literally say, “Why do I care, I won’t be here when it happens and everybody will figure it out.”  This is a very unfortunate and selfish way to respond and it goes against the wishes that God has for us.  So, does the Bible provide any references to this topic?  Are there any indications as to what God wants us to do with our assets?  The answer to both of these questions is, not surprisingly, yes.

Before diving into the specifics of how to address this matter, it is important to understand one very important fact: we are not the real owners of our property.  Read that statement again, but take some time to think about it.  We all like to think that we are in complete control of our possessions and that we work hard to obtain them.  This is somewhat true, as it is incredibly important to develop a good work ethic and God actually expects this out of us.  However, this fails to acknowledge the fact that the only reason why we have anything, such as our work, our homes, our money, our bodies, etc. is due to the gifts that God gives us.  As King David so eloquently stated in Psalm 24: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  It is also reiterated in Psalm 50:9-10 as follows: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  Our time on this earth is limited, as is our control over God’s property.

So, what are we expected to do with the resources that God has given us?  Another key concept that we need to understand as followers of Jesus Christ is that we are simply stewards of the property that God has allowed us to oversee while we are on this side of heaven.  Which prompts another question: What is stewardship?  This is actually a fairly simple concept.  Stewardship is simply the process of managing someone else’s property.  As stated earlier, we are clearly not the ultimate owners of our property, but we have been given the task by God to oversee it during our brief time on this earth and we should clearly strive to make decisions that bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father.  As it is stated in Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Notice that this scripture reference does not limit its approach only to our time on this earth; I strongly believe that it also applies to how we direct God’s resources when we leave.

What type of legacy do you want to leave?  Sadly we have all probably attended a funeral at some point in time of our lives.  At the funeral, we hopefully spend the majority of the time remembering the good times and memories of the person who has passed, but we also look to the lasting legacy that that person left while on the earth.  What did he or she do to help others, to live life, to bring Glory to God?  Now that they are gone, how did they establish a plan to continue the work that God entrusted to them while on the earth?  We can see a couple of examples of this type of planning in the Bible.  The first is in the book of Genesis 25:5-6, where we witness the first estate plan of the Bible.  In it, Abraham leaves everything he owned to his son Isaac, but while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines.  Also, in the book of John 19:26-27, we see Jesus providing for the future as well.  While on the cross, it is stated that Jesus saw his mother and John and said to them, “Woman, here is your son,” and “Here is your mother.”  Clearly Jesus knew that Mary would have to be cared for after his departure, thus he addressed this matter by planning accordingly and appointing John for this important role.

So, how do you want to leave?  When you meet our Heavenly Father for the first time in a face to face manner, how will you answer the question of stewardship?  Will you be able to not only tell God that you took care of his assets in an honorable manner while on the earth, but that you also established a plan that would continue that legacy after your departure?  We all (hopefully) give to Ministries, Churches, and others in need during our lives, but what happens when you are gone?  I personally think that there are not enough Pastors, Preachers, and Ministry leaders who think about this issue or present it to their congregation.  Do you love your Church?  Do you want your favorite Ministry to continue on for years to come?  How are you going to help to make sure that this goal is accomplished?  It is a question that we all must answer and I hope that you will reach the decision that God intends for you.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

I am sure that at some point of your life you have heard the phrase, “ignorance is bliss” and some people apparently have decided to live their lives in a manner where this is their ultimate goal, but the question remains of whether or not it is true.  Now, this is a loaded question, as there are times in my life that I can honestly say that I wish that there were things that I did not know.  In both my personal and professional life I have witnessed many unfortunate circumstance that, quite honestly, I wish that I would have never known, thus ignorance would have indeed been bliss.  As a father, I often observe actions and decisions that my children make that are clearly based upon their lack of knowledge or experience and sometimes I am envious of their innocence via their ignorance.  This will sadly change as they mature and gain wisdom in a fallen world.

One of the main questions that must also be answered in this dilemma is: “what is the definition of ignorance?”  If I came up to you on the street and said, “you are an ignorant person,” have I insulted you?  If I admit to everyone of my clients, students, or those of you reading this blog that I am ignorant of many things, have I just provided a horrible weakness?  I firmly believe that the answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “No!”

A traditional definition of ignorance is simply the condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.  It simply means that you have not had the opportunity to study or experience something.  We are all ignorant of something, but it is not a condition to focus your life on.  If anything, I will argue that the phrase “ignorance is bliss” is one of the greatest lies in the history of the world.  Ignorance is not bliss, it is a plague that has destroyed lives, ruined civilizations, caused wars, and countless other wretched activities.

However, here is the good news: ignorance can be cured.  How does one accomplish this great goal?  It is simple: read, study, work hard, and pray for wisdom from God.  As is stated in 1Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  What this means is that as Christians, we should always be finding ways to defend our faith through continuous learning.  I believe that it is a goal that every person should have and it honors God.  To do otherwise is not bliss, it is a means of becoming lethargic and results in destruction.

So what does all of this have to do with my first blog?  As an attorney and a college professor, I am always seeking ways to teach others about the law; this is the goal of this blog.  I will regularly write about complex legal issues, but will do so in a manner which will hopefully break things down in a way that is easier to understand and will hopefully cure ignorance in the areas of law and governent.  If you read my blog, you hopefully will agree with my points, but if you do not, I would expect you to express your disagreement in a mature and respectful manner.  I welcome open debate if the goal is noble and the hope is to cure ignorance.  You can disagree without being disagreeable.  If you cannot, then please feel free to leave and not return to this blog.

So, let’s see how this adventure goes and hopefully you will find my information valuable.  May God Bless this venture and all of you.