These legal briefs are offered as guidelines for certain types of situations or events. Consult an attorney for professional legal advice. If you have any questions regarding your Legal Rights, call us for a FREE consultation at (413) 567-3900 orcontact us using our convenientform.
Buying or Selling a Home?
Are you or perhaps a family member contemplating BUYING OR SELLING a home in the near future? If so, we at Longmeadow Legal Associates are in a unique position to assist you with our vast experience in representing countless Buyers and Sellers over the years. Most likely, the first document you will be presented for your signature, whether the Buyer or the Seller, is an OFFER TO PURCHASE. Unfortunately, most Buyers and Sellers do not consult an attorney until after the document is signed and when they are then presented with a proposed PURCHASE AND SALES AGREEMENT.
We at Longmeadow Legal Associates, strongly recommend to our clients that they consult us prior to signing “any” documents as they, each in their own way, create rights and obligations which the parties will have to live with, once they have been signed. You should bear in mind that lawyers cannot rewrite contracts after they have been signed by the Buyer and the Seller. Therefore, the best, and most ideal, time to consult with an attorney is before you have been presented with an OFFER TO PURCHASE. At this point, the attorney can best represent you and make the closing go much easier without problems that a client may have unintentional created by not consulting an attorney at an earlier stage.
Buying a home, whether it’s your primary residence or a vacation home, is a major investment and should never be done without legal consultation from the very beginning of the process. Most realtors that we work with appreciate the assistance that we provide to our clients and find that the whole process works smoother for all parties involved.
Pro Bono- What Does It Mean?
"Pro Bono" is a Latin phrase used quite frequently in legal circles. It is, in reality, an abbreviation for "Pro Bono Publico" which means "for the public good." When a lawyer performs work for a client without charging a fee, it is considered a Pro Bono service. At Longmeadow Legal Associates, we are proud of our record of performing "pro bono" services. Not long ago, we received a desperate request from a client who had been victimized by her prior attorney who had stolen her settlement money. She had hired the attorney to represent her on a personal injury claim where she had suffered significant injuries from a car accident. The attorney, who has since been disbarred, accepted an offer of settlement from the insurance company and then "forged" his client's signature to the Release and Settlement check. Unfortunately, the client did not become aware of it until the theft had already occurred. Our office was able to recover all of her settlement money, after spending several years, pursuing the matter through litigation and by filing a claim with the Board of Bar Overseers Client's Security Fund. We did not charge the client a fee for our services.
Our office could have declined to perform these services but we felt it important to re-establish and maintain the trust and confidence that clients come to expect when hiring an attorney.
Should I Incorporate?
A common question we hear from our business clients is, “SHOULD I INCORPORATE?” If you are conducting business in Massachusetts, there are a number of ways for you to legally do business. The major categories of business ownership in Massachusetts are Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) and Corporation. Incorporating in Massachusetts can be further segregated into different types of corporations such as C-Corps, S-Corps, Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) and Personal Service Corp’s (P.C’s). Each and every one of these listed categories of doing business has advantages and disadvantages that can significantly affect your personal assets and liability as well as your tax liabilities. If you have no partners, conducting business as a Sole Proprietor is relatively easy. However, in doing so, you will have UNLIMITED legal liability and are subject to the full extent of self-employment taxes as well as a possible higher tax bracket based on taxable income. After paying federal income taxes, self-employment taxes and state income taxes, it is possible for a Sole Proprietor to pay more than 50% of his/her profits in taxes.
If you are contemplating starting a new business or if you would like to discuss converting your business to a different form of legal entity, call us to discuss your options. We often meet our business clients in a conference session with their tax accountants and/ or CPA’s present so both legal and tax ramifications can be discussed and the client questions can be best answered.
Slow Down – School Zone
Now that school is back in session, motorists need to be especially careful when operating at or near schools and school bus stops. Most school zones have signs posted which require a substantial reduction in speed when passing through them. Many accidents involving school age children are the result of the failure to observe these reduced speed limits. Also, children are prone to dart across the street when getting off a school bus. Obviously, a motorist who is traveling at speeds in excess of the reduced speed limit will have greater difficulty in avoiding a child who suddenly enters the roadway. All motorists should be aware that normal speed limits do not apply in school zones when school is in session. Also, in the eyes of the law, pedestrians have the right of way.
Rising Auto Insurance Rates
The Boston Globe recently published an article that was entitled, “Auto Insurance Rates Climbing for Mass Drivers”. The article stated that auto insurance bills will increase this year between 6 and 9 percent on average. Last week, my wife’s auto insurance carrier sent us our renewal for 2016-2017 and to our shock, her policy premium was increasing by 28%. When I called to inquire why such a dramatic increase, I was told that in addition to a rate increase, our carrier was eliminating previously granted discounts and the result was a significant increase in the renewal premium.
We fortunately insure our vehicles with an independent agent who immediately began to “shop” our insurance policies with other highly rated insurance companies to see if we could get a lower rate with the same level of coverages. After a few days, our agent called to inform us that if we switched all our insurance policies (auto and homeowners) to another highly rated company we would save almost $1500.00 from our anticipated premiums for next year.
If your insurance rates our increasing, the answer is not to purchase less coverage but rather to “shop” for better rates with a quality insurance company. If you or a family member would like advice on which insurance coverages would be appropriate for you and which insurance companies and or insurance agents are respected in the community, call us at Longmeadow Legal Associates.
Personal Injury at Retail Establishment
This past week, the Supreme Judicial Court, in a split decision, made it easier for customers to sue retail establishments because it extended the “mode of operation” approach in premises liability cases. The case involved a woman who fell as a result of a stone that had moved from an adjacent gravel area to the walkway of an Agway store on Cape Cod. Under historic premises liability law, the burden was on the injured party to prove that Agway knew or should have known that the stone had migrated from the adjacent gravel area to the sidewalk area and thereafter, Agway failed to take measures to make the walkway safe. The injured party was unable to prove either actual or constructive knowledge because she had no way of knowing how long the stone was there (unlike water on a grocery store floor that becomes dirty and muddy as more and more customers walk through it). The SJC found that it would be unjust for the injured party to be thrown out of court in this type of circumstance because:
The risk that customers would dislodge stones from the gravel area onto the walkway was reasonably foreseeable.
It was reasonably foreseeable that stones lying on walkway would pose a tripping hazard to customers walking on the walkway.
The steps that Agway took to protect customers from the potential hazard of tripping on stones were unreasonable.
If you have been injured as a result of slipping or falling at a retail establishment, it is important to
Pay close attention to the area where you fell including taking photographs if possible.
Notify store personnel as soon as possible and obtain their name and job position.
Seek medical attention documenting all known painful body parts, cuts, bruises and abrasions
Contact us at Longmeadow Legal Associates so we can protect your legal rights.
Over the years, we have represented many car accident victims who have suffered physical injuries including concussions and have subsequently developed “emotional injuries” such as anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, memory loss and depression. These symptoms can be just as disabling, if not more disabling, than the immediate physical injury and, in many cases, continue as a source of difficulty long after the physical injuries have subsided. At Longmeadow Legal Associates, we not only provide you with legal advice but also, as a result of our experience in literally representing thousands of auto accident victims over some 50 years, we can help you get the appropriate medical care necessary to treat your injuries whether physical, emotional or a combination of both. We have years of experiencing dealing with many of the local orthopedics, physiatrists, primary care physicians, physical therapists, psychologists and social workers. If you are ever unfortunate to be a victim of a car accident, call us for a FREE consultation.
Declaration of Homestead
Should I file a DECLARATION OF HOMESTEAD on my principal residence. The answer is an unequivocal YES. In Massachusetts, an owner(s) of a principal residence can and should file a Declaration of Homestead to protect against attachment, seizure, execution on judgment, levy or sale for the payment of debts to the extent of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) per residence, per family. The cost of filing the Declaration is $35.00 and in most cases, can be done without the need for an attorney. In fact, our Secretary of State, William Galvin has issued a very, in depth, pamphlet on the Homestead Act and our Registrar of Probate, Donald Ashe has provided internet links to forms and Questions and Answers on filling out the forms. The information can be found at:
If you would like Longmeadow Legal Associates to assist you in filing a Declaration of Homestead or if you have questions regarding a previously filed Declaration, call us at (413) 567-3900.
What kind of car insurance should you have?
Although the answer to this question varies based on each individual’s financial and health status, there are typically 4 different types of insurance coverages in Massachusetts. The first category is known as LIABILITY Insurance. This coverage protects you in the event that you cause harm to a person or to another’s property while operating a vehicle. The amount of coverage you should have should be based on the amount of assets you own and want to protect in the event of a car accident.
The second category is known as COLLISION/ COMPREHENSIVE. These coverages provide you with insurance benefits to replace or fix your car in the event of a collision or fire, theft or vandalism of your car. You can generally lower the cost of these coverages by partially self- insuring yourself by way of a deductible.
The third type of coverage is known as PIP/MED-PAY. These coverages provide insurance to cover your medical bills and some of your lost wages in the event that you are injured in an accident and need medical treatment or cannot work. The maximum amount that can be paid under your PIP coverage is $8,000. This amount may not be sufficient to pay all of your medical bills, especially if you have used all or a portion of it for your lost wages. Therefore, it is important to carry MED-PAY coverage so that all of your medicals bills can be paid and you will not have to pay the bills out of your settlement proceeds.
The fourth category is known as UNINSURED and UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE. This type of insurance covers you and perhaps family members who are injured in auto accidents caused by either an uninsured driver or a driver who did not purchase sufficient liability coverage to compensate you for your pain, suffering, out of pocket medical expenses and lost wages. In Massachusetts, the amount of UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED COVERAGE can be as high as the amount of your LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE but no higher.
If you have any questions about your car insurance coverages or if you simply have questions about what happens when you add your child on your car insurance policy, call us for a FREE consultation. Once an accident happens, it is too late to change your coverages so that you are properly insured.
With the 4th of July approaching, many people plan to host backyard BBQ’s and picnics. Along with supplying the chicken, ribs and burgers, many people intend to supply their friends, family and guests with alcohol. In Massachusetts, there are both civil and criminal penalties for furnishing liquor to either minors or intoxicated people. The law states that whoever furnishes a person who is under the age of 21(and not your child) with alcohol shall be fined up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to a year or both. Furnish means to knowingly or intentionally give, provide or allow minors to possess alcohol on your property or property that you control. In addition to the criminal penalties, a social host can be held liable for civil damages of hundreds of thousand or even millions of dollars for supplying a guest with alcohol when the host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated. If that guest later leaves your house and seriously injures or kills someone while driving intoxicated, you, as the supplier of the alcohol, can be held liable. If you’re planning on hosting a 4th of July cookout or any event at your house and you plan on supplying alcohol, be vigilant about the alcohol consumption by our guests including, if necessary, taking away an intoxicated person’s car keys. The alternative and perhaps less stressful alternative is to send out invitations indicating that the cookout is BYOB. If you have any questions about your legal rights, call or contact us.
One of the most common questions we are asked at Longmeadow Legal is “DO I NEED A WILL?”
The answer to the question is probably best answered with another question, “Do you want the State to decide who will receive your property after you pass away?” If you die without a will in Massachusetts, the State will decide who will receive your estate, how it will be divided and when it will be distributed. This is governed by the Massachusetts law of “Intestacy”. In other words, by not having a Will you will be giving up your right to choose who will receive your property and when. When you do leave a Will, not only do you get to choose your beneficiaries but you also get to make other important decisions, such as, who will be the guardians of your minor children, who will be the personal representative to administer your estate and what powers you want to give your personal representative. If you are leaving property to minors, you can decide at what age they will receive their portion of your estate or even set up a trust for the benefit of said minors to be administered by a trustee that you select rather than leaving that important decision to a judge to decide.
Generally, Wills can be prepared for a husband and wife, along with other important documents, such as a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, for less than $750.00. Most importantly, by preparing these Estate Plan documents, you will enjoy “peace of mind” in knowing that your wishes will be carried out. If you have any questions about Estate Plan documents, you can always call us for a FREE consultation.
Did You Know That...
In Massachusetts you may be entitled to monetary damages if you are in auto accident even if you are partially responsible for causing the accident. Massachusetts law allows an injury party to make a claim for bodily injuries if the injured party is 50%, or less, at fault for causing the accident. For example, if it is determined that the other driver was 75% at fault and you were 25% at fault, you would be entitled to recover 75% of the value of your claim. On the other hand, if you are determined to be 51% at fault, or more, you would be denied any recovery. Additionally, your spouse and child would be entitled to recover full monetary damages from the other driver for the loss of your services, companionship and support as long as the other driver was partially responsible for causing the accident.
Did You Know That...
Court cases have held that a parent could be held criminally liable for providing alcohol to a minor when he/she allowed alcohol to be served at a graduation party. One of the guests, an 18 year old boy, was killed when he crashed his truck into a utility pole on his way home from the party. The parent argued that the charges should be dismissed because there was no evidence that he actually served alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. The court held that simply making alcohol available at the party where some of the guests were under age was enough to hold him responsible. During the summer season, if you are going to host a party at which alcohol will be served, you would be well advised to closely monitor the consumption of alcohol by your guests. Failure to do so may result in both civil and criminal responsibility.
Did You Know That...
Massachusetts has a so-called Dog Bite Statute which makes the owner or keeper of a dog responsible for any injuries the dog might inflict upon a person. The only exceptions to the law are for injuries caused to persons who are trespassing or teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. Many times questions arise as to whether the owner is responsible when a dog "playfully" jumps a person and causes that person to fall and become injured. A past case in Massachusetts involved an injury to a person who was walking downstairs and tripped and fell over a dog that was lying at the top of the stairs. The court, in that case, held that liability under the law arises only for a dog's "active conduct" such as biting or jumping. There is no liability when the dog is merely "passive", that is lying down minding its own business.
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