Sunday, August 20, 2017

How Thinking About An Uncontested Divorce Figures Into Your Decision About Divorce


An uncontested divorce is the most common type of divorce. An uncontested divorce is a divorce that occurs when there are no disagreements between spouses over divorce related issues like custody, finances, living arrangements, spousal support, child support, etc. An uncontested divorce can be an easy way for people to get divorced without the hassles of a legal struggle and undue wear and tear on emotions.

But, you may not be ready to seriously consider uncontested divorce if you're just thinking about it.

Thinking about an uncontested divorce can mean a variety of things from a psychological perspective...it could mean that you are really on the brink of divorce.

It could also mean that you're feeling frustrated and just want to end things as fast and quietly as possible. If this is the case, you may want to make sure that you aren't just being lazy and you should examine your reasons for divorce first before you go any further.

"Does it mean I am really ready for divorce just because I am starting to think about an uncontested divorce?"

Maybe, maybe not.

Here's a few things you might want to think about before going onto next steps with regards to an uncontested divorce, just to make sure that you're really ready to go through with it.

Uncontested divorce situation 1:
You're thinking about an uncontested divorce because you want out but you aren't sure if your spouse is ready to call it quits.

This can be tough if you aren't careful. The main point of an uncontested divorce is to have both parties agree on things. If your spouse doesn't even know that you're thinking about getting a divorce, mentioning an uncontested divorce may result in an explosive discussion.

Uncontested divorce situation 2:
You've both agreed that you'd like a divorce, but haven't really clearly defined why, you just know you both feel ending the marriage is best.

Maybe there's a chance to make your marriage work! Don't be too hasty. If you can't clearly define why you and your spouse want to end your marriage, you're acting on emotion rather than a healthy combination of emotion and logic. Sit down, think it through and have a detailed discussion around all of the details.

But, be careful...this can be a volatile situation if you haven't talked everything through and mutually agreed on how you'll actually implement your divorce decision to have an uncontested divorce.

If one of you is more demonstrative than the other or is usually the person who drives the decisions, that sense of control may carry over into the discussion of the terms of the uncontested divorce.

Uncontested divorce situation 3:
You both agreed that you'd like a divorce (and you both know why), and you've successfully talked about and agreed on all of the details regarding the uncontested divorce.

Although it can be a sad situation most of the time, sometimes a divorce is actually a good thing unfortunately. If you and your spouse have amicably decided to part ways and can continue on as responsible happy adults, then an uncontested divorce can be an easy way to sever the relationship and all legal obligations. This is the best situation to be in if you're looking for an uncontested divorce...it should be simple to finish from this point.

Lots of people think about uncontested divorces and never go through with getting one because they actually work things out...and that's a great thing! And, some people think they want an uncontested divorce but haven't agreed on the details and terms, they're just looking for the fastest way to end the marriage. If this is the case, the relationship can turn from being amicable (and each party thinking they want a divorce) to being nasty and a resulting tug of war ensues with each person striving to get what they feel they deserve out of the divorce...and this can lead to a drawn out negotiation which certainly is not an uncontested divorce.

Be smart when you're considering an uncontested divorce...make sure that you're really ready to go through with it. Don't let the term 'uncontested' fool you, an attorney can ethically and legally on represent one of the married parties. But, if you and your spouse can truly be amicable and truthful, an uncontested divorce can be easy.

Karl Augustine

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Benefits of Legal Separation


Legal separation and divorce are very similar and they hold basically the same legal functions except for the fact that with a separation, you do not terminate your marital status. When a couple decides to become legally separated, it is not merely a verbal agreement. They can't simply say that they are not in love anymore and one of them will move out of the family home. Instead, they must go through the same process as couples who wish to undergo a divorce.

In a legal separation, the same issues will be addressed as in the termination of a marriage. The couple will have to sort out issues relating to asset division, property division, child support, child custody, visitation and spousal support payments (if there are any). The couple will also have to decide who will pay which debts as well.

There are a number of reasons why parties choose this rather than divorce, and the reasons are usually personal. People can choose separation for religious reasons, personal beliefs, health insurance concerns, or other financial reasons.

Oftentimes couples will decide to remain married for one of two reasons: either for the sake of their children, or for a financial reason. For example, if a non-employee spouse has a pre-existing medical condition or some other serious medical condition; they may need to stay on their spouse's medical insurance so they can keep getting necessary medical care.

In some cases the couple may need to remain legally wed until they reach the ten-year deadline for certain Social Security benefits. This holds true for the ten-year deadline for military enforcement advantages or, the twenty-year deadline for PX and commissary benefits.

There is another substantial benefit and reason why people choose legal separation and it has nothing to do with health insurance or money. They may be unsure if they really want to end their marriage; therefore, the time apart offers them a "cooling off" period where they can have time to think about what they really want. They may realize that they really do love each other, and later decide that they want to get back together. It's a lot easier to get back together after legally spending time away from one another as opposed to having to go through the process of remarrying.

Religion and culture can play a significant role in why couples decide to separate instead of divorcing altogether. In certain religions, divorce carries a negative stigma that many couples wish to avoid. With legal separation the couples can enjoy all the material benefits of a divorce without having to deal with the negative stigma attached. Separation does not allow for remarriage unless the marriage is terminated through a divorce, but it can be assumed that people who part for religious reasons don't plan to remarry anyway.

In many cases it is more affordable for the spouses, especially when the dependent spouse relies heavily on their spouse for medical insurance. When you factor in the quality of life enjoyed through the marriage, along with how much money it would cost for the dependent spouse to take out their own medical coverage (similar to what their spouse has been carrying), then it can be reflected in the alimony payments. Sometimes it is less expensive and allows the dependent spouse to remain on the health insurance, as opposed to paying them larger alimony payments, thus saving the expense for both parties.

Getting a separation in California does require some legal paperwork and going through the court system. The same as in a divorce, you want to have a qualified attorney representing your best interests when handling important matters such as child custody, child support, asset division, property division and possible spousal support payments. If you would like to enjoy the benefits of a legal separation, contact a skilled and knowledgeable divorce attorney without delay!

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Understanding Probate in California


Probate is the legal process that settles the property of the deceased person and tells how it should be equally distributed among the heirs and beneficiaries in case there is no will. The rules and regulations of probate vary form state to state and each state can have a different procedure and hearing process for probate. Some general guidance might be similar in most states but it is always advised to take help of a legal advisor in case you need to understand the probate process in your locality. Moreover you should understand that every probate case is different depending on the amount of money involved in it. The different property, debts and people involved in it make the whole case different from one other. There is no way that the rules and results of one probate case can apply to other case. Normally people have a view point that probate can be an ugly scene but the fact is that it can be easy if all parties involved in it work together for a positive outcome and preserve the memory of the deceased person.

In most cases, the property of the deceased person is transferred to his spouse if the person has not made any will before his expiry but in some conditions due to the parties' involved the property cannot be transferred to the spouse directly. The probate court which hears the matter of probate cases will get involved if there any issues relating to the property of the deceased person. The case has to go through a legal framework and the final order of the court has to be addressed by each person involved in the case. Now, since every state has different law regarding the probate so the hearings of the case in the court can be different in each state.

If the deceased person has a will and has named a representative,all the assets will be handled by this person unless the judge deems this person unfit, etc.If there is no representative named in the will then the court appoints a representative who handles the property unless the decision is made. The appointed representative is called the administrator and has sole responsibility of handling the property.

The Probate Process

In the initial phase the administrator opens the case in the court. During this period he evaluates the property and collects all the property of the deceased person. Few items which come under contract of the deceased person are not held in probate and they pass automatically to the beneficiary. Any bank accounts or other things which has the clause of "payable on death" are transferred to the person named in the contract. Only those limited property that have no clear beneficiaries are accountable for probate process. After accumulating all the property, the administrator sends a legal notice to all parties involved in the case and pays all the debts and claims which remain outstanding on the deceased name. Then the administrator distributes the remaining property to the beneficiaries of the decedent as instructed in the court's verdict.

If there are any disputes during the process then the court hearing decided upon the matter and the final verdict has to be agreed upon by every parties involved in the probate process. Anyone can file the claim on the property and if the court declines the claim then the opponent can file lawsuit to claim the property. If the lawsuit is made then court has to take the case more formally and this is when major problems occur during the probate process.

Normally, probate process take a longer time and if the amount involved is huge then the process can be more problematic. But if all the parties involved work together to make a positive solution then probate process can be competed easily and the property is distributed equally among the heirs or beneficiaries.


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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Conservatorship Information



A conservatorship is a court proceeding that grants one or more people the authority to make financial or health care decisions for another because of a mental or physical incapacity that renders a person unable to make informed and sound decisions.

A conservatorship can be over the person, the estate, or both. The person appointed by the court to make decisions is called the conservator, and the person about whom decisions will be made is called the conservatee.

Conservators are generally family members or a professional conservatorship company and in some cases, the Public Guardian's office may be appointed. Regardless of who the conservator is, their duty is to act solely in the best interests of the conservatee. To insure this, court evaluation, supervision and monitoring of the conservatorship is established.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Documents to Consider When Doing Estate Planning


There's nothing that can prevent someone from dying, since physical death is an absolute certainty that no one can escape. The fear for some people, though, is not what's going to happen to them after they pass on, but more on who's going to take care of their loved ones, especially if the people he'll be leaving behind are either very young children or are incapacitated, or both.

You can't have control of what's going to happen to you after death, but you sure can decide what's going to happen to your assets once that event transpires. It's called estate planning. This is the process by which a person (or even a family) arranges the transfer of his assets in anticipation of his death. And in estate planning, there are several documents to consider. Here are some of them:

Last will and testament - This document takes front and center in all the planning. This is the document that legally provides for the transfers of assets after one's death. It names a person to settle the estate, a trustee who will administer any trust established, and a guardian if there minor children. For those who die without having executed a will, they are considered to be 'intestate.' Under certain laws, if one is intestate, property goes first (or in major part) to a spouse, and then to children and their descendants.

Trust - Persons preparing a will and testament can execute either 'inter vivos' or testamentary trusts (trusts established through a will). The difference between the two is that with the former, assets are transferred into the living during the trust creator's lifetime, as opposed to testamentary trusts, where the transfer becomes operative at the time of death.

Durable powers of attorney - A power of attorney is the document that authorizes a designated agent to carry out financial and business transactions for the person that's establishing the document. This grants such agent to access bank accounts (and even brokerage accounts), deal with insurance companies, and even sell property. This effectively allows the agent to step into the shoes of the person he is assisting.

Healthcare power of attorney - This document is a form of a living will that is designed, among other things, to: provide instructions for the conditions should life-sustaining procedures be utilized, authorize who will make healthcare decisions, and ensure that the person chosen to make these decisions is given access to the executor's medical records during incapacity.

These are the important documents to take into account so a person can have the opportunity to make personal and financial decisions, both in life and after death, without the need for court orders.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

Advance Directives - "The Living Will" and Other Issues


Advance directives are legal documents prepared in advance to accomplish a task at a later date. These documents can be instructions or permission granted for a specific usage such as life support or even financial issues. There are two types of advance directives. A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to name a (patient advocate) to make decisions on your behalf. A living will allows you to state your wishes in writing, but does not specifically name a person to assume the role of advocate. Regardless of which one is used, the court system can still intervene and make an overriding decision if situations arise.

Most people who choose to prepare advance directives do so to remove any doubt of their wishes in the event of a situation where they may be deemed unable to make decisions.
Considerations of the advance directive would be who you would want to assume the responsibility for decision making. Important decisions could be about ventilators (and other life extending machines) resuscitation, surgery, feedings (tube, food and water) and prescription drugs.

A Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare is a legal document that allows you to name another adult (18 or over) to make your health decisions for you. Most people choose a family member but often a trusted advisor is selected. If end of life issues are in play, you may instruct your appointee to refuse any and all treatment and let you die. You would state this in writing that the person you select has the power to make that decision. The durable power of attorney only goes into effect once you are unable to make any decision yourself.

The power of attorney and the living will are both reversible. At anytime you may change your mind both as to treatments and who is the appointee. The only real component of either of these agreements is that at the time you execute the agreements you are considered a competent adult. This means that you are capable of making the choice of your own free will and without outside influence.

It is always best to seek legal advice when considering important decisions. Numerous sources exist to provide you with basic information about how these agreements work and how they may affect you and your heirs.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Bill_Broich

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wills and Trusts - What Are the Differences?


Both of these legal documents offer a way to distribute estate assets when a person dies but each are different in a variety of ways.

Wills

With a will, it is cheaper to prepare but it can be expensive to probate. In many jurisdictions, according to estate law, this is a legally binding document, which will allow you to give your assets to a designated beneficiary or beneficiaries. Unfortunately, this usually does not happen until after the person of the will dies. A will executor carries out the distribution of their assets. After the creator dies, the will must go through probate. During probate, the court will decide if the will is valid. Then the court will supervise the distribution of the assets. This can be a costly process because the assets can be subjected to estate taxes. When this is the case, an estate lawyer's services may be required.

With a will, one of the drawbacks is that they become public record after the creator's death so everything about the will is public knowledge. In order to manage the distribution of assets there will be a conservatorship or a power of attorney.

Trusts

A trust is more expensive to prepare but when there is a trust, it will usually allow the beneficiaries to avoid any probate costs. After having a trust written it can take effect any time during a person's lifetime using a trustor to convey assets to the trustee to hold for the beneficiaries. When the creator dies, the probate is avoided. This is because the assets were transferred during the lifetime of the trustor. The trust will continue to function even after the trustor dies.

With a trust, it will usually remain private and allow the beneficiaries of the trust to maintain confidentially about the specific terms of the trust. Generally having a trust can provide more tax benefits. In some jurisdictions, they will allow for a certain amount of the trust assets to be passed on to the beneficiaries without requiring them to pay gift and estate taxes. Depending on any applicable trust laws, the tax perks available will vary from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction.

In managing a trust, it can be done by a trustee or a trustor but will depend on how the trust has been set up. If the trustor manages the trust then he will usually specify who will manage it once he has died.

In conclusion

Looking at all the facts it appears that it is best if a trust is set up to distribute the assets instead of using a will. If you are uncertain talk to an estate attorney for legal advice as to which one you should set up for your particular situation.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

Power of Attorney - 6 Factors You Should Consider When Nominating the Best Agent


Ever wondered how your modest finances or properties are handled, in case something occurs to you or you will have to go away somewhere? In that case consider the power of attorney. What is power of attorney? This is a legal document that would facilitate you to allow an organization or a person manages your business matters and your finances.

The principal is person who is creating or signing the power of attorney, while the agent or the attorney-in-fact is the person who would be granted with authority. Because the power of attorney will give the agent the control over banking, credit and other financial concerns, it is important to be made with care that's why legal assistance is important.

Power of attorney can be divided into 2 types, the general and the specific. The general power of attorney can handle different personal and business transactions while the specific power of attorney identifies specific transaction when the document would take effect.

Here are some factors you should consider when choosing the best agent for your power of attorney:

• Capability. It is much recommended to think about the capability of agent in managing legal matters and principal's property. You should not entrust your own finances to the agent who has problems in controlling over their own finances.

• Age. In case you are thinking about your child as the attorney-in-fact, you should consider the age. There are differences on every state of laws on creating the power of attorney. However approximately all of the laws accept that no agent must be under 18 or 21 years old.

• Work experience. It's good idea to award authority to agent who is competent and expertise in legal matters or in finances.

• Time. While deciding on the perfect agent to stand for you, at that time it is very vital to think about how much time they can provide in handling legal matters and financial.

• Location. It's advisable to consider agent who is not far from the property and the principal.

• Organization and documentation skills. The principal may perhaps require the attorney-in-fact to trace and correctly document the several transactions made whether it will be for personal, business or government purposes.

Other factor you should pay attention is how to decide the spouse as the attorney-in-fact. Nearly all military personnel will give the power of attorney to their spouses in case they are in battle. Other option is a close relative.

You do not always have to opt for a family member, you can decide on a non-relative attorney-in-fact. If the principal is slightly worried on giving many duties on one agent, then he or she may well find other co-agents. However you could do that only if the power attorney specifies the information or the limitation of the capabilities. Previous to making decision on agent in the power of attorney, the principal ought to talk to the agents first and ask them if they are keen to be agents.

When carrying out the task, no organizations will control the agent. It will just depend on the principal as well as principal's relatives to supervise if the agent is carrying out what is predetermined in the power of attorney.


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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Incorporation and LLC's - By the People



Rene of By the People Document Preparation Service in Fairfield CA talks briefly about the basic differences between Inc. and LLC, and the benefits and features of each. Give Rene or Tammy a call at 707-428-9871 with any questions you may have so they can help you get the right product for your business.

See more at http://www.bythepeopleca.com

Monday, August 7, 2017

Estate and Retirement Planning - How Can My Estate Avoid Probate?


If you are a retiree, you likely have heard many claims made about probate problems. The word itself may even fill you with dread. If you are planning your estate, there are some things you should consider concerning probate. In this, as in all things, it is important to take a balanced approach. Let's review some of the issues pertaining to probate. Then you can decide if you need to approach your estate planning differently.

What is the purpose of probate?

You have heard this word many times, but may never have considered what it means. In legal terms, probate is the period of time during which a will is proven authentic or valid. The purpose of probate is to distribute an estate according to the decedent's wishes described in his or her will. Typically, the first step of probate is to use the person's probate assets and property to pay all debts. After that, any remaining assets and property are distributed to persons named in the will. There may be costs associated with the probate process.

Probate ensures that your wishes for the distribution of your estate are carried out upon your death. Probate is a public process. If your estate is of any size, your heirs could suddenly have new friends trying to advise them on how to manage their newly inherited assets.
People often assume all assets are subject to probate, which raises the following question.

Are all assets subject to probate?

No. Some assets are excluded from probate. An example would be assets that are held in joint ownership with rights of survivorship, such as your personal home. Other assets not subject to probate are those governed by a beneficiary designation. This would include assets such as your 401(k), IRAs, life insurance policies, and annuities. Additionally, assets held in a trust are not subject to probate. If the majority of your estate assets are held in accounts of this type, you may not have that much to be concerned about.

What about my brokerage and bank accounts?

These types of accounts can be set up to transfer on death (TOD) to a beneficiary. This designation allows you to pass securities and banking accounts directly to another person (your TOD beneficiary) upon your death without having to go through probate. By setting your accounts up this way, the executor or administrator of your estate will not have to take any action to ensure that your accounts transfer to the person you have designated. The TOD beneficiaries will have to take steps to retitle the accounts in their name, but this is not a very cumbersome process.

As you can see, probate may not be as bad as you have heard. There are many things to consider during the estate planning process.  

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Uncontested Divorce - Do You Know How It Works?


An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both parties can agree to the terms of the divorce. With an uncontested divorce, both parties negotiate the terms of the divorce without court proceedings. One lawyer represents one of the parties and prepares the divorce documents. Generally speaking, the lawyer will meet with the party they are representing and start the divorce proceedings. The parties negotiate the terms until both parties are satisfied. There are advantages and disadvantages to an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce is considerably cheaper than going to court. If you can negotiate the terms of the divorce agreement before contacting a lawyer to begin the divorce proceedings, the cost is minimal. It saves time for everyone involved. When facing a divorce, saving money is a huge benefit. This is money that can be used for making necessary changes and for living expenses.

An uncontested divorce can also help maintain a level of civility between the parties. If the parties to the divorce have an amiable relationship, it is best to try to protect that mutual respect, especially if there are children involved. Another advantage is the privacy that an uncontested divorce offers in contrast to court proceedings. The divorce will be a matter of public record, but the visibility of the negotiations and the actions taken is potentially private and limited by what the parties disclose in the documents.

Just because the parties do not immediately agree to terms of the divorce doesn't mean that they should put the decisions in the hands of a judge. It may just mean that more negotiations are needed. However, there are times when an uncontested divorce is not necessarily the best route. There are some disadvantages to uncontested divorces.

If one party is exerting power and control over the negotiations or if there is a history of domestic violence, then an uncontested divorce is usually a bad idea. The victimized party is not in a position to look out for their own best interest. An uncontested divorce does not ensure that the agreement will be fair and just. Therefore, if one party is unable to do this for themselves, an uncontested divorce is not for them.

An uncontested divorce will not work if the parties cannot tolerate each other enough to negotiate the terms of the divorce. If they can't have reasonably civil discussions and come to an agreement, then attempting an uncontested divorce is a waste of time. Sometimes, this hostility will lessen with time and an uncontested divorce will become a viable option.


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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Probate Court Will Appoint a Personal Representative to the Estate


The probate court will appoint a person to represent the decedent and to administer the decedent's estate; this is called a personal representative. This person has a variety of names in the absence of statue to the contrary depending on various circumstances. This being, if the decedent died testate and designed such a person in his will. The court usually will appoint that person the executor (man) or executrix (woman).

If the will does not so designate any such person or the person so designated is unavailable or is unqualified to be the personal representative; the court will appoint someone else as the appointed one is called the administrator. If the personal representative cannot complete the duties, the court will appoint a new personal representative.

The responsibilities of the personal representative is to administer the decedent's estate. This is in accordance with the legal directions as expressed by the testator in the will. All is within accordance with the statute of descent and distribution with respect to an intestate estate.

This involves the collection do to the decedent's property which forms the decedent's estate. Payment of claims against the estate is distribution of the remaining property. Directions are provided in the will or pursuant to the statute on descent.

The personal representative must post a bond to assure that he one she properly carries out their responsibility, unless the will expressly waives the requirement of a bond. If you'll simply file a Living Will, then your family will not have to go through probate court system. This is if you have a small estate however, if it's a large estate then you'll probably have to go through probate.


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

4 Reasons to Form an LLC or Incorporate Your Business


Are you operating your business under a fictitious name, your own name or as a sole proprietorship or general partnership? Are you at risk because your assets are not protected from legal issues? If you are operating your business without the protection an LLC or corporate offers, it's time to make it official.

Here are four very good reasons to incorporate or form an LLC as soon as possible.

1. You are sending a bad message to your customers

When you operate as a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, you are sending the message that you are still inexperienced, testing the waters or unsure if you are serious about your business. Maybe you have been told that incorporating or forming an LLC is just another expense and it won't save you anything on taxes. This is not the only thing you should consider, however, as you also want to consider how you are marketing your business and what you are telling your customers.

2. You can protect your assets

If you hold all of your assets in your name and you have not formed a corporation or LLC, you are doing something very risky. What happens if a customer sues you after they get hurt by a product? What if a vendor comes after you for non-payment? All it takes is one lawsuit -- which you will probably not see coming -- to ruin your personal credit and put your belongings and home at risk. Even if you do your best to play by the rules and treat everyone fairly, you cannot be fully covered while operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership.

When your corporation or LLC borrows money, signs a lease, or buys anything on credit, you will not be personally liable.

3. There are important tax benefits

Operating as a sole proprietorship can cost you significantly in self employment taxes, which tax your income at the highest possible tax rate for your situation. The decision to form an LLC or incorporate can turn otherwise non-deductible personal expenses into legitimate business expenses that may be deducted. In many cases, the corporate tax rate is much lower than the individual tax rate. A corporation or limited liability company can often qualify for additional tax deductions and benefits unavailable to individuals. This is because incorporating creates a separate legal entity.

4. It will be easier to raise capital

When you want to raise money for your business, having a corporation will make it easier to find the money you need. You can take on investors by selling shares, or you can borrow from banks and lending institutions. If a third party investors wants to invest in your business, there must be an entity set up to accept the money. Most venture capitalists prefer to work with corporations.

You have put it off long enough. If you want your business to be taken seriously and gain protection for yourself and your family, it's time to consult with a corporation service company or an attorney to go over your options.


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Christine_Layton

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Estate Planning : When Does the Trust Stay Private?



Often revocable living trusts can help heirs avoid probate court, and affairs can remain private. Find out when a trust stays private from an estate planning and probate lawyer in this free video on estate law.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Estate Planning Tools: Durable Power Of Attorney - Seven Factors To Consider


If something happens while you are alive, that makes it impossible for you to handle your financial affairs, sign legal documents or communicate your wishes to others, you could have trouble in many ways. Without a properly executed Power of Attorney, your family may need to get a court order just to handle your affairs. These can cost plenty and waste months of time.

Even though a power of attorney is a relatively simple document and is readily available from many sources, I am still amazed at how many families and individuals do not have one in force. Follow these simple guidelines and make sure that you are protected should anything ever happen that would cause you to need one.

Seven Factors To Consider:

1. Your Agents: One of the most important decisions with a power of attorney is your selection of agents. Will you use a single agent or appoint co-agents? Who will be your successor agent(s) if someone is unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties? These are the questions you need to answer before you are ready. Your agent(s) should be organized, good with numbers and possess great common sense.

2. Access Medical Records: Will you allow your agents to have access to your medical records? They may need this information to keep track of, or to dispute medical bills. But if you want or do not want them to have access to this information, you will need to specify inside your power of attorney.

3. General or Specific Powers: Will your power of attorney provide your agent with broad general powers or very specific powers? You can decide on either, but the more specific you get, the more limited the powers your agent will be allowed. Most people will choose to provide a general power that will include handling most financial, business and personal matters.

4. Beneficiary Changes: You can empower your agents with the ability to change your beneficiaries if you would like, but this can be a risky proposition. In most instances, you will not allow for this provision. You can also provide for the power to refuse potential inheritances. I think this can be helpful in situations where, if someone passes and is leaving you an inheritance, but you refuse it (or are deceased), it would go directly to your children instead.

5. Effective Dates: When will your power of attorney take effect? When will it terminate? You can have it take effect immediately upon execution, you can have it take effect upon the certification of some medical condition or you can specify a certain time period. You might use this if you were going to be out of the country for 3 months or in a rehabilitation program for certain length of time. All powers of attorney terminate immediately upon the death of the individual, but you can set other dates or events as previously outlined.

6. Hire Professionals: Will your agent have the power to hire professionals such as accountants, financial advisers, lawyers, etc? If you want them to be able to handle these on your behalf, you have to specifically allow them by including this power within your document. If not, you may want to specify who you are already working with and require their services if needed.

7. Receive Compensation: Will your agent be allowed to receive reasonable compensation for time and efforts spent acting as your agent? Will they also be allowed to receive reimbursement for any expenses that they incur while acting on your behalf? In most cases you should allow both of these. Taking care of someone's affairs can be time-consuming and there should be reasonable remuneration for these services. While you can specify either way, your agents may be unwilling to participate without it and this could cause bigger problem down the road.

Summary: Having a power of attorney drafted is a fairly simple and inexpensive process. You can hire an attorney, use online legal services or purchase a legal software package to assist you with the preparation. It is very important to follow the execution and filing recommendations for your state and county. Having proper witnesses and notarization of all signatures is a great safeguard for any legal documents, so make sure to get them done right.


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