It’s that time of year !

December 14th, 2017

Sure, it’s holiday time and everyone is running around being busy. And the kids are going to be out of school for awhile. And the weather has taken a definite turn to the colder.

But, more importantly, the end of the year is approaching!

That means that most of us really need to start thinking about taxes and what we can do now to get ready.

If you had a great income this year (and I know there are some out there), you might want to consider paying some expenses before the end of this year, even if they aren’t really due yet. And it might be a good time to make a donation to a charity that needs your help more this year.

If you had a less-than-stellar year (and I know there are probably even more of these out there), you might want to consider pushing paying some of those expenses until after January 1st. Just be sure to get those payments in on time! A tax break next year won’t be worth as much as a late fee next month!

It’s also time to get your records in order. I always set up a large envelope on my desk so that I can just ‘shove’ in the tax records as they arrive. That way, I don’t have to go all through the house looking for that mortgage interest statement that came included with the December (or January) billing statement. I can always put the papers in order later, but at least I know where they are.

And also remember that nerves get frayed at this time of the year. Sometimes we get upset by things that normally would be overlooked.

So while you’re getting your tax papers in order, remember to count to 10 (or 20) and to cut everyone some slack as the holiday’s arrive. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you! 🙂

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Keep copies of contracts!

November 19th, 2017

I know you’ve heard it before….”An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!”….But what about a written contract?

If you don’t have a copy to prove that it ever existed, it can be just like an oral contract.

Yes, oral contracts can be upheld. But it’s much harder to prove the agreement when there isn’t a writing.

And sometimes, there was a written contract, but we ‘trusted’ the other person and tossed our copy of the contract because we don’t want to accumulate clutter. This can be a problem when you need to prove that the contract ever existed, or when you need to prove one of the clauses in the contract.

Also, if you ever sign a mortgage loan document, make SURE to get a copy of the entire contract. And make sure that your copy contains the same terms as the copy you signed and gave back to the loan broker (or notary).

I like to trust people, but there are some very not-nice folks out there these days who are trying hard to make a living. And sometimes, those people do things that aren’t quite right.

There are also companies that are being bought or sold and perhaps with a name change.  In the process, their copy of the written contract may be lost by mistake.

It’s always better to be safe.

So protect yourself and keep copies of the contract. At least until the contract has been totally performed.

And yes, that means that you should keep your home mortgage contract for 30 years (if that’s the length of your mortgage) or until you receive notification that the mortgage has been paid off.

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Why use a lawyer?

November 5th, 2017

Sometimes, you need to use a lawyer because you are involved in a situation where doing the wrong thing will cost you a lot. For example, if someone files a lawsuit against you and you don’t respond in the correct manner and in the correct timeframe, you automatically lose.

Sometimes, you need to use a lawyer because the process is too confusing for you to do it yourself. No, the courts don’t really do that on purpose to support lawyers! But in order to make it fair for everyone, sometimes the rules can get really involved.

Let’s take a simple non-legal situation. You leave your teenager in the house while you run to the grocery store and you tell him “don’t leave the house”. That sounds simple, right?

But what if the house is on fire? of course you want him to leave then.

Or what if Grandma comes to visit and drops a package on the sidewalk? Wouldn’t you want him to leave the house to help Grandma pick up the package?

Or what if his best friend comes by to visit and purposely drops a candy wrapper on the ground? Would you want him to leave the house to “help the friend pick up the candy wrapper”?

So you change the rule to “Don’t leave the house, unless it’s imporant.” Well, I’ve had teenagers. “Important” to you and “Important” to a teenager can be completely different!

Pretty soon, you have a really complicated list of rules….or in our case, laws.

Sometimes the laws may not make sense to you. After all, if you don’t have a dog, you don’t understand the rule that says “it’s ok to leave the house to grab the dog before he runs into the street.”

Pretty soon, you have rules that you can’t just write on one piece of paper. Pretty soon, you have rules that take up books or even sets of books. And then you need a way to know what book to look in and what rule to use. And then you realize that you don’t have a rule that exactly fits your situation.

For example, what if Grandma drops a crumb from a cookie she is eating? Do you still want your teen to leave the house to help, even if Grandma doesn’t want to retrieve that crumb? Does it make a difference if your teen has a friend that is standing a few steps away from Grandma? Does it make a difference if there is a vicious pit-bull coming down the block toward Grandma?

Sometimes, it’s just tough to know what to do!

And THAT’S why you need a lawyer. Just like a doctor is trained to look at the body and discover an illness, a lawyer is trained to look at the rules and discover which rules apply and how to interpret the rules when your particular situation isn’t spelled out in black and white.

Who gets custody of the children in Virginia?

October 30th, 2017

The breakup of a marriage is a very emotional time….for the married couple and especially for the children.

No matter what custody decisions are made, things will never be the same. The children will no longer live in the same house with both the mom and the dad.

How does the court make a decision about where the kids will live?

It used to be that the kids always stayed in the house with Mom. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Today, the courts in Virginia make the decision based on what is in the ‘best interest of the child’.

I think that’s a good thing.

There is a list of things that the court will consider when it makes the decision listed in the Virginia Code in section 20-124.3 :

1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;

2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;

3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;

4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;

5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;

6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;

7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;

8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;

9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and

10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

As you can see, this is a very broad list of things to consider. Also, with number 10, the court can look at anything that might have an impact on the decision.

I think I want to start my own business….

October 22nd, 2017

I get calls from people who say they think they want to start their own business and they want my help. Of course I can help them, but there are some steps they should go through first.

Before you even get to the point of deciding on a business name, or whether you should be a corporation or a partnership or a whatever, you first need to develop a mission statement and a business plan.

Let’s start with a mission statement.

A mission statement is a short, one paragraph statement of what your company will be. Think about where you want to be in 3 to 5 years and what you want people to say about your company. Do you want to be the ‘global leader’ in something? or do you want to be ‘the place where local people ….’? By clearly writing your mission statement, you are setting a goal for where you want your company to go.

It’s kind of like getting in the car to go on a drive, first you need to have a goal or you won’t know what direction to go first. If you want to end up in New York, you’ll drive North (from here in Virginia). But if you want to end up in Florida, you’ll drive South. Those are in opposite directions! So if you don’t know where you want to go, you might be driving a long time in the wrong direction.

You don’t want to do that with your new business.

So start with a goal. And formalize that goal by writing a mission statement.

Don’t I need a trust?

October 16th, 2017

You’ve probably heard that ‘everyone’ needs a trust. And that’s just not true.

The right answer is ‘it depends’.

It depends on what you own. It depends on what you want to do with what you own. It depends on why you might want a trust. It depends on your tax situation.

Anyone can give you a trust document. You can even fill out some fields online and have one printed for you for very little cost.

The big problem with this approach is that you don’t get the advice that you need to make an informed decision. It may be that a trust is just not right for your situation.

That’s why I recommend seeing an attorney and taking the time to explain what you really want. And then the attorney can customize an estate plan to fit your needs and wants.

It may cost a little more now, but it can save a lot later…..in money as well as in confusion and frustration.

Sometimes you need a little help…

October 7th, 2017

and you may not know where to look.

Even if you aren’t in my area of the country (that would be Virginia, in the historic triangle of Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg!) you can see if I have a link to an attorney or website or blog that might have the info you are looking for. Even if the law firm isn’t in your state, they may have some good information to send you in the right direction!

I’m trying to get a wide variety of resources, so you can have a great choice. Here’s what I have so far:

Drugs Pharmaceutical ClassActions Products Liability

Elder Law

Criminal and DUI defense

Sexual Harrassment in the workplace

Business Law

Business Law

Personal Injury Law

Consumer Law

AVVO

Keep an eye on my blogroll info on the right hand column of this blog, I’ll add other sites as I find them. And if you find a site that you think would be helpful for others, let me know and I’ll check it out!

Things are changing.

September 27th, 2017

I love the start of a new school year!

When I was growing up, the start of a new school year was when things changed. I got a new teacher, got new clothes, got new school supplies, moved into a new grade and often found new friends.

That’s why I suggest this time of year to review your estate planning needs.

If you already have an estate plan (with the appropriate medical directives, powers of attorney, will and perhaps a trust), this is the time when you should take a few minutes and think about what changes have occurred since you last considered the plan.

Do you have a new spouse? (or are you now unmarried?) Do you have new children/grandchildren? Have your children left the home for lives of their own? Have you purchased a new home? Have you moved to another locality? Have you purchased or sold any items that should be considered in your gifting scheme? Have you changed jobs?

If any of these have occurred, you should consider a review of your estate plan.

Also, even if none of these changes have occurred, you should consider a review of your plan if it has been at least 3 years since your plan was established. Why? Because laws change and you want to make sure that your plan is taking advantage of the newest legal rules.

At Beavers Law, P.C., we will be happy to review your existing estate plan to make sure it fits your needs today. Call us today at 757-234-4650 to schedule this review!

How do I get a divorce in Virginia?

September 26th, 2017

There are 6 basic steps to getting a divorce in the Commonwealth of Virginia:

You should also be aware that there are two types of divorce in Virginia. A ‘divorce a vinculo matrimonii’ (or a ‘divorce from the bonds of matrimony’) is the type of divorce most of us recognize. It is a final dissolution of the marriage and after this divorce the parties can be remarried.

A ‘Divorce a mensa et thoro’ (or a ‘divorce from bed and board’) is more like a legal separation and might be the first stage of the ‘regular’ dissolution. When this type of divorce is granted, the parties are not free to remarry.

Step 1 is to be married. I know this sounds odd, but I’ve had calls from people who are living together without being married and who want a divorce. In general, Virginia does not recognize common-law marriages, but if this is a concern for you, call the office and we can discuss your situation.

Step 2 is to decide if you have ‘grounds’ for your divorce. If you are getting a divorce because of your spouse’s adultery, cruelty, desertion or one of the other grounds for a fault divorce, you might be able to get your divorce more quickly. Call the office with information about these grounds because your actions after you find out about the grounds may make a difference.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need grounds for a divorce. It may be that you and your spouse just have irreconcilable differences. You can still get a divorce, it just means you need to approach it differently.

Step 3 is separation. If you do not have fault grounds for your divorce, you and your spouse must live apart (which means no marital relations) for six months (if you and your spouse have a property agreement and there are no children) or twelve months (if there are children and/or you and your spouse have not come to an agreement on the separation of property).

Step 4 is to file your complaint. This is the document that tells the court the basic information about your marriage…where you and your spouse live now, when and where you were married, whether you have children, what type of divorce you want and why…and what you want the court to do.

Step 5 is depositions. These are questions and answers conducted under oath. If the divorce is non-contested this can usually be done in your attorney’s office. If the divorce is contested, the depositions might be taken in court. You will be asked some questions and you will also need to provide a witness (who can be a friend or relative as long as they are at least 18 years old) and that witness will also be asked some questions.

One of the things that you and your witness will need to say under oath is that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for the required amount of time.

Step 6 is the final decree. Your lawyer will prepare this document and send it to the court and when the judge signs it, your divorce is final.

If there are issues that the court needs to resolve, such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal support or division of property; you may be involved in one or several hearings in court. Evidence will be presented and the judge will make a decision. Of course, if you and your spouse have already discussed these issues and have come to an agreement, your attorney can document those decisions and present them to the court, which will make the entire process go more quickly and with less stress.

This is just a quick summary of the steps needed. Each case is slightly different and you situation may entail additional actions. Your attorney can help you chart how you should proceed.

Why do I need an ‘advanced directive’?

September 21st, 2017

I hear this question a lot. Along with the question ‘What happens to my basic directive when I get an advanced directive?’ Even I had some trouble with the terminology when I first heard it (before I became a lawyer). Then I looked more closely.

It isn’t an ‘advanced’ directive, it is an ‘advance’ directive. That’s right, ‘advance’ as in ‘before’. And just like you plan what to pack in advance of your vacation, you should plan what sorts of medical treatment you would want before you need it. After all, there is a good chance that when the time comes, you won’t be able to tell people yourself.

If you are on life support, you won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be kept alive with machines doing all the work. You won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be fed through a feeding tube when there is no chance of you ever waking up. And you won’t be able to tell the doctor that you want pain killers, even if that means that you might die a little sooner.

That’s what the ‘advance directive’ is all about.

Remember that case in Florida where the woman’s husband and her parents went to court fighting over whether or not she should be kept alive by mechanical means, even after her brain function had totally stopped? The people who loved her the most spent a lot of time (and a lot of money) fighting over what she would have wanted.

It would have been much easier on everyone if she had written an ‘advance directive’ to let people know what she really wanted.

It’s a nice thing to do for our loved ones. If we are in the position to need this directive, the people we love are probably already in a very emotional state. And that’s not a good time to have to make these decisions.

It is much better to make these decisions before the time comes. In Advance of when the decision is needed.

That way, you can be sure that everyone understands your wishes. There is no problem with how one person thought you might want to proceed, because you are telling them what you want. You are making sure that your wishes are heard.

Yes, I think everyone should have an advance directive to tell the people we love how we want them to proceed. It is so much easier for them to follow our wishes when we have taken the time and effort to make sure those wishes are in writing.