News

Freeland Martz Is Expanding to Chattanooga, Tennessee

          You may have heard that Reed Martz is moving. That’s mostly true. He and his family are moving to Tennessee to open Freeland Martz, PLLC in Chattanooga. Freeland Martz has long been a regional firm practicing in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee so we are excited to open a Chattanooga office to be closer to many of our clients. 

           Reed is as committed to his Mississippi law practice as ever and will continue to serve all clients and future clients without interruption. The Oxford, MS. office will remain the firm’s primary location. Everything and everyone else will remain as they are to ensure consistency.
Chattanooga was selected as the location of our second office because of its strategic location – within a roughly two hour radius to Nashville, Atlanta, Huntsville, Knoxville, and Birmingham.

Rough Map
Map depicts Freeland Martz offices and neighboring cities.

         We would be very grateful for any contacts you can provide as we get acclimated to this new territory. If you would like to share any referrals or points of contact in these markets please send us an email or give Reed a call.

 
                                                                                                             POSTED 05/15/2019
 
 

According to the Social Security Trustee the Social Security Funds depleted by 2035

The Social Security Trustee released its annual report on the finical status of social security asset reserves. The trustees asked Congress to act and address the shortfalls based upon its annual report:

  • The Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability trust fund is projected to be depleted by 2035 as estimated last year with 77% of benefits payable then
  • The Old Age and Survivors Insurance is projected to be depleted by 2034 with 77% of benefits payable then
  • The Disability Trust Fund is projected to be depleted by 2052 with 91% payable then
  • The assets reserved increased in 2018 by $2.895 billion in 2018
  • The annual cost of the program is projected to exceed annual income “for the first time since 1982” and remain higher

For the Social Security Press office release see: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2019/#4-2019-1

                                                                                                                      POSTED 04/24/2019

19.04.16 Freeland to Teach Ethics – How to Get It Done Without Being a Jerk

     Hale Freeland to tell aspiring lawyers “How to Get It Done Without Being a Jerk” at the University of Mississippi School of Law

     Each year recent law graduates are required to attend a Continuing Legal Education program toward their admission to the Mississippi Bar. As one option in that training, Hale Freeland of Freeland Martz, PLLC, will offer an ethics presentation titled “How to Get It Done Without Being a Jerk” at 3 p.m. on May 15, 2019, at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

       Freeland’s interactive talk will focus on how to succeed as an advocate while acting with respect toward adversaries – and building credibility in the process. The presentation will consider what makes certain attorneys difficult, how to address a bully without responding in kind, and how such a measured response can more effectively represent one’s client.

                                                                                                                  POSTED 04/23/2019

Freeland Martz wins reversal of judgment of beneficiary

Fifth Circuit Court

designation ruling in U.S. Court of Appeals

   Hale Freeland argued a case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in February, and he and Beth Smith who both worked on the appeal prevailed. The firm represented a widow whose husband designated his side of the family as beneficiary of several assets before and after their marriage. The husband had later told the various financial institutions that he wanted to make his wife the beneficiary of those assets.

       The man’s children, whom he had supported as adults, had transferred some of his assets without their father’s knowledge, and had not seen their father for months prior to his death, objected to beneficiary designation change to his widow. As a result, the insurance company that held the assets paid the funds into Federal Court after his death to determine who was entitled to the funds.

          The Fifth Circuit reversed the trial court, which had decided the issue without a trial. The Court of Appeals held that the widow had presented evidence that the beneficiary designation was what the husband intended and not the product of undue influence. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, finding witness credibility issues for the lower court to revisit.

                                                                                                                    POSTED 04/04/2019

That’ll be mine ….” to “It mine;” a problem with entitlement, i.e. greed.

       Contrary to the assertions of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street, greed ain’t always so good, is it?

           We have seen in our practice, we’ve seen problems arise when people begin to assume that their parents’ assets are their own with the rationalization, “It’s going to be mine anyway.” That attitude has led to years of expensive litigation and family divisions..  

    We have seen this attitude toward entitlement in closely held family businesses in which a person uses the corporation as a personal bank account and spends regardless of the income the business produces. This can result not only in insolvency but the loss of corporate status – and resulting personal liability for the shareholders/members of the corporation.

         We have seen such greed result in taking assets that an elderly client needs for her care. An attitude of entitlement creates an agenda, a rationalization that justifies the feeling and the actions taken. This rationalization does not distinguish between what is wanted, or the needs of others or the assets of another person. More often than not our experience shows that people who feel and act on “my agenda no matter what” are never satisfied and unwittingly illustrate their character to courts, if it come to that.

          The problem with that attitude is it involves taking instead of receiving. In some estates we have seen transfers of the parent’s assets that not only make the parent indigent, without assets to pay for their care, but those transfers to a family member leave the elderly ineligible for Medicaid as well. The attitude of “It’ll be mine one day anyway” is one of taking and self-dealing. If one is a fiduciary such as a power of attorney, for example, such transfers can be determined to be fraudulent and require a high level of proof to show the parents intended the transfer. Fortunately, in most of the cases that have come to us, a friend or family member became concerned in time to preserve assets – and the well being of the elderly client who needed their assets. In some instances that friend or Family member saved the life of one who was being neglected.

                                                                                                         POSTED 03/27/2019

Freeland Martz Negotiates a Reduction for Bank’s claim against client by $226,223.62

           The firm’s clients became the victim of a bank fraud and check kiting scheme in which their names were forged on loan documents as part of a multimillion-dollar check kiting scheme. The check kiters used the loan proceeds to support the kiting scheme which eventually collapsed. The kiters and financial institutions then sought the clients to cover the losses. Through a review of voluminous account records at various banks subpoenaed by Freeland Martz, the law firm discovered the kiting scheme. When the clients realized they had been unwittingly paying for an unlawful kiting scheme, they stopped making loan payments, and Freeland Martz began litigation with the check kiters and the various banks who the clients alleged activities participated in the scheme. Freeland Martz settled with five of the banks and recently settled with another bank that filed a claim against the client in the amount of $271,223.62. That Bank and the client agreed to settle for the one legitimate loan the client had signed in the amount of $45,000. The other loans were questionable on which the client’s signatures were alleged to have been forged. The settlement valued at $226,223.62 in debt forgiveness. Each party settled for their own reasons, and the bank denied liability for the claim. To date, the firm has helped the clients realize $8,297,399.93 in settlements of loan forgiveness and settlement proceeds paid to the clients. The firm and the clients worked together resolving these cases.

                                                                                                POSTED: 03/20/2019

 

A WILL OR A TRUST: WHAT’S BETTER FOR YOU? 

    Some financial advisers strongly suggest that you create a trust to avoid probate courts. Their thinking is that the costs of probating a will outweigh the costs of creating a trust.

Not necessarily. 

      A simple will involving a couple, their house, and some personal property is not expensive to create.  Probate courts are intended to identify the heirs; to appoint a fiduciary to locate and disperse estate assets consistent with the deceased person’s will and state law; to resolve conflicts regarding the preparation, execution, and distribution of estate assets; and to oversee that process. A probate court also requires persons who might challenge a will to address those issues in open court, so if they have a complaint, it’s time to “put up or shut up.” More often than not the challenger does not appear because the person is unlikely to convince a court to change a will the decedent was fully capable of making.

       A trust is a private agreement carried out by a trustee over a longer period than the time it typically takes to probate a will.  Trusts are convenient and inexpensive ways to transfer your assets when assets are held by a financial institution. Trusts are as different as the person’s intentions in creating them, so they are better at tailoring a plan to a family’s unique circumstances. Occasionally we see clients who have created a trust, but because they do not transfer all of their assets into the trust or identify assets they intend to include in the trust, their heirs have to probate an estate to transfer assets left out of the trust anyway.     

     The mistake folks often make is trying to figure what document they want to have prepared rather than considering what their assets are, what is important to them, and how their estate could further those values. Those considerations — and the size and complexity of your estate — often dictate what documents will help you carry out your unique plan while ultimately saving you and your family money and helping avoid conflicts and confusion over what you intended. Filling out a form based upon what you guess might be “OK” or one that some TV commercial recommends won’t do that. Tailoring documents to your needs will better carry out your goals. As we often said in the Navy: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

                                                                                                                 POSTED: 03/04/2019

                   

The Problem with trying to take control of your parents’ assets

       As long as your parent is competent, he/she can make financial decisions for themselves, even ones you consider foolish. As long as you are competent, you can do foolish things you’re your money. Why do you thing Casinos make money?

     Attempting to gain control through a conservatorship can create real conflict. Regardless of the level of your parent’s competency if you can and protect him at the same time it is best to would involve him in the decisions making that he needs assistance and you would like to help. Even if you have a power of attorney you should keep your parent advised of plans and transactions. Attorneys in fact have a duty to account for transactions utilizing powers of attorney, must act according to the terms of the power of attorney and for the benefit of the parent who appointed and signed the power of attorney. A power of attorney can be revoked. Going to court can be the “nuclear option,” upsetting to all. We have seen a summons issued without prior notice or discussions divide families and give financial predators an opportunity to exploit the conflict. Short of going to Court, keeping involved and closely monitoring things is essential. If you loved one is being exploited and does not comprehend what is happening, going to court may be the only option to protect them. Even then, your Parent should be consulted as much as possible and throughout retain their dignity. After all, who wants to give up total control or understanding of their circumstances?

                                                                                                                        Posted 02/18/2019

                               So, you want to share your estate plan with your heirs?

After making your estate plan, you think you may want to share your estate plan with your heirs for emotional and practical reasons. For example, you have an estate that you want to share and for your heirs to enjoy, and as a practical matter you want those who will carry out your estate plan to understand your assets and how to carry out your plan. A few things you might consider:

  • Will those you tell respond with gratitude and understand your plan and how to carry it out?
  • If you ask the folks you tell to keep the plan in confidence, will they do that?
  • Will someone be upset about your plan in a way that affects your relationship, or will they try to get you to change your plan?
  • If one of your heirs has an addiction will your gift aggravate that?

Remember that legacy bequest in an estate is a gift, not an entitlement. You should accept your heirs for who they are:

  • If they are spendthrifts, don’t give them money freely where they will waste it and soon be left with nothing.
  • If they are financially responsible and trusted by you, family members, or your other heirs, that person is probably the one you should appoint to administer your estate. Telling them alone will be helpful in carrying out a more complicated estate plan.
  • If there is a family dynamic of some dependency or sibling rivalry, you should not tell your children and create family conflict.

Money is a funny thing. It is simply a tool, which can do a lot of good or create division and harm. Your estate plan should further your values, enhance your and your family’s gifts, and bring joy, not drama or conflict.  You best know best. Give joyfully – not out of a sense of obligation. We can help you do things that no downloaded form ever could – to help you clarify and understand your values, your family, and your dreams.

                                                                                                                        Posted 02/12/2019

When family gets too involved in estate planning. Before I spoke at an Elder Law Conference group of social workers were discussing having family meetings about how to dispose of a parent’s estate. The idea was families should get a consensus in creating an estate plan. Such a Family meeting would likely make any document created from a family meeting void. Because Courts wish to protect the intentions of the testator, the person making the will, many states have presumptions that discourage heirs from being involved in the preparation and execution of a will or trust. Heirs can have a very limited role in estate planning. The greater the family’s involvement, the more likely testamentary documents can be challenged. First and foremost, the person making an estate plan should ensure their needs during their lifetime will be met. Second, a will should leave a positive legacy, not aggravate problems within the family. Enhance the gifts of your Family, don’t aggravate the problems.There is no perfect person or Family. An estate plan should be consistent with your values and make you feel good about having planned well. Elderly persons want security and good family relationships. Some folks will do about anything to avoid a family conflict to the point of sacrificing and compromising their values or giving in to pressure. Getting professional help to formalize a good plan will be less expensive and create less uncertainty for your Family. LIVE WELL, GIVE WELL.

                                                                                                                  Posted 01/09/2019

         The Problem With “Do It Yourself” Wills: They Usually Don’t Work as Intended

         We are occasionally asked to probate a “Do It Yourself” will, which someone either prepared by writing what they thought a will looked like or through some sort of downloadable form. Like most states, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee (where we practice) have specific requirements on what it takes to probate a will as a valid and enforceable testamentary document. In our practice, we have seen less than five valid wills that have been prepared by non-lawyers. More often than not, the “Do It Yourself” documents don’t accomplish the purpose as intended, create problems for those who are left to probate the will, and increase both court costs and attorney fees.

       Typical problems include: the beneficiaries of an estate being too involved in the preparation of the document; the document not being properly witnessed, and therefore difficult to enforce; or the document being unclear in its terms. These issues usually prevent the document from being considered a valid will, and thus leave the court giving the estate assets to whomever state law dictates. Doing it yourself and guessing how to prepare and execute a valid will is risky. Planning can avoid these uncertainties, out-of-pocket costs, and conflicts. By planning your will, we can ensure that your estate will be left with the people you intend. We prefer to help you plan for the future and achieve your goals rather than attempt to fix past mistakes. Saying what was intended never works. 

                                                                                                          Posted 12/28/2018

Guides to help those who manage another people’s money

          The Consumer Protection Bureau is a government agency that helps protect consumers from being exploited.  Through their office they have published helpful guides for those who manage other people’s money, such as powers of attorney, trustees, guardians and conservators. The purpose of the guides is to protect the consumers who are acting through their fiduciaries and instruct those persons managing their money concerning the proper use and accounting of transactions in behalf of financial caregivers.  The website may be found at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/managing-someone-elses-money/

                                                                                                                     Posted 12/17/2018
 

Freeland Martz Negotiates a Settlement of Racketeering Claim valued at $1,595,986.02

         The firm’s clients became the victim of a bank fraud and check kiting scheme in which their names were forged on loan documents – the loan proceeds of which were used to help fund a multi-million dollar check kiting scheme. The clients stopped paying the loans they thought were legitimate after they subpoenaed the account records of the check kiters and, through a review of the voluminous account records from various banks, discovered the kiting scheme. When the clients realized the loans they had been unwittingly paying arose from an unlawful kiting scheme, they stopped making loan payments and began litigation with the various banks who the clients alleged actively participated in the scheme. Freeland Martz settled with four of the banks, and a remaining bank denied its responsibility or participation in the scheme. The Federal Bankruptcy Court denied the Bank’s attempt to dismiss the racketeering claim after which the parties negotiated a resolution of the clients’ claim against the bank. The settlement valued at $1,595,986.02 included $795,981.02 in debt forgiveness, $400,000.00 in payments in behalf of the clients, and forgiveness of the bank’s claim for attorney’s fees of $400,000.00 based upon terms in the bank loans. Each party settled for their own reasons and the bank denied liability for the claim. To date, the firm has helped the clients realize $8,071,176.31 in settlement of loan forgiveness and settlement payments. The firm worked as a team in resolving these cases.            
               
                                               Posted 11/29/2018
 
 
 
 
 
Freeland Martz recovers thousands of dollars in Equipment taken from Estate property
 
            Freeland Martz was hired by a substitute executor of an estate after the Mississippi Secretary of State asked the prior executor to resign. After the decedent’s death, thousands of dollars of equipment was taken from the Estate property, the executor knew where it had been taken, and sought to recover the equipment. The owner of the property where the equipment was located claimed the equipment and would not allow the executor access to the property to recover it. In order to identify the estate’s equipment located on the private property, a drone flew over the property and photographed the equipment there (see below).  The photos taken from the drone were used in court to identify the estate’s equipment by witnesses who had been employed by the decedent and operated the equipment. After a hearing, the court entered an order allowing the executor to recover the equipment, which the Court found belonged to the estate rather than the private property owner that claimed ownership of the equipment.”
 
                                                                                                                      Posted  11/06/2018
 
 
Chancery Court sustains objection to Finance Company’s claim filed in Conservatorship
 
        As an elderly gentleman lost capacity, unrelated persons who were supposed to be his house cleaners began to take advantage of the gentleman. They began to prey on him financially, obtaining loans, vehicles and furniture through his good credit. The predators ruined his credit and went through significant amounts of his money which he had saved over the years. Two local businesses, a bank and an insurance agent, saw something was wrong when the predators brought the gentlemen to their businesses to get his assets and notified the gentleman’s daughter. She engaged the firm and initiated a conservatorship proceeding.
 

         The gentleman was examined by a court appointed expert who found the gentleman incapable of managing his financial affairs and susceptible to undue influence. As a result, the Court found the gentleman incompetent and appointed his daughter as his conservator.

         Thereafter, a finance company filed a claim for over $900.00 for furniture obtained on credit and a $1500.00 mailed out check sent to the gentleman. The Conservator objected to the claim. The Chancery Court found due to the appointment of a conservator, and the gentleman’s diminished capacity, he lacked the ability “to make a contract and give mutual consent.”

                                                                                                                      Posted: 10/31/2018

Client’s $177,019.00 judgment given priority over Bank’s deed of trust of $701, 000.00  

A farmer came to the firm after he filed a judgment of $177,019.00 in a county where the judgment debtor was located. The judgment debtor owed approximately $701,000 which was secured by a deed of trust on his property by “Bank A”. The judgment debtor sold the property and the purchase price was financed by “Bank B.” Bank B paid off the first debt owed on the property, releasing the deed of trust owed to Bank A. However, the farmer’s judgment was not paid off when the sale of the property occurred. Bank B sued the farmer claiming the farmer’s judgment was void and that it was not “fair” that the framer’s judgment debt would have priority over Bank B’s debt because the bank had paid $701,000.00 and financed the purchase. Because the Bank B’s deed of trust was filed after the farmer’s judgment, and the Farmer had properly filed his judgment, the Court denied Bank B’s motion which placed the farmer’s $177,019. Judgment ahead of Bank B’s $701, 000.00 deed of trust.

                                                                                                                              Posted: 10/22/2018

Predator incarcerated for six months for taking pray upon elderly clients 

After the chancery court entered an order prohibiting a predator who was determined to financially exploit an elderly gentleman – even while serving a 90-day jail sentence for contempt – the chancery court extended the predator’s sentence for an additional six months hoping that would get the predator’s attention to leave the gentlemen alone.

 

Hale Freeland to address the use and abuse of powers of attorney


          Hale is presenting a program concerning the uses of powers of attorney and problems that arise from the abuses of powers of attorney through self-dealing. The educational program will be presented to Northeast-Mississippi attorneys sponsored by the Prentice County Bar Association as a part of the Prentice County Bar Association’s annual continuing education program on July 27 at J.P. Coleman State Park near Iuka.

                                                                                                                            Posted: 07/15/2018

Hale Freeland obtains Court protection through a guardianship for Navy Veteran



A Navy Veteran’s sister and her other siblings’ discovery that a relative was taking advantage of the Veteran as she lost capacity with memory lapse. The relative used a power of attorney that the Veteran had signed to obtain her home and the income from her Veteran’s Navy pension. At a loss of what to do, the Veteran and her sister came to the firm.  The Veteran recognized she needed assistance, wanted her house back and wanted to avoid the abusive use of the power of attorney she could not remember whether she signed.  The firm obtained protection from the  Court through a guardianship which the Veteran agreed to, through which her assets could be recovered and her income will be protected and accounted for. The firm was also able to get her house back.

                                                                                                                              Posted: 07/12/2018

National Business Institute’s Evaluation of Attorney Reed Martz


      In making his presentation on the recent changes applicable to Mississippi Gun Laws Reed  Martz received a total evaluation score of 64 out of 65 (average 4.92 where 5 is “excellent”/top score).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Posted: 07/12/2018

Gun Law in Mississippi


             Reed Martz will be speaking on topics which have recently been before the legislature, the courts and in the news; “Gun Law in Mississippi” in a seminar put on by National Business Institute on June 15, 2018, in Olive Branch, and then again on June 19th in Pearl, Mississippi. He will be covering topics such as Firearms and Their Regulation, Firearms Dealers and Licensing Requirements, and Ethical Considerations When Representing Gun Owners or Dealers. Also, Reed will speak on July 13, 2018, at the University of Mississippi Center for Continuing Legal Education’s “Current Issues in Civil Rights” seminar on the Second Amendment as the Courts have interpreted and applied it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Posted: 06/15/2018


This week Reed Martz became licensed in Georgia. The firm now has attorneys licensed in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Posted: 06/01/2018


                         

  Recovery for heirs after Executor of Mother’s Estate discovered Mother’s funds converted through a power of attorney



           After a client’s Mother’s estate was opened the Executor began determining what assets the decedent his Mother had and found irregularities in accounts held in common, and not jointly with other her Brother.  Before being appointed as his Mother’s executor, the son lacked access to the accounts which she failed to monitor as she lost the capacity to do so. Her funds were converted through the use of a power of attorney her brother had signed as the Brother and Sister began to lose the ability to keep up with their funds. The attorney in fact for the Brother took the funds held in the Brothers and Sister’s names for himself. The suit was filed on behalf of the Mother’s Estate and the firm was able to receive over well hundred thousand dollars taken by the attorney in fact.

                                                                                                                               Posted:5/03/2018