803-254-2200 803-254-2200

For business and legal updates:

Practices + Industries

Estate and Trust Litigation

Blog Posts

New South Carolina Law Helps Fiduciaries Access Digital Assets

Our online presence can live forever. The internet is packed with Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and neglected blogs that have outlived their makers. With the increasing presence of technology in our lives, we often a leave behind a plethora of digital assets without any guidance to our fiduciaries about what they are and how to access them. Digital assets include our smartphones, tablets, personal computers, social networking site, email accounts, electronic access to our financial and insurance information, online accounts that hold a cash value such as PayPal, url addresses, blogs, and files, pictures, videos stored on the cloud. Often, these digital assets are held by a third-party custodian, and gaining access in the past has been a daunting process if the deceased didn’t have the foresight to ease this process in estate planning.

Fortunately, South Carolina passed legislation this summer that provides a pathway for fiduciaries to access the digital assets of deceased or incapacitated family members. Called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, it sets out a process for personal representatives and others with power of attorney or fiduciary powers to view these accounts. Custodians of accounts must comply with requests to view accounts so long as access has not been eliminated by the account user, federal law, or by a separate terms of service agreement with the user. 

continue reading

Attorney-Client Privilege: Use with Care

A bedrock principle of our legal system is the protection that the law gives to communications between an attorney and the client.

Like most legal rights, however, attorney-client privilege has limits. Every word shared between a client and attorney isn’t protected. If you’re talking to a lawyer about a sensitive matter, don’t take attorney-client privilege for granted. The law provides exceptions, case law sometimes offers muddled guidance and opposing parties may litigate vigorously over what is covered. Your attorney can advise you as to how it applies to your circumstances, but here are some guidelines about relying on attorney-client privilege and waiving it. 

continue reading

Protect Your Loved Ones from Elder Financial Abuse

It’s a fact of life: as we get older, our powers of discernment diminish and our judgment of others – particularly their trustworthiness – often makes us vulnerable. Sadly, there’s a legal component to outliving our good judgment.

Elder financial abuse takes many forms, and the common denominator is theft. Sometimes a family member is involved. Sometimes it may be a caregiver who is a constant companion or someone met at church who seemingly just wants to help an older person manage his or her affairs. Families may seek legal help in regaining control over a loved one’s personal affairs or recovering squandered funds. Banks and others caught in the middle may seek legal help when they are unsure if granting a request for a joint account or other shared authority over finances is in the best interests of an older person. Lawyers called in on these types of cases often find that it is difficult to recover misappropriated assets, so if you suspect something is awry in an elderly person’s life you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. 

continue reading

Avoid These Legal Snares in 2016

We always like to look ahead and advise our business clients about legal issues that may receive more attention throughout the year. Some are pushed to the forefront by public policy and politics – immigration, for example. Other issues, such as data protection and workplace harassment training, always are important, but the beginning of the year is a good time to review whether your business follows best practices.

continue reading

Why You Must Renew South Carolina Buy-Sell Agreements to Reflect Inclusion of Goodwill

A recent South Carolina court ruling has adopted the emerging majority approach utilized by the courts nationwide, and for the first time has recognized the distinction between “enterprise goodwill” and “personal goodwill” for equitable distribution purposes in a divorce action. 

continue reading

Plan for Succession Even if You Plan to Work Forever

You may be one of those business owners too busy being successful to think about succession planning. Nonetheless, it is folly not to plan for your succession, and your strategy should follow the old adage of “hope for the best and plan for the worst.”  Assuming the worst – that you would unexpectedly leave the business tomorrow – do you have plans in place for transition in management, what happens to your ownership interest, and how to use your stake to provide for a spouse and family members?

continue reading

Considerations for Whether, When and How Much to Pay to Settle Litigation

Most lawsuits never go to trial, but it is still difficult for a business that is the target of litigation to know whether and when to settle, and for how much. 

It may be especially challenging for a defendant to take the initiative to settle when it feels it occupies the moral or legal high ground. However, while it may not seem fair, every defendant starts losing money the day the complaint is filed. Unless a defendant has a viable counter claim or a contractual agreement that the loser pays the winner’s fees and costs, the best a defendant can hope for is to lose only the cost of defense. For this and other reasons, it is often the best business decision to settle, even when in the right. But how much should a defendant pay to settle and at what point in the litigation, and at what number is it better to try the case? 

continue reading

Why You Must Update Your Will

Our first advice on wills is to make sure you have one. And once you have a will, review it periodically and consider whether it needs an update. While wills never expire, your life circumstances do change, and a will that hasn’t been updated will complicate matters for your family when you are gone, and ultimately, may not reflect your wishes. 

Here’s when you should review your will.

continue reading

Don’t Allow Your Business to Become a Victim of the Dreaded Ds

Is your closely-held business protected from the five dreaded Ds – death, disability, divorce, disaster and disagreement?

Turmoil, and even business failure, can follow if you don’t have a legal succession plan in place when any of these events occur. While this may not offer you any comfort, you are certainly not alone if you haven’t yet set up a succession plan: fewer than half of closely-held and family-owned businesses have a plan in place that covers these contingencies.

continue reading