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.