To Quit or not to Quit, that is the Question.

It’s an unfortunate and regrettable fact that many marriages end in divorce. When couples decide to divorce one of things they generally have to do is decide who gets what. This often includes dividing up their real and personal property in an equitable fashion.

In some cases couples decide to sell their house meaning both spouses wind up relocating. In other cases the couple agrees to let one of them remain in the house meaning only one of them relocates. In these cases the couples separation agreement and divorce decree gives possession and ownership of the house to one spouse. What happens however, if years later the spouse who stayed in the home wants to sell the home. Is the language in the separation agreement and divorce decree giving exclusive possession and ownership of the house to the one spouse sufficient to complete a listing agreement to sell the house?

My experience says no. The spouse who is staying in the house should always get the vacating spouse to sign a quitclaim deed assigning whatever interest he or she had in the house to the spouse remaining in the house. Getting a quitclaim deed will allow the spouse remaining in the house to subsequently sell the house. On the other hand failing to get a quitclaim deed from the vacating spouse or failing to otherwise get the deed retitled in the remaining spouse’s name will likely prevent the remaining spouse from selling the house without reopening the couple’s divorce which could take months and may costs thousands in legal fees and costs.

The answer then whether to quit or not to quit is yes meaning a remaining spouse should always get the vacating spouse to sign a quit claim or other deed divesting them of their interest in the house.

Reduce heartaches and headaches: Have an Estate Plan

The consequences of not having an estate plan or not having an updated estate plan can be significant and even devastating. My family has learned this due to the lack of planning and faulty planning on my parents part.

An estate plan includes numerous documents including a will, a durable power of attorney (POA) and an advanced medical directive (AMD). A “will” directs the disposition of assets upon one’s death. A “POA” gives someone the authority to make financial and related decisions for you. An “AMD” gives someone the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, including decisions to end life support.

Another aspect of an estate plan is medicaid planning for older adults. Medicaid planning is critical to reduce the amount the government will take from your parents if they have to move to a nursing home.

In some instances not having an estate plan will not have any or minimal consequences. For example, if I don’t have any assets and no family members the lack of an estate plan would be minimal. However, the effects could be profound for an individual or family with assets that is struck by a tragedy and has no estate plan. The effects may include losing control over how assets are distributed and having to pay more in taxes.

At Torus Law we are committed to helping individuals and families protect and preserve their assets. For more information about how an estate plan can help you meet your financial goals contact us.

Torus Law, PLC
JC Cancelleri

Email JC
Phone: 804-548-4810

Misclassifying staff can cost $$$

During a recent conversation with an employment commission staff person, I asked what was the most common mistake businesses make. Without much hesitation the staff person said it was designating individuals as independent contractors when they are really employees.

There are several consequences with treating individuals who are really employees as independent contractors. The first is if you get caught you’ll likely have to pay back federal and state taxes and penalties and you’ll have to pay the commission what its owed due to the mis-classification.

Mis-classifying individuals may also expose the company to significant liability if the mis-classified individual is injured and sues the company. A third consequence is that your employment tax may be increased to the maximum of over 6% of the first $8,000.00 in wages paid.

The Internal Revenue Service has published guidelines about how to determine if someone is an independent contractor or employee.

Another common mistake is the challenge of firing someone without relating the firing to the company’s policy manual. Correcting this requires having a policy manual and procedures that inform new hires about the manual, particularly the consequences of violating company polices and procedures.

At Torus Law we are passionate about helping our business clients dream, plan, build and succeed. If you have questions about how to classify staff or what should be in a policy manual contact me.

Torus Law, PLC
JC Cancelleri

Email JC
Phone: 804-548-4810

If You Build It, “Trust”, They Will Come

Rick Warren, author of the best seller, “The Purpose Drive Life” says life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment. If that’s true we need to ask if our business and other relationships are based on principles and practices that build and model trust. What are some of the principles that build trust? One, is valuing relationships more than transactions; a second is being authentic and transparent; a third is being committed to understanding, really understanding your clients and customers needs. While these principles are not new, consistently applying can be challenging.

At Torus Law we value building win-win relationships based on principles and practices that model trust. For example, if we don’t know something we’ll tell you. And we if can’t help you we’ll find someone who can.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to learn how we help clients Dream, Build, Plan and Protect their ideas, strategies and results contact me.

Torus Law, PLC
JC Cancelleri

Email JC
Phone: 804-548-4810

Happy New Year – Make Time to Do Extraordinary Things

Below is an article recently posted by Seth Godin. It’s short but insightful. At Torus Law we are committed to helping your business become extraordinary and to helping you become an exceptional leader. In 2012 we are poised to partner with you to Dream, Plan, Build and Protect your vision, your results and your business.

One of my favorite restaurants is a little Mexican place in Utah called El Chubasco. I’ve often eaten there twice in a day, and once (it’s true) ate there three times.

It’s always crowded. Sometimes people wait outside, in the cold, even though there are plenty of alternatives within walking distance. So, what’s the secret? Why is it worth a drive and a wait?

No specific reason. The energy of owners Jill and Craig is certainly part of it, but most customers never encounter them. I think it’s the hand-fitted gestalt of thousands of little decisions made by caring management out to make a difference. Usually, when a business like this gets bigger or turns into a chain, marketers make what feel like smart compromises. The MBAs collide with the mystical, and the place gets boring. “Why do we need 14 free salsas when we can get away with six?” or “Perhaps we ought to stop handing out huge tumblers of water for free–our bottled water sales will go up.”

This turns out to be the secret of just about every really successful enterprise. Sure, you can copy one or two or even three of their competitive advantages and unique remarkable attributes, but no, it’s going to be really difficult to recreate the magic of countless little decisions. The scarcity happens because so many businesses don’t care enough or are too scared to invest the energy in so many seemingly meaningless little bits of being extraordinary.

How Lose Lips Might Sink Ships or in these cases get you sued.

A recent Virginia case and one being filed in New York illustrate the consequences of making public comments about individuals related to a sensitive issue. In the Virginia case a Commonwealth’s Attorney (CA) said that criminal charges against three current and one ex-supervisor were “winnable” and he “could have made them stick.” The CA made those comments after the criminal charges against the current and ex-supervisor were dropped. The four plaintiff’s cumulatively sued the CA for $5.4 million dollars. As reported by the Daily Press each of the plaintiff’s got a $250,000 judgment against the CA. Apparently none of the judgments are enforceable against the CA. So the fight is with the CA’s homeowner’s carrier to see if it’s liable for the judgments.

The New York case relates to allegations against former Syracuse basketball assistant Bernie Fine. Apparently two former Syracuse ball boys alleged they were molested by Fine. In response to the allegations head coach Jim Boeheim, as reported on SI.com, quoted an ESPN interview in which Boeheim said, “It is a bunch of a thousand lies that [ ] has told.” Boeheim is also quoted as saying the allegations were about trying to get money. In response to Boeheim’s comments the former ball boys filed a defamation suit against Boeheim and Syracuse University.

What’s to learn from these suits? One of questions to ask is how you would respond in similar circumstances? Both of these cases involve highly charged emotions and issues. Under these circumstances it may be very difficult not to want to express your opinion particularly if you feel justified in doing so. However, in this day and age one thing we  have to remember is what you said five minutes ago could be on You Tube or Facebook in a matter of minutes. Individuals and businesses need to understand the times we live in; they need to exercise restraint and if they feel they have to express themselves they should do so in an environment that affords them protection as privately with an attorney, where the attorney client privilege would prevent even the most inflammatory comments from ever becoming public.

End Note: The phrase Lose Lips Might Sink Ships and Careless Talk Costs Lives were coined during WWI as part of the US war department’s efforts to limit giving useful information to the enemy.