It is once again that time of year to set New Year's Resolutions! Most people will set some fitness, education and financial goals, but it is also important to take a yearly inventory of your legal health. We are providing this check-up as a way to get you thinking about issues that may affect your life in 2018.
A little legal planning can save you a lot of headaches and money down the road. If we have not addressed the issue you are thinking about, feel free to contact us with your questions.
Are you starting a business in 2018?
If you are planning to start a business in 2018, there are many things to consider. After you have picked out a business name and designed a logo, the work is just beginning. Consider the following legal questions as you plan for your future business success:
- What type of business structure will provide you the best tax advantages?
- What business structure will best protect you from personal liability?
- What type of business structure will enable you to have multiple owners/investors?
- What rights will owners have to make business decisions and share in profits?
- What licenses will you need to legally operate your business?
- What are the legal requirements for businesses with employees?
- Do you have an EIN number?
- Do you have workers compensation insurance?
- What types of liability insurance will be necessary to protect your business?
- Is the rental/lease agreement for your business fair and equitable?
- What contracts will you need in place with vendors/employees/customers?
- Do you have intellectual property that needs protection in the form of patents, copyrights or trademarks?
- Are there any government regulations that will affect your business?
Of course, every business is unique and every business will have different needs. You should always establish a relationship with an attorney and an accountant that you can turn to when you have questions. Some business owners can be timid about hiring a professional early on, but "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Is your current business healthy?
Every business needs a little tender loving care from time to time. Laws and regulations change, and there are always those little things that you may have been putting off because they were not a big deal yet. This year is your chance to get caught up on all of that. Take a brief inventory and make sure that everything in your business is lined up to make 2018 a super successful year!
- If you are operating as a sole proprietor, is it time to consider incorporating?
- Do you have a partnership agreement or an operating agreement in place for your business?
- Do you have the right types of insurance coverage in place?
- Are you having any issues at work with employees, co-workers or supervisors?
- Are you concerned about any rights or benefits at work?
- Are your employees covered by workers compensation insurance?
- Have your independent contractors signed a waiver?
- Are your contracts with suppliers and vendors drafted to protect your financial interests?
Is your estate planning in order?
Estate planning is one of the most ignored and proscratinated aspects of financial planning. That may be because it is not pleasant to think of death, or maybe we all tend to believe we will live forever. But estate planning is much bigger than creating a simple will. There are many options available to people to plan for events over which they have no control.
An estate plan is your opportunity to determine what will happen with your property, money and children should you become incapacitated or pass away. If you do not have a will or trust in place, then your assets will be distributed as provided by the laws of the state of Utah. This is called "dying intestate," and it means your most important decisions will be made by a judge. You may think you know how your assets should be distributed, but that may not happen unless you have an estate plan in place.
Some questions to consider are:
- Do you have a properly drafted will that accurately reflects your current wishes?
- If you have children with more than one spouse, how should your assets be divided?
- If you have young children, who should take care of them if you become incapacitated or pass away?
- Are your life insurance policies set up to give the money to the people whom you want to be your beneficiaries?
- Do you have a medical directive in the event that you are not able to make medical decisions for yourself?
- Do you have a power of attorney that will allow someone to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so?
- What would happen with your business if you are not able to run it?
- How can you plan so that your children will not have to pay estate tax?
- Can you protect your assets from Medicare?
With a solid estate plan, you can make your wishes clear and handpick the people you want to be responsible for both handling your estate and making decisions on your behalf.
Do you have adequate automobile insurance?
There are many types of automobile insurance that people should carry depending on their personal situations. We will start with the most common types and break it down for you.
Required Autombile Insurance
Utah drivers are required to carry automobile insurance, but many people do not take the time to make certain they are adequately covered. The following types of insurance are required:
- Bodily Injury Liability insurance
- Personal Injury Protection insurance
- Property Damage insurance
The state of Utah requires owners and operators of motor vehicles to carry bodily injury liability insurance of at least $25,000 per person and $65,000 per incident. The state also requires every automobile insurance policy to provide at least $15,000 in property damage insurance, and $3,000 in personal injury protection insurance.
We recommend that everyone carry bodily injury insurance with limits of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. If you have significant assets or a business, consider purchasing limits of $250,000 and $500,000.
We also recommend that people carefully consider the amount of their property damage limit. In today's dollars, the minimum of $15,000 does not go very far. Many cars cost upwards of $30,000 and if you cause a collision, you could be on the hook for any damage you cause that exceeds your policy limits.
Highly Recommended Automobile Insurance
In addition to the insurance required by the state of Utah, there are other types of insurance available that everyone should purchase. These are:
- Undersinured Motorist Coverage
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage
- Comprehensive/Collision Coverage
Underinsured Motorist Coverage will protect you if you are injured by a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for all of your medical expenses, lost wages, and general damages. And the best news is that this type of coverage is remarkably inexpensive. You may be able to purchase $100,000 worth of coverage or more for only a few dollars per month.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage will protect you if you are hit by someone who does not have any insurance. There are far too many drivers on the road who have failed to make their insurance payments, and if one of them hits you then you may be out of luck. Like underinsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist coverage is inexpensive. It is important for you to have.
Comprehensive/Collision Coverage pays for damages to your car caused by another vehicle, an object or a rollover. It is not required by law, but it is highly recommended. If you have a loan on your car, chances are your lender required you to purchase it. Collision coverage will also cover your vehicle in the event of fire, theft, glass damage, hail, wind, flood or vandalism. Unless you own your car outright and can readily afford a replacement vehicle, we recommend that you carry comprehensive/collision insurance.
For specific questions regarding your automobile insurance coverage, contact your insurance agent.
Is your home or apartment covered by insurance?
Homeowner's Insurance. If you own a home, you should have a homeowner's insurance policy. Not every homeowner's policy is the same, but most will cover your home against damage caused by fire, wind, or hail. Events like earthquakes and floods are not normally covered by a homeowner's policy, but you can purchase separate insurance for earthquakes and floods.
In addition, a homeowner's policy will provide coverage for your personal property that is stolen or damaged. Normally, homeowner's policies also cover "other structures" like a shed or detached garage. And finally, a homeowner's policy will provide coverage if you cause someone injury or cause damage to someone else's property.
The type of insurance you need will also depend on whether you own a free-standing home, a townhome, or a condominium. Your insurance agent can help you choose the right coverage.
Renter's Insurance. If you are renting your home, or if you are living with someone else, you should purchase renter's insurance. Like homeowner's insurance, renter's insurance will cover your personal property if it is stolen or damaged. It will also provide you liability coverage if you are sued by someone whom you injure.
What issues may affect your family?
Having a healthy family is the most important investment you will ever make. In evaluating whether you or someone in your family may need some legal advice in 2018, you should consider the following:
- Are you planning to get married?
- Are you married or living common-law or have you done so recently?
- Have you separated or divorced recently or are you thinking about it?
- Do you have any dependent children who are nearing age 18?
- Are you caring for a parent, sibling or other any dependent?
- Are you caring for anyone with special needs?
- Are you considering adoption?
- Are you considering acting as a foster parent?
- Are you considering applying to the court for the legal guardianship of a child?
- Are you considering alternative reproduction techniques such as surrogate maternity, sperm adoption, egg donation, either as a recipient or as a donor/surrogate?
- Do you have a custody/parent-time arrangement that is no longer adequate for your chidrens' needs?
No check-list could possible cover every legal need out there, but we hope this list has helped you consider some things that will make your life a bit better as you approach the New Year.
From all of us at the Schriever Law Firm, we wish you lots of success and happiness in 2018! If we can be of assistance to you, please call us and find out why more and more people just like you are choosing to "Leave it to Schriever!"