September is national preparedness month. In the last year or so, readers have encountered flooding, water shortages, wildfires, and electricity outages; otherwise known as mother nature showing her strength. But what is legal preparedness? What do you need to do to protect yourself and your family from legal disasters?
Check your insurance policies. When was the last time you actually read your home ownership, renters, farm, or car insurance policies? What’s covered? What’s not? Has your financial situation changed since signing the initial agreement? Could you still pay the deductible? If your deductible is higher than the value of your car, you may need to modify the policy.
Get agreements in writing. Do you rent or lease a house or land? Did you enter a payment plan agreement with someone? Does someone owe you money? Get that agreement in writing. All you need to do is make a plain statement of money owed and payment plan and have each person sign and date the agreement. For landlord/tenant issues, your agreement should be more complex. View the written agreement as clear communication between the parties. This way, you have evidence of the agreement.
Make sure contractors are licensed. If you are hiring someone for services, including lawyers, construction contractors, or other professionals double check their state licensing. To gain state licensing, professionals must meet educational, insurance, and background check requirements.
Separate your business from your personal assets. Protect your personal assets from business liabilities by maintaining your state registration, keeping separate bank accounts, and never mingling personal and business finances.
Registration. Is your boat, ATV, trailer, car, or other property registered with the state? Should it be? What about your driver’s license? What about your dog? I see too many tickets issued for expired plates, driver licenses, and unregistered dog fines.
Estate planning. Do you have a will? Does your family know about where it is located or who has a copy of the document? Regardless if you want to share your documents, consider providing information about where a copy is located. If you have a trust, make sure all assets you want in the trust have been transferred to the trust.
Get legal insurance. If your employer offers this benefit, sign up for at least a year. Most legal insurance plans such as ARAG and US Legal Services provide members with wills, power of attorneys, healthcare directives, criminal defense, and probate services at low or no cost. I’ve helped multiple clients who could not have otherwise afforded an attorney use these programs.
Review city and county zoning. Make sure your home or business is compliant with state and county zoning requirements. Read the requirements before planning your next building project.
In debt? Know your rights. Consumer debtors (personal loans, credit cards, auto loans, medical bills, or a mortgages) have special protections. Learn about your rights. If you are being sued for a debt, BYU created a free resource, SoloSuit, to help you file an answer within 21 days of receiving the suit.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435.610.1431.
Published in the September 5, 2018 Wayne & Garfield County Insider.
Now that the first round of new year’s resolutions have been broken, it’s time to make a few more resolutions with the hope they will stick. As my mother always says, anything is possible in January. So here are a few more ideas.
Change all of your passwords. Cybersecurity and identity theft is real, occurs every day, and is preventable. Being in the online era, so much valuable, sensitive information is online, whether you put it there or not. Protect your information. Make sure to use different passwords for each account and write down or manage your passwords so you can remember them later. Online resources can create password generators, password management, and other tools to protect your login information. Also put a note on your calendar to change your passwords every three months.
Start thinking about taxes NOW. This is almost as unpleasant as passwords, but even more necessary. If you can provide your accountant with your files or start organizing your files earlier than later, your accountant or yourself may find more tax deductions than prior years. By reducing the stress and time crunch of tax season, you can deal with this annual chore with more grace than grimaces.
Expunge old arrests and criminal charges. If you have ever been arrested, investigated, detained, or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the state of Utah and meet specific qualifications, you can have your record sealed. A sealed record is a court record that the public – and employers – cannot view or copy. Ask your attorney for more information or search on the Utah Courts website (utcourts.gov) to find out if and how to expunge your records.
Organize your business. January and February can be slower months for businesses. This sigh of relief and calm may reduce revenue, and it can provide time for other business tasks. City licensing fees, state licensing fees, and professional organization fees can be scheduled or paid. If you are a corporation, hold your annual meeting. Review your professional liability insurance policy. Consider renegotiating vendor contracts. Reflect on your last year of business and look for ways to increase revenue. Or you can take your much-needed break from the onerous tasks of business management and go on vacation so you are recharged and ready to go when you return.
Meet with a lawyer about that important legal issue. You know the one. You thought about it in November, but then Thanksgiving and the holidays came up without time to blink. Now is the time. Are you concerned about that boundary line? Want to start a new business but not sure where to begin? Thinking of hiring employees? Has your ex-spouse’s income changed? Do you need to get your estate in order? Your lawyer is refreshed from the holidays and has already, hopefully, created their own New Year’s resolutions.
Disclaimer: All materials in this article are prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about legal concepts. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice.