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A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract establishing how assets will be divided in the case of a divorce or of one spouse’s death. But prenups aren’t just for the ultra-wealthy. Though prenuptial agreements can be especially important for those holding significant assets or debts before marriage, most marital counselors consider a prenuptial agreement to be an extremely effective tool for creating transparency, openness and peace of mind in the marriage.

Prenups can also be an especially important tool for women, who are more likely to spend time outside the workforce caregiving to children or elderly family members. As Allison Walsh, a New York attorney, says, “You don’t think you’re going to get in a car accident, but you sure do buy the insurance anyways.” “The most important thing is that couples should have open and honest conversations before marriage, and understand what the rules are if things go wrong,” Walsh added. “If you do that, you’re much more equipped for a successful marriage.”

What is a prenup anyway?

In short, it’s a contract: A contract for your marriage and what happens if things don’t work as planned. The agreement prepares couples for the unthinkable – ultimately aiming to save both parties in emotional and financial ways. The document frames and narrows the issues in the event of a divorce. With the costs of divorce skyrocketing, a good prenuptial agreement can limit the costs attenuated to the divorce by crystalizing how the financial aspects will be resolved if the marriage goes sideways.

How do prenups compare to post-marital agreements and other arrangements?

There are a few alternatives to prenups that may help couples prepare for their financial future. A postnuptial agreement, for example, is less common than a prenup but has become more popular in recent years. If a couple has a significant change in finances or are having marital issues, a postnuptial agreement can be useful to reflect changed circumstances. Other alternatives include mutual estate planning, and such plans rely on the couples’ state of residence.

What are the benefits to getting a prenup?

First, we like to outline the benefits of simply having a conversation with your partner about the prenup. That process facilitates an open and transparent conversation about your and your partner’s financial situation, which is an important skill to master in marriage. Because, let’s face it, money matters. A lot. In fact, over half of divorced couples report that their marriage ended due to financial strain. Ultimately, we advise couples that this process of “negotiating” a prenup can strengthen their relationship over the long term.

Once the document is signed, it substantially limits the range of outcomes in the event of a separation or divorce, and eliminates many of the levers one party could pull to cause problems (and expense). And by signing the document before marriage, you get to make these plans and difficult decisions from a place of love, rather than from anger or resentment.

As you have this conversation with your partner, we suggest you keep moving the conversation forward, but always consider your partner’s perspective and try create solutions together. Don’t think of the process as a zero-sum game. And don’t hesitate to take a pause when things get testy.

What happens if I don’t have one?

The short answer is, you don’t really know. That’s the troubling part. Family law will govern any dispute, and that’s usually where the battles start. Although everyone assumes he or she will act maturely and rationally during a divorce or separation conflict, it rarely happens.

How much does it cost?

It really depends on the complexity of your situation. Traditionally, couples would pay somewhere between $3,000-$5,000 for a moderately complicated situation. With the advent of sophisticated technology and online platforms like JUSTLAW, the cost can be much lower. In fact, we’ve recently launched a promotion offering a custom-drafted document and a 1:1 virtual meeting with an experienced lawyer for just $529 (limited time only). In short, getting a prenuptial agreement is a lot easier and more cost effective than it used to be!

 

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What you must know about conformed signatures

Electronic signatures facilitate rapid and efficient signing of documents, more commerce, and a great deal of flexibility to tailor tools and protocols across an organization. In recent years, the practice of and market for electronic signatures has exploded, and many technology analysts predict this trend will continue into the future. 

person signing document
A person prepares to sign a document with a “wet” signature.

The transition, however, has not been easy for some, and many business technologies have yet to be phased out. Signatures, faxing, scanners, and landlines are all antiquated business technologies that have yet to become fully phased out. There are plenty of new technological solutions that effectively eliminate the need to keep up with these methods but the adoption rate has been relatively slow, which comes to the detriment of business speed and efficiency. 

When looking at the concept of signatures, it is easy to understand the reasoning as to why e-signatures have yet to have full adoption across the board. 

Everyone has a unique signature, and signatures are an integral part of validating that an individual actually signed and agreed to the terms of the document. The s-signature has become a standard way of electronically signing documents that has become accepted in some use cases. 

Below is a discussion of what the characters /s/ means in a signature line and why it is utilized.

What is a Conformed Signature?

“Conformed signature” almost sounds like an oxymoron. A conformed signature is a typewritten signature indicating that the original version of the document has been signed by the appropriate party, and it should be maintained with the records of the company. A conformed signature replaces the traditional “wet” signature line with a typed name preceded with a “/s/” designation. A conformed signature usually looks similar to this example:

/s/ Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald

There are a multitude of  ways that a conformed signature can be written, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides resources to what formatting an electronic signature should follow. 

As you will see below under “When is it legal?”, governing bodies have different regulations regarding acceptable formatting for conformed signatures. 

Because of these differences, it is important to have a competent and tech savvy legal team. As a business owner, your signatures are constantly needed, and the ability to utilize a conformed signature whenever possible will save time and effort. 

Having a legal resource that acknowledges the importance of your time and providing e-signatures whenever possible is a must. 

Why Is It Used?

A conformed signature is utilized mainly as a way of making signing contracts and documents easier. Convenience of a conformed signature is what has drawn many to utilize it, and some government agencies now accept it in lieu of a traditional signature. 

The conformed signature eliminates the need for an individual to print, sign, and scan a document to submit it electronically. To save paper and reduce the number of intermediary steps, conformed signatures offer a perfect efficient solution to a signature. 

Conformed signatures allow for a seamless process of viewing, signing, and submitting a document all without having to print or scan. Conformed signatures are utilized in a number of ways and gives a signer the option of how they are able to digitally sign a document. 

Conformed signatures can be easily done from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other mobile device, drastically increasing the speed at which individuals can certify a document. 

Additionally, a conformed signature is a great tool for attorneys to quickly and efficiently certify batches of documents. Many courts in the United State permit attorneys to use conformed signatures, including New York and CaliforniaThis process saves countless hours for attorneys, allowing them to focus on the highest value add activities for clients. And when value is prioritized, a lawyer is better able to advance a client’s interests.

When is it legal?

E-signatures, and more specifically, conformed signatures, are not a full substitute for legal handwritten signatures. The signature itself is not more reliable than a standard signature, and as such, makes the acceptance of e-signatures vary greatly, especially when it comes to geographic location.

sign here
Sign Here

The following states allow conformed signatures, with some exceptions:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

In some of these states, a conformed signature may be allowed for certain filings and not others. In Florida, for example, an LLC document can have a conformed signature, but a filing for a non-profit corporation cannot.

While a lot of states allow conformed signatures in contracts, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t allow such signatures; therefore, SS4 forms and other tax documents must have an original signature.

The two regulations regarding e-signatures are the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act and the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act, which give a basis for the inability to deny a document’s validity only on the basis that it has an electronic signature. 

Ultimately, it is the states’ decision in whether or not to accept conformed and electronic signatures.

Because these laws vary from state to state and agency to agency, it is important to ensure that a business has legal representation that is well-versed in the process of online signing and document submission. Documents signed inappropriately can lead to costly and time-consuming missteps. In the world of legal filings, this could mean the difference between the closure of a successful business deal or a costly mistake. 

Conclusion

Essentially, the “/s/” in a signature line signifies that a conformed signature is being utilized in lieu of a traditional handwritten signature. 

There are many forms of e-signatures and each have specific utilizations and formatting requirements. The s-signature is a great e signature method that can be utilized by many people. 

The ease of use and convenience of the signature type allows for businesses and attorneys to waste less precious time and energy printing, signing, and scanning documents, and more time to focus on their clients. 

If you need legal assistance, we suggest you look for lawyers that readily utilize new technology to eliminate inefficiencies. Traditionally, you pay lawyers by the hour and benefit from time-consuming, antiquated technology. 

JUSTLAW has over 300  highly trained and licensed attorneys that can ensure that your legal documents are as they should be. JUSTLAW saves you time, effort, and money. Leave the guesswork out of your legal needs and allow a JUSTLAW attorney to help you through complex paperwork. A good lawyer will navigate the different signature requirements for different documents and ensure that they are done correctly to reduce inefficiencies in having to refile for something that was done incorrectly the first time. 

The utilization of e-signatures is just one way in which a lawyer is able to save time and facilitate a smoother experience for their clients.  With a smart legal team on your side, you can avoid the legal headaches surrounding what type of signature to use and focus your precious time on business.  

 

 

 

Starting an eCommerce Business? Legal Issues to Watch.

eCommerce is the process of buying goods or services via the internet, and has become the most crowded business venture for start-up entrepreneurs. While the blueprint for starting an eCommerce website is seemingly straightforward, the industry’s takeover of more than three-quarters of retail growth has created demanding changes to legal regulations. In this post, we share with you some examples of legal concerns you may encounter launching your eCommerce company.  We also hope to help you understand when you can manage alone, and when you should look for a good small business attorney.

Liabilities

Product recalls don’t just impact the reputation of manufacturers, the fault also lies on the retailer, and third-party sellers who use other platforms for product distribution should not take product liability lightly. In the 2020 lawsuit case of Bolger vs Amazon, a third-party seller, E-Life, sold a defective computer battery that exploded and burned the customer. Because Amazon had a major role in distributing the product, the company had to put pressure on sellers, requiring eCommerce sellers to purchase product liability insurance to minimize risk; this type of insurance is recommended by lawyers alike.

Third-party sellers must also be weary of IP infringement, as patent, copyright or trademark violations could result in expensive lawsuits. eCommerce resellers should confirm they have the rights for product stock photos or in their product descriptions. Here is a list of ways your eCommerce business could violate IP infringement.

Another liability can arise through data breaches, as personalized information is growing quickly, customers are at risk of hacks and identity theft. Amazon and Facebook have shown widespread scandals on misusing customer data, and eCommerce companies are recommended to limit their customer data to prevent cyber-hack scenarios. Securing your website, maintaing updated software, and encrypting information and data with secure socket layer (SSL) protection, all go a long way for business owners. It’s beyond the scope of this article, but you can find more on handling data breaches here.

Consult with an eCommerce Expert Now

Transactions

Payment gateways are high in demand, but have limitations such as hosting capabilities, anti-fraud control or service fees, but most importantly, entrepreneurs should pick a getaway by their individual terms and conditions; features for transactions can include setting up shipping time frames, return policies, payment terms, etc. Most terms and conditions, however, are already procured through state regulation. For example, Florida has developed their own 2020 Florida Statutes that simply ensures customers have the right to return products sold online for a full refund within 7 days.

As the world of online selling is constantly changing, it is always good to be updated on the laws. Electronic payments through third-party vendors have created a new stream of chargebacks, an example is found through restaurants using food delivery services, and loss of orders and/or incorrect orders calls for chargebacks. The Electronic Transaction Association (ETA) underwriting guidelines help dispute refunds by exploring how banks and card processors manage payment. The chargeback process involves investigations from the transacting bank, beginning with the customer request for a refund, bank investigation within merchant accounts and a final dispute.

Consult with an eCommerce Expert Now

Other Complications

While transactions and liabilities create a lot of the problems for eCommerce businesses, there are some other smaller landmines to mind.

  • Taxes: Depending on your state or country, taxation can vary on products and can be solved by contacting your applicable revenue agency or seeking counsel from a small business tax attorney.
  • E-Contracts: Ensure all contracts are consented to by both parties.
  • International Laws: international transactions, exchange control and distribution laws must be verified.
  • Inventory: ensure that lease, deed, or zoning codes don’t prohibit you from running your business at home.

And if you start feeling uncomfortable making these decisions alone, it might be time to hire a good small business attorney to help you.

Consult with an eCommerce Expert Now

Other sources used

https://www.ecomcrew.com/legal-issues/

https://www.electran.org/publication/transactiontrends/guest-post-e-commerce-fraud-dealing-with-merchant-chargeback-challenges-in-a-covid-impacted-world/

What’s worse? 2008 Market Crash or Renting during COVID-19

 

On September 29, 2008, the Dow Jones created history. On this day, the Dow Jones fell a record 777 points. This came on the heels of a failed bank bailout bill in Congress. 

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So why did the stock market crash? The answer is complicated, but the underlying cause can be simplified: too many people had taken out loans that they simply could not afford. Lenders had paper thin underwriting standards for providing loans, and essentially gave out loans to anyone who asked. Big banks were failing as a result, such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. 

 

The unemployment rate reached 10% as a result of this crash and a record 3.8 million people were forced to foreclose their homes. 

 

Let’s pause to compare these numbers to 2020. The unemployment rate in the US in April of 2020 was a breathtaking 15%. Moody’s Analytics, an economic-research firm, calculated that 12.8 million Americans could owe an average of $5,400 from missed payments of rent as a result of COVID-19. In addition, 30 to 40 million people could face potential eviction once moratoriums expire and homeowners and renters can be legally evicted from their homes. Currently as of March 2021, moratoriums vary by state. Seek out free consultations offered by legal services across America under their memberships to determine whether or not your state still has a moratorium in place and if so, when it is set to expire. 

 

Again, the comparisons are not even close. And that is especially scary, considering the 2008 stock market crash shook people to their core. 

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Other fallouts from the Covid-19 pandemic include the extreme negative effects on the economy and the ability of homeowners to purchase a home in the future. The economy is taking a big blow as a result of renter debt because many renters are being forced to put all their money into rent. As a result, they are not spending their money elsewhere, and thus the economy is negatively impacted. Furthermore, if renters are not meeting their rent or even their credit card bills, their credit will suffer. Therefore, they will have a tough time securing future loans, credit cards, or even a house if they have a bad credit score or were evicted as a result of COVID-19. 

 

Therefore, we here at JUSTLAW find it particularly relevant to present our JUSTLAW membership to you. The membership hosts a variety of perks that are geared towards providing our customers with the most efficient and affordable legal services. Among other things, we offer free consultations on a host of new matters that you are presented with over your lifetime. In addition, take advantage of our free annual legal checkup. The overall membership is an inexpensive peace of mind insurance that is useful in this COVID like world. One of the many specialities our attorneys have to offer includes debt reduction. So, do not let this opportunity slip. Take advantage of our services today!

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How a spouse’s bankruptcy impacts other lawsuits?

What happens the moment bankruptcy is filed? 

Mayur Amin, J.D.

Unless exempted by law, the filing of a bankruptcy petition will impose an automatic stay on any legal action against a debtor and his/her property. For purposes of this article, we will assume that the “debtor” filing for bankruptcy is going to be your spouse or ex-spouse. What this really means is that when a debtor files for bankruptcy, it has the potential to stay or stop family law proceedings; irrespective of whether a divorce decree has been signed. 

When and if the bankruptcy stay applies, there are at least three things that one should understand about it. First, the stay abates any pending divorce proceeding until the stay is lifted or modified. Second, the stay deprives the divorce court of personal jurisdiction over the debtor and his or her property. And third, as of the time of the stay, all of the debtor’s property essentially comes under the control of the bankruptcy court and its trustee. In other words, the divorce court will no longer have jurisdiction over the debtor’s property until the bankruptcy stay is lifted or modified

bankruptcy stay

What types of family law proceedings are affected by the bankruptcy’s automatic stay?

Typically, two types of family law proceedings are potentially impacted by a bankruptcy stay.

  1. The first is a proceeding to divide a couple’s marital property. A bankruptcy stay of this type of proceeding is often only temporary. This is because bankruptcy courts usually modify the stay to allow family law judges to go forward with the business of dividing the couple’s property.
  2.  The second is a proceeding to collect domestic support obligations from a debtor who files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. So, for example, if you are trying to collect alimony or child support from a spouse or ex-spouse who filed this type of bankruptcy, you will need the bankruptcy judge’s permission before going forward. This is because, under a Chapter 13 repayment plan, all the debtor’s post-petition assets become property of the bankruptcy estate. Under this scenario, the stay can last three to five years depending on the repayment plan approved by the bankruptcy court.

There are eleven types of family law proceedings exempted from a bankruptcy’s automatic stay.

If you are concerned about your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s bankruptcy throwing a monkey wrench in your divorce case, the good news is that eleven out of thirteen family law type proceedings discussed here are actually exempt from the bankruptcy’s automatic stay. A family law proceeding or action is exempted from the stay if it is:

  1. to determine paternity;
  2. to obtain or modify alimony or child support;
  3. to seek custody or visitation orders;
  4. to request dissolution of the marriage;
  5. to prevent domestic violence;
  6. to collect child support or alimony from a debtor who files a Chapter 7 liquidation type bankruptcy;
  7. to seek a wage garnishment order for the purpose of collecting domestic support obligations;
  8. to suspend professional, occupational, recreational or driver’s licenses for the purpose of enforcing domestic support obligations;
  9. to communicate past due support obligations to a consumer reporting agency;
  10. to permit the IRS to intercept a debtor’s tax refund to pay for past due support; and
  11. to enforce medical obligations in the form of support

DISCLAIMER: This blog content is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. Do not act or fail to act based on this information alone. For actual legal advice, please speak to a lawyer in your jurisdiction about your specific fact situation.

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As you surely have noticed above, JUSTLAWhosts a variety of well-experienced attorneys such as the author above. Thus, if you found this article to be beneficial and need legal advice pertaining to your individual legal needs, contact us and we will immediately set you up with an attorney.

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JUSTLAW Attorney Bio

MAYUR AMIN

Mr. Amin graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1994. He has over twenty years of civil litigation, trial, and appellate law experience. This experience includes having tried over fifty civil jury trials as first-chair and the filing of appeals with both the Supreme Court of Texas and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Amin also has several years of work experience handling a variety of personal, business, and transactional law matters. Prior to law school, Mr. Amin was a certified public accountant and earned his Bachelor of Science with high distinction from Indiana University’s School of Business.

Want to speak with Mayur? We’re happy to arrange a consultation.

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How to terminate your lease without a penalty (COVID-19 ed.)

You waited all your life, sat through decades and decades of school, and finally got to move into your dream apartment in your favorite city, NYC of course. Your job is reachable by subway or even by foot, your favorite restaurant is around the corner, and you’re living with your best friends. Life is great. Then, boom. The pandemic hits. Life as you knew it drastically changes. Your back at home in the suburbs with your parents, locked away under quarantine as your beautiful apartment sits empty. Yet, at the end of the month, your landlord asks for your rent. You’re stuck. But maybe not. You may be able to break your lease with little to no penalty fee. Here’s how:

1. Familiarize yourself with New York real estate law

a. How can you legally break a lease
Under New York law, there are a variety of ways that you can legally end a lease early. Such ways include, but are not limited to:

  1. You are 62 years old or older and wish to move to senior housing. The same applies if you are 62 years old and cannot live independently. The law does require though that a physician deem you incapable of living on your own.
  2. You are entering active military service.
  3. You are considered disabled and want to move into a residential healthcare facility.
  4. Your landlord has failed to make a major repair to the property and as a result has created an uninhabitable living space for you.
  5. You are the victim of a crime and fear your safety. Such crimes include stalking, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.
  6. Your landlord has violated your privacy or harassed you.

b. Provisions of your lease to keep an eye out for

i. Lease Break provision
These are fairly uncommon, but as a tenant you should always keep an eye out for them as a provision in your lease agreement. In most scenarios, lease break provisions take effect when a tenant ends a lease early. As a result, they will have to pay a fee displayed in the lease break provision. Ordinarily, this fee is equal to one months rent at the minimum and three months’ rent at the maximum.

ii. Job Loss/ Job relocation/Buying a house/ Family emergency
You should always ensure these provisions are in your lease agreements. Unlike the scenarios above where if one occurs, you can legally break your lease, these are not exhibited in New York law. Instead, you must negotiate these into your lease agreement in order to have the use of them if needed.

c. Duty to mitigate damages

This fairly new law has been adopted in quite a few state jurisdictions. The duty is placed on landlords and they are required to make reasonable efforts to rent the premises as soon as you vacate them. Once they find a new tenant, you will only be liable for the rent between the time you vacated the premises and when the new tenant moves in. The rationale behind the law is to push landlords to not let the premises sit empty and charge the tenant who vacated the premises for all the future rent.

2. How to break your lease without penalty

a. Read your lease provisions

This is vital to potentially having a simple opportunity to vacate the premises without any penalty. Your lease may include a provision like the ones above: job loss, job relocation, or purchasing a house. If it does include any of the above, there is your one-way ticket to moving out.

b. Negotiate with your landlord

Don’t have any of those provisions in your lease agreement? Not to worry. Talk to your landlord. Make it clear to them that you are in a dire situation and that the pandemic has eliminated your income. Try to also present them with proof of any job loss, purchase of a house, or family emergency.

In addition, you can also help the landlord. Do some research for them and find out if they could raise the rent and still receive a new tenant. Further, help them in finding a new tenant. Landlords are humans too and they will understand and (hopefully) be sympathetic to your situation.

c. Move out and rely on your landlord to rent the property fairly quickly

This may seem drastic, but remember, your landlord has a duty to mitigate damages. Therefore, you can leave your apartment early and hope that your landlord finds a new tenant fairly quickly. However, be mindful of the fact that you will be liable for the lost rent that the landlord is entitled to before they find a new tenant.

d. Sublet your apartment

While some states forbid subletting, New York permits tenants to sublet their apartments. A sublease is essentially a tenant leasing out the apartment to a subtenant.

e. Document everything and ask for a letter of recommendation if
possible

Finally, get everything on paper. Oral agreements may be unenforceable. Therefore, put the whole agreement in writing and ensure that your landlord signs it. Furthermore, if possible, ask your landlord for a letter of recommendation. This could be helpful for leasing apartments in the future.

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This may be a difficult and pressure-filled event in your life, but it will prove so beneficial for your future. Plus who doesn’t like to save money? If you need any help along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends at JustLaw! Goodluck!