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“Where there’s no will, there’s no say”

Cole Law Group Blog Approximately 60% of Americans are said to die “intestate”.1 Simply put, this means that the deceased individual (i.e. the “decedent”) did not create a legally valid and enforceable will during his or her lifetime. Nevertheless, the decedent’s estate must be distributed in some manner. In general, most state intestacy laws favor a decedent’s spouse first, then children, followed by parents, and more remote relatives.

Tennessee Intestacy Laws

As if our city hadn’t had a tough enough year as it was, early on Christmas morning a bomb was detonated in downtown Nashville that caused massive destruction. 2nd avenue, just off Broadway, was left completely in ruin and in need of urgent assistance.

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Luckily, if there is anything the year 2020 didn’t take away from our citizens, it’s that as a city we’re #NashvilleStrong. In an effort to aid recovery from the bombing aftermath, Dawn, The Nashville Mom, and Danielle Cather Cohen, a talented artist, have teamed up to sell prints of one of Danielle’s beautiful paintings. All proceeds will be used to benefit the Community Resource Center Nashville.

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If you have an interest in purchasing one of the prints, you can visit the site at https://the-nashville-mom.myshopify.com/products/nashville-skyline-print. Cole Law will proudly display the print at our Brentwood office.

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Many current or former service members and their current or former spouses are generally aware of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. However, from my experience in working with military family law matters, it is an area of law that many people misunderstand. The purpose of this article is to help members and former spouses better understand their rights and obligations under the “USFSPA”.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act is a federal law codified at 10 U.S.C. § 1408, et. seq. The Act gives state courts the authority to treat disposable retired pay as property of the member and spouse in divorce. In the definitions section of the Act, the law specifies that only “disposable retired pay” as defined in the act is divisible. The Act prescribes important limitations, i.e. it only applies when the spouse or former spouse was married to the service member for at least ten years during which time the member performed at least ten years of service creditable for retired pay. The law does not authorize courts to order any member to apply for retirement at any specific time. All payments under the USFSPA cannot exceed 50 percent of the disposable retired pay of a member. If there is more than one court order, they are satisfied on a “first-come, first-served basis”.

Cole Law BlogMany service members understand the frustration of being wrongfully denied disability compensation from the Veterans Administration. In my experience I have observed veterans who became frustrated with the process and ultimately gave up. This is most unfortunate. If you have suffered an injury or illness due to your military service, you should be compensated under federal law. However, the failure of many service members to understand the VA system can cause self-inflicted problems.

I recommend the following five best ways to present persuasive disability evidence as an effective strategy:

  1. Recognize your mission and ensure that everything you submit helps further your mission.

Collecting military challenge coins is something that service members understand. However, those outside the military may have never seen them before or comprehend their unique history. Many purposes are served by challenge coins in the military. One is to reward exceptional performance during training or combat operations. Rewarding excellence is commonly utilized among military leaders to incentivize excellence and raise the morale of a unit. At other times coins are awarded to all service members involved in a particular unit or mission. This shows that each Solider awarded the coin belongs to that unit or contributed to the mission. When I see a military challenge coin, I try to identify the unit, operation, or other insignia to determine if I recognize those features.

I was unaware of the traditions of military challenge coins until I arrived at West Point. As a cadet at the United States Military Academy, I often interacted with Army officers and senior non-commissioned officers who had on their desk or in their office a large collection of military challenge coins. I would sometimes recognize the unit insignia of a well known Army unit or a combat operation or training center that was displayed on a specific coin.

I distinctly remember the first time I was personally awarded a military challenge coin. As a cadet, I volunteered to be on the Color Guard during my sophomore year. As part of my Color Guard duties that year, I often carried general officer flags during parades. One day, as I was performing that duty for the Commandant of Cadets, Brigadier General Robert L. Caslen, the General surprised me by shaking my hand and thanking me for doing an excellent job in performing my duties. He presented me with a coin bearing one star and the West Point insignia that to this day is the military challenge coin of the highest rank that I have been awarded.

How Does the Army ROTC Program Work?

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

The US Military’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a system through which many college students can pursue an undergraduate education while conducting military training that prepares them for a period of service as a commissioned military officer. According to the US Army, “The overall mission of the Army ROTC Program is to produce commissioned officers in the quality, quantity, and academic disciplines necessary to meet active Army and reserve component requirements.”1 Army ROTC includes a chain of command starting with a Commanding General and going down through a Battalion Commander and Professor of Military Science (PMS) to individual cadets.

Compass pointing to MediationDivorce Law Basics

Lawyers label divorce cases according to the complexity of issues that must be resolved prior to the granting of a decree and/or to the degree of contention that exists between the two opposing parties. An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses seek a divorce and agree on all divorce related matters. A contested divorce is a case where one of the spouses does not want a divorce or where the spouses are unable to agree on all the issues of the case. A complex divorce case is a contested divorce where many issues are in dispute.

Important considerations in a divorce may include: alimony¹, a parenting plan and child support (when there are minor children), the division of personal property (such as furniture, cars, firearms, etc.), payment of attorney’s fees, marital debt, division of real property, taxes, and other financial considerations. Every case is unique, and significant issues will vary based upon the complexity of the marital estate and the personal goals of each spouse.  Speaking with an attorney before filing for divorce can help someone who is considering divorce determine what issues may or may not be significant to him or to her.

Black Covid-19 flag on top of US flagAs part of the response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), on April 22, 2020, the President issued a Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak (the “Proclamation”). The Proclamation, which is effective April 23, 2020, for a period of sixty (60) days, does significantly impact immigration for many individuals currently outside of the United States and seeking entry into the country on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, the Proclamation also has many exceptions, and it appears likely that the Proclamation will not ultimately prevent the majority of individuals seeking lawful permanent residency in the United States from obtaining green cards.

Generally, the Proclamation suspends and limits the entry of individuals who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents into the United States. Importantly, however, the Proclamation only applies to individuals who: (1) are outside the United States on April 23, 2020; (2) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on April 23, 2020; and (3) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (i.e., an advance parole document, re-entry permit, or other official travel document) that is valid on April 23, 2020, or issued on any date after April 23, 2020, and permits the individual to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

Moreover, the general suspension and limitation on entry contained in the Proclamation has several exceptions and does not apply to several categories of individuals. Individuals falling within any of these exceptions will not be denied entry into the United States as immigrants due to the Proclamation. Specifically, the Proclamation does not apply to individuals falling into any of the following categories: (1) any lawful permanent resident of the United States; (2) any individual seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional, or to perform work essential to combating or recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak (including any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such individual(s)); (3) any individual applying for an EB-5 Investor Visa; (4) any individual who is the spouse of a United States citizen; (5) any individual who is a child of a United States citizen and under the age of 21; and (6) any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces. In addition, the Proclamation contains exceptions for certain individuals designated by the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security as being important to the furtherance of certain law enforcement objectives or whose entry would be in the national interest.

What Is the Purpose of Discovery?

Cole Law Legal DiscoveryDiscovery is the formal pre-trial process through which each party in a civil lawsuit may discover legal evidence and facts about the case from the opposing party or parties and witnesses. In Tennessee, discovery is governed by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and, in many cases, by local rules as well. The general scope of discovery is quite broad. “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action…”1 Both Plaintiffs and Defendants should use the discovery process in an effort to prove their claims and defenses and disprove the claims and defenses of the opposing party. The court may limit discovery in certain circumstances.2

There are four main types of discovery that will be utilized in most civil cases:  interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for admission, and depositions.3

Gavel pounding moneyIn many marriages, one spouse will be the primary breadwinner. If a couple is happily married, a significant disparity in income is often not a cause for concern, but if the couple decides to divorce, the lesser earning spouse is at a financial disadvantage and may wonder if he or she can afford the cost of an attorney. The law aims to protect the rights of all individuals, even individuals that cannot afford an attorney. Thus, in many divorce cases, the court will order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. If you intend to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Tennessee divorce attorney to discuss whether your spouse may be responsible for your legal fees.

Responsibility for Legal Fees

Like many states, Tennessee follows the “American Rule,” which traditionally requires a party to a lawsuit to pay his or her own attorney’s fees unless a statutory or contractual provision states otherwise. State v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 18 S.W.3d 186, 194 (Tenn. 2000). Nevertheless, Tennessee statutory law vests trial courts with the discretion to award one party his or her attorney’s fees in the context of a divorce proceeding, and some trial judges may deem such an award to be a form of alimony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-103(c).

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