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How to find a great business lawyer

As you launch and scale a company you will, undoubtedly, face challenges and spend countless nights awake worrying. And invariably, you will encounter a problem that leads you to ask: do I now need to hire an attorney for my business? Attorneys have a reputation for being expensive and un-relatable. For that reason, many business owners treat attorneys like they do doctors: call on them when the pain becomes unbearable.

That strategy may serve you well some of the time. But eventually, just like underlying medical conditions, it will bite you. Key decisions in a company’s life, such as hiring a new employee, taking out a loan, or leasing a new property may all seem harmless, but they can have lasting legal impacts that you should proactively plan around and manage for.

That’s why it’s critical to know that investing in a business attorney early on will often pay substantial dividends and help your company thrive in the long run.

When to Hire a Business Lawyer

You definitely do not need an attorney for every single step of setting up and running your business – any smart business owner is capable of filing simple business or IRS forms – and there are certainly many straightforward and self-explanatory matters that could be handled without spending hundreds of dollars on business attorneys. After all, there are so many business expenses in starting up a company, so why not try to save a load if you can do it yourself? On the other hand, it is essential to know exactly when you will need legal help and how to find the attorney that’s right for your business before the calamity strikes.

business lawyer

Like with insurance and accountants, the best time to hire a business lawyer is often before you think you need one. Even if you are trying to be extra cautious with your money, it’s worth looking into a few small business attorneys in your state anyway – if you ever decide to hire one, you’ll have a few names to choose from.

Where You May Get Stuck

Here are some key preliminary issues that business owners might try to handle alone, but then realize it makes more sense to get professional help:

There are likely more business-related matters you can probably do on your own to conserve capital, but if you want 365-day peace of mind for your business, or you just want a pro to handle the paperwork that distracts you from operations, retaining a business attorney might be a great investment for the future of your company.

When to Call a Pro

You will face legal issues that are too complex to handle on your own, to be sure. At such time, you should find and retain a business lawyer. Here are some common situations when you might need help with your legal needs:

  • Choosing a business entity type: LLC? S-Corp? C-Corp? The options can be mind numbing and confusing. Choosing a business entity affects the future of your company’s growth and impacts your tax consequences. A small business attorney will be able to help you with the cost/benefit analysis and ultimately help you make the decision that is right for you.
  • Raising money: When raising outside money and/or selling equity to investors, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer who can help you structure and close the deal.
  • Drafting founder agreements: In the case that you have partners in your business, then writing out the roles and responsibilities of each partner, and the equity for each, right at the beginning can keep disagreements from happening in the future. An attorney can assist you with partnership agreements and corporate bylaws.
  • Contract review: A lawyer can help you in drafting and negotiating contracts.
  • Handling employment issues: As a business adds to its workforce, a business attorney can help keep up with labor laws and lawsuits.  This is more important than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • DisputesDealing with demand letters and responding to lawsuits, both of which can have serious monetary consequences for you and your company.
  • Intellectual Property. Applying for a Trademark for your company name.

How to Hire a Business Attorney

When you decide it’s time to hire a small business lawyer for legal advice, it’s best to give a couple options. Most attorneys will be happy to have a short meeting with you as a consultation, and to get to know one another.

A few issues you might want to consider when evaluating any attorney you meet:

  • Specialization. Make sure that the attorney is specialized in business law. Hiring a litigator or an attorney who isn’t familiar with the ins and outs of business law can be disastrous and even costly in the long run.

  • Client list. Client testimonials and reviews (Google, etc) are common nowadays, so if your attorney doesn’t have any prominently displayed, it could be a redflag.

When you do meet your attorney, considering asking her: 

  • How do you typically work with clients? From billing time, to communication channels, to response time.

  • Who does the work? Many law firms are pros at the old bait and switch. The experienced rainmaker gets you in the door, and then passes you off to a junior attorney that actually does the work. Buyer beware.

  • Have you worked with other startups or growth-stage companies? At JUSTLAW, our founding team has over 75 years combined experience with startups. It’s important to work with an attorney who knows how startups are built and scaled, and can render sound, fast advice on a reasonable budget.

The dreaded fee conversation!

Everyone knows lawyers are expensive, right? Well, sometimes, and sometimes they’re worth the money. But you don’t always need to spend a fortune on good legal help four your company. Most growing businesses are working with limited budgets,  so attorney fees are an important concern. It’s important to get each detail of your fee agreement in writing, so that both sides can manage expectations and measure performance.

attorney fees

Four typical fee arrangements are:

  1. Hourly fee. Most lawyers charge an hourly fee for their work. Try to keep a record so that you are not surprised by a hefty bill in your mailbox.
  2. Contingency fee. Note that litigators often agree to contingency fees whereby they risk working for free, but then earn a percentage of your civil award if your case is successful. However, this fee structure is generally inapplicable to transactional law representation.
  3. Flat fee. Good Business lawyers charge flat fees for simpler projects like setting up your entity and drafting short contracts. Flat fees are usually less expensive than an hourly rate for the same project and help you save money.
  4. Monthly retainer fee. Some law firms provide the option of a monthly retainer to pay in advance for legal costs you use throughout the month. This can give you a peace of mind if you want to make a phone call because that time is already included in your budget. Some of these retainers run into the thousands per month.  But some companies are offering a unique service where for a much lower monthly payment (around $15 per week), you can have access to a dedicated attorney for unlimited consultations, and then upfront fees when you need pen-to-paper work done.

Whichever fee structure you choose, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and clear about the path ahead. Building a business is hard enough. You should have to worry about unknown attorney fees or disregarded legal risks.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, not every issue you face in business requires an attorney. However, when you do, it’s important to understand where and how to find the one who’s right for your business. We hope this article has been helpful. You may not be aware that you need legal help until it’s too late, but it’s always a good idea to think ahead and find an experienced small business attorney who can help you stay in compliance with the law and spot developing legal issues early.

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Estate Planning 101

Planning ahead of your death can be one of the most beneficial things you do for your family and friends. By creating a full and thorough estate plan, you have the ability to transfer your assets to your loved ones beyond death. An estate plan consists of a variety of documents and aspects that permit you to decide how to handle your property. The top attorneys over at JUSTLAWhelped us formulate a list of the top six things you must do in order to have an efficient estate plan.

 

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1. Execute a Last Will & Testament

This document is the cornerstone of your estate plan. There is no point in going through the rest of the steps, if you do not have a last will. It is a vital part of your estate plan. 

A last will handles all of your property after your death. In the document, you have the ability to bequeath, or transfer upon death, every piece of property you own to a specific person. Take this opportunity to give your house to your children, your car to your wife, and your precious art collection to your best friend.

The reason as to why creating a last will is so important is because it avoids intestacy. The laws of intestacy are put in place as default rules in the event you do not create a last will. Every state has their own set of laws on intestacy. These laws favor relatives and thus may not be in line with your wishes. Therefore, if you do not create an estate plan, then intestacy will not see through that your best friend receives your art collection.

 

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2. Execute a Living Will

Also referred to as an advance directive, a living will is a legal document that specifies the type of medical care you wish to receive in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make those medical decisions yourself. In the document you can also express your wishes as to a variety of medical procedures including, but not limited to, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation (breathing tube), feeding tube, comfort care, dialysis, organ donation, etc. Do not let your family stress over what to do in this situation. Make your intent clear and fill out a living will for their benefit.

estate planning

3. Power of Attorney

Next, you should designate someone as your power of attorney. A power of attorney, or durable power of attorney, is a document that empowers someone to act on your behalf. Generally, an estate plan consists of two of these positions: Health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney. The health care power of attorney is addressed in the living will. However, in the event you are incapacitated, you can designate someone as your financial power of attorney, to take care of your finances.

4. Create a Living Trust

Otherwise known as an inter vivos trust, a living trust gives you the ability to name beneficiaries to your designated assets. The advantage of placing assets into a living trust over a will is that the trust avoids the lengthy and expensive probate process. A detailed description of other ways to avoid probate, beyond creating a living trust, are beyond the scope of this article, but there are some good, free resources available online. With this document in place, the named beneficiaries can immediately own and control the designated property upon your death.

 

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5. Protect your Digital Assets

Many folks spend significant amounts of time thinking about their personal property and how it would be handled in the event of their passing, but never give consideration to digital assets they’ve worked hard to create during their lives. The list goes on for the variety of ways that people use Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, blogs, and websites. These tools, when used correctly, can allow certain influencers to generate large online activity and, in many cases, significant revenue streams. State legislatures have gone a long way to helping folks protect these assets, as over 35 states have now adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act. Yet while the legislatures have offered citizens the tools to protect these assets, very few online entrepreneurs have done so using their will-based estate planning documents. Under a will you can protect these accounts by assigning a beneficiary to control each account. If you’ve worked hard to build your sphere of influence online or even if you’re just an average person who wants your family to hold onto your personal digital assets, you will most certainly want to consider protecting these digital assets as part of your estate.

For example, you have probably heard of the singer, Prince. He among many other famous celebrities, died without a will. His heirs have ensured that his crucial mistakeof not creating a will stays in headlines for years and years to come. To date, not one of his heirs have inherited any of his estimated $200 million dollar estate. That all started thanks to a petition filed over four years ago back in 2016, initiating the case of In re the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson. As part of his enormous estate, some of the more valuable assets include his numerous emails, tweets, social media accounts and other digital assets all owned in his name. In fact, it is estimated that as a result of this four year battle over Prince’s estate, both sides have built up administration fees upwards of $45 million. That is almost 25% of the worth of the entire estate.

Clearly it is extremely beneficial to create a will. Do not send your family into years and years of ugly disputes over something so simple. Please, create a will. Not only for your sake but for your family’s sake as well.

 

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6. Guardianship

In some instances, both parents of a child pass away at young ages. As new parents, one of the first things you should do after the birth of your precious little one is complete guardianship forms as part of your estate planning. The forms ultimately designate people of your choosing who will become the child’s guardian. Stated more directly, the guardian you choose will care for your child until he/she reaches the age of eighteen, in the event you pass away while the child is still young. This is vital towards ensuring the safety of your child by placing them in the care of people you trust.

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This article was meant to provide you with a summary of some of the most important components of a comprehensive will-based estate plan. It’s clearly not a substitute for a good attorney, and shouldn’t be viewed as legal advice. Hopefully, this information helps you create a thorough estate plan. Remember to always keep it current by updating your beneficiaries and any newly acquired assets. In addition, talk to your loved ones about your estate plan. And finally, remember that affordable attorneys are available online to help you through it.The law was meant to protect you, so do your part to make that true.

What has the pandemic taught us about estate planning?

As we endure the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society, we are presented with a great time to take stock in our blessings and simultaneously plan for a better future. And what better way to do that, then work on your estate planning. If you do not have an estate plan, state law will determine who receives your property, which may not necessarily be the individuals to whom you wish to receive it. Even if you do have an estate plan, now is a perfect time to revisit and revise your plans. But in the meantime, it may be wise to consider the future beyond your lifetime.

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How can you plan for the future? Consider drafting an estate plan. Here are some consideration on doing so:

1. What is Estate Planning?
Before diving into the reasons why estate planning is so important amidst a pandemic, you must have a thorough understanding of it.

Everyone has an estate whether you realize it or not. An estate can consist of a house, a car, or even your record collection. It could also include your investments, checking and savings account, life insurance, furniture, and all your personal possessions. Unfortunately you can’t take your record collection with you when you pass away, so you’ll need to plan how it will be used beyond your lifetime.

That is where estate planning comes in. When we talk about basic estate planning documents, these documents include the client’s last will and testament and a revocable trust agreement, and these are the documents that memorialize how your property will pass in the event of your death. These documents essentially take you out of the state-mandated “probate” process. In addition to these documents, a basic estate plan will also include a durable power of attorney, a living will, a designation of healthcare surrogate, and a designation of a pre-need guardian. While a detailed explanation of each of these documents is beyond the scope of this article, we will be reviewing each document in future releases on The Verdict, so definitely stay tuned for more there.

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That’s an earful, to be sure. So let’s go back to your record collection to make sense of it all. While living, you need to decide who’ll receive the records and when they will receive it, and even how they can be played (only on YOUR favorite record player). And you need to do that for all your possessions. That is essentially estate planning in a nutshell.

2. When Should You Start to Prepare an Estate Plan?
The answer to the question above is very simple: as soon as possible! What are you waiting for? Plan ahead. You are never too young or too old to create an estate plan. Do it. Not for you, but for your family.

3. Understanding the Components that are Placed in an Estate Plan
There are two common misconceptions surrounding estate planning: (1) that it just involves gifting your property and (2) that it is only something the super-rich need to do. However, an estate plan goes far beyond just who receives your property. In fact, it includes a plethora of factors that you may have never thought would be included.

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a. Your children
As stated above, you are never too young to create an estate plan. Life has countless bumps along the way and thus you can never be prepared enough to embrace them. Therefore, your estate plan should include a provision on the guardianship of your minor children. This provision will set forth how you envision your minor children will be taken care of in the unlikely event of your death.

b. Financial planning
Someone will have to oversee your finances. You will want someone who you could put your full trust into, to ensure that your money is handled correctly.

c. Decision-making in the Case of Incapacity
Yes, your will could even include how you want your life to be handled in case you become severely ill. Do you want life saving treatments? Answer that question in your plan so that your family knows your wishes.

d. A Dispute Arises
Watch the movie, Knives Out, and you will immediately run to your will to include this provision on what to do if your heirs fight over your possessions. Including this provision will hopefully save your family from a huge fight that could potentially render familial relationships damaged, forever. This provision will establish that in the event of a dispute or disagreement among family members, you wish for them to send the dispute to arbitration, among other alternatives. Include it. Providing peace of mind for your family after your passing is of deep concern to most.

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4. Grasping State Law and its effects on Estate Planning
State law will have a profound effect on your estate planning. How so? It has the power to usurp your decision as to who will receive your possessions beyond your life. One example is that the state will decide who your possessions will go to, if you do not have a plan set forth. Stated more directly, if you have no children but do have an unmarried domestic partner, your estate would pass to your parents upon your death, not your partner. That could potentially create many issues for you that could be avoided, simply by creating an estate plan.

5. Take Advantage of What you Can Control
Our final lesson and takeaway from this article is to always take advantage of all opportunities you are presented with. Most importantly, take advantage of the easiest ones to control. For example, ensure that your beneficiary forms with your bank are filed and up to date. You should immediately amend them as well when you want to change your beneficiary. Remember, this also applies to insurance policies and even retirement accounts. There is no reason why you cannot have this done. It is easy, simple, and will save your beneficiaries a whole lot of trouble when you pass away.

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While we’d love to invite you to stop by one of our Peace of Mind centers, our physical openings have been delayed due to the pandemic. But you can still schedule a time to speak with one of our licensed will and estate attorneys by phone, video or chat for just $9. To do so, simply click here.

Injured on the Job? Here is what you should do:

If you got injured as a result of your employment, you may be entitled to certain protections. Assuming you have workplace compensation insurance, which everyone should have, you can have your medical expenses covered regardless of who is at fault. However, there are certain instances where you may not be protected by such insurance and thus you need to initiate a lawsuit.

Eligibility:

Eligibility is very simple. There are three basic requirements you must meet in order to receive workplace compensation benefits:

  1. Your employer carries such insurance.
  2. You are considered an employee.
      • This includes part time employees who may only be seasonal workers. However, an independent contractor would not be considered an employee.
  3.  You got injured on the job.
      • This is obviously the most important part. Your injury must be a direct result of your employment. If you get hurt while gardening at home, you cannot claim workplace compensation benefits.

Common workplace injuries:

  1. Repetitive Motion Injuries
      • These types of injuries occur when a worker does the same task over and over. Carpal tunnel and oftentimes tendonitis are the usual diagnosis for such injuries. These are the most common workplace injuries that are almost always recognizable workplace compensation eligible injuries.
  2. Falls due to unsafe working conditions/equipment
      • If you fell while working as a result of poor working conditions or equipment, you will most likely be eligible for workplace compensation benefits.
      • Conversely, if you fell while working, yet there are no hazardous working conditions that caused your fall, you most likely will not be able to recover any workplace compensation benefits.
  3. Back Injuries
      • Besides repetitive motion injuries, these are another common type of injury that employees can and do recover benefits. Back injuries occur in most instances after an employee regularly carries heavy loads for long periods of time.
  4. Motor vehicle accidents
      • These types of injuries are recoverable as long as they occurred while you were on the job. If you got into an accident while on your morning or evening commute, to and from work, you most likely will not be able to recover because you were not on the job when you suffered the injury as a result of the car accident.

Steps that should be taken after you are injured:

  1. Notify your employer and immediate supervisor.
      • Some states have strict and short deadlines compared to other states in terms of the amount of time you have to report an injury. Thus be swift in your notification, assuming you have the ability to, barring a serious injury.
  2. Your employer shall then ensure you receive medical attention.
  3. Your employer must then notify your insurance carrier.

If you are approved for such benefits, here are the types of benefits you may be eligible for:

  1. All medical expenses
      • This includes, but is not limited to, any doctor visits, prescriptions, and surgery.
  2. Lost wages
      • You are entitled to a portion of your wages for the amount of work you miss as a result of your injury.
  3. Disability payments
      • These differ based on whether you are temporarily or permanently unable to
        return to work.
  4. Death benefits
      • Families of a worker who was killed on the job are entitled to such benefits.

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An attorney is needed for these types of cases in order to properly guide you through the claims process. Schedule a ​consultation​ with one of our experienced workers compensation attorneys today!

In Default on your Student Loan Payments?

Do you have student loans? Are you up to date on your payments pertaining to the loan? Are you behind on them? If so, there are a few different designations that the government will label your account as, whether it is delinquent or in default, that could mean you could face legal consequences.

Most students take out student loans. In fact, it is estimated that ​70%​ of students have taken out student loans in order to pay for their education. While they make sense in order to get an education, they can cause you loads of trouble later on in life.

default on student loans
It’s estimated that ​70%​ of students have taken out student loans to pay for their education.

The Stages to Default:

Before you are considered in default on your payments, you must meet a few standards.

    1. Delinquent: If you miss a payment, you are considered delinquent. If this was just an outlier and you thereafter continue to make your payments on time, your account will not be deemed as delinquent.

      Falling into delinquency, while not considered as serious as default, should still be taken seriously. If your account is considered delinquent, you may have trouble receiving additional credit, renting an apartment, etc. Therefore, make your payments swiftly in order to avoid any potential of falling behind on any of your payments.

    1. Report to Credit Reporting Bureaus: Student loans services will report your account to such bureaus if you are 90 days behind on your payments.
    2. Default: If you are 270 days behind on your student loan payments, your account enters into a default stage.

What are the Legal Consequences of Default on your Student Loan Payments?

  1. Loss of Eligibility
    • If you are in default on your loans, you will be ineligible for future student
      loans.
  2. A potential lawsuit
    • If you fall into default on your student loans, the lenders can come suing. Unfortunately, for these types of lawsuits, the statute of limitations is irrelevant. In other words, they can sue you regardless of how long ago you went into default on your loans.
  3.  Damaged credit
    • Arguably one of the worst aspects of defaulting on your student loans is receiving damaged credit as a result. There is nothing worse than a low credit score. You simply will have a tough opportunity to borrow any money for any loans. Thus, you will find it hard to take out a car loan, mortgage, or a new credit card account.
  4. Tax refund offset
    • If you default on your student loan, the IRS has the ability to withhold refunds on your income tax. They can legally do this until you meet your payments on your loan.
  5. Garnishment of your wages
    • Garnishment is a fancy word for saying that the government can legally take your income and use it to pay off your loans. While they cannot take the whole paycheck, they can take a small portion of it. There are options to object to garnishment of your wages, however it is very difficult to obtain and should only be done at the direction of an attorney.

If you are in default on student loan payments, here are some solutions:

  1. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, otherwise known as “PSLF”, can forgive your loan if you have been employed in the public sector or for a Not-for-Proft organization for 10 years.
  2. While it is very difficult, it is not impossible to have your student loans discharged in a bankruptcy petition. The standard that a plaintiff must meet in order to have their loans discharged is that payment of the debt will cause an “undue hardship” on you and your family/dependents.
  3. There are also a variety of plans available that would pay off your loans over time. These plans work similarly to how a garnishment of your wages would work and generally would collect 10% of your income to pay off the loan over time.

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JUSTLAW hopes that this article has helped you determine what steps you need to take in order to effectively help your situation. Contact us for a ​consultation​ where we can direct you on the best steps to take to wipe away your student loans.

How to Avoid Probate

You may hear the words “avoid probate” and think “well, that is illegal”.  We are here to tell you that avoiding probate is completely legal. In fact, we are asking you to take advantage of the law. Avoiding probate has numerous benefits to your estate plan. However before we dive into those benefits, we need to first introduce and understand what “probate” means.

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What is Probate?

Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid. In other words, the court looks to prove that the will is the last known testament of the deceased. A will is not a self-executing document and thus needs a court to validate it.

There are three main functions of probate:

  1. Ensure the will is valid.
  2. Protect creditors. (Provides a procedure for the payment of decedent’s debts)
  3. Ensure beneficiaries get their inheritance.

There once was a time where all wills had to be subject to the probate process. However the probate process was deemed slow, cumbersome, and expensive. Therefore, courts have designated certain property “as non-probate property”, meaning that such designated property need not enter the dreaded realm of probate court.

Types of Non-Probate Assets

(1) Living Trust

Otherwise known as an “inter vivos trust”, a living trust avoids probate. Upon creating a living trust, you can place particular assets in the trust for your named beneficiaries. Because they are placed in the trust during your lifetime, they pass to your named beneficiaries immediately upon your death. However, you can also specifically state how you want distribution of the assets to occur. Maybe you don’t want your child to receive your house until he/she reaches the age of 25. Maybe you don’t want your child to receive your favorite car until he/she reaches the age of 30. Whatever it may be, a living trust allows you to avoid the expensiveness of the probate process.

One question JUSTLAW Attorneys get quite often in regards to trusts is how do the logistics of a revocable living trust work? 

Revocable living trusts are one of the most common forms of shielding assets from the probate process. In creating a revocable trust, there are customarily three titles involved: grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. The grantor creates the trust and “funds” it with assets that they wish to “exist” inside of the trust. The grantor primarily places assets into a trust because they wish to name a beneficiary of the trust who will eventually receive those assets in the future. The third person involved is the trustee who manages the trust.

The idea of a revocable living trust is for the grantor to provide his or her named beneficiaries with assets upon their death. Once assets are placed in the trust, the grantor no longer owns them. The trust does. However, because such documents are “revocable”, you can amend the terms of the trust to put assets back in your name at anytime you wish.

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(2) Pay on Death/Transfer of Death Contracts

There are quite a few documents that you most likely have executed in your lifetime, yet had no idea they coincide with your estate plan. Do you recognize these documents below?:

  1. Life Insurance Policy
  2. Bank Account
  3. 401k account
  4. Pension
  5. Brokerage account
  6. Mutual fund

If you currently maintain any of these documents, ensure that you have named a beneficiary on them. If you do, the documents will avoid probate.

As for a beneficiary, your job is very simple. All you have to do is provide a death certificate with the applicable company and they will subsequently transfer the account over to you. It’s as simple as that.

(3) Jointly Held Property

Jointly held property will allow for the property owned jointly to immediately pass to the surviving owner upon an owner’s death and thus avoid probate. Once the decedent passes away, anything owned in joint tenancy is owned in full by the other owner(s).

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We hope this article was beneficial to you. If you are looking to start your own estate plan, contact your friends at JUSTLAW. Let us help you provide protection for yourself and your loved ones. With high quality, ​professionally drafted estate planning documents now available at extremely attractive prices​, nobody should leave these critical issues to chance.

COVID-19 Waivers: The Benefits and Drawbacks

COVID-19 has re-shaped the way Americans conduct business. In an age where masks, social distancing, and personal hygiene separate the sick from the healthy, we all have a responsibility to each other to be extremely careful in our daily lives. That same responsibility applies to businesses all over America, as we begin to withdraw from state quarantines. However, businesses have a valid concern of “COVID” liability with every hour of operation they are open to the public. If a customer, vendor, or other constituents contract COVID after visiting a business, they may sue that business or run to social media to damage the business’s reputation. JUSTLAW is deeply concerned about this unfair treatment of businesses. Therefore, we urge all businesses to draft COVID-19 waivers.

What is a contractual waiver?

Before we dive into COVID waivers, we should first introduce the concept of a waiver. Liability waivers are contractual provisions by which one party agrees to surrender their right to sue for particular injuries. Generally, liability waivers are governed by state law. Therefore, a waiver in New York may look entirely different from a waiver in Kentucky.

Ordinarily, businesses use liability waivers to protect themselves against customers, vendors, or other patrons who may come into contact with them for business purposes.

covid and business law

Why should businesses have a COVID-19 waiver?

As you open up for business in light of your local state governments lifting quarantine restrictions, you begin to open your business to liability. Therefore, all businesses should be mindful of the impact the spread of COVID at your business could have on your company. A COVID waiver would protect you from customers or vendors suing you for contracting COVID while they interacted with your business.

As a quick note, notice, we do not mention employees. You generally cannot contractually waive an employees right to sue you for COVID exposure. Employment law will, in most instances, pre-empt such a waiver.

How can you maximize your chances of an enforceable COVID-19 waiver?

  1. Understand your states’ laws on waivers
    States vary on how businesses can draft a valid COVID waiver. Therefore, be aware of the requirements for a valid waiver in your state.
  2. Clearly identify the waived claims
    To have a valid waiver, you should explicitly express the claims that a party is waiving. Therefore a valid COVID waiver should include explicit language on waiving any negligence on behalf of your business relating to COVID. Keep in mind, you customarily cannot waive gross negligence, a higher standard than ordinary negligence.
  3. Be as conspicuous as possible
    This is one of the most important factors in having an enforceable waiver. The more conspicuous a waiver, the more of a chance a party agreeing to a contract will notice the COVID waiver. To make the waiver as conspicuous as possible, try setting it apart from the rest of the contract, bolding the lettering of the waiver, putting the waiver in capital letters, requiring a special separate acknowledgment and signature for the waiver, or drafting the waiver with such a distinct textual effect that the reader cannot miss it. If you include some of the aforementioned tips above, no one can claim that they did not see the waiver.

What drawbacks should I be aware of if I plan to include a contractual provision for a COVID waiver?

While you have solved a major legal issue relating to COVID by drafting a COVID-19 waiver, you may take on a business risk. If you use a COVID waiver, you could potentially damage relationships with vendors or push away customers. Do they begin to lose your trust if you have them sign such a waiver? Something to keep in mind if you begin to consider such.

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COVID waivers are starting to become more and more common for businesses in America, amidst the pandemic. If you want to join those businesses in having COVID waivers, let JUSTLAW help you in effectively drafting such a waiver.

In addition, check out a sample waiver that JUSTLAW attorneys could potentially use for your business:

COVID-19 WAIVER (READ CAREFULLY, AS IT AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS)

I acknowledge the contagious and dangerous nature of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and that the CDC and many other public health authorities still recommend social distancing. I further acknowledge that ________ has put preventative procedures in place to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19. I further acknowledge that ______ can not guarantee that I will not become infected with the Coronavirus/Covid-19. I understand that the risk of becoming exposed to and/or infected by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 may result from the actions, omissions, or negligence of myself and
others, including, but not limited to, employees, other customers, and their families. I voluntarily seek the products and/or services provided by _____ and acknowledge that I am increasing my risk to exposure to the Coronavirus/COVID-19.

I authenticate that:

      • – I am not experiencing any symptoms of illness, not limited to the following, such as

 

      • cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with

 

    • chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell.
    • – I have not traveled internationally within the last 14 days.
    • – I have not traveled to a highly impacted area within the United States of America in the last 14 days.
    • – I do not believe I have been exposed to someone with a suspected and/or confirmed case of the Coronavirus/COVID-19.
    • – I have not been diagnosed with Coronavirus/Covid-19 and not yet cleared as noncontagious by state or local public health authorities.
    • – I am following all CDC recommended guidelines as much as possible and limiting my exposure to the Coronavirus/COVID-19.

I hereby release and agree to hold _____ harmless from, and waive on behalf of myself, my heirs, and any personal representatives any and all causes of action, claims, demands, damages, costs, expenses and compensation for damage or loss to myself and/or property that may be caused by any act, or failure to act of the salon, or that may otherwise arise in any way in connection with any services received from _____. I understand that this release discharges _______ from any liability or claim that I, my heirs, or any personal representatives may have against the salon with respect to any bodily injury, illness, death, medical treatment, or property damage that may arise from, or in connection to, any services received from __________. This liability waiver and release extends to the salon together with all owners, partners, and employees.

The FMLA and why should all business owners be aware of it

What is the FMLA?

The FMLA stands for the Family Medical Leave Act. Under this act, qualified employees
are entitled to take time off in order to care for their families.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, the FMLA ordinarily provided qualified
employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various reasons. Such reasons include
caring for a newborn, caring for a new adopted child, or caring for a family member with an
illness.

What are the requirements to meet the FMLA?

The FMLA applies to employers with fifty (50) or more employees. The employer must
have had 50 or more employees for at least a period of twenty or more weeks.
In addition, employees must have worked for 1,250 hours over a 12 month,
non-consecutive period.

How has the FMLA changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus
Response Act into law on March 18, 2020. The purpose was to help those who were forced to
miss work because they have to care for a loved one with an illness, specifically COVID-19.
Furthermore, it applies to employees who are forced to quarantine, caring for a child who does
not have school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or was told to stay home due to the doctor’s
orders.

The act provides employees with partially paid leave for twelve weeks. For ​f​ull-time
employees who have to stay home due to a COVID-19 related reason, they are eligible for their
regular pay rate for a period of two work weeks, which is capped at $511 for each work day and
$5,110 over the whole two weeks. Part time employees will have their paid leave adjusted
accordingly depending on how many hours they work a week.

Under this act, the requirements for an eligible employee have dropped in terms of how
long they have had to work in order to receive paid leave. Under this act, an employee would
have had to have worked for 30 work days or more. However, this still only applies to employers
with 50 or more employees.

Finally, the moment that all you business owners have been waiting for. You can get
reimbursed through a tax credit. If you would like more information on this, set up a quick20-minute consultation with us and we will help you determine how to access your
reimbursement.

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The FMLA and the subsequent legislation, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, will
act as a lifesaver for your employees and will not leave you hanging. Don’t forget, as mentioned
above, that your friends here at JustLaw are here to help you along the way as we all navigate
through these unprecedented times.

Critical Issues to Consider Before Filing Bankruptcy

Falling behind on your debt can be one of the most stressful experiences a person has to endure. Whether you are behind on your mortgage, your car payments, or student loan payments, falling behind on any payments is tough to fix. Bankruptcy may offer you a way out. And you’re not alone. In fact, according to the United States Courts, 773,361 people and businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2019. This post explores the key issues you should consider before taking that step.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that permits individuals and businesses to receive a fresh start. Bankruptcy may have an impact on other legal proceedings in your life. Upon filing, you will receive, in legal terms a “discharge”, and it will essentially wipe out all of your debts. In addition, any foreclosure or legal action against you will be halted. On top of that, creditors cannot seek payment. Here is your moment where you can finally take a second to breathe.

What are the types of Bankruptcy? Chapters 7, 11 & 13.

For individual debtors, you have the option of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 is simple and will wipe out most of your debts through a process of liquidation. A Chapter 7 trustee will seize your property, sell it, and use those proceeds to pay off your debts. Therefore, it is key to note that Chapter 7 bankruptcy could potentially seize all your most valuable assets such as your home and car.

To be eligible for chapter 7 bankruptcy you must meet the means test, or in other words have an income that is low enough to meet the means test formula. If you have a higher income, then you will have to file for chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for those with a salary or regular income that have the ability to pay their debts through a repayment plan. You also can keep most of your property under this form of bankruptcy. Also keep in mind; your property in either chapter could be kept under certain exemptions. Discuss exemptions with your attorney.

For businesses looking to file for bankruptcy, you will look to Chapter 11 for your needs. This will permit businesses to reorganize themselves and their debt.

What not to do in the early stages of Bankruptcy?

The 90 days before bankruptcy are crucial to a successful filing for bankruptcy. Many people think that because they are filing for bankruptcy in a month or two, they
can just go on a spending spree. They will rack up high credit card bills and more. Doing so is not advisable, especially in the 90 days before you file for bankruptcy because a creditor can claim fraud.

Furthermore, bankruptcy filings forbid fraudulent transfers. Therefore, don’t gift your house to your nephew right before bankruptcy so as to avoid it being liquidated during your bankruptcy case to repay creditors. Trustees, if authorized by the court, can seize the property and you will have a case of fraud on your hands.

Does all my debt get “discharged”?

Unfortunately no. Your credit card bills will get discharged. But your child support payments and taxes? Nope. You still have to pay that.

Worth noting thought, one of the most litigated areas of dischargeable debts is student loans. Whether they can receive approval for discharge is argued around the US, regularly. In order to receive a discharge for student loan debt, you must meet certain standards that show an “undue hardship”. In other words, you will have to show that you cannot maintain a healthy standard of living, your current situation of extreme debt will persist for a significantly extended period of time, and you are doing everything in your power in order to maximize your income.

Your credit will be affected!

Your credit score will be affected unfortunately. It will exhibit that you have filed for bankruptcy. Thus, you will have a tough time receiving a loan in the future. Stay patient though. And take the time to balance whether filing for bankruptcy will be worth it in the long run. Bankruptcy attorney’s will be extremely helpful in this respect.

Finally, be honest!

When filing for bankruptcy, you must provide your income and assets, truthfully. If you try to conceal your assets, you will get in a lot of trouble and most likely have a tough time filing for bankruptcy again. Or you could face severe penalties for a serious crime of fraud. So be honest, please.

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If you decide that you would like to learn even more about a possible bankruptcy, Justlaw is here to help! Speak with one of our attorneys before you do. We have an exhaustive arsenal that you might consider before filing for bankruptcy. Lets get rid of your debt together!

Prenuptial Agreements: Why should I get one?

Ever wonder why so many people say, “I hope they had a prenup”? Maybe you heard it referring to celebrities. Or maybe you heard someone utter that when Jeff Bezos divorced his wife. The classic conception of prenuptial agreements is that it’s only for the rich, but we are here to tell you, that is simply not true. Every couple should get one and here is why.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

First off, a prenuptial agreement is a written document that is created by a couple before they are married. The agreement permits them to control their legal rights during the marriage, but more importantly allows them to plan ahead in case of a divorce or death to a spouse. Prenuptial agreements exhibit the drafters intent and thus will prohibit the default rules of NY from determining key aspects of your property in the event of a divorce.

Default rules will inevitably control your division of property, retirement benefits, savings, child support, alimony, and much more.

Why Should I Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

There are a variety of reasons why you should get a prenuptial agreement. Here are just a few of those reasons:

1. Avoid arguments in the case of divorce

Divorce can get ugly. We have all witnessed them on television, in movies, from people you know, or even possibly yourself. Thus, when you are getting ready to marry your significant other, you should seriously consider a prenuptial agreement. In the agreement, you can specify how you want your property to be divided and what to do with various aspects of your lives including savings, retirement benefits, etc. This will save you and your ex-spouse, dreadful arguments over property and finances that are unnecessary during those stressful stages of your life.

2. Get protections from debts

A prenuptial agreement can also shield you from the debts of your spouse. Essentially, the prenuptial agreement will protect creditors from pursuing the debts of the deceased spouse from the surviving spouse.

3. Establish your financial rights

The prenuptial agreement can even document the financial rights of each spouse. On top of their financial rights, you can even include financial and general responsibilities of each spouse. You can also protect the financial well-being of others through the agreement. For example, if one spouse has children from a prior marriage, they may protect them in the agreement. One spouse can specify that if they die, part of their property will go to their surviving children, including the children from a prior marriage.

4. Preserve your legacy

The prenuptial agreement could act as a way to safeguard all your family heirlooms as they pass down generation to generation. Thus the agreement can act as a way to keep the family together through cherished belongings.

What happens if you don’t get a Prenuptial Agreement?

So is it a big deal if you never get around to creating a prenuptial agreement? The honest answer is: yes.

If you do not create a prenuptial agreement, the default rules of NY will determine how your property, retirement benefits, savings, and much more will be split between you and your ex-spouse in the event of a divorce. In some instances, the default rules will not be favorable to you. Are you willing to lose a family heirloom to your ex spouse? Are you willing to lose full control of your business?

In addition, in some instances a spouse may pass away prematurely. If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, marital assets will still be subject to the default rules of NY as they would be in the event of a divorce. Therefore, you may still lose control of your beloved family heirloom or business. A well-drafted will on the part of the premature spouse would supersede the default rules of NY, however if your premature spouse did not create a will, then you are out of luck and cannot avoid the default laws.

What are the considerations against drafting a prenuptial agreement?

Here at JustLaw, we don’t just present you with one side of the argument. We want you to feel that you take everything into consideration before you make a decision.

Thus you should understand that making a prenuptial agreement may not be easy. It could drive couples apart. It may divide you and your significant other apart because it is essentially a document that is used to protect yourself in a divorce.

Moreover, if you and your spouse do not have a lot of assets, then a prenuptial agreement may not make sense. This is because there wouldn’t be much to put in the prenup if you don’t have any valuable assets.

Drafting a prenuptial agreement truly depends on your individual circumstances. Therefore, speak to a JustLaw attorney and determine whether you should get a prenuptial agreement!

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There you have it. Just another article of your friends at JustLaw trying to help you and your future out. Hope this helps!