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Monday, January 19, 2015

Closing Small Estates

Ordinarily, when someone dies, the method to pay off creditors and distribute the remainder of the estate is a court-supervised process called probate.  However, when someone dies with relatively few assets, many states allow simplified procedures to close out the estate. 

Some states allow surviving family members to settle a small estate using an out-of-court “small estate affidavit.”  Other states offer an in-court “simplified probate” procedure, which is more involved than the affidavit process.  Some states (like Illinois) offer a choice between the two.  This article will describe the benefits and drawbacks of closing out estates using a small estate affidavit.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Some Hospitals use Dying Patients for Publicity; how to Protect Yourself


Image Courtesy of Jeffrey M. Vinocur
Today’s New York Times features a troubling story about a hospital that allowed reality TV camera crews to film Mr. Mark Chanko, a trauma patient’s dying moments after he was rushed to the hospital after being struck by a truck.  The hospital acted without Mr. Chanko's consent, and never notified his family that Mr. Chanko's death was filmed, or might be broadcast on television.  One night, completely unexpectedly, his wife, Mrs. Anita Chanko, was distressed to hear her deceased husband’s anguished voice crying out in his final moments, on an ABC reality show.  The couple’s daughter, Pamela, who also saw the show, suffered emotional distress after witnessing the graphic details of her father’s gruesome death.

The hospital's prior vice president of public affairs once said of the show, “You can’t buy this kind of publicity, an eight-part series on a major broadcast network.”  In this blog post, I will discuss legal steps you can take to protect your rights, and to avoid your family's anguish being used for publicity.