That Fine Line Between Information and Advice
I was talking with someone today (someone with no connection to the law school) about what I know of the tax consequences of selling a secondary residence. If it were a more difficult legal question I would not have ventured into the conversation, but I know
this, so I was very tempted to spill my guts. DON'T WORRY, I didn't. I stayed well clear of giving out legal advice, and instead provided some very general information. Some readers may not understand why I had to hold back, but the fact of the matter is I'm not graduated, I can't practice law.
(Dear reader: test your knowledge. Why would a taxpayer prefer to sell a primary residence instead of a secondary residence, and what characteristics distinguish the latter from the former?)
I also included the standard disclaimer. Plus, because I'm a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy, during the our interaction I also sent up a few "I don't know" flags when in fact, I had a pretty good idea (J.--if you're reading this, I'm sorry!) and added: You'll have to be sure to ask your attorney about that part.
That, combined with the fact that the person with whom I was speaking knows darn well that I'm only a student and not an atty, was enough to cover me. Thank goodness I'm not an atty; if I was I wouldn't have time to post this because I'd be too busy scrambling to write the person a follow-up letter to clarify the fact that I haven't been retained as a result of our conversation.
What a mess. I am only half joking, now, in invoking the famous words that Uncle Ben uttered to Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spidey): "With great power comes great responsibility."