Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know

Although most attorneys would like to believe they have special powers, what we’re actually talking about when referring to powers of attorney is written legal permission to act in someone else’s behalf. The two most important powers of attorney granted are durable powers of attorney for medical and financial matters. These documents are important to have in place in the event that you are incapacitated sufficiently that you are unable to make important and necessary healthcare or financial decisions.

In the most general sense, a power of attorney allows you to give legal decision-making powers to another person/party. Durable powers of attorney differ from other powers of attorney in that they remain in effect even if you are incapacitated. Regardless of your age, health, or financial circumstances, it is wise to make such arrangements. Disaster can strike and the unexpected happens all the time and, in that unfortunate event, none of us would like our health or assets out of our control.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney should be approached in the same way. Your finances are more than just money. In many cases, the decisions that are made by an agent when a person is incapacitated have a major impact on family members and friends. Things like your children’s inheritance and your spouse’s retirement could be in the hands of someone else so you need to make sure those hands are trusted and aware of your wishes. As with medical power of attorney, this legal documentation is often combined with a written declaration of your wishes in a will or trust. These are personal decisions to be made with a lot of care. Consulting with a good attorney is vital because it will ensure that your decisions are given the legally binding backing they need to endure even if tragedy strikes.

Health Care Directive

When working with an attorney to prepare your medical power of attorney, also known as a health care directive, there are some important things to keep in mind. First, most obviously and most importantly, you should choose someone you can trust. Second, you should take the time to communicate with that person about your wishes regarding important healthcare decisions. In many cases, a medical power of attorney is combined with a health care declaration or living will in a single document so that your wishes are not only communicated but legally documented. In any case, you shouldn’t wait until “later” to lay out a plan.

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free consultations for you and your business. We can aide you in preparing power of attorney documents and advising on the decision making process. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.

Protecting Your Brand 101

Branding has always been important element of successful business but the increased opportunity for exposure brought about by modern technology has made it even more essential for your business than ever before. As a business owner, the bulk of your efforts will be focused on building a strong brand but there may come a time when you have to protect your brand too. In such cases, it will be important to know the basics about Fair Use, Trademark, and Copyright law.

The easiest place to start is by distinguishing between Trademark and Copyright. Both protect intellectual property but copyrights are better suited for creative works such as music, software, or books whereas trademarks are for works typically used to represent a business (e.g. logos). The process required to obtain trademarks or copyrights varies, depending on what you are seeking to protect, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the steps required for anything applicable to your company. Once you’ve properly obtained copyrights or trademarks then it is your exclusive privilege to use that work. But, of course, there are exceptions.

Fair Use is a principle that allows for the unauthorized use of trademarked or copyrighted material if the use is for things like scholarship, criticism, parody, or journalism. These are collectively known as “transformative” purposes. It isn’t always clear whether Fair Use applies so if you’re unsure whether your use of copyrighted material (or if someone else’s use of your copyrighted material) is covered it is a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney. Courts consider a variety of factors and a quality attorney will be able to explore these factors with you before you dive into a lawsuit, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free consultations for you and your business. We can aide you in securing patents, copyrights, and trademarks. If you feel someone has infringed on your copyright(s) or you have been accused of copyright infringement then we can advise on the best course of action in your specific situation. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.

The Reason Why You Should Have A Will - Even If You Don't Have Many Assets

The Reason Why You Should Have A Will - Even If You Don't Have Many Assets

"If you don’t have a will, the state has one for you. Regardless of how old you are or how much wealth you have, would you rather have government officials dictate where your property goes or would you rather decide that for yourself?”

Should I Hire an Employee or Independent Contractor?

If you run a growing business then you’ve probably already found the need to get help carrying the workload, or soon will. Almost anyone will tell you that you should avoid giving away equity in the company (unless there is a really good reason) so the best options will be to hire employees or hire independent contractors.

Although you can pay an employee or independent contractor to do the same type of work there are key legal differences between the two. It’s important that you understand the distinctions and choose the option that will be most beneficial to your business.

Employees

Perhaps the biggest benefit of hiring an employee is that the employee-employer relationship affords both of you much more security than you’ll get when hiring an independent contractor. Employees are covered under various state and federal laws whereas a contractor is not. If you hire an employee than you have much more control over where and how work is performed because your relationship with an employee is much more exclusive and binding. That comes with pros and cons of course.

Hiring an employee requires jumping through more hoops because the hiring practice usually involves an application and interview and, once hired, more information is required because you will be responsible for reporting payments during the tax year on a W2.

Other considerations also come into play, such as workers compensation, benefits (pension, insurance, etc.), paid vacations, regular paychecks, and meeting minimum wage requirements. While that might seem like a lot to take on, it can often be worth the work because these employee benefits make it much more likely that you retain employees for longer terms and the nature of your legal relationship means that there is room for their responsibilities to evolve as time goes on.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors have a much less stringent relationship with those for whom they do work. If you hire an independent contractor then the agreement made is specific to the job they are performing and will set a specific payment amount. You cannot expect a contractor to do anything not specified in the signed independent contractor agreement.

The big benefit to independent contractors is that you don’t have to worry about their taxes (issuing a 1099 is required for payments exceeding $600, but that’s it), clearing minimum wage requirements, providing benefits and so on. In many ways this arrangement is simpler: you agree to pay someone to perform certain work and your legal relationship does not extend beyond that agreement.

One drawback to independent contractors is that they will be under no obligation to continue performing services after the terms of a specific agreement are complete. So if you are looking for help on a responsibility that is a crucial and continuous part of your business then it can be risky to delegate that to an independent contractor.

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free consultations for you and your business. We draft employee and independent contractor agreements and can advise on the best course of action in your specific situation. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.

Beginner's Guide To Completing Your Estate Plan

If you dread the idea of estate planning then, trust us, you are not alone. Many people avoid making proper legal arrangements for their end-of- life desires and assets for as long as possible.

While it is certainly understandable – both because there is some work required and the fact that thinking about death is unpleasant for some – this is the type of thing that should not, and need not, be procrastinated.

The first step is to have a clear understanding of exactly what estate planning entails. Estate planning is simply the legal specification of your desires for the management of all of your property after your death. Estate planning also often includes provisions for your healthcare if incapacitated before death and the desired arrangements for your body after death.

These are decisions you will want to make after giving them proper thought and consideration but just deciding on a course of action is not enough. Unfortunately there are a couple legal hoops that need to be jumped through to make your end-of- life wishes legally binding and enforceable after your death. You will want to consult with a trustworthy attorney in order to arrange your estate planning but below are a few things that everyone should know about the process.

While the term “estate” might leave you inclined to think of estate planning as only necessary for the wealthy it is, in fact, not a matter of wealth at all. You don’t need to live in Wayne Manor to have what is legally considered an estate.

By legal definition, your estate is just the umbrella term for all the property and assets that you own. This extends beyond just homes, cars, and jewelry to other intangible property such as bank accounts and insurance policies. With this understanding in mind, you can see that you don’t need to be of retirement age for estate planning to make sense.

If you own property and would like to have a say in what happens to it when you die then you will want to tackle your own estate planning sooner rather than later. Without legally binding estate planning, your end-of- life circumstances (both in terms of property and your own healthcare/burial matters) will be left to the whims of local laws, relatives, and doctors.

No two estates are the same so no two estate planning processes are the same either. In some cases the transferal of property is simple and clear and requires just a few pages of legal documentation. In most cases, however, arranging who gets what and when they will get it requires a number of different legal documents.

In addition to a declaration of what property goes to what person, you also want to consider aspects such as legal guardianship of dependent children, who will act as your agent in making decisions after your death, and how to handle any outstanding debts and taxes.

The most basic and essential document is a will but most people also find it necessary to set up a trust in order to legally arrange for a person (or people) to have the right to manage all or some of your assets upon your death without going through probate court (which is costly and time-consuming).

Trusts can be set up as revocable or irrevocable, with the former meaning that it can be amended down the road if you so desire and the latter meaning that once finalized it cannot be changed.

Wills and trusts are just two of the most crucial documents needed to properly arrange for your wishes to be carried out after your death. Depending on your circumstance, there may be other estate planning documents that you need and you will certainly want to consult with an attorney in that process.

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free estate planning consultations for you and your family. We handle all the steps of estate planning, can help simplify the process for you, and are available to consult on any stage of the process. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.

3 Things Every Person Should Know About Small Claims Court

Thankfully, most of us will never find ourselves tangled up in the types of messy legal disputes that make big headlines. That being said, it is fairly common for disputes to arise between businesses or individuals that, though not big enough to make the news, are certainly too big to shrug off and ignore. Every state has a Small Claims court section to handle such disputes.

Small Claims Court is less formal than traditional court and tends to be quicker, easier, and more affordable to navigate. While we would never suggest someone walk into a traditional lawsuit without good legal representation, there may be situations in which it is perfectly reasonable to go to Small Claims Court without a lawyer.

If you’re dealing with a legal dispute and feel that Small Claims Court could be a good option for you then you’ll want to be informed on all the implications. Consulting with a trusted attorney about the specifics of your situation is a good idea but it will be helpful to know a few of the basics.

1. What counts as “small” is defined on a state-by-state basis

Each state designates a limit for small claims. These amounts range from $2,000 to $25,000, depending on the state. Utah’s limit is $11,000. If you are looking to sue for an amount that exceeds your state’s established limit then any legal course of action would need to be settled outside of Small Claims Court, such as a State District Court.

2. There is a set process for Small Claims

Although Small Claims Court is less involved than traditional court it does still involve a number of steps. These steps will vary from state to state and city to city but the basics are the same. First, you’ll need to figure out the appropriate place to file. In Utah, Small Claims must be filed in the city where the defendant resides and/or where the claim arose. Second, you will need to fill out the appropriate forms and file them at the courthouse of the city with jurisdiction. Third, you’ll want to prepare adequately for your day in court.

3. Preparing for Small Claims Court

Once you’ve properly filed your paperwork and have a court date set then you’ll want to make sure you are ready to state your case. Gather and organize all relevant documents, practice telling your side of the story clearly and concisely but with sufficient detail and, if possible, bring a disinterested third party to speak to your claim (an expert on the type of service in dispute, for example, could benefit you greatly).

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free consultations for you and your business. We can draft and review demand letters for small claims, help you navigate the paperwork, and consult on any stage of the process. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.

 

Landlord Best Practices: What You Need to Know to Avoid Legal Trouble With Tenants

Like any investment, owning a rental property (whether you own a second property or have converted a walk-in basement, for example) comes with costs. Although the initial purchase, conversion, or renovation will usually be the most expensive phase there will always be costs associated with maintaining that property.

Normal maintenance costs are to be expected but one thing you won’t want to hassle with is unexpected legal troubles. Most landlord-tenant legal disputes end in settlement or small claims court but either of those options will mean wasted time, wasted money, and extra stress for you as a property owner and/or landlord.

And most disputes are completely avoidable if you’ve covered your bases before asking the tenant to sign on the dotted line. While it is a good idea to use a qualified attorney to draft your lease agreements, you should be aware of a some of the most common and important legal aspects yourself.

Fair Housing

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, and the federal Fair Housing Act Amendments Act of 1988, prohibit discrimination on the basis of: race or color, religion, national origin, familial status or age (including families with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women), disability or handicap, and sex. In other words, it is illegal for you to profile or deny a prospective renter based on their belonging to any of these legally protected categories.

Most landlords have no trouble avoiding overt discrimination but you should be aware that more subtle actions can still land you in a sticky legal mess. Broadly referred to as “steering,” these actions include things like trying to convince a prospective tenant to look elsewhere even though your property’s features seem to fall within their search parameters or discouraging renters by exaggerating downsides to your property or failing to inform them about key upsides.

Likewise, something like suggesting that a prospective tenant might not feel comfortable in the neighborhood could lead to fair housing complaints.

For those with larger rental properties that include multiple units it is possible to be accused of steering even if you’ve agreed to rent a unit to the person in question. If a landlord rents to families with small children but only places those families in units on a certain floor then this might be deemed a form of steering because the landlord is imposing their own limits.

Although complaints about steering can be tough to legally penalize, particularly if it an isolated incident, it is still a situation you will want to avoid altogether.

Property Maintenance

As a property owner your rental spaces are obligated to meet certain habitability requirements. These requirements vary from state to state (and city to city in some cases) but generally include providing a structurally safe and sufficiently waterproofed premise with available heat, water, and electricity.

A landlord’s “right to enter” also varies from state to state – in Utah you have the right to enter your rental property to deal with an emergency or to make repairs, alterations, or improvements but you must obtain permission 24 hours in advance (unless the rental agreement specifies otherwise).

It’s important to be aware of the rights your tenant has in regards to repairs as well. If your tenant requests repairs to bring the property up to habitability requirements and you don’t make those repairs then they have several options such as withholding rent until the problem is fixed or making the repairs themselves and deducting the costs from the next month’s rent. In some cases they may be legally allowed to move out during the middle of a lease without the responsibility of paying any further rent.

Call J. Cutler Law Today

At J. Cutler Law, we offer free consultations for you and your business. We can draft and review landlord-tenant contracts to ensure you are entering into a fair and lawful agreement with your tenants. Call us today for a free consultation at (801) 618-4469 or contact us online.