Documentation key for tracing separate property interests

By Andrew Zashin

While uncertainty continues to plague the real estate market, historically, the spring and summer months have been the best times to sell a home. As we approach these warmer months, experts are optimistic that, despite housing inventory remaining at a near all-time low, mortgage rates will continue to decrease in 2024. For individuals looking to buy or sell real estate this year, there are a variety of things that you can do to seek to protect your separate property interests in this real estate in the event of divorce.

When parties divorce in Ohio, the courts must equitably divide the marital estate. This means that the court must first determine what is marital property and what is the separate property of either spouse. Any property acquired from the date of marriage to the date of a final hearing terminating the marriage is presumed to be marital property. Separate property, conversely, includes any assets owned by either party prior to the marriage, inheritances, gifts or assets explicitly designated as separate through legal agreements. The party asserting a separate property interest must prove that they own this interest.

There are a variety of ways that individuals can acquire separate property interests in real estate. One party may own a home prior to the marriage that the parties then live in during the marriage. One party may sell a home owned prior to the marriage and then use the proceeds for the down payment on a residence purchased by the parties during the marriage. One party may use funds received from an inheritance to pay for an addition to a residence. Regardless of how a party acquires a separate property interest in a residence, however, there are a variety of things that they can do to prove this interest more easily in the event of divorce.

First, couples may consider entering into a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement that identifies the separate property interests that either has as of the date of the agreement and how the parties intend to distribute property owned by either or both of them in the event of divorce. Even without such an agreement, however, individuals can take important steps to demonstrate or “trace” their separate property interests. The easiest way to do so is by maintaining thorough records regarding the purchase of the property, any separate funds contributed to the purchase, and any separate funds used toward improvements to the property.

Because banks and other businesses are only required to keep records for a certain number of years, it is important for individuals with separate property interests to maintain these records themselves. Individuals should begin by gathering all relevant documents that establish their ownership interest in the property, including deeds, purchase agreements and mortgage documents. Next, individuals should gather and maintain records showing their use of separate funds for the purchase of, or improvements to, the property, including bank statements and receipts. If an individual has a premarital interest in a residence that the parties then live in during the marriage, the party should obtain a mortgage statement as of the date of marriage. To further simplify tracing of their separate property interests, individuals should also consider opening new accounts solely for the purpose of housing funds they receive by way of inheritance, gift or separate proceeds received from the sale of real estate or other assets.

Ultimately, I encourage anyone looking to protect their separate property interests in real estate to maintain careful records and to consult with an experienced family law attorney about the best ways to protect their interests in the event of divorce.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2024-02-23T14:48:46-05:00February 23rd, 2024|Divorce, Property Division, Real Estate|

Dig into holiday spirit to help on-the-ground organizations

By Andrew Zashin

Year-end giving is a philanthropic tradition that holds special significance as the calendar draws to a close. As the final months of the year unfold, individuals, corporations and foundations often reflect on their achievements, growth and the impact they can make on the world. This introspection often culminates in a surge of generosity and charitable donations, collectively known as year-end giving.

Aside from altruistic reasons for giving, there are also other more practical considerations as well.

One of the primary reasons for the increase in charitable contributions toward the end of the year is the holiday season, and with it, the holiday spirit. Tax planning is another great motivator for year-end giving. Specific advantages vary depending on a particular individual’s circumstances, but charitable giving can create a win-win for both the giver and recipient. Some individuals may also benefit from giving for estate planning objectives. Whatever the reasons, giving might create opportunities for the giver.

The festive season, marked by holidays like Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, fosters a sense of compassion and goodwill. Many people are inspired to share their blessings with those who are less fortunate, making it a time when charitable organizations experience heightened support. The act of giving during the year-end becomes a way for individuals to spread joy, hope, and make a positive difference in the lives of others. Now, especially, during this time of crisis and conflict, it is more imperative than ever for individuals and entities to tap into this holiday spirit and support those in need.

Donations to on-the-ground organizations in Israel and Gaza play a vital role in providing immediate relief and assistance to those innocent victims affected by the conflict. These organizations depend on financial contributions to deliver essential services, medical assistance and humanitarian assistance.

By donating to these organizations, you can give children, families and soldiers hope in the face of uncertainty regarding their loved ones, livelihood and safety. Your donations enable organizations to respond swiftly and effectively to the urgent needs of these communities, providing a lifeline to individuals who may be struggling to meet their basic needs.

Consider the following organizations when making donations this holiday season:

  • Magen David Adom: A donation to MDA, Israel’s national emergency service, helps purchase equipment for the rescue teams on the front lines and on the battlefields, directly in the face of danger. Donations are used to purchase ambulances, medical equipment, protective equipment, bandages and other equipment that helps save lives.
  • Israel Emergency Aid: Israel Emergency Aid is an Israeli organization committed to ensuring that every fighter has the necessary combat and defense gear they need to triumph over terrorism.
  • Friends of the Israel Defense Forces: Friends of the IDF is an organization authorized to provide for the welfare of soldiers in the IDF.
  • Jewish Federation of Cleveland: The Federation has launched its Israel Emergency Campaign to help provide immediate assistance to victims of Hamas’ terrorism and their families.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Gray divorce: A growing phenomenon for those age 50-plus

By Andrew Zashin*

While the overall divorce rate has dropped in recent years, the Pew Research Center found the divorce rate among adults age 50 and older in the United States has doubled since 1995. Reflecting societal changes and shifts in personal priorities that challenge the conventional notion of “till death do us part,” this phenomenon, coined the “gray divorce,” poses unique opportunities and obstacles for individuals seeking a fresh start in their older years.

Various factors contribute to this trend, including evolving attitudes toward divorce, longer life expectancies and shifting gender roles. As divorce has become more socially acceptable, and with people now leading active lives well into their older years, many individuals are reevaluating their relationships and reconsidering whether their partners align with their long-term goals, particularly if the other spouse has had an affair, is emotionally or physically abusive, or struggles with addiction.

Further, with more women than ever before attaining financial independence through participation in the workforce, and with individuals increasingly prioritizing personal fulfillment and happiness, many older individuals are electing not to stay in unhappy marriages “for the sake of the children,” particularly if their children have emancipated. Older couples also sometimes find that as they become empty nesters and retire, they have less in common than they once did. Additionally, as more and more individuals are living alone or in a retirement facility as they age, there is a reduced societal expectation that one spouse will serve as the other’s caregiver indefinitely.

Some notable examples of gray divorcées include Clint Eastwood (age 84 at the time of the divorce) and Dina Ruiz, Rupert Murdoch (age 82 at the time of the divorce) and Wendi Deng, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

Gray divorce couples face some unique challenges as they look to end their marriage. While custody battles are less common because children of gray divorce couples are often older or emancipated, unique financial considerations often rise to the forefront in gray divorce cases. Many older couples have accumulated assets that require special attention when dividing the couple’s property, particularly if the couple desires to preserve some of their wealth for their children or for future generations.

Similarly, while all divorcing couples should update their estate planning following, or in connection with, a divorce, this is an especially important task for gray divorcées. Health insurance can pose a significant concern, especially if one spouse relies on the other’s insurance and is not yet eligible for Medicare. Dividing retirement benefits can also be complicated, particularly if a defined benefit or pension plan is already in payout status. Social security benefits, tied to marriage length and status, are also an important consideration for older couples looking to separate.

Despite the potential challenges, a gray divorce can mark both an end and a fresh start. As the landscape of relationships continues to evolve, gray divorce can serve as a path toward renewed happiness and personal growth. For those contemplating divorce in their later years, I encourage you to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to explore potential issues and to enable you to make an informed decision.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-20T15:13:04-05:00November 20th, 2023|Divorce|

Charitable contributions in divorce: not just for rich and famous

By Andrew Zashin*

Navigating the divorce process is often both emotionally and financially challenging. As part of the process, couples must divide their assets. While this often involves extensive legal and financial negotiations, and potentially even court involvement, there exists one option in structuring a property division that can yield positive results that benefit both the parties and their communities: charitable contributions.

The media often portrays charitable contributions made in connection with a divorce as an avenue only available to the rich and famous. I previously discussed how, as part of their 2021 divorce settlement, Bill and Melinda Gates pledged to continue working together on their philanthropic foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global health and development. The Gateses, who have donated more than $59.1 billion to their foundation since its creation, stated that they would continue to work together “to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organization’s overall direction.”

Similarly, following her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, MacKenzie Scott has made headlines for her philanthropic giving, donating more than $14 billion to over 1,600 charities and organizations. She works with a team of advisers to identify and vet community-focused organizations that work to reduce disparities in health, education, economic outcomes, and other critical issues.

But incorporating charitable contributions into a divorce settlement is not just for the rich and famous. In fact, charitable giving serves as a viable option for divorcing couples of all income levels. As charitable giving can take many forms, including donations of money or assets, one or both parties may choose to donate a portion of their property division to a charitable organization as part of their divorce settlement. This provides the parties with a way to support causes that are important to them, while potentially receiving tax benefits that can help offset some of the financial costs of the divorce.

There exist several types of vehicles that can help facilitate these charitable contributions. I have previously discussed the tax “win-win” associated with donor advised funds – accounts that parties can use to deposit assets for charitable donations over time. Divorcing couples who cannot agree on how to divide an asset may consider donating that asset directly or putting that asset into a donor advised funds.

Parties may further agree that one or both parties will contribute a certain number of dollars to a donor advised fund annually. Similarly, charitable remainder trusts are another vehicle available to divorcing couples. If a party plans to donate assets to charity, he or she could establish an irrevocable charitable remainder trusts that provides the income generated from the trust’s assets to their former spouse for a set period of time, after which the trust assets transfer to the designated charity. The spouse who donates the assets to the CRT may also enjoy the tax benefits associated with the charitable donation.

Overall, divorcing couples should consider incorporating charitable contributions into their final agreement. By working with qualified financial advisors and family law attorneys, divorcing couples can explore the best ways to incorporate charitable giving into their property division and create a positive legacy that will endure beyond their marriage.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Can I Sue My Realtor for Not Telling Me About an Abusive Neighbor?

Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”

By Maria Azzurra Volpe On 10/7/23 at 7:00 AM EDT

Dear Newsweek,

I live in Southern Oregon and I have a neighbor with a small house and small backyard and 15 full-grown male huskies. He is not directly behind me but we share a corner.

Some background. Until August 27 last year, I was a surgical technician and owned two small businesses in Northern California. I have two sons, one of whom I have conservatorship over. He is 24 years old with high-functioning cognitive disabilities and lives with me. I am single and have been for many years. I ran my businesses while working full-time to provide for my family.

Everything changed on August 27, 2022. While out riding ATVs in the mountains of Northern California in an area called Dutch Flat with my younger son, who is 22, I took a turn way too fast and was thrown into a large cedar tree. I only weigh 100 pounds. My body wrapped itself around the tree and my life flashed before my eyes.

I was knocked unconscious and awoke to the sound of my panicked son’s voice. After a few minutes, I sat up and thought “holy cow I’m alive!” I knew I did have some damage but little did I know how much. I spent the next 6 1/2 days in the trauma ICU. I had fractured eight ribs, and punctured my lung. I’d also broken my pelvis on both sides, broken my lower back, and had a bad concussion, internal bleeding among all the scrapes and bruises.

After six months, I realized I would not be able to go back to work or my businesses, which meant I could no longer afford to live in California. Since travel was painful, we set out to find a house via virtual tours with a realtor in an area we wanted to move to.

After being outbid on home after home, we found a house in a good neighborhood that had been on the market for 141 days. We made a low offer knowing that it must need work. We had the house inspected and it turned out pretty decent.

We arrived at the home in April of this year to immediately find out why this house had been on the market so long. Something that the inspector and our realtor failed to mention. We went into the backyard and were instantly met at the corner of the fence with 10-12 barking and growling huskies. Even our Great Dane ran back to the house.

Fast forward to now. We never get to sleep through a night because of the howling and barking, which is affecting my recovery. It’s constant throughout the day. But the worst thing of all, the owner will not pick up the feces of the dogs. His backyard is all dirt and slopes downhill towards mine and my neighbor directly behind him, so needless to say the poop runs downhill. If you can imagine the amount of urine and feces produced by 15 huskies, it’s bad!

Both my son’s bedroom and mine face the backyard. We are unable to open the windows due to the smell. And the flies are in the thousands, making it impossible to sit on our backyard patio. After inquiring with the other neighbors, there have been many complaints but nothing has been done. I’m a pretty feisty person, and because the market was so hot, we paid a pretty penny for this house and I wasn’t having it. We confronted the neighbor with the complaints and in a very vocal and obscene way he told us to mind our own business. So all of us neighbors on every side of him called animal control and tried to get the ball rolling, thinking that if everybody complained, maybe something would be done. It had been months, and nothing had changed.

But we began to notice that he hits and kicks the dogs, and they do not look healthy. So I went upstairs and started filming from the window. I collected hours and hours of video and took it in. And finally, we are getting results. It turns out he has never licensed or vaccinated any of the dogs. He has been kicked out of two rental places for the same reason and has incurred thousands of dollars in fines. He thought by buying the home he currently lives in he would go unnoticed. The dogs are still there, but the county is working on having them removed and rehomed. Some of the neighbors are complaining that property values have been affected and are talking lawsuit. So I guess that’s something and the dogs will go to better homes.

Karen, Southern Oregon

When You Catch The Offending Neighbor in The Act, Do Not Hesitate to Call The Police

Featured Expert:
Andrew A. Zashin is the managing partner of Zashin & Rich, where he leads the firm’s family law and international family law practice groups. He has represented parties in some of the rare family law cases heard by the Supreme Court.

I am sorry to learn of your circumstances. The neighbor in question has created intolerable conditions for you, and all of those who live near you. This situation must come to an end, not just for the people in your neighborhood, but also for the dogs in his possession. These animals would be better off as “rescues” and both the dogs and humans in the area would be happier and healthier if this particular neighbor would change his or her ways. So, what should you do?

It seems you have already taken some proactive and productive steps. Specifically, you have organized your neighbors. You have confronted the bad neighbor about the environmental conditions they are responsible for creating. Sadly, this has not been enough.

But it is a first and necessary step. If the neighbor in question is a tenant, I would raise the stakes by speaking to their landlord. It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure that their tenant is not a community nuisance. Second, you have not only physical proof, that is, the surroundings, but also documentary evidence, and videos you can take to court that prove the unnecessary cruelty meted out to dogs in this neighbor’s possession. This was a smart move.

You should also document the noise, both at night and during the day. Most communities have ordinances regulating the amount of noise permitted and when it is permitted. Noise pollution, like other kinds of environmental pollution, affects the quality of people’s lives. It is something that local governments should, can, and will regulate. Further, when you catch the offending neighbor in the act, do not hesitate to call the police. Most probably the police will make it the dog owner’s job to control his pets.

Third, you have learned that beyond the neighbor’s mistreatment of the dogs, he has not vaccinated his pets, which creates a hazard to others in the neighborhood. This has brought forth a county investigation. One hopes that the country will act to remove the dogs from this negligent owner immediately.

Finally, you mention “lawsuits.” I think you and the neighbors would be well advised to hire a lawyer and pursue several causes of action against this neighbor. Specifically, the diminution of your respective property values comes to mind as a perfect case for damages. Pursuing damages, collectively, for the lost value of your properties is the kind of incentive that often changes people’s bad behavior.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00October 7th, 2023|Neighbor Disputes|

22-year high mortgage rates another hurdle for divorcing couples

By Andrew Zashin*

As mortgage interest rates soar to a 22-year high, divorcing couples face yet another hurdle as they work to disentangle themselves from one another. With the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate exceeding 7%, divorcing couples must make increasingly complicated decisions regarding property division, housing arrangements and the overall financial stability for both parties involved.

Divorcing couples often have an emotionally charged time determining what to do with the family home (also called the “marital residence”). Traditionally, there are two primary ways of addressing a family home encumbered by a mortgage during a divorce. In the first option, one party keeps the home and refinances the mortgage to remove the other party’s name from the debt and to buy that spouse out of any equity that they have in the home. In the second option, the parties sell the home, pay off the mortgage and divide the proceeds.

With interest rates at a 22-year high, however, the first option is becoming increasingly less desirable as the party looking to refinance can end up with significantly higher monthly payments under the current rates. While one may think that has caused parties to default to the second option and sell the home, falling housing prices and the anticipated downturn in the housing market have deterred some parties from selling their homes at this time, particularly if the sale may lead to a loss.

This has led couples to embrace creative solutions regarding jointly-owned property. Some couples opt to continue owning the property together, and in some cases even continue to live together, until refinancing becomes more appealing. Some eligible parties have explored mortgage assumption, the process of transferring an existing mortgage to another party. Other parties are deciding not to refinance and are electing to remain on the mortgage while the spouse remaining in the residence repays the other spouse’s portion of the equity over time.

The decision to “wait out” the market or extend the time frame for refinancing post-divorce, how-ever, does not come without risks and difficulties. A party that agrees to remain on the mortgage risks credit score implications and may face difficulty immediately qualifying for another mortgage. This may prevent that spouse from securing a new residence until their name is removed from the underlying mortgage on the marital residence.

High mortgage interest rates do not just impact property division in divorce. A higher interest rate environment might lead to tighter budgets and financial strain, affecting each spouse’s financial stability post-divorce. This can influence negotiations over spousal and child support payments.

Ultimately, mortgage interest rates can significantly impact divorce proceedings, shaping decisions about property division, housing arrangements and support. As couples and their legal and financial representatives navigate the complexities of the divorce process, they must consider the potential effects of these mortgage interest rates on short-term and long-term financial outcomes. By weighing these economic realities, individuals can make informed decisions that set the stage for their post-divorce financial well-being.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

My Neighbors Are Throwing Dog Poop In My Yard

Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”

By Lucy Notarantonio On 8/13/23 at 6:00 AM EDT

Dear Newsweek,

I’m 73 years old and I live alone. I have owned the property for 34 years and 11 years ago, my neighbors from hell moved next door. They are in their 40s.

For for the first eight years, at least three or four times a week, I would have 10 to 30 or more kids in my front, side and backyards with the parents outside. They would be having parties and blocking my driveway at all hours of the day and night.

The dad used to walk through my backyard when he pleased so I rang his wife to complain. I have also called the police on a regular basis but that never did any good.

The police would talk to them but as soon as the officer would leave, they’d go right back into my yard. The kids would get bats and start hitting rocks and golf balls at my house. Then they would get mad because I called the police.

The most recent incident occurred a few months back, I was working in my yard and found a lot of dog poop. I had seen the man shoveling dog poop in his yard the night before. I called the police and they told the police that my property line is wrong and that is their property and they can do what they want.

I even took my property survey to the police to prove my property line is where I said. They rent the property so they should have spoken with the landlord about the property line instead of being so mean and evil.

So finally after 11 years they get a citation and I built a privacy fence on their side only because at this time I can’t afford to fence all of my property. But the fence is extended almost all the way to front of my house, about 15 feet away from the curb.

Next time they decide to be a Karen, harass me, bully me or cause me any more mental stress we will be in court. After 11 years of hell it was time to get the owner of the property involved and I only communicate with him. I feel that at my age and with my health, I don’t need this kind of treatment and I need to find a way to legally deal with these people.

Ophelia

Get a Lawyer and Gather Concrete Evidence

Featured Expert:
Andrew A. Zashin is the managing partner of Zashin & Rich where he leads the firm’s family law and international family law practice groups. He has represented parties in some of the rare family law cases heard by the Supreme Court.

Dear Reader,

I am sorry to learn of your situation. Sadly, what you are experiencing is more common than you might imagine. Unfortunately, the steps you have taken to appease your “neighbors from hell” have proven fruitless. I will suggest some additional actions.

First, document everything that happens in real time. If you see your neighbors shoveling dog feces into your yard, take a video of it. Take pictures. Telling anyone about what happened later is one thing. Proving what they did, capturing the offending parties in the act, with verifiable details of where and when—documenting the time and place with background or audio by calling out to them on video—is an entirely different matter altogether. Then, armed with this evidence, go to the police supervisor. It will be much harder to ignore a complaining citizen with concrete documentation.

Second, get a lawyer. Dealing with a matter like this should not be expensive. The cost, however, seems insignificant compared to the misery these neighbors are causing you. A simple letter from a lawyer manifesting your seriousness to neighbors, the police, and the landlord, may resolve the matter. Such a letter, putting the responsibility on the landlord to control his tenants, will take the burden off your shoulders and put that burden on the landlord, where it belongs. The landlord is the person, after all, who allowed these tenants to rent his or her property and behave like this in the first place.

Finally, your lawyer, armed with the video and photographic evidence you have already collected, is in a better position to file a lawsuit if necessary. It is realistic that your lawyer, either through negation or litigation, can recover your legal fees and expenses from the landlord. I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00August 13th, 2023|Harassment, Neighbor Disputes|

Law’s Andrew Zashin weighs in on Florida family dispute

Lakeland man claims ex-wife abducted son in Brazil

The Ledger (subscription required): Andrew Zashin, adjunct professor of law, weighed in on the case of an international family dispute surrounding the case of a Florida father who filed a challenge when his ex-wife took their son to Brazil after filing for divorce. “The Hague Convention itself is not about custody, it’s about jurisdiction,” Zashin said. “It’s about forum selection—which country gets to decide the custody of a child or children. And by not having filed the Hague petition (sooner), he surrendered the jurisdictional argument to the courts of Brazil.”

This article originally appeared as a post on the daily by Case Western Reserve University.

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00July 31st, 2023|Uncategorized|

Insurance revenge: an unfortunate weapon of vindictive partner

By Andrew Zashin*

Couples sharing auto, health and homeowner’s insurance, or who have named each other as beneficiaries of life insurance policies, face the task of disentangling these policies if they choose to divorce or otherwise separate. As break-ups often bring out the worst in people, however, vindictive partners may try to weaponize these policies to cause harm or exert control over the other party. This destructive and manipulative tactic is referred to as “insurance revenge.”

Insurance revenge occurs when a partner intentionally undermines the other party’s financial security by tampering with insurance policies. This can include canceling policies without consent, removing beneficiaries, manipulating coverage, or failing to pay premiums, leaving the other party vulnerable to potential financial and health risks. By targeting insurance policies, the individual aims to create financial instability, disrupt healthcare coverage, or cause emotional distress to their former partner.

Insurance revenge can have severe consequences for the victim, both financially and emotionally. Manipulating or canceling insurance policies can leave the victim exposed to unexpected expenses, loss of coverage, or financial ruin. If the offending party tampers with health insurance policies, the victim may face difficulties accessing necessary medical care and treatment. Destruction or sabotage of insured property can result in significant financial losses and emotional distress. Further, tampering with insurance policies may complicate divorce proceedings, leading to extended legal battles and increased stress for both parties, but particularly the victim.

How can you protect yourself from insurance revenge? First, stay in regular contact with your insurance providers throughout the separation. As soon as you are aware of the impending separation or divorce, notify your insurance providers in writing about the situation. Request that they immediately inform you of any modifications or cancellations made to the policies and require your consent for any changes.

Next, you should gather and maintain thorough documentation regarding all insurance policies, including copies of the policies themselves, premium payment records, and any correspondence related to the policies. This evidence is critical in assessing any changes made and supporting your case if insurance revenge occurs.

Further, if you are going through divorce proceedings, I encourage you to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your rights, navigate the complexities of divorce proceedings, and protect your interests. If you are concerned about insurance revenge, talk with your attorney about obtaining temporary court orders to preserve the status quo regarding insurance policies until the divorce is finalized.

If you suspect insurance revenge or notice unauthorized changes to your policies, promptly report the incident to the insurance carrier, and your attorney if you have one. They can help you take appropriate legal action and address the issue. You may also want to consider obtaining independent insurance coverage if you currently hold joint policies with your partner. This will provide you with greater control over your policies and reduce the risk of tampering.

Insurance revenge during can have devastating long-term consequences. By employing protective measures such as maintaining regular communication with insurance providers, gathering documentation, and seeking legal advice, however, individuals can mitigate the risk of falling victim to insurance revenge and protect their emotional and financial well-being.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00July 21st, 2023|Divorce, Insurance, Insurance Revenge|

Dangers of over-reliance on AI in the legal profession

By Andrew Zashin*

Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT are transforming the world as we know it. While people worldwide are using these programs to solve math problems and generate travel itineraries, these tools also have the potential to revolutionize the workplace.

In the legal field, AI tools have the potential to transform the profession. From summarizing complicated legal theories to analyzing data, AI tools may enable lawyers to perform a variety of tasks with greater speed, accuracy and efficiency. Blind reliance on the current AI programs, however, presents serious risks. Recently, two New York lawyers faced potential sanctions after they submitted a ChatGPT generated court brief that cited to six “nonexistent cases” and “bogus quotes” that ChatGPT invented. This forces us to pause and look at the potential benefits and pitfalls of utilizing AI in the legal field.

At the outset, AI-powered tools can automate time-consuming tasks, such as legal research, document review, and even due diligence. By automating repetitive tasks, AI can save lawyers significant time and reduce costs associated with legal proceedings. If legal research, document review, and contract analysis can be completed faster and more efficiently, law firms can handle more cases and allocate resources effectively. Streamlining these processes also allows lawyers to focus on more complex and strategic tasks.

AI algorithms can also process and analyze vast amounts of legal information and data with precision and consistency, reducing the risk of human error. By extracting valuable insights from large volumes of documents, court cases, and precedents, AI has the potential for more accurate legal research, contract analysis, and case prediction. This enables lawyers to make well-informed decisions, build stronger cases, and identify patterns and trends that may be missed by human analysts.

But as the New York lawyers learned, using AI does not come without risks. AI systems lack the ability to exercise human judgment, intuition and empathy, meaning that these tools sometimes struggle to accurately replicate nuanced interpretation of the law and to contextualize important decisions. AI tools may also fail to explain the rationale behind specific outcomes.

The reliance solely on AI may also overlook critical legal factors and ethical considerations. The New York case has caused some to question if lawyers need to disclose their reliance on AI tools in the course of their work, particularly if the AI system ultimately provides incorrect legal advice or recommendations. Law firms will also need to give careful consideration to the privacy and security challenges that arise when utilizing these tools to handle confidential and sensitive information and data.

Ultimately, the use of AI in legal proceedings offers the potential for significant benefits, including enhanced efficiency, improved accuracy, and time and cost savings for clients. Lawyers utilizing AI tools, however, must weigh the limitations and potential risks associated with AI, and, in these early phases of the AI tools must carefully review any information or documents generated by these tools. If used correctly, AI will likely serve as a valuable tool that augments the capabilities of legal professionals by improving their overall efficiency and accuracy.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00June 16th, 2023|Artificial Intelligence|
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