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This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
By entering into a “living together contract,” unmarried cohabitants can provide rights to one another that are analogous to rights granted to married couples. In these types of situations, an express or implied agreement between a couple living together outside wedlock to share income in consideration of (or exchange for) companionship could be legally enforceable.
If you are a co-habitant, you may also have child custody as well. You need to consider both the agreement that you have made (or are going to make) as well as the best interests of the child that is staying with you. Some questions you’ll need to ask are: (a) do you have sole custody or only minimum standard parent time? (b) Is it in your child’s best interests to live with you and this other person? (c) is your child safe here? (d) are we eventually going to get married? (e) do we get along well enough to provide stability for this child? (f) and others.
When an agreement expressly includes consideration of sexual services provided by one of the parties, a court is more likely to find the contract unenforceable. For example, if one partner agrees to share his or her income in return for the other partner’s love and companionship, a court may find that the contract implicates “meretricious” (apparently attractive, but actually of little value or relating to a prostitute) sexual activity. The court may refuse to enforce the contract. Proving an oral agreement or an implied contract between unmarried cohabitants is also difficult, and several courts have refused to recognize such an agreement due to lack of proof.
The majority of states now recognizes these cohabitation agreements, though many require that the agreement be in writing and be signed by the parties. The legal requirements for valid cohabitation contracts tend to parallel the requirements of some other contracts, because they’re essentially just another type of contract. Only a small number of recent cases have held that contracts between unmarried cohabitants are unenforceable.
A cohabitation agreement is more flexible and less regulated than a marital agreement. Couples typically include the following key points in their contracts: (a) Financial support during the relationship or after; (b) Distribution of property in case of death or breakup; (c)
Payment of debts from before and during the relationship: (d) Determination of health care insurance responsibility; (e) Decide on support, custody, or visitation rights for minor children, but keep in mind that a court can disagree with this and decide differently based on what’s in the best interests of the children; (f)Division of the principal residence upon death of one partners or breakup; (g) Creation of a joint tenants with rights of survivorship allowing the other partner to own the shared home if the other dies or adding both partners’ names to the deed; (f) Creation of advanced health care directives or health power of attorneys to allow both partners to make decisions about the other’s health care in case of incapacity; and (g) other things to consider.
Premarital and cohabitation agreements are apples and oranges. If you marry your partner when you previously had a cohabitation agreement, it will not be in effect after the marriage. In contrast, the whole purpose of the prenup is to determine what happens after marriage, in case the couple divorces. All states enforce at least some prenups and almost all states recognize cohabitation agreements.
When you need legal help regarding custody or cohabitation, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506 for your free consultation. We want to help you.
Yes, we help people, companies, and trusts prepare and file their tax returns. We have done income tax returns – think 1040, and we have also done gift and estate tax returns. Whether you are a multi-millionaire with a huge business or real estate empire, or your assets are limited to a bank account and a car, the tax laws can either work for you or against you. We want to help you.
Ultimately, we can all stand to handle our finances with more sophistication. This page explains the basics of tax return preparation, when your report your income and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It also explains how to complete certain sections of the form and provides information about how to get legal assistance with your tax related issues.
The first issue tax filers will face is the choice of the appropriate form. In most cases, based on what you filed last year, the IRS will mail you Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ with related instructions. Before you fill in the form, look at the form instructions to see if you need, or would benefit from filing a different form this year. The type of form you use depends on a number of factors, including your marital status, how much income you earn, whether you plan to use itemized deductions, and the types of credits you plan to claim. You should also see if you need any additional forms or schedules.
Once you determine which form to use, the next step is preparing your return. Simple mistakes in tax filings can result in an audit, which make careful preparation particularly important. Follow the steps below to ensure your tax return is prepared correctly and the information provided is accurate.
1. Gather your financial records for income and expenses.
2. Get the forms, schedules, and publications you need.
3. Fill in your return, making sure to follow the steps provided by the IRS.
4. Double-check your return to make sure it’s correct.
5. Sign and date your return.
6. Attach all required forms and schedules.
There are many questions and issues that can arise in the process of preparing your taxes. If you have additional questions about the tax return preparation process, you should explore the IRS website itself for in-depth information on preparing and filing your return. The regular United States tax system allows for numerous deductions, exemptions, and credits that can reduce the amount of tax that an individual must pay. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a parallel tax system that was put in place to ensure that taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of taxes. Taxpayers must pay the higher of either the normal tax amount or the alternative minimum tax. In other words, if a taxpayer uses deductions, exemptions, and credits to lower their normal taxes past a certain amount, the AMT establishes a higher tax that they must pay.
The AMT operates differently than the normal tax system. The AMT system is essentially a flat tax on all income that exceeds a threshold known as an “exemption.” In 2011, for example, the exemption for a single taxpayer was $48,450. Thus, a single taxpayer subject to the AMT in 2011 had to pay a 26% tax on all income between $48,450 and 175,000 and a 28% tax on all income in excess of $175,000. Many of the deductions available in the regular tax system can also lower the amount of income subject to the AMT, but others are not allowed under the AMT system. Taxpayers must calculate the taxes for both systems and then pay the higher of the two amounts.
When you need help preparing and filing your tax return – income, estate, or gift return, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
A health care power of attorney and a living will are legal documents that provide you with options for expressing medical care preferences and instructions, should you become mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions. Through a living will, you can state your medical care wishes while you’re mentally able to do so, to avoid unwanted treatments and disputes between family members over your care. A health care power of attorney allows you to grant a trusted person, known as an agent, the authority to make medical and end-of-life care decisions on your behalf. This section provides articles and resources related to health care power of attorney and living will documents. For example, you’ll find information on our website about drafting a health care power of attorney, tips to help you choose a suitable agent, and sample health care directives that you can download.
It can be an awkward and uncomfortable topic. The issue of medical care should a person become mentally incapacitated, and discussions of a loved one’s end-of-life choices, are difficult subjects for many people to approach. However, the risk of not having a medical care plan in place should be more concerning than the discomfort a discussion might cause. For example, if you don’t have a plan in place, you may be subjected to unwanted, costly medical treatments, including ones that might be against your philosophical and/or religious views. Also, if you become incapacitated without a medical plan in place, well-intentioned family members and close friends may end up in ugly, heart wrenching disputes that occur as you lie in a hospital bed.
By creating a living will, you provide medical and end-of-life care instructions that hospital and other health care personnel are obliged to follow (in most circumstances, and depending on the laws in your state). If you choose to create a health care power of attorney, you grant another person the legal authority to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf. Keep in mind that one option you have through a health care power of attorney is to provide specific instructions for your trusted agent to carry out. This option resembles a living will, with the added benefit of having an agent advocate for your interests. A second option you have through a health care power of attorney is to provide your agent with the flexibility to make medical decisions, so that he or she can decide on treatment options that are most aligned with your intentions. One benefit of agent flexibility is that he or she can make decisions that take into consideration the circumstances of your injury and your medical status.
States have different requirements when it comes to creating a health care power of attorney. As you begin to plan your medical care, it’s important that you’re informed about your state’s power of attorney laws. In Utah, we have an Advance Health Care Directive under Utah Code 75-2a-117.
If you have questions about a health care power of attorney, such as questions about procedural requirements or about your state’s laws, a lawyer can help. He or she can also work with you to create a health care power of attorney that suits your needs and reflects your intentions. This section provides a link for consulting with an estate planning lawyer in your area.
When you need legal help with a Health Care Power of Attorney, please call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
Though mortgage payments make most borrowers think of traditional banks, most mortgage holders make their payments to separate mortgage servicers. Mortgage servicing companies collect mortgage payments, handle escrow accounts, credit and charge fees to the mortgage account, and initiate “default-related services” including foreclosure. Borrowers should monitor and maintain close contact with their mortgage servicers to ensure that mortgage payments are accurately credited, to protect themselves from various fees, and even to help avoid foreclosure.
In many cases, the bank that issued a mortgage sells that mortgage to a third party. Mortgage loans can change hands many times, often leading to some confusion for borrowers as to who actually owns their mortgage loan.
Furthermore, the owner of the mortgage is not always the company that receives and processes the mortgage payment. This is because the mortgage owner (either the lender issuing the mortgage, or a subsequent purchaser of the mortgage) can sell or contract out the right to service that mortgage loan. Depending on how ownership rights in a mortgage loan get sold and divided, the mortgage servicer may be the mortgage owner, such as a bank, or may be an independent loan servicing company.
When ownership of the mortgage loan changes hands, the borrower should receive notice of the change from the new owner within 30 days of the transfer. When the mortgage servicer changes, the borrower should receive notice from both the old and the new mortgage servicer. If a borrower has questions about who currently services their mortgage, he or she should quickly contact the mortgage servicer to which they have most recently been making payments.
A mortgage servicer might even acquire a mortgage or servicing rights after the mortgage is already in default. In this case, the mortgage servicer is a debt collector under federal law, and the borrower has additional rights against unfair debt collection.
Mortgage servicers perform a wide variety of tasks in relation to mortgages. In addition to basics like receiving and giving the borrower credit for mortgage payments, they can proactively take many actions on a mortgaged home, particularly if the borrower fails to meet terms within the mortgage agreement.
Most importantly, when a borrower misses one or more payments, the mortgage servicer may initiate “default-related” services. This includes foreclosure, as well as other options which kick in more quickly. These may include inspection of the property to make sure the borrower is still living there and properly maintaining the property. Depending on the mortgage, if the mortgage servicer finds the property in disrepair, the mortgage servicer can arrange for necessary work or repairs to be performed, such as landscaping. Like fees associated with foreclosure proceedings, the mortgage servicer bills the mortgage holder for the costs of repairs to the property.
Similarly, if the mortgage holder has not purchased home insurance required by the mortgage agreement, the mortgage servicer may purchase “forced place” insurance on the borrowers behalf. Forced place insurance usually costs more and provides less coverage than borrower purchased insurance. Again, the mortgage servicer bills the mortgage holder for the costs.
While it is vital that borrowers struggling to make payments keep close contact with their mortgage servicers, mortgage holders should also monitor and keep close contact with their mortgage servicer. Scrutiny of mortgage statements can confirm that the servicer properly credits the borrower for payments made, and also alert the borrower to unexpected or unclear fees.
Should a mortgage holder dispute a fee charged by the servicer, the borrower should quickly notify the mortgage servicer, but should not deduct the disputed amount from their mortgage payment. Deducting disputed fees from mortgage payments can lead to additional fees and might trigger mortgage default terms.
A knowledgeable foreclosure attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your mortgage and deal with your mortgage servicer. By quickly addressing the problem, you might be able to negotiate a solution or, at the very least, prevent the tacking on of additional fees associated with mortgage default and foreclosure.
When you need legal help with a mortgage, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
Once you’ve found the house that you want to buy, it’s time to make an offer. In Utah, this is done with a REPC, or a Real Estate Purchase Contract – everyone uses the word REPC for short – pronounced “REP – SEE”.
Once the seller accepts your offer (usually after some negotiations), you have created a contract for the sale of the home. Real estate agents will usually suggest the use of a standard form that contains the required information for a home sale contract. The use of standard forms helps ensure that the specific requirements for a home sale contract are met, but it can still be a good idea to have a real estate contract reviewed by an experienced attorney before signing on the dotted line.
Real estate contracts are special instruments, and have unique requirements in addition to the standard rules for contract formation. This article explains some of the elements that contracts for the sale of a home must contain and offers advice on how to get the most favorable contract as a buyer. Pay particularly close attention if you are not using a real estate agent, or if you are buying directly from the owner, in order to avoid problems with the deal down the line.
The Statute of Frauds is an ancient piece of English common law that has been adopted in the United States. In essence, the Statute of Frauds requires certain types of contract to be in writing and contain specific sorts of details about the arrangement. This is to prevent a person from cheating someone else by claiming a breach of a fraudulent oral contract.
Sales of real estate fall under the Statute of Frauds, and so all contracts for the sale of a home must be in writing. As mentioned above, real estate agents should know this and should always make sure that the terms of the deal are in writing. If, however, you are not using an agent, always be sure to put the purchase agreement into writing so the seller can’t back out later on the grounds that the contract violates the Statute of Frauds.
Not only does the home sale contract have to be in writing, it must also contain certain elements in order to be enforceable. There are the elements: (1) List the parties involved in the transaction. (2) Contain the description of the property. Usually this involves both the address of the property and its legal description. (3) Include the purchase price for the property; and (4) Be signed by all the necessary parties to the sale.
In addition to what is required to enforce the contract under the Statute of Frauds, there are other elements that a home sale contract should include in order to protect the buyer and seller and ensure that the transaction goes down smoothly with as few opportunities for disagreement as possible. These additional elements that should appear in the contract include these things. The date that for the settlement of the transaction and the date when the buyer can take possession of the property. A clause, sometimes referred to as a “liquidated damages clause,” that requires the seller to pay the buyer a specified amount of money for each day that the buyer has to delay moving into the house.
The names of the escrow and closing agents. A guarantee that the seller possesses clear title to the property. Contingency clauses that address the proper actions if certain situations arise. For example, if the buyer can’t obtain financing by a certain date, a contingency clause could allow the seller to back out of the deal. A different contingency clause could also require the seller to pay for certain types of structural damage repair or pest eradication. A clause that allows the buyer to make inspections of the property for damage, pest infestations, etc.
Obviously the first step towards getting the best contract possible is to get the seller to agree to your preferred purchase price. Even if you’ve managed to achieve that, however, there are still other details you should include in the purchase agreement to make sure that you are protected in the deal. Decide beforehand which of these is the most important to you and be prepared to give up some of the others as concessions in order to keep the most important terms.
Every REPC should have a clause allowing for inspections, but make sure that there is also a contingency clause that covers situations that could arise out of the inspections. Basically, the clause should state that the seller is responsible for repairing any damage or dealing with any pest infestations. You may also want to include a provision that allows you to back out of the deal if the problem is too severe.
You may also want to include a contingency clause that allows you to void your offer if you can’t secure financing before a certain date. Sellers will usually be happy to include this provision; after all, if you can’t get the money to buy the house, the seller will want to keep looking for another buyer.
You should also try to include a clause that makes it clear that the seller is responsible for paying utilities, fees, taxes, etc. for the property up until the transaction is settled. Along the same lines, always include the liquidated damages clause mentioned above to cover you for any expenses you may incur from a delayed move in date.
When you need legal help with a REPC, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
We’ve talked about the importance of discipline policies on this page. It is always a good idea for businesses to form solid discipline policies for their employees, and even more important to stick to them. Contrary to what many disgruntled employees think, managers and supervisors do not relish the idea of disciplining employees, even when it is needed. As a result, having a good discipline policy in place is an important tool to have available for your supervisors and managers to use.
There are many benefits that come with having a well-formed and followed discipline policy. When you have a clear discipline policy that is easy to understand, employees will have an easier time adapting their behavior to fit your company’s needs. In addition, when you enforce your discipline policy, it will show your employees that the policy is not just a piece of paper on the wall. When you have a clearly laid out discipline policy that explains the consequences of bad behavior to your employees, you will gain some insurance against future lawsuits. Former employees will have a harder time arguing that their termination was unjustified if you can show where their behavior violated a company policy and how your actions were in accord with the posted discipline policy.
Although it is probably true that having one employee disciplined will not be a major morale boost for that employee, it can be a morale boost for all of your other employees. Generally speaking, employees do not like it when a co-worker gets away with coasting through work or engaging in disruptive and unproductive behavior. By enforcing your discipline policy, you will show your good employees that such behavior is not tolerated, and many of them will be appreciative of that message.
Perhaps the most important part of a good discipline policy is clearly communicating the policy to your employees. Make sure you have it in writing. By having your discipline policy in writing, you give your employees clear notice of the consequences of violating company policies.
As an example, if the main thrust of your discipline policy is that of progressive discipline (where an employee will first receive warnings that later build to more serious consequences if the improper behavior continues), you should always reserve the right to immediately terminate an employee for particularly egregious conduct. In addition, you should try to avoid any language that could give employees the impression that they will not be fired unless they act in a specific way.
You want to keep much of the wording in your discipline policy general. You never know what kinds of behavior your employees will engage in. If you spend time to lay out specific punishments for specific behavior, your own carefulness may come back to haunt you in the end. If you have an employee that you know has seriously violated your company’s policies, you will have to act upon those policies and hand out some sort of punishment. Here are some tips that you should follow:
If you already know the discipline that is mandated by your discipline policy, there is no sense in beating around the bush. There is often never a “right time” to dispense discipline. In addition, the sooner that you can notify an employee of their discipline, the sooner that the employee knows to change or modify their behavior. Also, the sooner that you get it over with, the sooner you will know whether or not the employee is willing to change.
Whenever you have a disciplinary meeting with any of your employees, you should make a written record of the meeting and place it in that employee’s personnel file. If you give a written warning, be sure to give the employee a copy of the warning for their own records. If the employee later decides to file a lawsuit, these records can help your case. Many times discipline meetings end with you setting a deadline by which you expect to see improvement in your employee. If you set such a deadline, be sure to follow up with the employee and see if such improvement has occurred.
Many employers often feel the need to soften the blow of discipline by telling the employee what a great job he or she is doing in other areas. However, now is not the time to give praise. Instead, be sure that your meeting is focused on the employee’s bad behavior and how he or she can rectify the situation. Getting to the heart of the matter will solve more problems in the long run than if you sugar-coat it.
One common mistake that many employees make is to discipline their employees in public. Instead, discipline should almost always take place behind closed doors. This prevents the employee from feeling ashamed and can also limit the office gossip. Just like good news, bad news should be delivered to your employee with respect. When you set up a meeting, be sure that you have set aside enough time to deal with the situation fully. Ask your receptionist to take messages on all calls and not to disturb the meeting. When an open conversation is set up in a discipline meeting, problems are often revealed. Perhaps an employee’s performance problem is instead a communication problem that originated from the top.
When you need legal help with an employee discipline policy, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
Utah began recognizing same-sex marriage in 2011. However, matrimony is not enough to protect your rights. Although same-sex couples are granted the same privileges and obligations as heterosexual partners within Utah, you do not have equal rights under federal laws or in the states that don’t recognize your marriage. You can counter this disparity through careful planning that includes things like:
An advance care directive — If you are fatally injured while visiting another state, medical privacy laws may prevent your spouse from being notified and given the right to make crucial end-of-life care decisions unless you execute a valid living will and power of attorney.
Estate planning to minimize death taxes — Because the federal laws do not recognize your marriage, the IRS does not allow you to claim the same exemptions and deductions as heterosexual couples, but you can apply certain legal tools to minimize estate tax liability. A last will and testament — Although your property is subject to Utah estate succession laws, you can avoid probate claims made by other family members by making clear provisions in your last will and testament that bequeath out-of-state assets to your spouse. A prenuptial agreement — Utah divorce laws apply to all couples equally. However, relocation to another state that does not recognize same-sex marriage could jeopardize your property rights should you later separate from your spouse.
Joint tenancy interests — Owning real estate as joint tenants protects your interest in the property should you ever divorce or your partner die.
Parental rights — In Utah, you are considered the parent of a child born or adopted during your marriage. Taking steps to maintain the jurisdiction of Utah courts during a divorce is essential because some states do not recognize your parental rights.
The United States Supreme Court has addressed two cases concerning the rights of same-sex couples.
One was United States v. Windsor — the court ruled Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and deprives citizens of their liberty under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The ruling in the case brought by Utah Edith Windsor extended federal benefits to same-sex couples in states where their marriage is recognized. The other case was California Proposition 8 — a majority ruled the case was not before the court on proper grounds and declined to address the matter. The action left a trial court action in place, allowing California same-sex couples to marry.
As a result of the Windsor ruling, Utah Governor recently announced that same-sex partners who paid taxes when their spouses passed away will receive refunds. In California, the state Supreme Court recently refused a second request to order county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
While the Supreme Court rulings provide support for the rolling movement toward legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, the court did not address the issue of lack of recognition of same-sex union in states where it is not legal. Now, same sex marriage and same sex divorce is allowed through out the entire United States. We’ve talked about this before here.
When you need legal help with a same sex divorce, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.