Estate Planning and Elder Law Seminar To Discuss Wills, Trusts & Elder Law

Upcoming Seminar Dates:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

PK Law attorneys Kimberly L. Battaglia and Cheryl A. Jones  host regular estate planning and elder law seminars in the PK Law Seminar Room located at the Towson office. Both are members of the firm’s Wealth Preservation Group and have years of experience helping families and individuals with their estate planning and elder law needs.

There is no fee for the seminar. Simply reserve a spot at least one week in advance. The seminars begin at 10:00 a.m. and last approximately one hour. Your questions will be answered and informational materials will be given out.

Estate Planning Attorney Cheryl A. Jones will discuss:

  • Trusts vs. Wills
  • Who Needs a Will?
  • Estate Tax Issues
  • Estate Planning Questions

Elder Law Attorney Kimberly L. Battaglia will discuss:

  • Protecting Your Assets From The Nursing Home
  • Creative Estate Planning Strategies
  • Tax Law Changes
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Healthcare Directives
  • Probate Avoidance

To find out when the next scheduled seminar is and make a reservation contact: Rhonda King at or 410.938.8800.

To learn more about PK Law’s Estate Planning and Elder Law Services visit our website at

Harford County Comprehensive Zoning

By: Michael E. Leaf, Esquire

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and the Harford County Council have initiated the 2017 Comprehensive Zoning review.  During the Comprehensive Zoning review, any property in Harford County can be rezoned provided that the new zoning classification is consistent with the Harford County Land Use Plan which was adopted earlier in 2016.  Since Comprehensive Zoning only occurs approximately every eight years, this is a great opportunity to improve the zoning of your property if it qualifies for rezoning.  Although the application period will run from December 12, 2016 through February 10, 2017, we recommend that you have your property reviewed as soon as possible.  Many times, meetings with planners and/or neighbors prior to filing an application will help achieve success in rezoning.  If you have any questions concerning the Harford County Comprehensive Zoning process, please contact Michael Leaf in our Bel Air Office at 410-938-8710.

Michael Leaf is a Member in PK Law’s Corporate and Real Estate Group. Mike Leaf has over 35 years experience in real estate, land use, estate planning, probate, business law and litigation. He has represented landowners, buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants in the negotiation of sales, purchases, ground leases and has prepared all varieties of real estate documents. Mike has litigated many cases in the Circuit Court and has represented numerous clients in the Court of Special Appeals and Court of Appeals. He has served as Court appointed Personal Representative and Court appointed Trustee to oversee the development and sale of real estate.  Mike has handled many zoning cases for landowners and contract purchasers and has represented clients in public works and other land development matters. Mr. Leaf can be contacted by phone at (410) 938-8710 or email at


This information is provided for general information only. None of the information provided herein should be construed as providing legal advice or a separate attorney client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney of your choice about your particular situation. While PK Law has taken reasonable efforts to insure the accuracy of this material, the accuracy cannot be guaranteed and PK Law makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.


Congratulations to PK Law Attorneys Named to 2017 Best Lawyers in America List

Pessin Katz Law (“PK Law”) is pleased to announce the following attorneys have been named to the 2017 Best Lawyers in America list:

David N. Pessin (2006) [10]

  • Entertainment Law – Motion Pictures and Television
  • Entertainment Law – Music
  • Sports Law

Steven A. Allen (2007) [10]

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Criminal Defense: General Practice
  • Criminal Defense: White-Collar

Drake Zaharris (2013) [5]

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Insurance Law

 Patricia McHugh Lambert (2006) [10]

  • Insurance Law

Edmund J. O’Meally (2012) [5]

  • Education Law

Natalie C. Magdeburger (2009) [5]

  • Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
  • Professional Malpractice Law – Defendant

Catherine W. Steiner (2009) [5]

  • Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
  • Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants

Mairi Pat Maguire (2013) [5]

  • Insurance Law
  • Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants

Dino C. La Fiandra (2010) [5]

  • Land Use and Zoning Law

Pessin Katz Law (“PK Law”) is pleased to announce that 9 lawyers have been named to the 2016 Edition of Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. “Best Lawyers is the most effective tool in identifying critical legal expertise,” said President and Co-Founder Steven Naifeh. “Inclusion on this list shows that an attorney is respected by his or her peers for professional success.” Lawyers on the Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Best Practices to Thwart Hackers Using Email to Get Your Money

Not a week goes by without some news report of another hacking incident. The industries targeted include large retail stores, restaurants, banks, attorneys, accountants and recently in Maryland, a title company.   In Montgomery County between $100,000 and $200,000 vanished when the buyers sent the money to what they believed was the correct bank for their home purchase.  This occurred when the sellers’ email was hacked and their email communication regarding the purchase was monitored.  The hackers then, pretending to be the sellers, sent an email from the sellers’ account instructing the buyers at the last minute to send the money to a different bank account. Neither the sellers nor buyers saw the money again.

The implications of getting hacked can be devastating to a company’s bottom line as well as their reputation. Understanding the basic steps of the hacking process can go a long way towards thwarting a hacking scheme.

In the first step, a hacker will gain access to an email system either by brute-force hacking or “phishing” a target member’s email account so the hacker can look like he or she is conversing as the target.  The system may be monitored by the hacker for the possibility of a significant inflow of funds to an escrow account.  In the case of a law firm, an email may be sent to the target concerning some significant settlement of a case or, in the case of a title company or realtor, a pending real estate transaction.

In the next step the hacker may “spoof” the target into believing the hacker is the client or that the would-be “client” has a lucrative legal settlement.

In the next step, the hacker may impose a sense of urgency to receive the funds from the target’s account.  In a desire to please the client, the target may act hastily in disbursing funds not yet collected.  In order cases, in order to induce a hesitant target to send funds before the funds have been collected, the hackers may send a fake cashier’s check, asking the target to deduct any fees or commissions and other expenses of the transaction, before forwarding the balance of the escrowed funds.

In the final step, funds are transmitted to the hacker’s account, or one set up by a collaborator, and withdrawn, generally very quickly.

What can be done to protect businesses from these hacking scams?

  1. Confirm and re-confirm the “reply to” email address. Often, hackers will use a reply email similar to that of the client but with one or two letters off.  Or the email address may suddenly appear with a different suffix than the true email account such as “.org” as opposed to “.com”.  This sets up a target to communicate with the wrong person. If told to transfer funds by email, before ever complying, you should double check the email address.
  2. Use “two step” authentication. In other words, if an email instruction is received regarding the transfer of funds, send a text message or, even better, use the old-fashioned telephone to reach the client and confirm the instructions.
  3. Go slow. Make sure the client understands that there will be no disbursement of funds from an escrow account until any funds needed to meet a disbursement are “collected”.  Take reasonable steps to rebuff calls of “urgency”.
  4. Know the difference between “collected funds” and “available funds”. The difference between the two is important.  Available funds are “spendable”, but in the banking system collected funds are “guaranteed”.  So, if an email instructs that funds be wire transferred (a guaranteed form of payment in the banking system) from an escrow account, the wire may only come from “guaranteed” or collected funds.  Therefore, the “collected balance” in the escrow account is far more important than the “available balance” when paying out escrow funds.
  5. Review incoming financial instruments closely. Make sure the incoming financial instrument is authentic.  No money should ever be transferred from an account before validation of a check received to be used to cover the transfer including a cashier’s or treasurer’s check.
  6. Make an email account a “hard target”. Follow the usual steps in protecting important information.  Don’t share financial information via email, text or phone.  Change passwords frequently.  Log out of your computer when away for a significant period.
  7. Review your cyber security and commercial insurance policies. Make sure the terms are clear to you.  Email fraud is referred to as “Business Email Compromise” or “BEC”.  As with all types of insurance coverage, whether BEC is covered under a policy depends on the wording of the policy.  Some instances reported in the news focus upon whether the email in question is a “financial instrument”.  In other words, the email must do more than provide instructions as to the sending of the funds for coverage to be effective.  The email must be similar to a check or draft – a financial instrument. Knowing whether your business will be protected from financial loss and liability is crucial to an overall business plan.

PK Law’s Insurance Defense Practice can assist with matters relating to coverage for incidents involving BEC or other cybersecurity related schemes. For additional information contact


This information is provided for general information only.  None of the information provided herein should be construed as providing legal advice or a separate attorney client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney of your choice about your particular situation. While PK Law has taken reasonable efforts to insure the accuracy of this material, the accuracy cannot be guaranteed and PK Law makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.

Still Haven’t Prepared a Will? You Could be Leaving A Mess for your Spouse/Partner

By:  Cheryl A. Jones, Esquire

Statistics show that more than 50% of Americans die without having a Last Will and Testament.  People tend to put off this important planning because they are either procrastinators (“I’ll worry about it later!”) or misinformed (“I don’t need a Will because my spouse/partner will get everything when I die.”) The consequences of this can be dramatic, whether you are a wealthy celebrity (look at the tabloid stories about Prince!) or just an “everyday Joe.”

If you die without a Will in Maryland, then you are considered intestate, and Maryland’s intestacy laws determine what happens to your property. The intestacy laws are designed to protect your family members – first your spouse and children, then your parents and other extended family members. Often, however, what happens under these laws might not be what you expect – or what you might want for your loved ones.  Here are a few key points:

Without a Will, your Unmarried Partner Inherits Nothing from Your Estate.

Unfortunately, your unmarried domestic partner is not considered family under Maryland’s intestacy laws.  So, if you die without a Will, your partner has no right to any assets that flow through your estate (such as a house, car, business, or bank accounts that you own in your own name), or any portion of your life insurance proceeds or retirement assets payable to your estate, no matter how long you’ve been together and no matter what you intended.

This can be devastating for a surviving partner, both emotionally and financially. Imagine losing your partner, only to be told that you won’t be receiving any portion of his or her estate – including the home you’ve lived in together for decades, or the retirement assets that you were counting on for your own financial security.

Even if You are Married, Your Spouse May Not Inherit Everything

Marriage doesn’t necessarily solve the problem for your spouse. That’s because if you die without a Will, your spouse has to share your estate with your children who survive you. If you have minor children who survive you, then your spouse will only receive 1/2 of your estate, and your children will be entitled to the other 1/2. If you have adult children who survive you, then your spouse receives the first $15,000 of your estate and 1/2 of the balance, while everything else goes to your children.

What if you have no children or other descendants who survive you? Then your spouse still has to share your estate if either or both of your parents survive you.  Under those circumstances, your spouse will inherit the first $15,000 of your estate and 1/2 of the balance, and the other 1/2 will pass to your parents.

Other Considerations

Sound complicated? It is. Now imagine how much more complicated it becomes when:

  • The relationships between your family members isn’t so great. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that after your death old hurts and rifts will suddenly be healed and the family will all share nicely with each other.
  • Your parents are in a nursing home receiving Medical Assistance benefits at the time of your death. If they inherit from your estate (because you die without a Will and have no children who survive you), then your parents will have to immediately pay that inheritance to the nursing home, or risk losing their Medicaid benefits. Is that really what you want to happen?
  • Your 18-year old son or daughter inherits almost 1/2 of your estate and can do anything he or she wants with those assets, without anyone’s permission or oversight.
  • You have a stepchild that you want to treat exactly the same as your biological children, but because you died without a Will, your stepchild will only inherit if you have legally adopted him or her, or if you have no spouse or other blood relatives – children, grandchildren, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and any other descendants of your grandparents – who survive you.

Of course, there’s an easy solution to these problems, which is to prepare a Will. Besides protecting your partner/spouse, a Will can help you structure inheritances for family members, address any death taxes that might arise, and ensure that your estate passes the way you wish.

Cheryl A. Jones is an attorney at Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law), whose practice includes estate administration, estate planning for same-sex couples, second parent adoptions, and other family building issues.  Cheryl can be reached at 410-769-6141 or