My ex-husband and I received an insurance check for approximately $17,000 on a claim. The check was made out to both of us but was literally written out to his first and last name followed by my name with no punctuation or contraction like "and" in between them. He signed his name and deposited the check into his account. I notified his bank of their error because I did not sign the check. The bank's VP said she would issue half of the proceeds to me. She took a day to get back to me to let me know that she changed her mind and would be putting me in contact with the bank's attorney. The attorney said that because the insurance company failed to put the word "and" between the two names on the check, the bank was allowed to interpret the check as a single party. They also told me if I wanted my half of the $17,000, I would have to ask my ex-husband for it. He refused. I have no idea how to handle this going forward. I don't have money to hire a lawyer. What do you advise? -- Nancy from Rancho Mirage, Calif.
You didn't tell me what kind of claim it was. But the first thing I would do is call the insurance company. Did you sign a release in exchange for receiving the money? If you did, then you should tell them that because they did not put an "and" on the payee line, you did not get your money. If you have any of the supporting documents (signed release) or anything else documenting your interest in the claim, you may want to consider filing a small claims action against your ex. The maximum amount you can claim is $7,500. Small claims court may be your best answer. No need for an attorney. Here is the link for small claims court in California: www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-smallclaims.htm.
I know I did a stupid thing -- I cosigned a loan for my ex-husband's son. At the time, the son had a great job and strong work ethic. He now has lost his job and is hooked on pain pills amongst other things. He is currently 29 days late to submit payment on the loan, and the next payment is due in a couple of days. I know I have to pay the loan before I sue him. My question is this -- I am a resident of Virginia, and the loan is through a credit union in Tennessee. What exactly do I need to do? Is there any way to retract my name on the loan so that his late payments won't affect my credit score anymore? -- Judy from Richlands, Va.
I agree with you, it was stupid! You are on the hook for the amount he is not paying. You should contact the credit union and see if they will work something out with you, but legally they don't have to. After you pay (to protect your credit score) you can sue your ex-husband's son. The question is what will you get from it. Sounds like it would be difficult to collect on a judgment against him. I am sure that this has taught you a very expensive lesson about cosigning for anyone.
Is it considered legal malpractice for an attorney to not work on a case that he took and that an agreement was signed on? Is it considered further malpractice for him to not pay on an agreed upon settlement that all parties signed on? Thank you for your help! -- Ann from Whitehall, Pa.
The best answer I can give you at this point is that it could be. Legal malpractice is negligence on the part of the attorney, or a breach of a fiduciary duty or contract that causes harm to the client. If you retained an attorney and he failed to act, that could be malpractice if his inaction harmed you. If a settlement was reached and you were legally entitled to receive payment from that settlement and did not, that is not just malpractice, it could also be criminal. Unfortunately, there are cases where attorneys embezzle their client's funds. This behavior should be reported to the police. If you believe a lawyer harmed you, you should also report it to the disciplinary board overseen by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Here is a link to the website: www.padisciplinaryboard.org/consumers.php.
(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev., who is the new host of CBS's daytime legal affairs program, "Swift Justice With Jackie Glass." Visit www.SwiftJustice.com for more information, and submit your legal questions to Jackie by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @theJudgeGlass.)Copyright 2012 by Tribune Media Services, Inc.