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Jewish World Review August 26, 2002 / 18 Elul, 5762

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports

Investing settlement money; Why retain a lawyer when buying a house? Patent help | DEAR BRUCE: I will soon receive a settlement from a malpractice suit that was settled out of court. I have a 13-year-old son who was included in the suit, and I plan on giving him $30,000. I want to invest this money in an annuity with checks being paid to him starting at age 25, but I am at a loss on how to go about doing this. I have no idea which company would be best for this investment. Can you offer any advice on this matter? -- M.P., via e-mail

DEAR M.P.: You said that you plan on "giving him" money, but he was included in the lawsuit. If your son was included in the suit, it's possible that the money must be invested under the stewardship of the court and at 18 the money goes to him. I'm not certain that you have the authority to keep the money from him after he turns 18. It would be quite different if you were the beneficiary of the suit, and you planned on using some of the proceeds in whatever fashion you choose. In any case, I would be very careful with regard to annuities. While there are certain circumstances where annuities can be valuable, more often than not there are better ways to invest. They do give you a certain amount of investment flexibility and a relatively minor insurance facet. Before you make any commitments that would be difficult to undo, get competent legal and investment advice.

DEAR BRUCE: I have obtained two patents for a mirror that allows people to easily see the back of the head and neck when combing hair. Getting the patents seems to have been the easy part. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can find a company that would discuss licensing the patents for a royalty fee? -- M.C., via e-mail

DEAR M.C.: Your observation that getting a patent for an invention is the easy part is right on. The patent office is loaded with patents that never get to the marketplace. I investigated one that had 18 patents on the idea, and none had ever been marketed. You can approach any company that you choose now that the patents have been granted. The difficulty is persuading someone that the idea has viability. One method you might wish to explore requires substantial capital. Have your idea manufactured and then take it to market yourself. If you can demonstrate that it will sell without incredible amounts of advertising, many companies may be interested. It is a very difficult task but then the rewards, if you are successful, can be substantial.

DEAR BRUCE: You always say that you should retain a lawyer when buying a house. Why? What specifically should the lawyer do that the "closing attorney" isn't already doing? -- Mark, via e-mail

DEAR MARK: First of all you mentioned in your question, "closing attorney." Who's the "closing attorney"? Who's paying for them? Where does this attorney's loyalty lie? Most lenders would have you, the buyer, pay for the bank's attorney to protect the bank's interest. You need an attorney in your corner protecting only your interest because yours and the lender's interests are not necessarily parallel. As an example, there may be zoning considerations, and while the value may not be affected, your plans for the property could be materially affected. I want my guy, or at least his surrogate, to do the search as well as arrange for title insurance. You might wish to take a look at my book "House Smart,"which was written by me and my late friend and attorney, Nate Rosenhouse. We will give you dozens of good reasons why only an idiot would purchase or sell real estate without being specifically represented by someone whose only loyalty is to you.

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Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


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