Estate Planning Seminars and An Estate & Retirement Seminar

Event SeminarThe Saint Agnes Foundation is very pleased to partner with Estate Planning attorney, Cheryl A. Jones, with Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law) and Amanda Wilhelm, Principal with SC&H Financial Advisors, to share tips and techniques for effective estate and retirement planning. Please join us for one of these complimentary educational sessions to help you and your family prepare for the future.

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Estate Planning Seminars
Estate Planning Attorney Cheryl Jones will address:

  • Wills
  • Use of Trusts in Estate Planning
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Charitable Aspects of Estate Planning
  • Health Directives
  • Probate

Thursday, March 23rd | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. (Saint Agnes Board Room)
Tuesday, April 4th | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Saint Agnes Board Room)

Estate & Retirement Seminar
Estate Planning Attorney Cheryl Jones and Tax Professional Amanda Wilhelm will address Planning for Retirement–Financial and Legal Issues:

  • Basic Estate Planning Documents
  • Retirement Planning – The Basics
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Estimating Your Retirement Income Needs
  • Health Directives
  • Saving For Retirement

Thursday, June 1st | 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. (Saint Agnes Alagia Conference Room)

Seminars will take place at:
Saint Agnes Hospital | 900 Caton Avenue | Baltimore, Maryland 21229

Space for these exclusive invitation-only events is limited, so please RSVP to:
foundation@stagnes.org or 667.234.3155 (Please RSVP 5 business days before event)
Refreshments will be served.

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

Upcoming Seminar Dates:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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 rking@pklaw.com or 410.938.8800.

Odor of Marijuana Grounds for Vehicle Search

Police officer has pulled over a motorist and is using his flashlight to check the back seat.

In Robinson, et. al. v State, Nos. 37, 39, & 46, September Term, 2016, decided January 20, 2017 (Watts, J.), the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, (the “Court”) held that a law enforcement officer (“officer(s)”) has probable cause to search a vehicle when an officer detects the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, because marijuana in any amount remains “contraband” under Maryland law, notwithstanding decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of the substance; and the scent of marijuana gives rise to probable cause to believe that the vehicle in question contains contraband or evidence of crime. Consequently, there was probable cause to search the vehicles involved in the appeal, based on the fact that the officers involved in the cases detected the odor of marijuana coming from vehicles which were the subject of “traffic stops” (“stops”).

In 2014, Maryland joined a number of other jurisdictions that have decriminalized, but not legalized, possession of small amounts of marijuana—that is, under the law of these jurisdictions, possession of a small amount of marijuana remains illegal, but is punishable by a fine, not by incarceration. Before October 1, 2014, under Maryland law, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana was a misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of ninety days of incarceration and a fine of $500. As of October 1, 2014, under Maryland law, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana became “a civil offense” that is punishable by participation in a drug education program, an assessment for substance abuse disorder, possible substance abuse treatment, and a fine, the amount of which depends on whether the violation is a first, second, or subsequent violation of the statute.

The defendants/petitioners argued that because of this “decriminalization”, officers had no right to search the vehicles involved in the stops. In each case, the officers involved in the stops testified that the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicles was strong.  The Court noted that the cases were ones of “first impression” in Maryland.

The petitioners made the following points:

  • Because the General Assembly made possession of less than ten grams of marijuana a civil offense that is punishable by a fine, an officer may not conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle based only on the odor of marijuana.
  • The odor of marijuana alone does not constitute probable cause that a vehicle contains more than ten grams of marijuana because the odor of marijuana indicates only its presence, not its amount.
  • Officers could not conduct warrantless searches of their vehicles because a search warrant cannot be issued for civil offenses.
  • A warrantless search is permissible only where reasonable.
  • Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925) and other cases do not answer the question of whether it is reasonable for an officer to search for items, the possession of which is not criminal.
  • Whether a search is reasonable does not depend on the Maryland General Assembly’s intent in decriminalizing possession of a small amount of marijuana. Or, if relevant, the General Assembly’s intent was to limit the enforcement of laws related to the possession of marijuana, including laws related to searches.

The State of Maryland responded with the following assertions:

  • The decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana does not affect existing case law that permits a warrantless search of a vehicle based on the odor of marijuana.
  • The “Carroll doctrine”, based on the case mentioned above, permits the warrantless search of a vehicle based on probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains contraband or evidence of a crime.
  • “Contraband” and “evidence of a crime” are not synonymous, as “contraband” includes anything that is unlawful to possess, regardless of whether possession is criminal.
  • Despite the decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana, marijuana remains contraband, which is subject to seizure, and that the odor of marijuana coming from a vehicle gives rise to probable cause to believe evidence of crime may be found in the vehicle.
  • Courts in other jurisdictions have applied the “Carroll doctrine” and upheld warrantless searches based on the odor of marijuana.

The Court noted that while it had not yet addressed the impact of the decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana on an analysis of probable cause, the Court of Special Appeals (the second highest court in Maryland, “COSA”) had done so. In Bowling v. State, 227 Md. App. at 476, 134 A.3d at 398, (2016) COSA held that the decriminalization of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana did not alter the status of marijuana as contraband in Maryland, and that a narcotics dog’s alert provides probable cause to search a vehicle pursuant to the “Carroll doctrine”.

Carroll was the touchstone for an exception to the requirement that, generally, for a search to be reasonable, an officer must obtain a search warrant. One exception to the warrant requirement is the “automobile exception,” under which an officer may conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle based on probable cause. The automobile exception originates from the decision in Carroll and has been referred to as “the Carroll doctrine.”

In rejecting the arguments of petitioners the Court made the following points:

  • Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Possession of marijuana in any amount remains illegal in Maryland.
  • The relevant statutes’ plain language and legislative history support the conclusion that the General Assembly did not intend to preclude a search of a vehicle based on the odor of marijuana.
  • In changing the classification of possession of less than ten grams of marijuana from a “misdemeanor” to “a civil offense,” the General Assembly made clear that possession of marijuana in any amount is still illegal. When decriminalizing possession of less than ten grams of marijuana, the General Assembly added language to the law which states that decriminalization “may not be construed to affect the laws relating to . . . seizure and forfeiture.” See 2014 Md. Laws. 1122 (Vol. II, Ch. 158, S.B. 364).
  • Under the plain language of the decriminalization statutes, marijuana remains a scheduled substance that is subject to seizure and forfeiture, notwithstanding the circumstance that possession of less than ten grams of marijuana is a civil offense. By definition, if officers may still seize marijuana, then they may still search for marijuana.

The Court, in affirming and upholding COSA’s position on the issue, stated that upon consideration of the Fourth Amendment jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on warrantless searches, Bowling, and decision of courts in other jurisdictions that have addressed the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, reached the conclusion that an officer has probable cause to search a vehicle when he or she detects an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle.

 

Aidan Smith is an attorney at Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law).  Aidan focuses his practice on general litigation, criminal defense and family law matters.  His ability to listen to his clients, assess their issues and concerns and use his knowledge and experience of the criminal and civil judicial systems to help them resolve their situations has been recognized and praised by many of his clients.  Aidan can be reached by phone at 410-339-6764 and by email at asmith@pklaw.com.

Do You Have a “Day After” Insurance Policy?

By: Cheryl A. Jones, Esq.

InsuranceInsurance is a form of risk management, designed to minimize the loss associated with certain events like flood, fire, accidents, disability, and even death.  Most insurance requires an agent and the payment of premiums.  However, there is a type of insurance which you can take out on your own that costs nothing, but will provide your loved ones with incredible peace of mind, when the “Day After” arises.

What is the “Day After”? It’s the period immediately following some event (medical emergency, incapacity, entrance into a nursing home, or death) which makes you unable to act for yourself.  Here’s how to implement your “Day After” insurance to protect yourself, your family, and your finances:

  1. Get your legal affairs in order now. If you don’t have legal documents in place to allow someone to manage your finances and make health care decisions for you, now’s the time to do so.  Ditto if you don’t have a Will, especially if you have minor children.  You do not want to leave these critical decisions up to someone else to decide.  What if it’s that one family member with the absolute worst judgment that steps up to decide your future nursing home?!
  2. Make a list of your assets and liabilities. Even with the proper legal documents in place, it can still be incredibly difficult for a spouse or loved one to assist you if they don’t know what bank you use, where your checkbook is, what assets are available to provide for your care, and how to access them.  List bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, automobiles, boats, life insurance and disability policies, and any other assets that can be used for your benefit. You’ve worked long and hard to make sure that nursing home is the best money can buy, so make sure your loved ones know how to pay for it!
  3. Check the title of your assets and beneficiary designations. If you haven’t checked the beneficiary designations on your life insurance, retirement accounts, and pensions, now is absolutely the time to do so.  Those beneficiary designations cannot be changed once you are gone, and your current spouse will be unhappy if your ex-spouse is still listed as the beneficiary of your life insurance!  Now’s also the time to confirm how your house, bank accounts, CDs, and other assets are owned, and determine who, if anyone, is (or should be) listed as a co-owner.
  4. Make a list of your computer passwords and logins. In this day of online bill paying, you should keep your websites, logins and passwords handy (but secure), just in case a loved one needs to pay those bills on the Day After.  There are plenty of safe ways to store this information, but sometimes the low-tech way (a handwritten list) is the easiest and best way to do this.
  5. Make a list of the important people to contact on the Day After. Compile names and contact information for family members and friends. Add in your insurance agents, financial advisor, accountant, and attorney.  If there is a priest, rabbi, or other spiritual or religious advisor, make sure his/her name is included. Do you have a prepaid funeral, burial plot, or other arrangements? Include that info, as well.  Want to really help out your family? Collect claim forms from life insurance companies, pension benefits, and your IRA or 401(k) custodian, so that things are easier on the Day After.
  6. Write down your wishes. Do you want to be cryogenically frozen until the year 2525? Make sure your family knows.  Do you want your obituary to mention that you were a two-time all-state athlete in high school? Write it down.  Make a “cheat sheet” of the types of this and other important information that you want your family to know on the Day After, especially your thoughts about health care decisions and end-of-life planning.
  7. Make a “Day After” folder. Now that you have all of this important information in place, make sure it’s someplace easy to locate when the time comes.  A safe deposit box isn’t the best location, as it can be difficult to access, especially if you are “inconsiderate” enough to die or become disabled outside of banking hours.  A simple, expandable folder labeled “Day After Insurance” works just fine.  Just be sure to let loved ones know where that folder is located.

Like traditional insurance, “Day After” insurance is simple enough to implement when things are going well – but if you don’t have it in place when you need it, then it’s too late.  Add this to your list of things to do, today.

Cheryl A. Jones is an attorney in the Wealth Preservation Department of PK Law in Towson, MD, who represents a wide variety of clients on matters relating to trusts and estates, probate, elder law, and asset protection. She can be reached at cjones@pklaw.com, or 410-769-6141.

PK Law Education and Labor Attorney Les Stellman Identifies Collective Bargaining as One of Top Ten Legal Issues Facing Community Colleges

Portrait of happy multiethnic students with teacher standing on college campus

In an article published in the March 2016 Ferris State University Perspectives publication, PK Law Labor and Education Attorney Leslie Stellman produced a “top ten” list of the most prevalent legal issues facing community colleges.  Number three on the list is Employee Relations (Collective Bargaining).  Mr. Stellman identified “the emergence of the ‘nontraditional’ faculty, such as adjunct professors who are teaching a greater number of classes in community colleges,” is the precipitous for the sense of need to organize to improve salaries and working conditions.  Go here to access the full article.

In Maryland, Mr. Stellman’s identification of this issue in the “top ten” is particularly pertinent in light of the introduction of SB 652 on February 3, 2017.  The Bill, if passed, would establish, in part, collective bargaining rights for community college employees; establish procedures for the selection of an exclusive bargaining representative; establish that a maximum number of six bargaining units may be designated; and require specified contracts and agreements entered into before October 1, 2017, to remain in effect until the agreement or contract expires.  The House passed similar legislation (HB 27) in March of last year and critics of that legislation voiced a concern that it was a one size fits all bill and that each individual community college should have the right to opt out of the requirement.  Without the opt-out provision, community colleges would be faced with unforeseen rises in costs which they could only alleviate by raising tuitions. Proponents argued that employees of the community colleges, particularly adjunct professors, receive historically low wages and the legislation is needed to force community college employers to work collaboratively with their staff to improve learning conditions and contribute to student success.  A hearing on the bill is set for March 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m.  Senate Bill 652 was cross-filed with House Bill 871.

Members of PK Law’s Education and Labor Group, Leslie Stellman, Rochelle Eisenberg and Edmund O’Meally, are seasoned veterans in the handling of collective bargaining on behalf of employers. 

Mr. Stellman has over 40 years of experience as a labor attorney in both the public and private sectors.  A labor lawyer by training, early in his labor law career, Mr. Stellman appeared regularly before the National Labor Relations Board, and participated in dozens of arbitration proceedings, hearings before the NLRB, and served as chief negotiator in collective bargaining.  Becoming more involved in the public sector, in the 80s Mr. Stellman has appeared in many cases before local boards of education, the Maryland State Board of Education, and the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board (“SHELRB”).  Mr. Stellman was selected by three campuses of the University System of Maryland to serve as their chief negotiator shortly after the enactment of Maryland’s higher education labor relations law and the creation of the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board (“SHELRB”).  In 2005 Mr. Stellman was retained by the United States Naval Academy as its chief negotiator in collective bargaining with union representatives (the American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE) of the Academy’s civilian employees.  In May 2012 the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”) ratified the first agreement negotiated with the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners covering a bargaining unit of 140 school police officers.  Mr. Stellman served as the Board’s chief negotiator, reaching agreement on a unique pay-for-performance contract with the police.  Mr. Stellman was recently asked to serve as chief negotiator for McDaniel College in collective bargaining negotiations over the terms of a first contract between the College and SEIU Local 500 covering over 250 adjunct faculty members who recently voted to join the Union.   

Ms. Eisenberg has over 38 years of experience serving as a mediator and representing private and public sector clients on behalf of management with experience before federal and state courts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, various state and city human relations commissions (employment and fair housing cases), National Labor Relations Board, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Maryland State Board of Education, Office of Administrative Hearings, and other administrative agencies. She represented the Board of Education of Queen Anne’s County in the State’s first impasse tried under Maryland’s Fairness in Negotiations Act. 

Mr. O’Meally has over 30 years of experience working with public and private sector employers on a wide-variety of labor and employment matters including serving as a chief negotiator representing management in negotiations with local affiliates of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”), the American Federation of Teachers (“AFT”), the Maryland State Education Association (“MSEA”), and the City Union of Baltimore (“CUB”), advising collective bargaining teams, representing employers in impasse mediations and arbitrations, litigating scope of bargaining disputes, litigating grievances and arbitrations, and representing employers in a wide variety of employment litigation matters before federal and state courts and administrative agencies. In 2010, Mr. O’Meally was the chief negotiator of the innovative performance based collective bargaining agreement between the Baltimore City Public School System and the Baltimore Teachers Union and has since served as chief negotiator in the negotiation of several other performance based collective bargaining agreements for non-certificated employees. Mr. O’Meally is one of the few negotiators in the country who has successfully negotiated this type of agreement.