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The Tax Advantages of Purchasing a Home

There are so many things to consider when thinking about purchasing a home.  You have to think about what you can afford, you have to get approved for a loan (not pre-approved), you have to find the home, and then you have to pay.  Many individuals, especially first-time homebuyers, do not consider the tax implications of purchasing a home and believe it; there are tax implications.

What You May Want to Do with Your Tax Refund

  • Posted On December 23, 2019
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Getting big tax refunds from Uncle Sam can turn the frowns of just about anyone to a smile. The average tax refund this year was about $3000 which is a lot of money. However, it is important that you use your tax refunds wisely. Rather than splurge and destroy your credit totally, you can use your tax refund money in ways that can help you build wealth. This means that rather than visiting the mall on a shopping spree, you can pay off your debts or invest. In this article, we will discuss the different ways to use your tax refund.

How to Prepare For Tax Season

  • Posted On December 23, 2019
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The year is coming to an end so it’s a good time to start preparing for tax season. It is essential to remember that it is never too early get all your documents in order. The good thing about being prepared is that once it’s time to file your taxes, you’ll be completely ready to either input your data into a software program or sit down with a tax professional. A large number of individuals make use of paid tax preparers while others use free alternatives. After searching for a professional or a free alternative, there are some steps that you need to take to prepare you for tax season. In this article, we will take a look at a couple of important ones.

The New York City Taxi Driver Bankruptcy Crisis

When someone thinks about New York City, taxi cabs are often part of the mental image. What most people do not realize is that drivers and/or taxi operators must purchase the right to drive in NYC.  A “taxi medallion” is often purchased by investors or the drivers themselves.  These medallions are treated similarly to a stock.  The value goes up and down, but the market is much less regulated.  Over the last 20 years, drivers have been duped into terrible loans required to purchase their medallion and bankruptcies are on the rise.

3 Celebrities Who Have Lost All of Their Money at Least Once

Some of the most successful people make the worst financial decisions.  Being good at singing, acting, or making music and movies does not always mean a person knows how to handle the things that come with success.  To be fair, sometimes well thought out investments just do not pan out.  Keep reading to find out just how bad things can get when celebrities blow all of their money.

Michael Jackson

Some estimate that the King of Pop died with over $500 million in debt.  During his amazing career, he sold more than 100 million albums.  He signed a recording contract with Sony worth around $64 million in the early 90’s.  Unfortunately, his spending habits were extraordinary.  He spent over $14 million to build the Neverland ranch which included such money pits as a zoo and carnival rides.  He settled a law suit with the parents of a young boy who accused Jackson of inappropriate behavior with a minor.  The settlement cost Jackson $22 million.  One of Jackson’s accountants once reported that the singer was spending $20 – $30 million per year more than he earned.

Mark Twain

Being one of the most successful authors of the 19th century was not enough for Mark Twain.  A self-described “risk taker”, Twain made plenty of bad investments such as:

  • A publishing house – Twain’s publishing house operated so terribly that when he closed it, he owed book making companies, authors, and investors $2 million (in today’s money). One of the publishing house’s more egregious flops was The Art of Sketching by Pope Leo XIII.
  • Protein powder – Mr. Twain invested $30,000 ($910,980.72 in today’s money) in a protein powder company which made a product called Plasmon. The product never took off and he lost his investment.

A month before declaring bankruptcy, Twain transferred all of his assets to his wife.  When he declared, he was more than $80,000 ($2,145,004 in today’s money) in debt.

Nicholas Cage

Mr. Cage’s financial exploits are well known, but it is always fun to do a quick recap:

  • IRS tax lien – at one point, Nicholas owed the IRS $6 million in unpaid taxes.
  • Property investments – Mr. Cage owned 15 residences at one time. He has owned two castles, a haunted house, and a deserted island in the Bahamas.
  • A dinosaur skull – enough said.

His net worth was once $150 million and now it is $25 million (still not bad).

If you have made some poor financial decisions, you may need help.  Bankruptcy can be a great tool if you use it properly.  If you are considering bankruptcy, contact Elias Dsouza at Dsouza legal group.  Elias has been guiding people through this complex process for over 15 years.

Do Not Skip Court: A Tori Spelling Story

A default judgement is defined as a binding judgement in favor of one party based on the inaction of the other party.  A default judgement can be handed down if you skip court.  Even if you do not think you will win your case, you should at least show up so you have a chance.  In 2017, Tori Spelling failed to respond to City National Bank’s allegations and a default judgement was levied against her.  Now she has to pay $220,000.

The Debt

In 2012, Tori and her husband Dean McDermott took out a $400,000 loan.  The couple quickly fell behind on payments and in 2017, the bank took them to court.  According to court documents, the borrowers still owed about $188,000 for the loan and an additional $17,000 which Tori over drew from her checking account.   Unfortunately, the couple had just been taken to court by American Express for failure to pay over $87,000 in credit card charges.  Needless to say, their spending was out of control.

The Court Date

Instead of responding to Citi National’s court claims against them, Tori and Dean decided to completely ignore the case.  They did not respond to the court via phone or mail.  Ultimately, they decided to skip their court date as well which led to a default judgement for Citi National.  A default judgement handed a win to the bank and the couple was immediately ordered to pay back over $200,000.

She claims that her financial issues stem from a lavish upbringing.  In her memoire, she stated “It’s no mystery why I have money problems. I grew up rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I never knew anything else.”  She went on to say, “Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle, I can’t seem to let go of my expensive tastes. Even when my tastes aren’t fancy, they’re still costly. I moved houses to simplify my life, but lost almost a million dollars along the way.”

There are plenty of reasons people fall behind on credit card or mortgage payments, but there is no reason to let it ruin your life.  You have options.  With the skills and experience of a debt defense attorney like Elias Dsouza, you can reclaim your life and get the fresh start you deserve.  Contact Elias for a free consultation.

5 Celebrities Who Have Had Their Wages Garnished

  • Posted On December 4, 2018
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Wage garnishment can be ordered by a court when a defendant does not show up or is just ignoring previous court mandates such as child support and/or tax payments.  These rules do not just apply to everyday people, celebrities are subject to these mandates as well.  What happens when they ignore the court ruling?

DMX

In 2014, rapper DMX was taken to court by his ex-wife for unpaid child support payments and “other” expenses.  The rapper had, what some would call, a failed album in 2012 (Undisputed), but he was still pulling in $15,000 per month in royalties.  The judge ordered Universal Music Publishing to send those royalty checks to the ex-wife; $10,000 per month for child support and $5,000 per month for those “other” expenses.

Will Smith

Will had an extremely successful run in the late 80’s as a rapper.  He won a Grammy.  He earned a few million dollars.  Unfortunately, he was 18 years old and apparently forgot to pay taxes on his earnings for a few years.  The IRS took action against him and began repossessing assets.  He reportedly owed about $2.8 million in tax payments.  At the brink of bankruptcy, NBC signed him to star in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.  Sources say the IRS garnished 70% of his wages for the first 3 years of the show.

Charlie Sheen

We are all aware of actor Charlie Sheen’s personal problems, but did you know his wages were garnished in 2011?  This is one of the more interesting cases because he was not behind on payments.  Sheen’s ex-wife took him to court to increase the child support payments to $55,000 per month because she stated that his spending habits were likely to leave him unable to make payments in the future.  She won the case and a judge asked Warner Bros. to send money directly to the ex-wife.

Evander Holyfield

In 2012, the Georgia Department of Human Services went to court on behalf of Holyfield’s daughter.  The former boxing champ racked up a bill of over $350,000 in missed payments and hadn’t made a payment at any time in the child’s 18-year life.  The DHS asked the judge to order Holyfield to go to jail and garnish wages until the debt was paid.

Allen Iverson

In 2010, a jeweler sued Iverson for not paying a $375,000 bill.  The judge ordered Iverson to pay it.  Two years later, the former MVP had still not paid the bill and the jeweler took him to court again.  This time, they asked for over $850,000 for the balance, fees, and interest.  The judge ruled in their favor.  Iverson still did not pay the bill.  Fed up with Iverson’s inaction, the judge took control of one of Iverson’s accounts and began garnishing payments.

Money problems are not exclusive to celebrities.  If you are having trouble making payments on your home, car, or any other asset/debt, you may have options.  Contact Elias Dsouza to see what those options are so you can move on with your life and get back on track.

Casey Kasem’s Family in Legal Battle Over Estate and Accusations of Murder

Casey Kasem was a legendary disc jockey and voice actor.  He brought us America’s Top 40 and the voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo.  In June of 2014, he ultimately died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease, but the immediate cause of death was sepsis (a systemic infection of multiple organ systems) and his family is ruthlessly battling for his fortune because he did not have a will.

Jean Kasem’s Arguments

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem died with his wife and kids by his side.  Sounds like a fairy tale death, right?  Wrong.  Immediately after his passing, his wife and kids went to battle.  According to Jean Kasem (who is 20 years younger), Casey’s children were always against her.  She said they were against the marriage from the beginning. Jean Kasem also says:

  • The Kasem children treated her and Casey like a personal ATM machine.
  • She moved Casey to an assisted living center at 2:30am one night to hide from the kids because the kids wanted Casey dead.
  • The kids forced Jean to take Casey to the hospital where he ultimately died.
  • The kids ultimately murdered their father by forcing him to sign a document that gave them healthcare decision making rights and that those rights led to his death.

The Kasem Children’s Argument

The children of Casey Kasem would be the first to tell you there is no love lost between them and their step mom.  They claim:

  • Jean was only ever interested in money.
  • Her actions to control Casey toward the end of his life is proof that she was eager to get the money.
  • Casey once old them, “Don’t ever go up against Jean. You do not know what she is capable of.”
  • Jean’s reluctance to take Casey to the hospital led to his death and that she murdered him by inflicting elderly abuse upon a helpless dying man.

Payouts

Casey Kasem did not have a will, but he did take out an insurance policy for each of his kids.  Each Kasem kid received a $2 million payout from Metlife.  However, they are suing their step mother for wrongful death and that case is ongoing.

It is essential that you have a will made by a skilled licensed attorney.  You do not want there to be any questions surrounding the distribution of your assets.  If you do not have this critical document in place, contact Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group.  He has the skills and experience you need.

Man Seeks to Change Legal Age

  • Posted On November 26, 2018
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In the past few years, we have seen people seek to legally change their gender identity, nationality, and race.  Now, a man from the Netherlands is seeking to change his legal age.  He wants to legally become 20 years younger.  This may sound crazy, but some of his arguments may have you second guessing.

The Plaintiff

Emile Ratelband is a 69-year-old motivational speaker and positive-thinking guru from the Netherlands.  His customers include Toshiba, Philips, Whirlpool, and Apple.  He has written 12 books and achieved international fame.  Now, he wants to change his birth certificate to indicate that he is 49-years old.  You may be asking yourself why anyone would want to do that or what purpose it could possibly serve?

The Argument

Mr. Ratelband claims he is not getting the same opportunities that someone who is 49 would get even though he is, in his own estimation, as healthy as one.  He was quoted as saying, “I feel much younger than my age, I am a young god, I can have all the girls I want but not after I tell them that I am 69,” Ratelband also said, “I feel young, I am in great shape and I want this to be legally recognized because I feel abused, aggrieved and discriminated against because of my age.”

He went on to make a more coherent argument, “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”  Additionally, he said, “When I’m 69, I am limited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car.”

The Court Case

As arguments wrapped up in November, the judge did acknowledge Ratelband’s points.  However, the judge countered stating that, while people are legally able to change their name and their gender, changing someone’s legal age may have the effect of deleting one’s past.

You may be having a more conventional problem such as credit card debt, foreclosure, or estate planning, but these are problems nonetheless.  If you need legal guidance, contact Elias Dsouza for a free consultation.

Image Credit : Top News

Identity Theft on the Rise During Black Friday

  • Posted On November 20, 2018
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Stealing a credit card number or even an entire identity is easy enough for criminals, but we make it exponentially easier around the holidays.  The shopping madness of Black Friday causes people to be reckless when shopping at stores.  Many people are not aware of the risks involved during holiday shopping and the people that are aware may not know what to do about it.

How Big of a Problem Is This?

A study in 2011 showed that stores reported 200 million shoppers on Black Friday that year.  They were able to determine that 154 million of them were at risk of personal data theft.  The report also showed:

  • Only 21% of the brick and mortar stores were prepared to tell the customers about a data breach.
  • 79% of customers affected by a data breach will not be notified.

Hackers and other identity thieves do not always target individuals.  They target retailers.  This is a much more efficient means of theft as retailers harbor millions of customer’s personal information including email address, phone number, credit card number, birth date, etc.

How to Know If Your Identity Was Stolen

The three main ways people discover their identity was stolen are:

  • Personal proactive action – checking bank statements, credit reports, and charges consistently is a great way to keep an eye on the safety of your identity. Your credit report is a useful way to make sure no one has opened any accounts in your name.
  • Retailer communication – responsible retailers will have a plan in place in the case of a data breach. You may receive a letter in the mail, a phone call, or an email containing details of the breach and the next steps to take.
  • Debt collection correspondence – if an account is opened under your name and you are unaware, a debt may be sold to a collector as it is unlikely the thief is going to pay the bills they have created. You could start receiving phone calls, letters, or even a court summons.

Paying attention to your finances and credit report is the best way to make sure your efforts to protect yourself were effective.

If your finances are in ruin because a thief stole your personal data, you need the help of an experienced attorney.  Elias Dsouza has been helping people with debt defense, credit restoration, and counseling for over 15 years.  Contact Elias today for a free consultation.