>> Kirby Farris: We just tried this case last week. The answer is yes, you do have a claim against the city if they do not maintain their roads properly and it damages your car. Same way with sidewalks, we handle these cases. Bad roads, bad sidewalks, lights, drainage problems. The city’s responsible for those services. A couple of things to remember, though. The city must have notice so that it has an opportunity to repair those things. When it doesn’t repair them is when you’ll have a claim. So in your neighborhood, be sure and let the city know when you have a problem. If you have problems with your sidewalks, problems with your roads, call and make note that you’ve talked to the city and put them on notice of that problem. The second thing to remember with claims against the city is you have to put the city on notice of your claim within six months of your injury or your damage. If you don’t do that, you lose your claim. You still have the customary two‑year window to file your lawsuit called the Statute of Limitations, but for municipal claims, you have to let them know within six months.
>> Tiffany Bittner: For more information, head to Kirby’s website. It’s deliveringjustice.com, or go to WBRC.com and click on the LawCall link there. Well on tonight’s sidebar, Ken Riley is going to continue with our theme explaining the Statute of Limitations and what that means for your personal injury claim.
—- Side Bar —-
>> Ken Riley: Is it ever too late to pursue an injury claim? If your injury happened recently, it is not too late. But time is running out. The Statute of Limitation sets a limit on how long you can wait to file a personal injury claim. In Alabama, that deadline is usually two years. Some injuries are obvious, like a broken arm. Others may be more subtle like a hairline fracture that doesn’t cause problems for a few weeks or months. Maybe it’ll get better on its own; maybe it won’t. If you decide to wait and see how well an injury heals before exploring your legal options, you’re playing with fire. As soon as that two‑year window closes, your chance to recover any damages is gone forever. Here’s your sidebar thoughts. As soon as there is any indication of an injury, you should get some legal advice immediately. Otherwise you may spend the rest of your life suffering with an injury you will never be compensated for. If you have a question send it along to lawcallPB.com. I’m from Farris Riley & Pitt.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We’re talking about conservatorship and power of attorney and what it means. If your you have a question about that and trying to get your business in order, tonight’s a great call to consider the steps moving forward with that. Again we have Kirby Ferris. We have a friend of the show present who has been here.
>> Kirby Farris: Let me tell you, Tiffany. Occasionally we have need for conservatorship or guardianship, we have someone who is badly injured, they’re not able to handle their own affairs, we have to get somebody to step in and help them with that. Guess who we call? Brooks Burdette. That’s who we call.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Brooks, you’ve been on the show before. We’re glad to have you back.
>> Brooks Burdette: It’s great to be back.
>> Tiffany Bittner: I think your story is so great because you didn’t go right into law. Oh initially. You’ve had many lives.
>> Brooks Burdette: Yes.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Tell us about that and your practice now.
>> Brooks Burdette: Well this is actually my second career. I was a police officer right out of college.
>> Tiffany Bittner: I think that’s really cool.
>> Brooks Burdette: I had a great career in one of our departments outside the main city of Birmingham. Did that for 12 years. That department actually put me through law school. And so this is my second career. And I always tease and get teased about the “law and order” thing. [Laughter] That just seems to work for me.
>> Tiffany Bittner: That’s good. We’re glad to have you here. And we’re going to hopefully help some folks out tonight. So let’s start with Connie calling in Hueytown tonight. Hi, Connie, how are you?
>> Caller: Hi there. Yes, I have a question. My father passed away and I am the only legal guardian or child living. My brother’s deceased. My sister’s deceased. He never remarried. He died in Montgomery. And I’m trying to ‑‑ he has a bank account that I did not know anything about. I’ve given them the death certificate. I’ve given them the bill. I’m trying to pay his bill off. And I can’t get access to that account. I need to try to find an attorney or something or go some kind of way, I’m not sure if the small claims with the state, but I’m told that it may be more than what is actually in the account. What do I need to do?
>> Brooks Burdette: Connie I believe she said her father had already passed away. In that case, any time someone dies and they have a bank account with no one else’s name on it as a co‑owner, and these days on all bank accounts, checking, savings account, you can name a beneficiary. Sounds like your dad didn’t do that and you’ll have to open his estate to get access to those funds. Oftentimes the banks will work with you a little bit to at least maybe tell you a range of how much money may be in the account so that you know what you may be up against as far as if it’s actually worth probating the estate. You need to talk to an attorney in the county where your dad lived or owned property. And certainly you’re more than welcome to call my office tomorrow and I’ll try to send you to someone or answer any questions you may have.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Good deal. Our next caller is Cindy in Arab tonight. How are you all doing?
>> Caller: Hi, yes, my question is several years ago when my dad was alive, him and my mom made the decision to put me on to their bank account. And my dad has since passed. And we have other siblings. And my mother has made one of the other siblings the executor of her will when something happens. And my question is: How does it play a role if my name is on the bank account and my other sister is the executor of the will? Does she automatically become over everything?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay, good question.
>> Brooks Burdette: Great question. The executor. Now, understand that the estate would have to be probated. The will has to be accepted by the court. And so that personal representative is appointed. They take control or marshal all the assets that have the deceased’s name only on it. If your name is on the bank account, there’s two different ways you could be on it just as an equal owner with your dad or you could have been ‑‑ was joint with rights of survivorship. If you are joint with right of survivorship with that account, it passes to you directly and doesn’t go through the estate. So you need to do a little more research and see how you were added to the account. The bank will make that available to you because you’re on the account. And will also make it available to the personal representative if she takes the order to the bank and asks for that information. So you need to check with the bank to see how you were added to the account and that will better answer your question.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. We’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’ll have more of your calls. Pick up the phone and call us.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Lawyers take a lot of flak for the amount of money that they receive after a successful verdict, but most people don’t fully understand the system. Tuscaloosa attorney Bob Prince explains contingency fees in tonight’s legal brief.
—- Legal Brief —-
>> Bob Prince: Personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless they win. That type of compensation is based on a contingency fee contract. The good news? You don’t pay any money up front. You don’t pay money as the case goes on. Think of it in terms of you’re in a partnership with that lawyer. Sometimes it’s 50/50. Sometimes it’s 60/40 your way and most of the time it’s 70/30 your way. Another plus? The lawyer takes all the risk. They risk their time. They risk their money. And that money can run into thousands if not millions of dollars. It’s a big risk, but if you lose, you don’t pay anything. Contingency fee contracts allow working men and women like you to be on equal footing with the largest corporations in the room in the courtroom. That’s why big businesses are always trying to outlaw these contingency fee contracts. If they do, you’re going to be denied justice. You’ll be denied the keys to the courthouse of the that’s your legal brief for tonight. I’m Tuscaloosa attorney Bob Prince. Back to you guys.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Well tonight we’re discussing things like conservatorship, guardianship even power of attorney and what all that means and whether or not you might need one. That’s sort of the questions we’re taking. So give us a call. We’ve got Ashley in Birmingham, she’s joining us now. Hey, Ashley.
>> Caller: Hi. I wonder if getting a power of attorney would cover me like if I wanted to write a living will for the person or sell the person’s house? Basically, I found a really good friend a lot of money and I want to make sure, and power of attorney is something that popped up. What would you suggest about a power of attorney when it comes to that?
>> Brooks Burdette: Did she say she loaned somebody some money? That will be different.
>> Kirby Farris: Yeah, right.
>> Brooks Burdette: Basically, a power of attorney is when you name someone to be able to do things that you could do for yourself if you weren’t out of the country, incapacitated, had a car accident, couldn’t pay your bills. You can name an agent who can do all these things just as if you were doing it yourself. We call them “durable power of attorneys” because we want them to last. We want their duration to be past incompetency so that if something happens to you, this person can carry on and do whatever you need. I think she did say something about a will. You can’t ‑‑ if you’re an agent for someone, you can’t create their will for them. You’re simply there to talk to doctors if they’re sick, to pay their bills for them, to meet with lawyers and file litigation if they were in a car accident. So to more answer your question, that is what a power of attorney does and then a person would need to do their will before incompetency. All of these things are a reason to talk with an attorney, an attorney that you trust, to go over these issues and see what best fits your situation.
>> Kirby Farris: Brooks, a couple things that we ought to get on for Ashley. Consent judgments, tools that would work, if I understand her question correctly. You can get the person who you loaned this money to execute what’s called a promissory note, which is just a legal document saying, “I recognize that I owe you this money.” You can go one step further and get a consent judgment executed by this person saying “in fact, if I don’t pay you, you can carry this to the courthouse and have a judgment against me.” Something that could be executed down the road. I think that would better protect Ashley rather than a power of attorney what I believe her issue to be.
>> Brooks Burdette: The promissory note, if you want to have an attorney draw it up, which you absolutely should, make sure you have a witness. You will have that document, but you need to have a witness. In our state, it’s not required that there’s a witness to the promissory note but I’m telling you, you need to do get as many people to tell the story of that piece of paper that they witnessed your signature and the other person, then you’ve got more ammunition if you do have to take that person to court.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s hear from Danny in Gadsden tonight. Hey, Danny?
>> Caller: I got one question. Wanting to give me the power of attorney. I’m just trying to figure out what it is.
>> Brooks Burdette: That’s a good question. That is more you deal with the insurance companies.
>> Kirby Farris: There are some legitimate reasons for an insurance company, Danny, to ask you for a power of attorney. And there are some reasons that would scare me. I would suggest that you get the power of attorney that the insurance company wants executed, give a lawyer a call, let them take a look at it. You’re welcome to call our office. You can fax it or email it to us, let me take a look at it. We can let you know whether it’s something you need to do or something you should be leery of. Because I will get Brooks to tell you about limited powers of attorneys because there are those things and they can work well in certain situations.
>> Brooks Burdette: Absolutely. And another thing, too, about that, it’s not so much now since our new act in 2012 with our power of attorneys, but some of the banks will want you to sign their power of attorney. Again don’t do that without an attorney looking in. A lot of times that is not going to do the things banking‑wise that you want it to do. But as far as the limited or specific, you can do a power of attorney and give someone just the authority to close on your home. A lot of folks in the military did that if they were overseas. They were in the middle of a refinance. You can do a specific power of attorney. Oftentimes those will have an ending date. You won’t necessarily go past incompetency. But there’s a range of things you can do a specific for. But again these are not very specific and you need to contact attorneys.
>> Kirby Farris: These Internet forms and some other businesses that have these forms, be very careful. They’re based on general common law for the country. And we have specific requirements here. And again it’s not too expensive.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We’ll go the break and I’ll ask you about that and talk more about that because there are so many different applications that you can download and print out. So we’ll talk about that in just a moment. So stick around. We’ll talk about the downloading information online and whether or not you should consider using those types of legal documents. We’ll be right back.
>> Tiffany Bittner: April 3rd will be scams and rip-offs. Make sure you call us with any questions that you have. If you’ve been watching this evening and want to get in touch with our guest, her name is Brooks. She’s at 661‑1800. She is right here locally. You could get in touch with her at Brooks. Bob Prince of course is a friend of the show. You call his office 8. Or Kirby Farris at Farris Riley and Pitt at 324-1212 or deliveringjustice.com is his website. Make sure you get in touch with the attorneys that you have seen on the show and ask further questions if you have something on your mind that we’re not touching on. We’ve got Amanda in Springville. Let’s hear from you. What’s going on?
>> Caller: First of all, I’d like to say I love when y’all have Brooks on there. Very knowledgeable about a lot of information. But I have a question. My husband passed away a little over a year ago. And I am receiving checks written to them. And I closed his checking account out. I wonder how I go about getting those checks cashed?
>> Brooks Burdette: Amanda, that’s a great question. Because you didn’t open his estate, I am assuming, you may have some issues with that. But there are ways that we can get that money to you as his spouse. It depends on how much the check is for, where it’s coming from. So there are a few more questions I would need to ask you, so just give me a call at the office, or certainly you can email me. Definitely some steps we can take to take care of you.
>> Kirby Farris: Amanda needs to do that. That needs to be done.
>> Tiffany Bittner: James is our next caller. Hey, James, you are on live. Good evening.
>> Caller: My name is James. In a little bit of a dilemma in that my mother passed away. But before she did, one of my friends passed away in an auto wreck. And she did not have a place, nor her nor her family had a place for her body to rest. And my family has very large estate burial grounds. And I asked my mom, she said yes, put her here. In the springtime, she told me that I had control of that cemetery. But she did not leave a will. And now my brother, after my mother’s passed, my brother wants to sell the remaining grave plot. And I don’t really have anything other than my mother’s word about what her wishes were.
>> Brooks Burdette: You know, when there’s not a will, that’s a situation that is very unfortunate because without a will, your mom’s estate belongs to her heirs at law, which is most likely, James, you and your brother unless you have other siblings. So anything like that, he would have to agree to it. Certainly if you open the estate and have a personal representative appointed and you can ask for a hearing and give your position inform the court. The court will look at the value of those properties and see if there’s any way that you maybe can follow your mom’s wishes again. Just her telling you that is not legally valid. But we can sometimes get some things in front of our judge and move in that direction. Go ahead.
>> Kirby Farris: If they’re equal shares, James I guess could purchase from his brother the other half of it.
>> Brooks Burdette: Subject to any debt. There may be some debts. Yes, he sure could. He could purchase his brother’s portion if there’s other siblings and they go in with him, do it like that.
>> Kirby Farris: Sure.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Before the break you kind of touched on it briefly about all the Internet documents that you can download and the legal documents. And so I just wanted to get you to share your thoughts on those and what folks seemed to think about and maybe be leery of if they’re considering doing a will or whatever form of document that they’re needing.
>> Brooks Burdette: Well, not to age myself, but I will. As I practice law, this is my 18th year, and of course all that time we have not had the Internet. I have yet to see an Internet will that covers everything you need to cover in Alabama. A lot of these things are $40 and $50 and you get what you pay for. But be very careful. I’m dealing with an estate right now and it was one off of a very popular website it’s a mess. It will end up costing them three times what it would have cost had they spent $200 with an attorney.
>> Tiffany Bittner: What about just make an agreement? I’m going to write in down and put it in a jewelry box somewhere and that’s going to be my will. How does that work?
>> Brooks Burdette: You have to have two witnesses. It’s best to have a notary. There are certain things they could do that a court might look at that if there were other things that pointed in that direction. But it’s just so easy to do a will correctly and it’s not expensive. And you just need to be careful of doing those type lists and signing your name.
>> Kirby Farris: There’s just no reason to do that. You just shouldn’t do it that way. Especially when you got Brooks you can just call.
>> Brooks Burdette: That’s right. Yes, come see me.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. Well we’re going to wrap out the show. Of course we’re coming up in just a few more seconds of the show. Anything else that you’d want to share with our viewers just about making sure that ‑‑ I guess especially if you get a lot of folks calling you or coming in your office and they don’t have proper documentation and they don’t have the specifications that their loved one had hoped for. I guess you want to stress that however you want to take care of your business, make sure ‑‑
>> Brooks Burdette: Yes. Again, living wills are no charge, folks. Give me a call. That compliments power of attorneys. If you’re not sure what to bring to an attorney, give us a call. We’ll have two appointments if we need to make sure we cover everything.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right, Brooks. Thank you very much for coming in, always great to see you. Have a great week, everyone. We’ll see you here from LawCall next Sunday night at 10:30.