Using Your Rental Property to Host on Airbnb

Airbnb rentals are the latest trend in the accommodation market, offering a homier experience for a more competitive price than hotels. Many people also enjoy the authentic immersion into a city’s culture by residing among locals rather than with other tourists in a 5-star hotel or resort.

With Airbnb’s rise in popularity, many people have turned to hosting on Airbnb (renting out their residences) for extra income. If you’re a tenant and you’re thinking about becoming an Airbnb host, take a moment to consider some of the logistic and legal implications before diving in and listing your rental.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to get your landlord’s approval to list your property as well as some legal and contractual requirements relating to Airbnb rentals.

How to Get Your Landlord to Approve an Airbnb in Your Rental

According to Airbnb, many of their rentals are properties that are being leased by the hosts, so the rental agreement is similar to a typical subletting arrangement. In these cases, the host is the tenant on the lease and the guest booking the Airbnb is the subtenant.

Just like with a typical sublet arrangement, it’s a good idea for tenants to get permission from their landlord before listing their property as a potential Airbnb rental.

Hosting an Airbnb, similar to many other short-term rental agreements, can be risky for a landlord because they’ll be renting to someone they haven’t personally vetted. And with a higher turnover of renters moving in and out of an Airbnb, there can be a higher risk of property damage. Airbnb is not immune to troublesome renters causing disturbances and damage.

With those potential pain-points in mind, you can understand why some landlords are a little apprehensive when it comes to allowing their tenants to turn their property into an Airbnb. If you have your heart set on using your rental as an Airbnb, the best course of action is to have a thoughtful discussion with your landlord. But keep in mind, the final call is up to the person who owns the property.

If your landlord says no to you listing your rental on Airbnb, it’s not recommended that you do it behind your landlord’s back. If you’re required to get permission before subleasing and your landlord catches you doing it without their go-ahead, you could face eviction for violating your Lease Agreement.

A Legal Implication for Hosting an Airbnb Rental

Something you should keep in mind is that many municipalities have strict regulations on short-term rentals, and in some cities, short-term rentals altogether are illegal.

For instance, the city of San Francisco has imposed some of the strictest regulations to discourage people from hosting on Airbnb because of the decrease in vacancies and skyrocketing rent prices. In San Francisco, only full-time residents can host an Airbnb; a full-time resident, in this case, refers to someone who is renting out the home they also live in. The duration of the rental is also capped at 90 days, and all hosts must register with the city.

Before using your property as an Airbnb, you should check the regulations on short-term rentals in your municipality. The last thing you want is to get caught by authorities and fined.

Can Hosts Make Guests Sign a Rental Contract?

According to the Airbnb FAQ, hosts can require that guests sign a rental contract before allowing them to stay in the property. However, the hosts are required to inform guests prior to booking that they will have to sign a contract. The hosts are expected to disclose the terms of their agreement directly in their listing on the Airbnb website.

Airbnb also notes that they can’t help enforce any of the terms in your contract as the terms will only be binding on the hosts(s) and the guest(s).

If you are considering using a contract to set up some terms for your property, you might want to look at a Sublease Agreement to get an idea of the typical terms in a short-term rental.

Sublet terms usually address:

  • The sublease period (start and end date)
  • Which part of the premises is being sublet (a room, an apartment, one floor of a house, a whole house, etc.)
  • The cost of the rental

Things like renters’ insurance and move-in/move-out inspections are also addressed in sublease agreements, but they are not common in an Airbnb rental. Hosts have the option to add security deposits, but it should be noted that security deposits and damage claims are matters dealt with by Airbnb rather than between guests and hosts.

Preparing to Host on Airbnb

Being an Airbnb host requires some thought and planning; it’s not a situation where you should just hit the ground running.

Discuss how subletting or short-term rentals work with your landlord, do some research into your city’s regulations on short-term rentals, and (if all goes well) think about using a sublease contract with the guests you host in your rental.

The post Using Your Rental Property to Host on Airbnb appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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What is a Green Burial?

Environmental issues are on the forefront of conversation as we see changes to the climate in the form of record-high temperatures and extreme weather events. As a result, many people are looking for creative and practical ways to lessen their impact on our planet, even after they pass away.

A green burial (sometimes called an eco-friendly or natural burial) means that the body is encompassed in fully biodegradable material, rather than a standard burial that uses a casket or other burial container and chemicals to preserve the body that may not breakdown or be good for the environment.

In addition, cities around the globe are experiencing crowded or full cemeteries, resulting in increased prices for grave spaces. Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, even pre-purchased a plot in Manhattan Cemetery to ensure he has a spot since space is increasingly limited on the island.

Green burials help with cemetery overcrowding because a person’s remains will eventually decompose into soil and the space will become usable again.

What are Some Options for a Green Burial?

In our blog post titled What to Do with Your Remains, we discussed several ways you can arrange an eco-friendly burial, including:

  • Covering the remains in a garment woven with microorganisms to aid in decomposition
  • Mixing cremains (cremated remains) in concrete to be used in making man-made reefs
  • Planting a tree or flowers on top of remains placed in a Bios Urn to aid in their growth
  • Turning remains into plant fertilizer that can be used on things like a memorial garden

There are other options for green burials as well. For instance, remains can be placed in an environmentally-friendly wooden or wicker casket or even an urn made out of recycled paper.

Alternatively, individuals can put their remains in an urn that is designed to float on top of water and eventually dissolve.

Do Regular Cemeteries Accept Green Burials?

Not all cemeteries will accept green burials because of specific requirements for how bodies must be encased, which are often the result of local or state laws. You would need to contact the cemetery that you are interested in to determine if they have green burial options.

However, most of the time when someone is looking into green burials, they will choose a natural cemetery. Penn Forest Natural Burial Park in Pennsylvania is an example of a natural cemetery that only accepts green burials.

For more options, the Green Burial Council (GBC), an internationally-recognized organization for green burial standards, provides a list of cemeteries in North America that offer natural burials.

What Makes a Burial Environmentally-friendly?

The GBC has a set of standards that they follow in order for burial products to be considered “green”, namely that caskets, urns, and shrouds must be entirely constructed out of plant-based, animal, natural, or unfired earthen materials (including the shell, liner, and any adornments).

They also list standards that funeral homes and cemeteries must follow to remain on their list of service providers:

  • Funeral homes must offer certain services and products (like three different GBC approved or rated burial containers) to be assigned a GBC Leaf Rating Level
  • Cemeteries must follow a variety of rules, including getting an ecological assessment on the site to ensure that it is prepared with minimal impact to the environment

How Do I Plan a Green Burial?

You can outline your burial and memorial wishes using an End-of-Life Plan. This document allows you to record things like funeral arrangements and what you want done with your remains.

Taking the time to write down your end-of-life wishes and informing trusted family members of the document’s location means that your relatives won’t be left guessing or wondering what to do when you pass away.

Natural Funerals and Burials

Green burials are a great way to celebrate your life or the life of a loved one while still being environmentally conscious. Thankfully, there are a variety of options for natural burials, so you can choose what is right for you and your family.

With cemeteries around the world running out of space, it’s nice to know that there are other burial options that not only save space but help preserve the environment as well.

The post What is a Green Burial? appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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4 Things You Can Do if You Can’t Pay Rent on Time

There are times when your spending can get away from you, and it can make for a stressful time when all your bills start piling up at the beginning or end of the month. Many people find themselves in a bit of a bind when their landlords are expecting rent, so what are you supposed to do if you don’t have the proper funds sitting in your account on collection day?

Should you try to ignore the problem and hope your landlord won’t notice you’re a day or two late? Should you send a check you know is going to bounce or “forget” to sign it because you know it’ll cause a delay? Probably not. There will likely be consequences if you’re caught (like late fees), and there are other ways you can solve this problem.

In this post, we’ll discuss four things you should do when you know your rent is going to be late.

1. Tell Your Landlord Your Rent Will Be Late

Barring extenuating circumstances, like if your bank account is hacked and drained or other unforeseen financial emergencies, you should know within a couple days of your rent due date whether or not you’ll have enough money to cover it. The moment you know you won’t be able to pay on time, inform your landlord.

Any notice you can provide your landlord with will work in your favor because it demonstrates your willingness to be transparent and to take responsibility for the late payment. The worst thing you can do is try to sneak a late rent payment past your landlord because they will likely notice you’re late, and you will have shown them that they can’t trust you.

Explain your situation to them and do it in an honest and concise way. They’ve probably heard every excuse in the book, so just take responsibility rather than giving them a sob story.

2. Discuss the Possibility of Partial or Delayed Payments with Your Landlord

Informing your landlord that you’ll be late on your next rent payment opens up the opportunity to negotiate a payment plan.

Some landlords are willing to accept partial payments, usually where you pay part of the total rent amount on the day it’s normally due and then the rest when you get your next paycheck.

Other landlords are willing to accept a late rent payment if they’ve been given some notice and you pay it within one or two days of the due date.

Keep in mind that your landlord can still charge you a late fee for late rent—odds are there’s a clause in your Residential Lease that explains the late rent procedure and states the amount of the fee. However, being candid with your landlord might increase the chance that they’ll waive the late fee altogether.

Just remember, if you come to alternative arrangements with your landlord, you should get it in writing just in case. It’ll help prevent the possibility of any disputes with your landlord later.

3. Consider Re-evaluating Your Budget

It doesn’t hurt to take a look at your budgeting efforts, especially if not paying rent on time is becoming a common occurrence for you. You might need to re-evaluate what your wants, needs, and wishes are and how they play out in your monthly budget.

You don’t want to make a habit out of being behind on rent because your landlord has every right to serve you an Eviction Notice if you’re consistently paying late.

4. Ask for Help with Your Finances if You Need it

Most people will experience some kind of financial turmoil at least once in their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Many people turn to payday loans when they’re in a financial jam, but these kinds of loans can often start a revolving cycle of taking out more loans to pay off the original loan.

Before resorting to payday loans, consider some of these alternatives:

  • You can ask friends or family for a loan (which you can secure with a Promissory Note to put them at ease).
  • If federal student loans are causing your financial trouble, you can always apply for a deferment plan that puts a hold on your monthly payments for a limited time.
  • If credit card debt is your issue, you can ask your credit card company about their hardship programs to see about lowering your monthly payment.
  • You can apply for a Modest Needs grant which can get you up to $ 1000 one time to help make ends meet provided you are currently employed.
  • Organizations like 211.org can connect you with local charities to help you out with rent assistance.

Finding a Payment Solution

If you’re unlucky enough to have a drained bank account come rent time, don’t be discouraged because you can’t find a way to pay. Consider using the tactics discussed in this post to help with your problem.

Don’t try to be sneaky with your landlord. It’s likely they’re keeping track of which tenants haven’t paid on time and who’s making a habit out of it. Communicate openly and honestly with them about your situation, discuss alternative payment plans if possible, re-evaluate your budget, and ask for help if you need it.

The post 4 Things You Can Do if You Can’t Pay Rent on Time appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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How to Create Your Parenting Schedule

Now that summer holidays have started and kids are out of school, many parents are starting to plan activities to fill the extra time.

For separated or divorced parents, the beginning of the summer holidays means also creating a thorough parenting plan that coordinates who your children will be with and considers everyone’s responsibilities including work and extracurricular activities.

Creating a good parenting arrangement isn’t easy. In this post, we go over the basics of making a schedule that works for you, your ex, and your children.

Why Should I Make a Parenting Plan?

For some, a parenting plan can seem pointless and time-consuming, especially for parents who don’t follow a fixed schedule.

In reality, a thorough plan can be used to outline everyone’s responsibilities, which in turn can prevent conflicts and help manage obligations.

Keep in mind, however, that if your parenting plan was made with the assistance of a lawyer or a court, you may want to discuss modifying your plan with them as well as your ex-spouse.

Map Out Your Schedule

A good plan considers everyone’s schedule, which is why mapping out your responsibilities and any events is the first step to making your arrangements.

For instance, you may want to consider:

  • Work: You and your ex-spouse’s work schedules will undoubtedly affect your parenting plan, which is why they must be incorporated in your arrangement. For example, let’s say your ex-husband works a rotation job (e.g. he works out of town for one week and is off the next). A good plan for your family would allow him to spend time with his children on his week off.
  • Important holidays or days: Be sure your plan accounts for holidays. For example, your child’s soccer practice may be canceled if it lands on Independence Day. Likewise, be sure to discuss other important days, like a relative or friend’s graduation or wedding.
  • Birthdays: This doesn’t just include your birthday, your child’s, or the other parent’s. You’ll also want to discuss other birthdays that could impact your parenting plan, including those of grandparents, close family friends, your child’s school friends, and more.
  • Vacations: Vacations are difficult enough to arrange without accommodating a parenting plan. If you have a vacation in mind, communicate it to your ex-wife or ex-husband as soon as you can and adjust your plan as needed.
  • School: Most parents do not have to consider school schedules during summer holidays. However, if your situation is unique and your kids are still in school, be sure to add it to your plan. You may also need to discuss transportation to and from your child’s school and other matters that could interfere with the plan, such as extracurricular activities.
  • Special needs or accommodations: If your child requires any sort of testing, assessment, service, treatment, or therapy for school, a program, a hobby, or a medical condition, you’ll want to include it in your plan.

Consider Changes to Your Plan

Acknowledging everyone’s responsibilities is not always enough; a good plan will require compromise between parents.

For instance, if your ex wants to go on vacation during your visitation week, it’s best to be accommodating if you can. Cooperating by swapping visitation weeks, for instance, will help foster goodwill for the inevitable time when you need your ex to consent to a change to the plan.

It may also be beneficial to discuss potential issues or emergency situations, like what you or your ex-husband or ex-wife should do if your child hurt themselves and needed medical assistance. Depending on your custody arrangements, a Child Medical Consent may be needed to allow a parent to authorize medical treatment in the event of an emergency.

Record Your Parenting Arrangement

After scouring your schedule, establishing all the important dates, and confirming which parent will care for the children at what time, document it. Doing so will allow everyone to keep informed and will help ensure everyone understands and agrees to the schedule.

You can record your schedule in whichever way works for your family (e.g. on a notepad or in a Word document or calendar). Using an online calendar (like Google Calendar) is a good idea because it is readily accessible and can be easily modified to accommodate schedule changes.

Some parents also include their plans in their Separation Agreement as an additional guarantee that the plan was acknowledged and agreed to.

Make Your Plan Realistic

Creating a thorough parenting plan is no easy feat. There are a lot of considerations to make, such as where the children will spend each holiday or who will take the children to their extracurricular activities.

However, mapping out your schedule, being mindful and considerate of changes, and recording your plan will help you spend less time organizing schedules and more time with your children.

The post How to Create Your Parenting Schedule appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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Employment Tips: Resource Roundup for New Grads

If you’re a recent graduate, you are probably looking to put your new skills into practice by finding a job in your field. Regardless of what stage you are at in your job search, the blog posts we’ve gathered provide useful information so that you can be ready for your next big opportunity.

Finding a Job

How to Organize Your Job Search

When you’re applying for many different jobs over a short period of time, it can be difficult to keep track of where you applied and even which version of your resume and cover letter you used to apply for each job. This post provides tips for organizing your job search, like:

  • Creating a filing system for your different resumes and cover letters by making separate folders for each job application and using standard naming conventions (that you come up with) for all your job search documents.
  • Using a spreadsheet to track your job applications that has various columns like the name of the company you applied to, the date you applied, and the resume and cover letter versions you used.

Applying for Jobs Online: Common Problems and Solutions

Walking into a business and asking for a job is basically a thing of the past. Instead, companies generally prefer prospective job searchers submit an online application. While the internet is certainly a more convenient way to apply for jobs over hitting the pavement, it’s not without its flaws. This post offers solutions to common problems experienced during the online job hunt.

6 Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Since an employer can receive hundreds of applications, they often narrow down candidates by looking at each applicant’s Cover Letter.

Having a Cover Letter that stands out and accurately conveys your skills and abilities is essential for you to get an edge over other applicants. Some Cover Letter tips that this post includes are:

  1. Ensuring there are no typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors in your letter
  2. Trying not to focus too much on yourself, and focusing on how your qualifications and skills can solve the company’s problems instead
  3. Trying not to discuss too much — or too little — of your previous work history
  4. Avoiding clichés
  5. Trying not to make your Cover Letter sound like fan mail — highlight your skills and how they apply to the company rather than sounding like the company’s “super fan”

4 Ways to Ask for a Job Reference

If you make it to the interview process, chances are high that the employer will ask you for professional references from people who can attest to your work ethic and character.

This post offers information and tips on different ways that you can approach colleagues and superiors to ask for job references.

The Job Offer and the Employment Contract

4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract: Part 1

Once you’re offered a job, it can be tempting to fill out the paperwork you receive as quickly as possible, since you’ve probably already discussed things like job title and salary with your new employer.

Before you sign the dotted line on your Employment Contract, it’s important to make sure that all the agreed upon terms (like job title, salary, responsibilities, overtime, and benefits) are clearly outlined and match what you and your future employer talked about in the original offer.

4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract: Part 2

In Part 2 of our post, we did more research and compiled a list of four more things you should consider before signing an Employment Contract.

For instance, some jobs require you to travel, whether it be locally, nationally, or internationally, so your Employment Contract should specify what your travel compensation will be for things like meals, gas, travel time, accommodations, etc.

Resigning from a Job

Resignation Letter Etiquette

As a former student, it’s likely that you have a job that helped you raise extra money to cover expenses and living costs during your time at school. Now that you’ve graduated, your current job might not be in your field of study and you probably want something that will use your education, or maybe you just want a different opportunity in general.

Even if you are planning on never returning to a company or you don’t particularly like your current job, it’s important to resign as amicably as possible so you don’t squander any future opportunities. This post has tips for resigning on good terms, including what to include and what not to include in your Resignation Letter.

5 Ways to Quit Your Job on Good Terms

Even if you are leaving a job that you are planning to never return to, or you have negative feelings towards the people or the place, it’s always best to quit on good terms. Writing a good Resignation Letter is important, but this post also goes through some other things that you can do to leave a good impression with your former employer:

  1. Give notice to your employer. Giving some notice that you are leaving (usually two weeks, although the amount of time can vary depending on how long you’ve been employed at your job) will help your employer plan for when you’re gone.
  2. Offer to tie up any loose ends. It’s recommended that you make yourself available to finish up any projects that you’ve already started and hand off any remaining tasks to your coworkers.
  3. Help with the hiring process. You can help your employer by offering to write the job posting for your position or go through applications to help create a list of candidates that you feel would make good replacements.
  4. Help with the training process. If you’re employer finds a replacement for you, you can offer to help train the new person so they are ready to go in their new position when you leave.
  5. Be present during your notice period. Since you’ve given your notice already, it’s easy to “check out” and not do your job to the best of your ability, since you’re leaving anyway. However, you should continue to give your best effort to avoid early termination or a bad reference.

Finding Meaningful Employment

Finding a job right after graduation might be daunting, but by following the information in these posts, you can help prepare yourself in the best way possible to maximize your current and future opportunities.

The post Employment Tips: Resource Roundup for New Grads appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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How to Rent a Room in Your House

If your home has extra space, including a spare bedroom, you may have considered renting it out to a tenant. Given that the space likely remains empty throughout most of the year, there’s no reason not to rent it out and make some additional money every month.

Renting a room, however, isn’t as easy as posting a room rental ad on Craigslist. In this post, we cover some important questions to ask yourself before you decide to rent a room in your house and where to start if you decide to do so.

Find Out if Renting a Room is Right for You

Before you decide to rent a room in your house, it’s a good idea to determine if it’s a right fit for you, the members of your household, and your house itself.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself before advertising a room for rent could include:

Do you have enough space for another person?

You may have an extra bedroom, but if you have a small kitchen, one bathroom, and a tiny living room, things could get congested (and people could get cranky), which means you may want to rethink your decision simply due to lack of space.

Do you live with others who should be consulted before a tenant moves in?

Perhaps you have sole ownership of your house but live with your two teenage children. Although they cannot legally prevent you from renting a room to a tenant, you may want to gain their approval in order to maintain stability in the home. If not, you may find yourself in the middle of an awkward, unprofessional situation when your unhappy teens start making snarky comments to your tenant.

Do you have places in your home you would forbid a tenant from entering?

When you rent a room, you don’t necessarily have the luxury of a separate entrance, which means you’ll have to consider how valuable your own privacy is before deciding to rent out a chunk of your home.

For instance, if you have sensitive work information on your computer and no lock on your home office door, you may want to reconsider renting until you invest in a more secure room for your valuable workstation.

Create the Proper Rental Agreement

When you live with your tenants, it can be easy to underestimate the issues that can potentially occur. After all, you’re living inside the home; what could your tenant possibly do, especially in front of you, that could negatively impact your living situation?

In truth, renting anything—a room, house, or apartment—without an agreement is not a good idea. Agreements ensure all parties understand their rights and obligations and can help ease any conflicts that may arise in the future.

For a room rental, a proper Residential Lease is essential. It will safeguard your property and make sure the tenant knows all the important details of their living arrangement, including how much rent they must pay, what part of the property they can access, and more.

In addition, there are aspects of shared living that you may want to address when renting a room, which you could add to your agreement, if it isn’t there already (with LawDepot’s Lease Agreement, this can be done by adding an additional clause). For instance, you may want to consider:

  • House rules and repercussions: are there any specific rules you want to address, and what happens if a rule is not followed?
  • House chores: how will things like household cleaning be divvied between you and your tenant?
  • Parties: what constitutes a party as opposed to a formal gathering?
  • Guests: how long can a guest stay in the home, and can guests stay overnight?
  • Smoking: can tenants smoke indoors, and if not, where can they smoke outside?
  • Pets: can tenants have a pet on the premises, and if so, do you want them to pay a pet deposit or fee to cover any damages the pet may potentially cause?

Without rules, a positive living situation can turn sour in a heartbeat, so it is important to address them at the start of the tenancy.

Know Your Landlord Rights and Obligations

A typical rental situation involves various landlord rights and obligations, including:

  • How repairs will be handled
  • When the landlord can legally enter the tenant’s space (i.e. by using a Notice to Enter)
  • How pests and other problems such as late rent payments will be dealt with

For a room rental, landlord-tenant rights and obligations can blur a little.

For instance, if you are renting a room in your house to a friend, it may seem okay to knock or open their bedroom door to check if they have left for work for the day. However, your tenant has a right to privacy from their landlord, which may include impromptu or too-frequent visits.

Overall, it may be a good idea to set boundaries early on, such as which landlord-tenant interactions are acceptable or not.

Preparing to Rent a Room in Your House

Not everyone has the patience and diplomacy to live with another person, let alone a tenant, which is why you should always start by determining if you can handle a renter in your space before you decide to move forward.

After this, maintaining a positive living situation is a matter of creating the appropriate agreement, knowing and asserting your rights as a landlord, and understanding and committing to your obligations to the tenant.

The post How to Rent a Room in Your House appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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Should You Try Swedish Death Cleaning?

Throughout our lives, we gather all kinds of possessions, some we keep out of necessity, some because of their sentimental value. As our ages grow, so do our collections of belongings—which can become quite substantial over the years.

When we pass away, those items are often left to our family members and friends to deal with, which can be emotionally taxing and exhausting.

While it’s safe to assume that some of our prized possessions will be cherished gifts to loved ones, certainly not everything we own is going to end up having emotional or financial value to someone we care about—even if the item meant something to us.

To save our families from the onerous task of sorting through our homes and trying to determine what we wanted done with the remnants of our material lives we can try to offer some relief now through Swedish death cleaning, or dostadning.

In this post, we’ll go over what exactly it is and how it can help you and your family.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

Swedish death cleaning is the act of organizing your material life before you pass away so that you can take the burden of doing so off of your loved ones and live a simpler, decluttered life.

While dostadning has been a common practice in Sweden for many years, it was recently modernized by Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, who said, “It is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly,” while speaking to The Chronicle.

Essentially, it is the act of going through your belongings as you age and choosing which items you want to keep, which you want to gift to others, and which you should dispose of or sell, and it offers many benefits to both you and your favorite people.

What Are The Benefits of Swedish Death Cleaning?

While some may consider Swedish death cleaning to be a morbid affair, it doesn’t need to be. Once you remove the taboo of talking about death and look at it from a practical perspective, it can actually be a very positive endeavor for everyone involved. Some of the benefits include:

Decluttering your life. As the years go by, it’s no secret that your belongings can start to pile up. From old magazines to VCRs, chances are you have accrued more than you need. Decluttering can help you to feel more in control of your life and your possessions.

Unburdening your loved ones. Most aspects of estate planning, like creating a Last Will or End-of-Life Plan, are focused around your preferences, not necessarily what your nearest and dearest would prefer. And while that does help them to make decisions for you, like what you want done with your remains, the process of going through your worldly goods can be painful and difficult for anyone suffering from grief.

By taking on that task yourself, you can help them to avoid having to decide what you would have wanted done with the contents of your household.

Seeing your possessions take on a new life. While many people gift items to their loved ones in their estate plans, doing so after death keeps you from seeing the people you love enjoy what you have given them. It can be an extremely positive experience to give someone a gift that they genuinely appreciate and to see that item cherished and used instead of sitting in storage.

Choosing what gets left behind. Many people don’t consider cleaning up their belongings before passing away, and by not going through any of your possessions, you leave that responsibility up to your loved ones. That means that they may accidentally come across something that could be hurtful or embarrassing, even after you have passed away.

If there is anything that you would prefer that your family not find or have to deal with, getting rid of it beforehand can avoid unnecessary hurt feelings or awkward situations.

Increasing your disposable income. By selling off some of the items that you don’t want, and that you can’t gift to anyone else, you can make some extra money to do with as you wish. You may also be able to decrease your living expenses by downsizing to a smaller home, giving you even more cash to use towards whatever you prefer.

Simplifying your estate plans. Your estate plans encompass all of the preferences you have for your assets, debts, remains, and more when you pass away. The more assets that you have, the more complicated they become. By unloading some of the items you know you don’t want, and that won’t be of use to anyone else, you can simplify how you want your assets distributed after you die.

This can help to make your estate plans much more straightforward, which can make a big difference to those who have to follow them after you are gone.

Taking Control of Your Life and Your Assets

Don’t think of Swedish death cleaning as a morbid act. Instead, think of it as a way to take control of your material life and all of the possessions that encompasses. Freeing yourself of items that have become a burden can be a cathartic and liberating experience, especially if the benefits are passed on to those you care about as well.

While death cleaning isn’t for everyone, it is a great way to declutter not only your life but your estate plans. Remember that it can be done in small doses and that you can recruit friends and family members to give you a hand if you need to.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Reasons You Need Tenant Insurance

If you’re a renter, you might think that tenant insurance is too expensive or that you don’t need it. In fact, according to a 2015 survey, 52% of millennials don’t have tenant insurance because they think that their landlord’s policy will cover any damage to their personal property. In addition, the survey found that young adults seem to overestimate the cost of renter’s insurance, believing that it is too expensive for them to afford.

Unfortunately, your landlord’s insurance typically only covers the building and does not protect the contents of each tenant’s unit or suite. Tenant insurance also tends to be very affordable, regardless of which state you’re purchasing it in.

Here’s a brief overview of the top three reasons why you should have renter’s insurance.

1.      Tenant Insurance May Be Required by Your Landlord

It’s common for landlords to include a clause in their Residential Lease that requires their tenants to purchase renter’s insurance. The landlord should have their own policy to cover their rental property. However, the tenant would need their own insurance to cover potential loss or damage to their personal property.

In addition, the landlord’s insurance policy for the rental property may also require a copy of each tenant’s insurance policy as proof that each tenant has their own insurance.

2.      Damage to Personal Property is Covered with Tenant Insurance

Most (if not all) insurance companies in the United States offer the standard HO4 tenant insurance policy, which is usually what renters choose. There are also more comprehensive packages available that will cover more situations where damages or loss could occur than a standard policy.

The HO4 policy typically covers common perils that may result in loss or damage of property, including but not limited to:

  • Lightning or fire damage
  • Smoke damage
  • Wind damage
  • Water damage
  • Loss or damage of property from theft or vandalism
  • Damage from falling objects, such as snow or ice

It’s also important to note is that HO4 policies typically also cover things like liability (e.g. if someone injures themselves in your home and requires medical attention) or hotel costs if your home becomes unlivable for a period of time (e.g. due to excessive damage, mold, or infestation).

3.      Tenant Insurance is Inexpensive

Although some millennials think that tenant insurance is expensive, research suggests that the average cost of tenant insurance is typically between $ 12-17 per month, depending on the state and insurance company.

As an example, esurance.com reports that the average renter owns about $ 20,000 worth of personal property. Even if you own half that amount, the cost of insurance is minimal compared to what you would have to pay to replace your items.

Getting a Tenant Insurance Policy

Tenant insurance is an essential investment for renters to protect themselves and their personal property. Without tenant insurance, an unavoidable accident or natural disaster can leave you in a tough financial situation. Considering its low cost, it’s understandable why most landlords require their tenants to get insurance before they move into their rental property.

 

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3 Productivity Tips for New Freelancers

Starting a new freelancing career comes with some unique challenges to productivity that you might not find in a typical office job. It’s difficult for many people to set clear boundaries between work life and home life when they take place in the same physical space, and that can negatively impact a freelancer’s ability to stay motivated throughout their day.

In this post, we’ll share three tips that new freelancers can use to ensure their new self-employed career gets off to a successful and productive start.

1. Create a Separate Work Space for Yourself

It can be difficult to separate your “home” self from your “work” self when you work in the same place where you’re accustomed to relaxing. Many studies on work-from-home productivity show if you don’t set clear boundaries between work and home, it can seriously affect your ability to decompress and sleep—your brain might even start registering your home as “the office”, where you’re not conditioned to rest easily.

If you want to be as productive as possible from home, it’s essential that you create a separate space to work. You don’t necessarily need to renovate an entire room to set up a home office—some people even manage to turn closets into functional office spaces on the cheap—but you need something where you can see a clear division between living space and working space.

A devoted office space will also allow you to keep your work things organized and separated from your personal belongings. There’s nothing worse than misplacing your invoices, client contracts, or other important files because they’re scattered around your house.

2. Set a Schedule (and Stick to It)

One of the common hindrances to productivity when you work from home is the potential for you to lose any sense of structure in your workday. The best way to combat this issue is by creating a schedule for yourself and sticking to it.

Some people will work a typical 9-to-5 day from home, but you do have the option to be more flexible with your schedule. In that case, you should work when you’re most productive (whether that means starting at 6 a.m. or noon), or even splitting your day so you work half in the morning and half later in the evening.

The nice thing about setting your own work hours is that you also have the freedom to pick which days of the week you want to make your weekends. Some people prefer to take days off in the middle of the week, while others prefer to split their weekend up. It’s up to you so long as it doesn’t interfere with your communication with your clients.

Keep in mind, in some cases you might be at the mercy of your clients in regards to meetings, conference calls, or emails, which may involve rearranging your schedule.

3. Don’t Treat Your Work Day Like It’s Just Another Day at Home

If you’re going to keep up the division between work and home, you need to treat your work hours like you would if you were spending them in any other office. This means you should go through the motions of getting ready for the day to get yourself prepared for work.

It’s hard to feel productive when you’re unwashed, unkempt, and hanging out in your pajamas. So when you get up in the morning, take a shower, comb your hair, put on real clothes, and have a good breakfast. It will help kickstart your brain into working mode. And if you’re feeling cooped up in the house, you can always work in a public space like a library or coffee shop.

Don’t forget that in any decent job you get breaks, so remember to take a few! Some people are tempted to graze on junk food and work from sunup to sundown, but you need a genuine break to recharge (and make some real food to help keep your energy up).

Find a Work-Life Balance at Home

The most important thing for a freelancer working from home is to treat their work the same way they would any other job with a regular workspace away from their house. Doing this will also ensure that your days off don’t feel like another day at the home office and hamper your ability to get some genuine rest.

Our brains work against us when it comes to productivity at home because we’re used to relaxing there, so it takes a more conscious effort to maintain motivation. But by employing some of these tips, you’ll find it easier to get through an eight-hour day at home without faltering.

Do you have any tips that help keep you on a productive track when working from home?

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Basics of Independent Legal Advice

Trying to use one lawyer to review all the documents for everyone involved in a legal matter (or not seeking any legal advice at all) can seem like a decent way to save money and lower expensive fees.

In truth, skipping an independent review is not good practice as it can result in you signing your agreement without fully understanding your rights and obligations. What’s more, in some situations, one lawyer is not allowed to provide advice to everyone involved.

With complex situations, like matters that result in complicated prenups or separation agreements, we sometimes lack the legal understanding required to do a review of our document ourselves to ensure it not only fits our needs but isn’t unfair.

In this post, we lightly unpack independent legal advice and explore what it is, why it is important, and how it protects us.

What is Independent Legal Advice?

Independent legal advice is when you get advice from a lawyer separate from the other people involved in the matter. Typically, a certificate of independent legal advice is signed and included with your agreement. Without independent legal advice, your document may not be enforceable in court.

For instance, let’s say you are preparing a Prenuptial Agreement. To ensure your document is valid and enforceable in the event of a dispute, your future husband or wife would get their agreement reviewed by one lawyer, and you would get yours reviewed by another.

Whether independent legal advice should be sought or not can depend on:

  • The document you are creating (certain documents, especially potentially contentious ones that have a large impact on your present and future rights and obligations, often require a higher degree of scrutiny to ensure equality is maintained in the contract)
  • Your situation (if there is a conflict of interest, joint retainer, or the attorney is acting as a mediator, independent legal advice may be needed)

How Does Independent Legal Advice Protect Me?

On the surface, independent legal advice can seem like just another fee for lawyers to charge. In reality, it is crucial to maintaining fairness in contracts.

The purpose of independent legal advice is to:

  • Provide an objective review of a legal document
  • Confirm a client understands the document properly
  • Verify a client has not been pressured into signing their document (i.e. duress or undue influence)

Finalizing Your Documents

For some documents, like a Prenuptial Agreement or a Separation Agreement, independent legal advice is an essential step to creating a valid, fair document.

It can be a pain to pay the extra cost for separate legal advice, but it is worthwhile in ensuring your legal needs are met and you have not been taken advantage of.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

5 Things Millennials Care About When Renting

Millennials have saturated the rental market, making up roughly 40% of it—becoming the largest group of renters in any other generation in the United States.

Millennials are vastly different from the previous generations, and, as a landlord, not considering these differences when trying to fill your property can hurt your chances of renting to them.

In this post, we’ll help you land more millennial tenants by exploring five ways you can cater to their needs and wants as a landlord.

1. Apartments that Allow Pets

It’s no secret that millennials are having kids later than the generations before. But what you may not have known is that 44% of millennials consider caring for a pet as practice for caring for their future children.

In fact, a whopping 35% of pets are owned by millennials, surpassing the percentage of pets owned by individuals in other generations.

By extension, catering to this trend and making your property pet-friendly could increase your chances of renting to a millennial—yet many landlords don’t because of the potential risk of damage. In reality, many pet owners have a hard time finding apartments that allow pets.

You can lower your risk by including a pet deposit or fee in your Residential Rental Lease. This deposit or fee can then be used if any damages occur as a result of the tenant’s pet.

With a deposit or fee and a pet-friendly property, you can feel protected while still being accommodating to the needs of tenants with pets.

2. Residential Complexes that Consider Environmental Friendliness

Millennials care about sustainability and are even willing to pay more for items that consider environmentalism, such as corporations that use less or environmentally-friendly packaging.

A millennial’s desire to only support corporations that match their sustainability beliefs is so strong that 45% of millennials are willing to switch the brand they normally buy to a brand that is committed to environmentalism.

For landlords, going green is a great way to stand out from your competitors, and there are plenty of ways you can do so, such as:

  • Being mindful of the ingredients in the cleaners or pesticides you use: there are many biodegradable or chemical-free cleaners you can choose from to maintain your property.
  • Using different lightbulbs: eco-friendly lightbulbs are often more efficient and last longer than traditional incandescent ones.
  • Investing in solar energy: though costly to install, if you can add solar panels to your property, your long-term return on investment is worth it. In the interim, adding solar panels could earn you some money through the Federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit.

Other ways you can make your property more sustainable includes replacing traditional showerheads, toilets, and faucets with water-efficient alternatives, going paperless, and/or adding more recycling bins.

You’ll likely find that by making your building more environmentally friendly, you are not only enticing new tenants with your responsible sustainability practices but you are saving money and the environment.

3. Communicating with Their Landlord Online or Through Text

Convenience is key, and most tenants do not want to play phone tag with their landlord just to inform them of something like a minor repair. This trend is becoming popular, and lots of rentals are moving basic services (like where tenants make maintenance requests or complaints) online.

Keep in mind, though using email or text is better for you or your tenant for simple conversations, you still have to consider the legal regulations in place when it comes to communicating with your tenant.

For instance, it may be okay to text your tenant and tell them that maintenance is done making a repair in their apartment or for your tenant to text you permission to enter their property, but it is typically not okay for you to text your Notice to Enter (the document you need to provide in order to legally enter your tenant’s unit) in order to make the repair.

4. Accessible Payment Options

While a handful of renters may not think twice about the form of payment your rental property accepts, to some, accessible payment options are a must-have.

For example, how many times have you seen a millennial write a check? Probably not often since over one-fifth of millennials have never done so. What’s more, 6 in 10 millennials don’t own a credit card.

So, before you set your payment options as check or credit only, which some landlords do, look at the popularity of other forms of payments, namely mobile and electronic payments.

Adding payment options can come at a cost to you, so do your research and make a decision that works for your situation—preferably one that doesn’t inflate your overhead budget.

5. Proximity to Important Places Like Banks, Grocery Stores, and Bus Stops

Many of us care about being close to important places and like to have the option of busing to work or walking to the grocery store instead of getting in our car. Millennials, however, buy fewer cars than other generations, which makes proximity integral to choosing a rental home for this generation.

One downfall is that the neighborhood surrounding your rental is sometimes not under your control as a landlord. However, if your property is close to a bank or a grocery store, it may be worthwhile to see how long it takes to walk there and include that information in your advertisement.

Advertising Your Rental

With the vast majority of renters being millennials, it’s a good idea to make your property more desirable to individuals in this group.

Allowing pets, considering your environmental impact, and making communication and payments more accessible are just some of the ways you can market your property to millennials.

Be sure to do your own research about your property and the surrounding area to make sure marketing to millennials works for you.

Do you know of other ways you can advertise your rental property to millennials? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Resignation Letter Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Whether you need to quit your job because you are going back to school or have found a better opportunity somewhere else, it’s a common courtesy to hand in a Resignation Letter to tell your employer that you are leaving your position. Generally, you want the outcome of your resignation to result in the least amount of animosity possible between you and your former boss or supervisor.

Taking the time to write a Resignation Letter that is polite and straightforward is a good idea, especially if you plan to ask for a professional reference down the road. In this post, we’ll discuss some common do’s and don’ts for you to consider before you start writing your notice letter.

Do: Give Notice That You Are Leaving

Although there are probably no actual laws in your state requiring that you tell your employer you are leaving your job since most states have adopted at-will employment standards, it is good practice to give notice anyway. You should include your notice time frame in your Resignation Letter.

Keep in mind that some employment contracts specify requirements for termination, which means that you might be obligated to give a certain amount of notice that you are leaving in order to maintain a good reputation with that employer or within your industry.

How much notice should I give when I quit my job?

Typically, people give their employer two weeks’ notice that they are quitting their job. The two weeks normally starts from the day you deliver your Resignation Letter. However, the amount of notice that you need to give may vary depending on the terms set out in your Employment Contract.

Don’t: Include Emotional Language in Your Resignation Letter

When you’re writing your Resignation Letter, it’s important to remember that positivity is always the best policy—even if you don’t actually feel that way about your job or boss.

What should I say in my Resignation Letter?

Your Resignation Letter should include only the details you absolutely need it to—so leave out anything too specific. For example, instead of saying, “I strongly dislike so and so and that’s why I decided to get a different job.” say, “I found a new opportunity” and leave it at that.

For more examples of reasons you are leaving your job, you could say that you:

  • Are going back to school
  • Have found a different opportunity elsewhere
  • Want to make a career change to a different industry
  • Are exploring new opportunities for career growth
  • Are moving
  • Are retiring

Do: Give Your Resignation Notice to Your Manager

Best practice for handing in your Resignation Letter is to give it directly to your manager or supervisor, in person. If this isn’t possible, for example, if you work remotely or your manager is away, it might be appropriate to send your resignation via email or even letter mail. The way you choose to submit your resignation will likely depend on how quickly you want your notice to be received.

Don’t: Give Your Resignation Notice by Text or Social Media

It’s not typically appropriate to give your notice through text message or social media. They are considered informal forms of communication and can contribute to making the message seem more negative and unprofessional to the recipient.

Resigning Professionally

Making the choice to leave your job can bring a variety of emotions from sadness to excitement. The best thing you can do for yourself professionally is to take the time to be mindful of what to include in your Resignation Letter so that you are only saying what you need to, and not allowing your thoughts about leaving to take away from the professionalism of your letter.

 

Do you have tips for writing a Resignation Letter? Share them in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to Organize Your Job Search

Whether you’re making a jump to a new industry or you’re a college graduate looking for your first job out of school, it’s likely you’ll be firing off a bunch of applications to a variety of companies. It’s not uncommon for people entering new job markets to apply to dozens—even hundreds—of job postings before landing a position.

In this post, we’ll help you to maximize efficiency during your job hunt and give you some organization tips to keep track of all your applications, resumes, interviews, etc., so nothing gets missed or misplaced.

Create a Filing System for Your Resumes and Cover Letters

Every job posting is unique because the needs of companies differ based on the industry, customer base, and organization structure. This means that even if you’re finding the same cookie cutter job postings, your resumes and cover letters should be customized for the business you’re applying to.

To ensure that you have a strong application, you’re going to want to create a separate Cover Letter and Resume for each job you plan to apply for. Your basic format or framework can remain consistent from application to application, but the details should change to emphasize your most relevant skills and experience based on what the job posting says.

With all the various drafts and versions of your Cover Letter and Resume you’ll have taking up space on your computer’s hard drive, it’s a good idea to have a filing system to keep track of everything.

The following are some suggestions for your Resume and Cover Letter filing system:

Create separate folders on your computer for each job application, separated by company and job post

Having your applications set into broad categories like company and job title will help you keep track of which version of your Resume and Cover Letter you’re sending to whom.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for a few marketing positions at Stallion Marketing. You’d create a folder for Stallion Marketing and then add separate folders titled Copywriter, Email Marketer, and Marketing Specialist. Then in each job title folder, you’d save or upload the appropriate Cover Letter and Resume.

Come up with standard naming conventions for each Resume and Cover Letter

You’re going to want to avoid having 100 files in different places on your computer all called Jane-Smith-Resume. It can make it difficult to find which file you’re looking for—especially if you’ve accidentally placed a file in the wrong folder. It’s better to create a unique name for each Resume and Cover Letter, so you know exactly which post they’re relevant to.

Consider including the name of the company, job title, and application date. For example, you could name your resume Stallion-Copywriter-Resume-June-2018, and then sort it into your Copywriter folder. This will create long file names (which some might consider ugly), but you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at before opening the file.

It should be noted that it’s best to include your first and last names in the file title when you submit your Resume and Cover Letter in the application. You can choose to save your files with your name in your filing system, or you can simply rename them entirely when you’re ready to submit them, e.g. John-Smith-Copywriter-Resume. Keep in mind, some job posts (like many government jobs) may indicate that your Resume and Cover Letter must be sent under a specific file name.

Use a Spreadsheet to Track Your Job Applications

When you’re sending out applications left, right, and center, it can be hard to keep track of your files, dates, and application statuses.

If you want to ease your stress and diffuse the confusion during your application storm, you might benefit from organizing your various application details in a spreadsheet to help monitor activities and statuses.

You can organize your columns in whatever way suits you best, or you can copy the suggested fields in our example below to get your spreadsheet started.

job-application-organization-spreadsheet-template

Click to enlarge.

You might find it helpful to include a column for next steps where you can make notes of actions you can take following your submission, such as:

  • Dates you want to send follow-up emails
  • Other submissions (e.g. if you’re asked to submit a portfolio or writing samples for review)
  • Scheduled interview dates and times

Adding your next steps can allow you to keep track of your application’s flow through the hiring process.

Organizing for Peace of Mind

It’s easy to get bogged down with the monotonous process of rewriting your Resume and Cover Letter and sending email after email to hiring managers and recruiters. It’s also easy to lose your motivation, but keeping yourself organized with these filing systems and spreadsheets can help keep your stress down and energy up.

The important thing is to keep applying until you find the perfect job for you, and let these organization tricks help you out during your search.

What organization tactics do you use to help out with your job hunt? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Situations to Use a Child Travel Consent Form

School’s out soon and it’s time to think about activities for your children in the coming months. While you are ironing out the final details of your summer plans, consider that if your minor child is traveling alone or with another family member, they might need a Child Travel Consent form.

Making sure your child is carrying the proper consent document helps give authorities the information they need to understand your child’s travel arrangements, enabling a smooth trip.

This post looks at 3 common situations where a Child Travel Consent form should be used.

Children Traveling with One Parent

If your child is traveling with only one parent, that parent will need a Child Travel Consent letter that has the other, non-traveling parent’s name, signature, and a short statement authorizing the travel arrangements.

A common scenario for a child traveling with one parent is when the parents are separated or divorced. Custody arrangements can be complex and modify the rules for travel in different ways, but in general it’s important that the child has a travel consent form signed by the non-traveling parent.

With separated parents, it’s also recommended that the parent traveling with the child carry extra documents that demonstrate proof of guardianship, like custody papers, adoption papers, and the child’s birth certificate,

Similar rules apply for a child traveling with adult relatives, like a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparents, but in this case the travel consent letter must contain the name and signature of both parents instead of just one.

For international travel, some countries may require specific or additional documentation. You can check requirements with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or the embassy of the country your child is traveling to for more information.

Children Traveling with a Group

Along with other documents a child would need to travel, like a passport or birth certificate, the CBP recommends that children traveling with a group or organization, like a school group, religious group, sports team, or cultural organization should have a Child Travel Consent form signed by both parents to keep with them.

In addition, the CBP recommends that the group leader, supervisor, or representative have a letter printed using the organization’s letterhead containing the following information:

  • The name, date of birth, primary address, and phone number of each child, as well as contact information for at least one parent or legal guardian for each child
  • The full name of the group as well as the names of the group leaders, representatives, or supervisors that will be present on the trip
  • A written, signed, and notarized statement by the supervising adult(s) that indicates they have legal guardianship consent for each child

Children Traveling Alone

If your child is traveling alone, the requirements for travel documents will be similar to when your child is traveling with a group. They will need a notarized consent letter that is signed by both parents. If the child is traveling internationally, they may need additional documentation.

You can contact the embassy for the country your child is traveling to in order to check entry requirements.

Consent to Travel

When your child is traveling without you, it’s important to make sure they have the correct documentation so that it’s easier for authorities to understand the nature of your child’s trip.

Having a consent form can also help your child avoid unnecessary or stressful delays during their travel time and ensure that they reach their destination with as little turbulence as possible.

 

Do you know of other situations where a Child Travel Consent form could be used? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

5 Funeral Faux Pas You Shouldn’t Forget

If you’ve attended a funeral in the past, you know there are various unspoken rules about what can be said, done, and even worn in order to properly respect the person who passed away and their loved ones.

Though most people won’t call you out publicly for failing to follow the expected conduct, not following proper funeral etiquette can be embarrassing, disrespectful, and, in some cases, hurtful to those grieving.

In this post, we discuss five common things that are inappropriate to do while attending a funeral or memorial service

1. Snapping Photos of Your Grieving Relatives or the Deceased

In this day and age, taking pictures during an event is normal, but a funeral is one place you should always avoid doing so. Not taking photos can be challenging, especially because funerals often bring together family and friends who may not have seen each other in a while. However, it’s recommended that you find a location away from the service or meet at a different time and place to take those pictures.

Even more inappropriate is taking photos of the deceased or their casket. Unless you are a spouse or a close relative like a child or parent, this can seem extremely impolite and should be avoided.

There are times, of course, when posing for a photo during a memorial service is acceptable, for example, if the deceased’s spouse wants to take a group photo at the burial site. Overall, though, unless a close relative asks for a picture (or you’re a close relative and want one)—don’t do it.

2. Using Your Cell Phone During the Service

Many of us use our cell phones constantly. We pause conversations and dinners to send texts or make calls; we interrupt interviews and meetings to turn our ringers off; we look at our phones when there is no reason to look at them.

However, one place you shouldn’t be using your phone is at a funeral service. It’s also a good idea to turn your phone on silent so your ringer doesn’t go off and interrupt the service or burial.

If by chance you’re expecting an important call that cannot be ignored, consider letting someone in the family know that you may have to step out for that reason and make sure your phone is on vibrate. That said, unless it is a medical emergency, it’s probably best to let your voicemail answer the call and handle it later.

3. Attending the Funeral Wearing Flashy or Risqué Clothing

Wearing black to a funeral service is one of the most well-known funeral customs in western culture and probably the first one you considered when reading this list. For many, the color black represents mourning and, traditionally, wearing black to a service is a sign of respect.

Nowadays, wearing any dark color, like dark grey or navy, is typically okay at a funeral. In some instances, wearing white is also acceptable.

Keep in mind, however, that different cultures may have other customs regarding the appropriate colors to wear at a funeral, so you should educate yourself on those customs before attending the service.

The style of clothing you choose is equally as important, and dressing for a funeral like you’re going to the club or the gym can seem very inconsiderate. So, though your short dress, deep v-neck tee, or sneakers may be black or dark colored, it probably shouldn’t be worn to a memorial service.

Instead, opt for more conservative styles of clothing, like a plain sweater or a button-up shirt over a pair of dress pants. Not only will it probably be a lot comfier for the day, you also won’t stand out from the crowd for the wrong reason.

4. Not Following Appropriate Cultural Funeral Practices

Different cultures have different ways of honoring their deceased, and not following their practices can upset the deceased’s loved ones. It can also be pretty uncomfortable for you, if all the people around you are aware of your mistake.

There are a few ways that neglecting culture can cause you to seem rude or disrespectful, such as:

There are many different funeral customs around the world, from whether playing music is appropriate to what is done with the deceased’s remains, and knowing them before attending the funeral can help ensure you do not say or do the wrong thing and unintentionally upset people while they are mourning.

5. Not Respecting the Deceased’s End-of-Life Wishes

Depending on your situation, your loved one may have communicated how they want to be remembered and honored in their End-of-Life Plan (sometimes called a funeral plan) or another similar estate planning document. If they did, not accommodating those wishes to the best of your abilities can be incredibly disrespectful.

One example of an end-of-life wish that would be fairly easy to neglect or forget is how the deceased wants their loved ones to pay their respects. For instance, they may have asked for people to provide charitable donations as opposed to flowers. You can imagine, then, how showing up with flowers after they’ve made this request can seem inconsiderate.

Paying Your Respects

How you behave at a funeral is very important, and your improper conduct on your loved one’s somber day can turn you from a favorite relative or friend to someone they avoid at all costs.

By sidestepping these five funeral faux pas, you can grieve without unintentionally disrespecting or upsetting others.

Do you know of any other etiquette rules for attending funerals? Let us know in the comments.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to Complete Your Estate Plan with a New Document

One of the biggest things that keeps people from creating an estate plan is a fear of death and an aversion to discussing mortality.

Talking about death isn’t easy for a lot of people, which might explain why only 44% of Americans have created a Last Will. However, the discourse around memorial or funeral services in recent years is changing with 46% of Americans over the age of 40 having discussed memorialization and funeral wishes with their families and 69% of Americans over 40 expressing a desire to pre-plan their own services.

While it is important to specify your medical wishes with a Health Care Directive, appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf with a Power of Attorney, and divide your assets with a Last Will and Testament, an End-of-Life plan is a great way to ease yourself into estate planning.

In this post, we’ll discuss what an End-of-Life Plan is, why you should make one, and how it differs from a Last Will and Testament.

What is an End-of-Life Plan?

An End-of-Life Plan is a document that can help you round out your estate plan by addressing things that a Last Will and Health Care Directive don’t.

An End-of-Life Plan allows you to:

  • Appoint someone to fulfill the wishes outlined in your plan
  • Express if you’d like an obituary or death notice, including which details you’d like it to comprise and where you’d like the notices published
  • Make known your wishes for burial or cremation and what you’d like done with your remains
  • Communicate what kind of memorial service you’d like (if any) to commemorate your life
  • Indicate how you’d like your funeral expenses paid (e.g. with funds you’ve set aside or from your estate)

You can also choose to write meaningful final thoughts to your family and loved ones (which can be general or for specific people) in hopes of offering some comfort for them after you’ve passed on.

Although an End-of-Life Plan is not a legal document, it helps to lay out your final thoughts in a personal and easy-to-understand way, which is important because your loved ones will likely be using it to navigate the difficult period after you have passed away.

Last Will vs. End-of-Life Plan

If you already have a Last Will, you may ask if you even need a document like an End-of-Life Plan. The answer is yes. A common misconception about a Last Will and Testament is that it includes your wishes for how you want to be laid to rest.

Although some people include their wishes for funeral arrangements in their Last Will, it’s not recommended. Including them doesn’t affect the validity of your Will, but it’s not ideal to have your preferences for memorial services in a document that people don’t tend to read until after your funeral.

Even if your appointee does read your Last Will before they plan your funeral, it’s more effective to provide your appointee with a comprehensive document devoted solely to your end-of-life wishes. The End-of-Life Plan is easy to follow and doesn’t require any deciphering because it’s written in plain language and allows you to include more specific instructions for the person or people planning your memorial.

Cover All Your Bases in Your Estate Plan

We created the End-of-Life Plan to allow our users to address things that their other estate planning documents wouldn’t, such as their obituary details, funeral wishes, memorial specifics, and so on. If you have particular desires for how you want your life to be celebrated and remembered, you should be able to express those desires in a concrete way like with a written document.

Just make sure once you’ve created your planning document, you let your appointee know where they can find it. You may even want to go over the End-of-Life Plan in person with your appointee so you can be sure they understand everything and they can have an opportunity to ask questions if they need to.

The End-of-Life plan can offer peace of mind for you because your memorial wishes will be written out for your loved ones to follow, and your loved ones can also be relieved of some of the stress of funeral planning because you’ll have already made major decisions for your memorial.

Have you done any pre-planning for your own memorial service?

The post How to Complete Your Estate Plan with a New Document appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

4 Ways to Ask for a Job Reference

Asking someone to vouch for you through an employment reference isn’t always easy. Sometimes, you don’t know who to ask, and other times, you know the people you want to ask but are unsure of how to do so.

In this post, we offer four tips to help you ask someone for a job reference while hunting for a new employment opportunity.

1. Ask After Having a Positive Work Experience

You may have luck asking someone for a reference after you’ve had a good experience learning from or working with them. Making this request after a positive encounter can help you snag a reference from someone who can offer credible and high-quality comments about your skills and behavior.

For instance, if you’re taking a program to get you into a specific career, such as accounting, and you did exceptionally well on a test or an assignment, consider asking the instructor to provide a reference since they can elaborate on specific instances where you exceeded expectations.

2. Ask for a LinkedIn Endorsement First

Asking for a reference from someone, especially when you’re unsure what they think about you, can be nerve-racking.

However, a great way to gauge a person’s response to a reference request is to ask for something similar, but less important, like a LinkedIn endorsement.

To get an endorsement, you add skills to your LinkedIn profile, and, with a simple click, your connections can begin to authenticate your abilities. These endorsements are useful in showing employers that the skills on your resume, like communication or event planning, are indeed legitimate.

Asking for an endorsement can be a good warm-up for a reference request because endorsing a skill is a much easier (and less time-consuming) action than writing a reference letter or providing one over the phone to an interviewer.

This means if, after asking for an endorsement, you notice the person you asked is dodging your emails or calls, you know you probably shouldn’t follow up by asking them to be a job reference.

3. Ask for a Reference by Email Instead of In Person

Though some of us may not like how disingenuous a conversation over email can seem, using email may still be better when asking for a reference. This is because, for some people, saying “no” to such a request in person—even if they want to—can be very awkward.

And, if this is the case for the person you ask to provide a reference, it could mean they’ll agree to provide a reference to your face but then won’t answer their phone when the hiring manager calls. Even worse, they might end up providing a mediocre (possibly even poor) reference that could cost you a job opportunity.

Your references can really influence an employer’s decision. So, by using email, you can hopefully avoid supplying someone who feels obligated to give a reference but doesn’t actually want to and instead give the name and number of someone who will help you stand out among the other candidates.

4. Ask for a Reference Letter

Asking for a reference letter (sometimes called a recommendation letter) is especially helpful for times when you want a reference from someone who is typically busy or hard to reach.

Though an employer will likely still want to speak to this person to confirm the information they’ve included in the letter, a letter can save time by reducing the number of questions your potential employer may need to ask during the phone call. It can also help remind the referrer of all your remarkable skills and qualities so they are able to provide a thoughtful and accurate recommendation.

Preparing to Ask for References

Finding the best references can be difficult and time-consuming, but by using these tips to ask for references, you can hopefully track down people who will provide a terrific testimonial of your character and help you to snag your dream career.

The post 4 Ways to Ask for a Job Reference appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

What is Owner Financing in Real Estate?

Buying a home can be a stressful experience, especially when you are trying to come up with the funds to purchase it. Fortunately, there are many different options for financing.

You may have heard of mortgages, or third-party financing, where a bank or other lending institution provides a loan to the buyer that the buyer pays back over time. But when a buyer cannot get financing through a lender (or just decides not to), sometimes the seller will provide financing to the buyer.

This is called owner financing or seller financing and similar to a mortgage, the buyer pays the seller a pre-determined amount of money in regular intervals until the loan amount is payed off.

This post explores owner financing, which situations it’s most commonly used in, and the pros and cons for both the buyer and seller.

When Would You Use Owner Financing?

Although there are many reasons why both a buyer and seller might agree to owner financing, two of the most common circumstances where owner financing work in a home purchase are:

  • The buyer is having problems qualifying for a bank loan. If the buyer has poor credit, too little credit history, or otherwise has issues getting a standard mortgage, owner financing offers the buyer another option for purchasing the home. They might even have an easier time negotiating the home price, interest rate, or other details with the homeowner rather than a bank, lender, or real estate agent.
  • The home seller is having trouble finding a buyer. If the home has been on the market for a long time and the seller decides to offer owner financing, they immediately have access to a whole new group of potential buyers that may have otherwise been discouraged from looking at the property.

How Does Owner Financing Work?

Owner financing works exactly how it sounds – the homeowner provides financing in the form of a loan to the person who buys their property.

The basic process usually starts with the buyer and seller agreeing to the details of the sale by signing a Real Estate Purchase Agreement.

Once that is done, a Promissory Note is used to outline the details of the loan (including an interest rate and repayment schedule) and enforces the buyer’s promise to pay back the loan within the amount of time indicated in the note.

Combining a Real Estate Purchase Agreement and Promissory Note is a common way to provide owner financing in a real estate transaction.

LawDepot’s Contract for Deed can also be used for owner financing, but the seller needs to completely own the property (meaning the property is entirely paid off). Using a Contract for Deed may be simpler, as a Promissory Note is not needed if this document is used, but it may pose greater risk for the seller.

Whichever option you choose, it’s important to do research to determine which financing method works best for your situation.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Owner Financing for Buyers?

As you can probably imagine, owner financing in a real estate purchase has different advantages and disadvantages for both buyers and sellers.

For buyers, seller financing has the following advantages:

  • Closing a home sale can be quicker with seller financing. Since the loan doesn’t have to go through a number of financial and legal departments that typically would be associated with a lending institution or bank, the buyer can take possession of their new home faster.
  • The overall costs associated with selling the home can be lower. Without having to pay things like bank fees or appraisal costs, the cost to the buyer is lower than it would be if they went through a third-party. Also, the down payment amount required for the home tends to be more flexible.
  • Buyers have a financing option if the bank turns them down. If a buyer is unable to get a loan through a third-party like a bank, owner financing provides them with an alternative financing option.

For buyers, seller financing also has the following disadvantages:

  • The buyer can end up paying a higher interest rate than they would to a bank. Since the seller determines the interest rate, it is possible that they would want to ensure the highest possible return by charging the buyer a high interest rate.
  • The buyer still needs to provide proof that they will pay back the loan. If the buyer was turned down at the bank, chances are the seller will need to be convinced that the buyer is still worthy of the loan.
  • Buyers need to beware of the “due on sale” clause. A due on sale clause is typically included in a mortgage to prevent the homeowner from selling their home before it is paid off. However, if the original homeowner (seller) does sell without the lender’s consent, it could mean that the new homeowner (buyer) is at risk of losing their new home if the lender decides to foreclose on the property.

What are the Pros and Cons of Owner Financing for Sellers?

For sellers, owner financing has the following advantages:

  • It’s a great opportunity for a gain on investment. It’s possible that the seller will earn more money from financing the home to a buyer, since they can choose to charge a higher interest rate than a lending institution or bank.
  • The homeowner can sell the home “as is”. The seller can possibly avoid having to make costly repairs that they may have been obligated to make if they sell the home in a way other than owner financing.
  • The home may sell faster. Because owner financing means that more people potentially have access to financing the home, it means that the home will likely sell faster than it would without the owner financing option available.

For sellers, owner financing may present the following disadvantages:

  • The seller would be responsible for taking action if the buyer defaulted on loan payments. Since the seller is financing the loan, they would ultimately be responsible for taking legal action if the buyer stopped making payments.
  • The seller would be responsible for any repairs if they take back the property. If the seller ends up taking back the property for whatever reason, they may be responsible for any repairs or maintenance before attempting to sell the property again.
  • The seller may face unexpected legal costs. If the buyer defaults on paying back the loan or another problem with the seller occurs, the seller might be responsible for any legal costs associated with dealing with the problem.

Choosing to Go with Owner Financing

Whether you are a buyer or seller, owner financing is a viable option to purchase or sell a home. While there are many different considerations to weigh before choosing owner financing, knowing the basics is helpful so that you can make the best decision for your own situation.

 

Would you consider owner financing? Let us know in the comments!

The post What is Owner Financing in Real Estate? appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Spring Preparations Landlords Should Make

As the weather warms, the housing market starts to pick up and people begin looking for new properties to lease. This presents a great opportunity for landlords to capitalize on the transition from winter to spring and get ahead of both administrative and seasonal maintenance of their properties.

In this post, we’ll discuss three of the most common things a landlord may experience during spring, including new tenants, lease renewals, exterior property maintenance, and how to get ahead of any issues these changes might cause.

Influx of Tenants in the Market for Rentals

Although lease term periods can differ from property to property and from tenant to tenant, spring and summer are popular times for people to move to new properties or renew their leases.

During spring, landlords will need to prepare for an increase in rental applications, property viewings, and new leases.

You should also be aware that the housing market tends to get more competitive in spring, which means many landlords raise their rental prices. Be cautious when raising your rent, however, because you don’t want to have the rent price for your properties skyrocket over competitors’ properties in your area, potentially pushing prospective tenants to either rent elsewhere or abandon renting altogether for home buying.

To get ahead despite high competition, do some research to see what the market trends are like in your area to gauge what your competitors are charging for rent and then adjust your fees accordingly. It might also help you to emphasize your amenities as a way of out-performing your competitors.

Renewing Lease Terms

If you have tenants who are set to renew their leases this season, it’s a good time to review your Residential Lease to see if everything is working for both you and your tenants.

Many landlords have meetings with their tenants prior to their renewal (usually 30 days to 60 days) to discuss the tenants’ experience living in the rental unit.

Some potential lease term topics you can discuss with your tenants before renewal include:

  • Changes to the property. Your tenants might want to paint their living space or replace or add electrical fixtures like outlets, lights, and lamps.
  • Changes to responsibilities. Many landlords will adjust their rent prices in exchange for the tenants taking on more responsibility for maintaining the property. For example, if a landlord rents the top and bottom floors of a house to separate tenants, they might make one responsible for lawn care in exchange for reducing their rent price.
  • Pet fees. You might want to revisit how much you charge for pet fees (whether it’s too much or too little), especially in cases where damage from your tenants’ pets has required you to replace things on your property or make repairs.

It’s important to listen to feedback from your tenants, especially if they have issues living in your rental property. It’s likely they want this living arrangement to work just as much as you do, so do what you can to engage in that relationship and foster goodwill with your tenants.

Prepare for Repair Notices

Warmer temperatures make it easier to inspect properties. It’s also a time when your tenants might be spending more times outdoors, which means they will be more likely to notice maintenance issues outside (like potholes in the parking lot or leaky eavestroughs).

To prevent your tenants from bombarding you with repair notices, consider conducting an exterior inspection of the property.

Some things to keep an eye out for during an exterior inspection would be:

  • Roof deterioration, including loose, missing, or broken shingles or holes that could lead to leaks and water damage when it rains
  • Punctures or debris in rain gutters that might prevent melting snow or water from running off (and make sure the downspouts are leading water away from the house or apartment building’s foundation)
  • Damage to house siding, including split or missing panels
  • Cracks in the pavement or driveway, which can lead to further erosion of the asphalt and more fractures if exposed to water

Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll catch everything pre-emptively, so getting maintenance calls from tenants is unavoidable. Just ensure that you prioritize habitability issues first, and make sure to always communicate with your tenants. At the very least, it’s good to let your tenants know their issues were heard and to provide an assurance that you’re going to handle their repairs in a timely manner.

The Importance of Planning as a Landlord

To prepare yourself for the changes that tend to come with spring (whether it’s new tenants, renewed tenants, or increased maintenance), you should always have a game plan in place, such as scheduling inspections and check-ins with your tenants.

Overall, it’s always a good idea as a landlord to foster open communication with your tenants so that landlord-tenant relationship works in both your favors.

What do you do to get ahead of spring maintenance? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to Avoid Breaching Your Residential Lease

When tenants don’t fully understand their obligations to the landlord as per their Lease Agreement, they could inadvertently breach their contract and find themselves facing a tough situation such as eviction.

Likewise, a tenant may try to resolve a problem with their tenancy and unintentionally violate their agreement (like using part of their rent to pay for a repair the landlord failed to make, for instance).

In this post, we’ll discuss what it means to breach a Lease Agreement, common ways tenants violate their lease terms, and how to avoid those scenarios.

What is a Breach of Contract?

A breach of contract occurs when one or more parties in an agreement don’t hold up their end of a bargain by failing to perform their obligations in the contract one way or another.

When it comes to residential leases, breaches and violations by tenants can often be chocked up to ignorance or accident, caused by tenants not fully understanding the conditions of or their obligations in their Lease Agreement.

For example, let’s say you’re in need of electrical repairs because some of your outlets aren’t working or some of your light fixtures are malfunctioning. The first step is to give your landlord a Notice to Repair explaining the issue and requesting they find someone to handle the repairs.

Now let’s say your landlord ignores the notice, and your electrical systems go weeks—or even months—without repair. Many tenants think they can withhold their monthly rent payment until the landlord fixes the problem. Unfortunately, this could violate their rental contract (since it likely contains a clause about paying rent on time), and the landlord could have grounds to evict them.

In such a predicament, it’s better to not give your landlord an excuse to evict you. There are ways to handle problematic landlords including reporting to national organizations like the Rental Protection Agency’s complaint center.

Common Ways Tenants Violate Their Leases

Violating terms in your lease can land you in some hot water with your landlord if you’re not careful.

Common violations include:

  • Sneaking in pets in a “no pets” property
  • Smoking in a smoke-free unit
  • Running a business on the property
  • Having “long-term guests” living in the unit

These violations, of course, are usually only violations if they’re prohibited in your written Lease Agreement.

In many cases, these clauses are in place to protect against liability. For instance, if you’re leasing a home and operating a daycare and a child gets hurt on the property, would the landlord, as the actual owner of the property, have some liability there? It’s possible.

To avoid situations like these, it’s common for landlords to prohibit business activities from taking place within the rental property—especially if your business activities involve bringing clients into the unit.

What Happens if You Breach the Terms in Your Lease?

Oftentimes, if a tenant has violated a term in the Lease Agreement, the landlord will serve them with a Lease Violation notice. This document (also known as a Notice to Pay or Quit) will cite the violated term in the contract and will typically offer one of two potential courses of action to remedy the situation: an eviction notice or a way to amend the violation.

For example, if a lease has a “no pets” condition and the landlord finds out the tenant has a cat, the landlord will likely serve the tenant a Lease Violation notice and give them a timeframe to either remove the pet or vacate the property.

Alternatively, if the lease has a clause indicating pets are allowed and subject to a “pet fee”, the landlord might simply ask for the tenant to pay the fee and any applicable backdated fees from when the cat started living in the unit.

Manage Rental Issues Constructively Without Violating Your Lease

It’s important that you try to handle any issues with your rental property in a constructive way by communicating with your landlord rather than acting vindictively (like refusing to pay rent). You don’t want to be in breach of your rental contract and wind up getting evicted for something that could have been easily avoided with clear correspondence.

It’s also important to read through your lease thoroughly and make sure you understand every clause and term so you don’t wind up unintentionally violating the agreement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when your landlord walks you through the rental agreement.

Have you ever accidentally breached a lease term?

The post How to Avoid Breaching Your Residential Lease appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How a Living Trust and Pour-Over Will Work Together

If you’ve already created a Living Trust as part of your estate plans, your assets will be distributed according to the instructions in your trust.

But what if you forget to include property in your trust, or you didn’t have a chance to include certain things before passing away? A Pour-Over Will can help you add those missing assets.

In this post, we explore how a Living Trust and a Pour-Over Will work together and how they are valuable as part of a complete trust-based estate plan.

What is a Pour-Over Will?

A Pour-Over Will is a special type of Last Will and Testament that works together with a Living Trust.

A Pour-Over Will transfers—or pours—any missed property into your Living Trust when you pass away. Basically, having this type of Will helps you cover all your bases and prevents any applicable property from being left out of your Living Trust.

What is Estate Planning?

When you pass away, you want to make sure that your family members and children are taken care of. An estate plan is basically a series of legal documents that outline your wishes for how your property is distributed, and how your family members or children will be cared for after death.

Generally, an estate plan includes documents like a Power of Attorney, Living Will, and a Last Will and Testament, but these are just a few examples. Depending on the type of estate plan you choose, the documents you need might be slightly different.

For instance, someone with a more complicated estate like a business owner might choose to use a Living Trust as it tends to work better for passing down ownership of a business.

If you do choose a Living Trust, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t create a Last Will, like we mentioned in our blog post about Revocable Living Trust vs. Last Will. But it does mean that you have another option for a different type of Will, and that’s the Pour-Over Will.

Should I Use a Pour-Over Will or a Last Will and Testament?

A Pour-Over Will and Last Will both set out your wishes for how any dependent family members or children will be taken care of when you pass away by allowing you to name guardians to care for them. But since the Pour-Over Will has the extra function of transferring property into your Living Trust, it might work better for you if you are already using a Living Trust in your estate plans.

What is a Living Trust?

A Living Trust allows you to determine who will receive your property when you pass away. In a Living Trust, you name a series of individuals to manage, control, and otherwise have responsibility for the trust for when you pass away.

To create a Living Trust, you must fill out a Revocable Living Trust document (revocable just means that the trust can be cancelled or amended at any time).

How does a Living Trust and Pour-Over Will Work Together?

Since a Pour-Over Will catches any property that wasn’t included in a Living Trust, it works as a back-up plan, which is great in case any property was missed or couldn’t be added to your trust before you passed away.

That extra layer of protection in your estate plans may be exactly what you are looking for to give you peace of mind that your estate is handled even in the event of an oversight or mistake.

Have you created your estate plans? Let us know in the comments!

The post How a Living Trust and Pour-Over Will Work Together appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Things You Should Do Before Getting Remarried

If you’ve found your soulmate after a failed marriage, you’re probably anxious to move forward and turn over a new leaf in your life.

With new love in the air, you may also be thinking of getting remarried. If you are, you could be wondering if there is anything you should do to wrap up your previous marital matters and protect yourself, your family, and your future spouse in case things don’t go as planned.

In this post, find out three important things you should do before saying “I do” for the second time.

1. Make Sure You Are Divorced

This suggestion may seem absurd, but attempting to get married without being properly divorced can happen, especially because the distinction between separation and divorce in the eyes of the law can be unclear.

A separation typically means a couple is not together anymore but it doesn’t mean they’re legally divorced (and ergo, eligible to remarry). So, if you’ve tied the knot before, you’ll need to ensure you are actually divorced—and not just separated—before exchanging your vows with another person.

One way to check if your divorce was legitimate is to go to a vital record’s office in your state and attempt to pull a divorce decree (sometimes called a divorce certificate).

Likewise, individuals who divorce in a foreign country may find they are not actually divorced in the United States. This is because the rules and requirements regarding marriage and divorce in other countries can differ greatly from laws in the States, and other conditions, such as evidence that both spouses had an opportunity to be heard before the divorce was granted, may be required before the divorce can be properly recognized.

Similarly, you may want to check with your local records office to make sure everything is in order.

Weddings can be expensive, so before you say yes to the dress (or suit), pick your cake, and finalize your guest list, you should confirm your legal relationship status.

2. Protect Yourself with a Prenuptial Agreement

A Prenuptial Agreement (often called a prenup) can seem ominous in that it addresses what you and your husband or wife will do after your relationship has ended, but this agreement is actually very useful and is recommended if you:

  • Have children with someone else
  • Want to protect anything that personally belongs to you or belonged to you before your relationship, such as personal property, inheritances, businesses, or investments
  • Want to avoid certain disagreements or misunderstandings about current and future financial responsibilities

When you plan to remarry, it is understandable to not want to be bogged down by the thought of your current relationship failing, but prenups can save a lot of headaches (and heartaches) for you and your husband or wife in case things don’t go as planned.

3. Update Your Estate Plans

Depending on when you originally created your estate plans, your estate documents, like your Power of Attorney or Last Will and Testament, likely reference your previous relationship, and as you enter this new chapter of your life, you’ll want to update these documents.

It’s impossible to know when these documents will be needed, so to protect yourself, your family, and your future husband or wife, you should ensure your estate documents accurately reflect your current situation.

A good rule to follow is to update your estate documents after any major life events (including having or adopting a child, purchasing a home, and more).

Start Your Next Chapter Properly

Although we all want our fairy tale life to start sooner rather than later, without taking the appropriate steps before getting remarried, you can quickly end up the protagonist of your own tragic tale.

Confirming your relationship status, getting a prenup, and updating your estate plans are just three things you should do before getting remarried that can be essential to protecting yourself—and your family—from future problems or mishaps.

Is there anything else you would recommend to someone who’s getting remarried? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Breaking Bank: How Bankruptcy Affects Inheritances and Estate Plans

Bankruptcy affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. In 2017, the United States Courts reported that there were 796,037 bankruptcies filed in that fiscal year—only a 2.8% decrease from the total reported in 2016 (819,159).

With bankruptcy being such a common occurrence, it leaves many Americans a little shaken and concerned about how major debt can affect many aspects of their lives including their estate plans.

In this post, we’ll break down some basics of bankruptcy and explain how it affects inheritances and estate planning.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a financial and legal term that refers to when an individual, business, or municipality has so much debt that they must petition the United States Bankruptcy Court to erase their debt. The court rules the petitioner as insolvent (which means they are unable to pay back creditors because their debts or liabilities exceed their assets), and then the petitioner will either liquidate their assets or create a repayment plan with an economic advisor to pay off their debts.

Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, and the cases are filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court. However, state law is usually applied to issues involving property rights, so many systems can be at play.

When someone is declaring bankruptcy, a petition is filed under one of the chapters of the Bankruptcy Code, which acts as a framework for providing economic relief and determining how the claimant’s debts are settled.

There are nine chapters of the Bankruptcy Code (although they are not numbered 1 through 9). Typically, an individual claiming bankruptcy (also known as a debtor) will file under:

  • Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, which relieves the debtor through liquidation (the sale) of their assets to pay back creditors
  • Or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, which provides relief through adjusted debts (usually allowing a debtor to keep some property) and a payment plan that allows the debtor to pay back creditors over 3 to 5 years

When the debtor meets all the requirements of their bankruptcy filing, they will receive a court-ordered bankruptcy discharge that relieves them from their obligation to pay their debts. Having debts discharged prevents creditors from continuing collection actions on those specific debts again (this includes calls, letters, and civil suits).

Does Bankruptcy Affect Inheritances?

Bankruptcy can, and often does, affect inheritances as long as the debtor inherits property or money while they are in bankruptcy.

When an individual files for bankruptcy, a bankruptcy estate is created. The estate (under the control and protection of the Bankruptcy Court and an appointed bankruptcy trustee who acts as an administrator for the estate) is considered the temporary legal owner of the debtor’s assets and property. The bankruptcy estate’s ownership over the debtor’s assets can extend to any additional assets the debtor receives while he or she remains in bankruptcy, including inheritances.

How inheritances are affected can depend on which chapter of bankruptcy the individual has filed under. Since many people file under Chapter 7, where their assets are sold off to pay back creditors, the inheritance is usually lumped into that process.

For example, if a debtor receives $ 30,000 from the residue of their parent’s estate, it will act as a lump-sum payment to be subtracted from the debtor’s total debt. Likewise, if the debtor was left valuable property like a car, it would be liquidated for cash and then paid to creditors.

Will an Inheritance Always Be Used to Pay Off Bankruptcy Debt?

The timing of an inheritance is very important when it comes to whether or not it will be used to pay off a bankruptcy debt. An inheritance might not always be claimed by the bankruptcy trustee to pay off the insolvent’s debts. In a Chapter 7 claim, any inheritances received 180 days after filing will remain the property of the debtor and not the property of the bankruptcy estate.

In a Chapter 13 filing, the time elapsed after filing might not matter, as the judge can choose to take your inheritance into account to amend your repayment plan. This is because a large inheritance could be considered a significant increase of income thereby increasing your ability to make higher payments.

It should be noted, however, that whether or not an inheritance is used to pay off someone’s bankruptcy debt is dependant on when the decedent (the person who named the debtor as an heir in their Last Will and Testament) passed away, not the date the inheritances are distributed. To be specific, if the person leaving the inheritance dies within 180 days of the debtor filing for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy estate will replace the debtor as the beneficiary in the Last Will.

For example, if John claims Chapter 7 bankruptcy on January 1, and his aunt (who’s leaving him her $ 150,000 home as an inheritance) dies on June 30 (exactly 180 days later), John’s $ 150,000 home inheritance will be liquidated for cash and used to pay off his debts. Even if his aunt’s Last Will is tied up in probate court for over a year and he gets his inheritance after, the money will still go to the bankruptcy estate because his aunt died within the 180-day limit.

How Does Bankruptcy Affect My Estate Plan?

If you’ve created a Last Will and Testament as part of your estate plan, you will have left specific instructions as to how your assets will be distributed (and to whom) once you pass away. Of course, what happens to your property and assets upon your death depends on how much debt you’ve accrued.

Your debts will always be paid first before your beneficiaries receive any inheritances or gifts. That means that if you pass away in the midst of a pending Chapter 7 filing, your assets will be liquidated until your creditors are paid off. Only then will your beneficiaries see any inheritances from what’s left of your assets (known as the residue of your estate).

If you’ve filed under Chapter 13, however, things can get a little complicated because the debtor must actively participate in the proceedings by making payments for 3 to 5 years. Usually, if the debtor dies, the survivors and the estate trustee will decide what to do and petition the court for a course of action.

Typically, the courses of action that the administrator and survivors can take after a bankrupt debtor dies are:

  • Asking for the case to be dismissed
  • Petitioning for a hardship discharge (where the court discharges the debtor since they’ve passed away)
  • Asking to convert the case to a Chapter 7 filing (and then liquidating the estate until the bankruptcy terms are satisfied)
  • Continuing the case as normal

Keep in mind that these are requests of the court and the final decision will be left to the judge presiding over the case. The judge will approve the course of action that operates in the best interest of all parties.

When Navigating Bankruptcy, Use the Resources at Your Disposal

Declaring bankruptcy can be a stressful time for anyone, especially when it affects the possibility of future income from inheritances or the livelihood of your beneficiaries. Try to remember that you are not alone in the process.

The main thing you can do in the midst of bankruptcy is keep yourself informed about how your assets and future income might be affected. Don’t be afraid to ask your bankruptcy estate trustee for advice and try to keep in mind that you and your trustee are a team as you go through this tough time.

Have you dealt with bankruptcy or major debt before? What was your experience?

The post Breaking Bank: How Bankruptcy Affects Inheritances and Estate Plans appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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What Do You Need to Get a Marriage License?

Marriage celebrations can range from destination weddings, traditional marriage ceremonies in churches or other places of worship, simple ceremonies in a backyard or park, and more. Most couples solemnize their vows with a marriage ceremony to celebrate their love for one another.

The first step to getting married is to get your marriage license. The requirements for a marriage license can vary by state, so it’s important to know the basics of the process to make the experience a little easier. Once you have your marriage license, the marriage ceremony can take place. After all the celebrations are finished, the person who officiated your wedding is responsible for filing a marriage certificate with the appropriate recording agency.

In this post, we take a look at the general requirements to get a marriage license and provide some examples of state-specific requirements that you may not have known about.

How to Get a Marriage License in the United States

In order to get married, you need a marriage license. To get a marriage license, you and your future husband or wife need to go to the city hall or county clerk’s office in the city or town where you are planning to get married and pay a fee for the license. Once the application is completed, there can be a waiting period of anywhere from 1–5 days to receive the license.

Once you have your marriage license, you can have your marriage ceremony. Usually, a marriage ceremony needs to take place within 30 to 60 days from the date you got your license, although each state may have their own stipulations on time period.

Examples of general requirements for a marriage license:

  • In most states, you and your partner must be 18 years of age or older in order to get married, and you must be unrelated by blood (you can’t be a direct family member such as brother or sister).
  • All states require you and your fiancé(e) to present proof of identity. This can be any government-issued identification such as your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security number, or passport. Some states and jurisdictions may request a specific type of ID.
  • Proof of termination of any prior marriages may be required to apply for a new marriage license. Usually you can present a divorce decree or final order of divorce as sufficient proof.
  • Decide on your surname so it can be indicated on the marriage license. Neither partner is required to change their surname.

In general, most states also allow you to enter into private agreements prior to marriage. One example would be through a Prenuptial Agreement, which allows the couple to determine things like division of property and/or financial obligations in the event of separation or death.

State Requirements for a Marriage License

Marriage licenses are regulated by each state individually, so the requirements can differ between states.

As an example, Montana requires that women provide proof that they have rubella immunity before the marriage license can be issued. This immunity is usually confirmed with a blood test, and then a doctor’s note would be provided as proof.

This requirement can be waived by providing an informed consent form stating that you both understand the risks of not being tested, but regardless it still needs to be addressed before a woman can marry in the state.

Also, although the majority of states require that the couple be 18 years of age or older in order to apply for a marriage license, Arkansas has more lenient age requirements where the couple can be 16-17 years of age as long as they have parental consent.

It’s in your best interest to understand the state laws that apply to your marriage so you can prevent any surprises or disputes that may occur later on as not all the information is necessarily common knowledge.

Same-Sex Marriage Legalization

As of 2015, same-sex marriage is permitted in all 50 states. This means that lesbian and gay couples technically have the same rights to marriage as opposite-sex couples, so the requirements for a marriage license are generally the same.

A Legal Marriage in the United States

To make sure that you are properly and legally married, it’s important to check your state’s laws to determine what the requirements are. Once you’ve educated yourself on your state’s marriage laws, navigating the marriage process should be a lot easier and potentially hassle-free.

Does your state have interesting requirements for marriage licenses? Share them with us in the comments!

The post What Do You Need to Get a Marriage License? appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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Boilerplate Clauses in a Legal Document

Boilerplate clauses, also known as standard, miscellaneous, or general clauses, are clauses that are found at the end of most legal documents. These provisions address a range of things such as what happens if a document is declared unenforceable, how disputes will be resolved, which laws govern the contract, and more.

General clauses may be considered secondary to the significant parts of the document because they use standardized language and are buried near the end of the agreement. However, they should not be mistaken as unimportant and parties should pay as much attention to them as they do to the main clauses such as payment.


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Learn more about common boilerplate clauses below, including some real examples and what they mean in a legal agreement.

Severability

What happens if part of your contract is invalid or illegal? A severability clause, also called a savings clause, states that the rest of a contract is still valid if part of it is considered illegal or unenforceable. Without a severability clause, the whole contract could be thrown out if one part of it is deemed invalid.

Severability Clause Example:
If any part of this agreement is declared unenforceable or invalid, the remainder of the agreement will continue to be valid and enforceable.

Jurisdiction or Governing Law

A jurisdiction or governing law clause declares which laws the agreement adheres to and where the lawsuit will be filed if disputes arise.

Jurisdiction Clause Example:
This agreement shall be governed by the laws of California.

Dispute Resolution

Every contract that involves two or more parties has a dispute resolution clause to indicate how disputes will be handled. The clause may specify the preferred form of dispute resolution such as negotiation, mediation, or arbitration (which has gained popularity because it is fast and informal).

Dispute Resolution Clause Example from a Separation Agreement:
In the event a dispute arises regarding the agreement, the Parties will try to resolve the matter through negotiation or mediation, prior to initiating a court action.

Force Majeure

A force majeure clause means that if the parties are unable to perform their contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond their control, their obligations may be temporarily suspended or completely excused. The clause may list external events, such as natural disasters, war, strikes, flood, etc. that could make contractual performance impossible.

Force Majeure Clause Example:
No party shall be liable or responsible to the other party, nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached the agreement, for the delay in performance of this agreement when and to the extent such failure or delay is caused by acts beyond the party’s control.

Waiver

The waiver clause may be easily missed but it illustrates an important point. It means that if a party fails to enforce part of a contract, such as not charging late fees to a tenant who paid late rent, they can still do so in the future.

Waiver Clause Example:
Any waiver by the Landlord of the Tenant’s failure to perform any provision of this Lease is not a waiver of the Landlord’s right to subsequently insist on performance or pursue any remedy for that failure.

Amendment

An amendment clause describes how changes are made to an agreement. Typically it states that changes must be signed in writing by both parties.

Amendment Clause Example:
This Agreement cannot be modified in any way except in writing signed by all the parties to this Agreement.

Time is of the Essence

You may have seen, “Time is of the essence in this Agreement” at the end of a contract. Including this clause means that the timelines listed in the contract are absolutely critical (“of the essence”) and if a party fails to meet them, the other party is able to rescind the contract.

Assignment

An assignment clause clarifies whether parties can give their contractual rights or obligations to another party. The clause might include exceptions, such as if assignment can only be done with permission from the other party.

Assignment Clause Example:
This Agreement will not be assigned either in whole or in part by any Party without the written consent of the other Party.

Headings

The headings clause simply states that the bold headings within the document were placed there for organizational purposes. Usually, headings are an over-simplification of the content, and therefore should not affect the clause they are summarizing.

Headings Clause Example:
Headings are inserted for the convenience of the parties only and are not considered when interpreting this Agreement.

Counterparts

A counterparts clause is included when the parties will sign separate copies of the same document (if they can’t be in the same place at the same time). It is often written as, “This Agreement may be executed in counterparts.”

Notice

The notice clause clarifies how each party will deliver notice to each other. It can state the form of notice (written), how to deliver it (by person or mail), and when it is deemed received.

Notice Example Clause:
Any notices or delivery required here will be deemed completed when hand-delivered, delivered by agent, or seven days after being placed in the post, postage prepaid, to the Members at the addresses contained in this Agreement or as the Members may later designate in writing.

Entire Agreement

The entire agreement clause can be important when there are ongoing negotiations. It means that any previous understandings, including both oral and written agreements, are not included in the contract. If an entire agreement clause is in a contract, the parties should make sure that anything they want to be included in the deal is written in the agreement.

Entire Agreement Clause Example:
The Agreement constitutes the entire agreement and understanding between the Parties to this Agreement and supersedes all prior communications, contracts, or agreements between these Parties with respect to the subject matter addressed in this Agreement, whether oral or written.

Boilerplate Clauses: Standard but not Secondary

While standard in most corporate and commercial contracts, boilerplate clauses serve an important purpose in clarifying the relationship between the parties and spelling out any situations that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed in the operative section of the agreement.

Parties may be tempted to gloss over the details or avoid negotiating standard provisions, but it’s important to review the miscellaneous section for information that could impact you or the other party.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Tips for Selling Items in a Divorce Sale

During the divorce process, spouses need to decide how their shared assets will be divided between them.

Sometimes it is easier to sell any shared items or property and distribute the money earned from the sale equally rather than spending time negotiating how jointly-owned assets like items, stocks, or properties will be distributed between partners.

Divorce sales are a way for couples to sell off their shared assets and split the profit instead of trying to figure out who will end up with what. In this post we explore some of the ways you can sell your assets, such as online, in-person (through a garage or yard sale), or through an auction.

Preparing for a Divorce Sale

Before you jump into planning a divorce sale, you’ll want to sit down with your husband or wife and determine which items you both want to sell and which items each of you want to keep for yourselves. It might take a while to go through all your stuff and separate the jointly-owned assets, but it’s worth the effort to minimize the possibility for conflict later on.

If you and your spouse are not able to work together or talk to each other in a productive way, you can look at getting a mediator to help you out.

One of the ways that you both can make sure the final decision on your assets (including property) is official before you get a divorce is by filling out and submitting a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement can be used as part of the final divorce proceedings and may lessen the amount of time needed for an otherwise lengthy divorce process.

Items Commonly Sold in a Divorce Sale

Items that are commonly sold in a divorce sale include everything from furniture, appliances, art and paintings, jewelry, and anything else that the couple wants to offload and split the earnings from selling. Typically, a couple sells the matrimonial home as well.

The matrimonial home refers to a couple’s family home, or the home that they lived in during their marriage. Generally, separating couples choose to sell their family home and divide the earnings equally, similar to selling other assets.

However, just because you are going through a divorce, doesn’t mean the house needs to be sold. Instead, either you or your former partner might decide to keep the home for various reasons, such as familiarity for your children or proximity to family.

There are other considerations as well, such as who is responsible for home maintenance and mortgage payments during the divorce process.

Similarly, if there are any jointly owned vehicles or other items that still require payments, you and your spouse will need to work out those financial responsibilities.

Navigating through financial responsibility can be complicated if you and your spouse can’t reach a consensus but remember that you can always hire a mediator to help you both reach a final decision.

Online Divorce Sales

While garage or yard sales and in-person auctions are popular ways to sell your things, offloading your assets online is also a popular option due to the fact that you can reach a wider audience and sell your items without having to leave your home.

As an example, in order to finance his divorce settlement, Russell Crowe held an online auction to sell off some of his possessions. According to the auction site, Sotheby’s Australia, Crowe’s auction raised more than 3.7 million dollars, with some of the items selling above their market value.

Online divorce sales can take place on regular online auction or sales sites like eBay or Craigslist, and sometimes even social media sites like Facebook. Other options are websites such as Worthy that specialize in selling second-hand diamonds and jewelry if you’re looking to offload your wedding ring.

Selling Shared Assets in a Divorce Sale

Divorce is never easy and dividing and selling your shared assets and property can be a lengthy process. A divorce sale is a good way to simply sell off the items that you once shared with your former spouse and split the earnings between both of you have the funds you need to begin your new lives apart from one another.

The post 3 Tips for Selling Items in a Divorce Sale appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

3 Spring Preparations Landlords Should Make

As the weather warms, the housing market starts to pick up and people begin looking for new properties to lease. This presents a great opportunity for landlords to capitalize on the transition from winter to spring and get ahead of both administrative and seasonal maintenance of their properties.

In this post, we’ll discuss three of the most common things a landlord may experience during spring, including new tenants, lease renewals, exterior property maintenance, and how to get ahead of any issues these changes might cause.

Influx of Tenants in the Market for Rentals

Although lease term periods can differ from property to property and from tenant to tenant, spring and summer are popular times for people to move to new properties or renew their leases.

During spring, landlords will need to prepare for an increase in rental applications, property viewings, and new leases.

You should also be aware that the housing market tends to get more competitive in spring, which means many landlords raise their rental prices. Be cautious when raising your rent, however, because you don’t want to have the rent price for your properties skyrocket over competitors’ properties in your area, potentially pushing prospective tenants to either rent elsewhere or abandon renting altogether for home buying.

To get ahead despite high competition, do some research to see what the market trends are like in your area to gauge what your competitors are charging for rent and then adjust your fees accordingly. It might also help you to emphasize your amenities as a way of out-performing your competitors.

Renewing Lease Terms

If you have tenants who are set to renew their leases this season, it’s a good time to review your Residential Lease to see if everything is working for both you and your tenants.

Many landlords have meetings with their tenants prior to their renewal (usually 30 days to 60 days) to discuss the tenants’ experience living in the rental unit.

Some potential lease term topics you can discuss with your tenants before renewal include:

  • Changes to the property. Your tenants might want to paint their living space or replace or add electrical fixtures like outlets, lights, and lamps.
  • Changes to responsibilities. Many landlords will adjust their rent prices in exchange for the tenants taking on more responsibility for maintaining the property. For example, if a landlord rents the top and bottom floors of a house to separate tenants, they might make one responsible for lawn care in exchange for reducing their rent price.
  • Pet fees. You might want to revisit how much you charge for pet fees (whether it’s too much or too little), especially in cases where damage from your tenants’ pets has required you to replace things on your property or make repairs.

It’s important to listen to feedback from your tenants, especially if they have issues living in your rental property. It’s likely they want this living arrangement to work just as much as you do, so do what you can to engage in that relationship and foster goodwill with your tenants.

Prepare for Repair Notices

Warmer temperatures make it easier to inspect properties. It’s also a time when your tenants might be spending more times outdoors, which means they will be more likely to notice maintenance issues outside (like potholes in the parking lot or leaky eavestroughs).

To prevent your tenants from bombarding you with repair notices, consider conducting an exterior inspection of the property.

Some things to keep an eye out for during an exterior inspection would be:

  • Roof deterioration, including loose, missing, or broken shingles or holes that could lead to leaks and water damage when it rains
  • Punctures or debris in rain gutters that might prevent melting snow or water from running off (and make sure the downspouts are leading water away from the house or apartment building’s foundation)
  • Damage to house siding, including split or missing panels
  • Cracks in the pavement or driveway, which can lead to further erosion of the asphalt and more fractures if exposed to water

Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll catch everything pre-emptively, so getting maintenance calls from tenants is unavoidable. Just ensure that you prioritize habitability issues first, and make sure to always communicate with your tenants. At the very least, it’s good to let your tenants know their issues were heard and to provide an assurance that you’re going to handle their repairs in a timely manner.

The Importance of Planning as a Landlord

To prepare yourself for the changes that tend to come with spring (whether it’s new tenants, renewed tenants, or increased maintenance), you should always have a game plan in place, such as scheduling inspections and check-ins with your tenants.

Overall, it’s always a good idea as a landlord to foster open communication with your tenants so that landlord-tenant relationship works in both your favors.

What do you do to get ahead of spring maintenance? Let us know in the comments!

The post 3 Spring Preparations Landlords Should Make appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

5 Must-Have Clauses for Your Roommate Agreement

If you’ve lived with roommates before, you know that while it can be a lot of fun, it can also be very stressful.

The various differences between how people live day-to-day can cause tension between roommates, especially when rules are not addressed before you move in together or issues are not handled properly when they first occur.

In this post, we go over five clauses that you should include in your Roommate Agreement (sometimes called a roommate contract) to ensure you and your roommates have a positive experience living together.

1. Determine How Rent and Utilities Should Be Divided

Many roommates choose to pay for their costs equally, but some decide to divide their rent and bills unequally. For instance, if:

  • Two roommates, such as a couple, stay in one room
  • Only one roommate benefits from a certain utility, such as cable TV
  • One or more occupants have access to areas of the home that other occupants cannot access (such a living room or laundry room)

If you and your roommates decide to have unequal rent or utility payments, you should include that in your roommate contract to avoid issues in the future.

However, even if you and your roommates decide to divide rent and utility payments equally, you should still have a clause indicating so in your Roommate Agreement. That way, no one can claim that another agreement was made regarding rent and bills, and there is no confusion when it comes time to pay your landlord and utility providers.

2. Include Rules Regarding Guests

We all have our own opinions about having guests in our home. Some of us love it; some of us hate it.

However, even roommates who don’t mind having the occasional person over should clarify some points about guests, such as:

  • How many guests per roommate can come over at one time
  • What is considered an informal gathering versus a party (and if parties are allowed)
  • Can roommates have guests stay overnight and, if so, where will they sleep
  • How many consecutive days can a roommate’s guest stay overnight
  • If roommates need to ask the rest of the household before having a guest in the home

Some might think guests in the home can be managed case-by-case, but, without rules in place for roommates to abide by, a situation with a guest can quickly get out of hand.

For example, imagine a roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend stays over every night for two weeks. They’ve likely consumed some food, which is a problem if everyone pitches in money to stock the fridge. The same goes for hygienic products like toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. It may not seem like anything at first, but the cost adds up.

More than money, the roommate’s guest may become a problem due to things such as privacy or space.

For example, a roommate’s guest might disrupt another roommate’s ability to get ready for work. If this disruption occurs frequently, it could cause unnecessary conflict in the household.

3. Clarify Where Roommates Can Smoke

Keep in mind, your Lease Agreement (the contract you and your co-tenants signed with your landlord before moving in) may have a clause that addresses smoking, such as if smoking is allowed indoors or not.

That said, regardless if smoking is prohibited indoors according to your Lease Agreement, you should still have a clause dealing with smoking in your Roommate Agreement, even if it simply mimics the terms in your lease.

In a Roommate Agreement, a clause about smoking should go into more detail than the clause in your lease and cover whether smoking is allowed on the premises and, if so, where.

For instance, if the Lease Agreement permits smoking indoors, can roommates smoke in the living room or their bedrooms? Alternatively, if smoking is only allowed outside, can people smoke on the balcony, porch, or in the backyard?

Sometimes roommates decide not to include this clause because everyone in the house is a nonsmoker, but you should still discuss it and include a clause in your agreement to:

  • Ensure there are rules in place if a roommate starts smoking in the future or a new roommate who is a smoker moves in
  • Restrict guests who are smokers from smoking in inappropriate areas

Dictating where your roommates can smoke, especially outside, can feel like you are going a little overboard, but things like smoke drifting into people’s rooms or the buildup of cigarette butts can cause arguments in the household and lead to a difficult living situation.

4. Define Quiet Hours

Although your town or city may have their own laws regarding noise, these kinds of nuisances can easily cause problems between roommates. This is why it is a good idea for roommates to create their own set of rules pertaining to noise, such as defining the household’s “quiet hours”, and include them in their Roommate Agreement.

Quiet hours refer to a period of time (usually at night) where individuals must be as quiet as possible in order to respect the other occupants in the home.

It can vary between households but should have a start time (e.g. 10 p.m.) and an end time (e.g. 7 a.m.) and can differ from weekdays to weekends.

From watching a movie with surround sound to practicing the electric guitar, quiet hours prevent roommates from being too loud during the times when most of the household is asleep and should always be considered before roommates move in together.

5. Prohibit Illegal Activity

When choosing a roommate, people don’t typically pick someone who engages in criminal activities.

However, sometimes no matter how much vetting you do, you can end up moving in with the wrong person, which can put you in danger, especially if this person brings trouble into the home or interacts with other people who engage in unlawful activity.

In some situations, though, roommates might downplay the extent of a roommate’s illegal activity and ignore it, thinking it’s not a big deal. But, because most Lease Agreements allow landlords to evict tenants over engaging in illegal activity in the unit, it can be a serious problem.

Overall, ensuring all the members of your household are following the laws can be difficult, which is why it is always a good idea to include a clause about illegal activity in your Roommate Agreement.

Signing Your Roommate Agreement

A living situation can quickly turn sour if household rules aren’t addressed between roommates, and there are certain rules in a household, such as ones regarding rent and bill payments, guests, smoking, noise, and illegal activity, that shouldn’t be open for interpretation.

Including clauses that clarify rules in your Roommate Agreement minimizes conflict between roommates, ensures that everyone in the house understands what is expected of them, and helps roommates maintain a positive living experience.

Do you know of any other important clauses to add to a Roommate Agreement? Let us know in the comments.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Letters of the Law: Letter of Intent, Demand Letter, and Cease and Desist Letter

There are a few legal documents that take the form of letters. A Letter of Intent, a Demand Letter, and a Cease and Desist Letter work similarly in that they serve as notices or declarations that are often used to keep transactions or proceedings due to disputes out of court.

With that in mind, here is a brief look at each of the documents and the circumstances in which they can be used.

What Is a Letter of Intent?

A Letter of Intent (LOI) is a statement or declaration made in writing that expresses the intentions and understandings between two parties. The LOI is usually not a legally-binding document because, in most cases, the drafter will make it clear that they are not making a binding offer. Generally, the letter only serves as a promise to continue negotiations in good faith.

Good faith is a term that refers to two parties’ commitment to act honestly and fairly in an agreement without taking advantage of the other. It means that each party is offering a sincere commitment to keep their promises.

The letter is often considered a foundation for a definitive agreement, but on its own does not usually enforce legal obligations on either agreeing party.

There are many uses for a Letter of Intent, some of the most common ones being:

  • During negotiations for the purchase of a business or real estate
  • To receive scholarships (athletic scholarships in particular)
  • In post-secondary applications
  • To receive financing (e.g. loans or grants)

What Is a Demand Letter?

A Demand Letter, also known as a Letter of Demand or LOD, is a formal notice requesting payment or some kind of action (e.g. finishing up a job you hired someone to complete) from another party (usually a person or a business). Generally, demand letters are used to resolve conflicts outside of court so that a solution can be found quickly and without spending money on legal fees.

There are several types of demand letters:

“Debt Owed”: This is a letter used by an individual or creditor trying to collect a payment that is past due. It describes the amount of the debt and a description of the transaction that caused the debt, e.g. money owed for providing freelance writing services. Usually, immediate payment is demanded, but other settlements can be proposed to avoid litigation, like some form of collateral so that the creditor can still get some kind of repayment.

“Action Required”: This letter is used to request that a specific action be performed by the recipient of the letter. It’s usually used to demand that the person or party deliver on a promise they agreed to in an existing contract or agreement that they’ve since neglected. For example, if you paid someone to paint all of the rooms in your house and they didn’t finish the job.

It’s best to back up the demand claim with other documentation, so in the case of painting, you could include a copy of the Service Agreement and highlight the job description.

“Insurance Claim”: Most commonly used by accident victims, this letter serves to reach a settlement with an insurance company. The letter will contain a description of injuries, expenses, and any other information pertinent to the claim. The victim will also include a settlement amount with a deadline that the insurance company can accept in exchange for the victim’s right to sue. If the insurance company doesn’t accept, the claimant can take legal action.

“NSF Check”: This letter is used to request payment after a debtor’s check bounces due to insufficient funds or an account closure. The letter will have the check details (number, date, and payment amount) and the bank’s explanation for the check bouncing. Usually the letter will request payment of the amount plus any bank or mailing fees in order to avoid litigation.

“Stop Payment”: If a debtor pays a creditor in the form of a check but then instructs their bank to stop the check, thereby preventing the creditor from receiving the funds, the creditor can issue a “Stop Payment” Demand Letter. The letter will request full payment and to cover costs of bank and mailing fees.

In each of these demand letters, the recipient is advised that if they don’t comply with the demands, legal action will be pursued so the demands are met.

What Is a Cease and Desist Letter?

Simply put, a Cease and Desist Letter (C&D) is a formal notice that requests that a party (an individual, several individuals, or a business) stop a specified action. The letter informs the recipients that if they don’t comply, the issue will be taken to court.

A Cease and Desist Letter can be issued for a variety of reasons. Generally, they are used to demand that someone quit harassing, stalking, libeling, or slandering someone else, but they can also be used to resolve property disputes, e.g. a neighbor’s unkempt tree branches encroaching on another neighbor’s property.

There are some specialized forms of C&Ds:

  • A “Debt Collection” letter can be used to cease inappropriate harassment from debt collectors. For example, if a debt collector calls you nonstop at all hours of the day or becomes abusive with profane language to intimidate you into paying.
  • A “Copyright Infringement” letter can be used to demand another party (a person or an organization) stop infringing on the intellectual rights of your copyrighted work. This could range anywhere from someone posting your photos on their Instagram or website without giving credit to a competing business stealing your trademarked product ideas.

It should be noted that a Cease and Desist Letter is different than a Cease and Desist Order, which is a legally-binding order issued by a judge to halt illegal activity.

Which Letter Suits Your Situation?

As mentioned above, each letter has its own purpose to fit a variety of scenarios from securing payment to halting harassment. What’s important to remember is that these letters are used to avoid litigation, and, because of their nature as settlement documents, the recipient isn’t required to comply with your demands.

Usually most people are willing to settle out of court because it saves everyone time and money on legal fees, but if you do end up with someone who isn’t satisfied with a letter, you’ll either need to try and negotiate or you’ll have to take your claim to court. If you find yourself in the latter case, be sure you’re prepared with documentation and a good attorney.

Have you ever had to use one of these letters before?

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Resource Roundup for New Homeowners

Becoming a homeowner can be an overwhelming experience. Often, there is a lot of information coming at you from all angles, so we’ve compiled some of our top blog posts for first-time real estate owners to help you through the stages of buying and owning your first home.

Buying a New Home

Millennial Homeownership: A Look Ahead

There are a variety of obstacles that can prevent millennials from becoming homeowners. Increased debt and the need for millennials to be “mobile” (moving for school or job opportunities) suggests that home purchases will most likely be made later in life.

4 Ways to Buy a Home Without a Mortgage

Several options are available for people who wish to purchase a home without a mortgage. This post goes through four of those possibilities, including renting-to-own, getting owner financing, securing a private loan, and simply paying for your home with cash.

The Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

Extra costs may be involved in purchasing your first home that are not immediately obvious. Things like landscaping, utility hookup fees, moving expenses, and home insurance are just some of those costs. Make sure you’re prepared for unexpected expenses with a safety net of extra cash.

Choosing the Best Neighborhood to Purchase Real Estate

When you’re purchasing a new home, you’ll want to consider the surrounding area before making your final decision. Things like schools, parks, transportation, and amenities are all factors that can influence whether you buy or not.

Protecting Your Home

Home Inspections: Why Every Buyer Should Have One

Before you sign on the dotted line to solidify the purchase of your new home, you should get a home inspection to make sure there are no hidden problems or repairs. Usually your realtor (if you’re using one) can recommend a home inspector, but other times you may need to find one yourself. In general, it should be someone that is trustworthy, has the proper certification and experience, and can provide references.

A First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Home Security

Make sure that your new home is protected by investing in home security. Some home security factors can be addressed before the home is purchased, like making sure the home you choose is located in a safe neighborhood. However, many new homeowners overlook little things, such as changing the locks if the house has been owned before. Some homeowners also choose to install a home security system or surveillance cameras for extra peace of mind.

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

Getting homeowner’s insurance is a very important step for protecting your home. Insurance policies for homes can vary the same way that they can vary for vehicles, so it’s important to not only shop around, but take the time to meet with an insurance agent and go through your policy options.

How New Homeowners Can Organize and Plan Home Maintenance

Home maintenance is a big part of protecting your new home. Regular maintenance can help prevent problems and keep your repair costs down. Taking the time to schedule what needs to be done as well as recording the details of your home and taking changing seasons and weather into consideration is worth it in the long run.

Tips and Tricks for Homeowners

7 Things No One Told You About Becoming a Homeowner

The responsibilities of homeownership may not be immediately obvious to someone who has just purchased their first home. Maintenance can be costly and is always ongoing, and if you want to build something new on your home or property (like a patio or deck) you most likely need to secure a building permit from your local municipality. A new house is a work in progress and it takes time for it to become a home.

Real (Estate) Talk: Advice, Tips, and Trends for Homeowners

Before you decide how you are going to go about buying a new home, it helps to get some practical advice. Real estate experts can give you insight on things like emerging real estate trends, what buyers are looking for in a home, and home maintenance.

4 Ways to Reduce Your Mortgage Costs

The lower the mortgage cost, the better. Learning how to shop around for the best rates and knowing what you are in for with mortgage debt will help you feel confident that you made the right decision with your first mortgage.

4 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask

Asking the right questions when buying your first home can make an otherwise confusing process easier. If you go into the process understanding exactly what a mortgage is, the chances of getting the loan rate you want, and the types of lenders are available to you, it will help you make the best possible decision for your situation.

Becoming a New Homeowner

Armed with the information and knowledge you need, you’re on your way to becoming a new homeowner. It’s always a good idea to do your own research and gather all the information you can to aid you in your quest for a new home. While it can be a long process, owning your first home is a huge milestone and a rewarding experience for many.

What are your top tips for purchasing a new home? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Shareholders Versus Directors in a Corporation

“Shareholder” and “director” are terms thrown around boardrooms all the time and can be very confusing to someone who doesn’t know what they mean. Even if you do understand the terms, you might be unsure as to where a shareholder or director fit within the corporation.

In this post, we’ll discuss what each party is in a corporation and how their roles differ within a company’s structure.

What is a Shareholder in a Corporation?

A shareholder, sometimes called a stockholder, is a person or a group of people that contribute funds to a corporation and thus own a portion—or share—of that company. They can own a small or large portion of the business, depending on the how many shares they bought from the company to become a shareholder.

It’s important to note that a shareholder can be a director in the company as well.

What is a Director in a Corporation?

A director is a person who assists in controlling the corporation. Oftentimes, a corporation has more than one director, known as the board of directors.

A corporation can also have one sole director. For example, a person may own a flooring installation business and decide to incorporate for liability protection purposes. In this instance, the owner of the business would likely name themselves as the sole director.

A director of a corporation can be anyone who is:

  • Over the age 16
  • Not filing for or undischarged from bankruptcy
  • Not acting as an auditor for the corporation

Some corporations have three types of directors:

  • A chairperson: This person generally leads the corporation and is in contact with the company president; they often make sure director meetings run smoothly.
  • Inside directors: Inside directors are usually also shareholders, officers, or some other type of upper-management within the corporation.
  • Outside directors: Outside directors generally do not hold another role within the company other than director.

A director has a high degree of responsibility to the company and is required to act in the company’s best interest. Directors perform tasks such as making key financial decisions, maintaining business relationships, considering consequences, electing officers (i.e. the president, treasurer, and secretary), and more.

What is the Difference Between a Shareholder and a Director?

There are many differences between a shareholder and a director of a corporation. Some differences include:

  • Shareholders are paid dividends, if applicable (a portion of the company’s profits based on the number of shares the shareholder owns).
  • Shareholders elect directors, and directors elect officers.
  • Shareholders, for the most part, are not involved in making decisions for the company, except for some vital changes or dealings. For example, shareholders might make important decisions regarding a potential merger with another company or how stocks are issued in the company.
  • Shareholders own shares within the corporation, which can be voting, non-voting, or preferred. Their shares and the type of share (voting, non-voting, or preferred) determine how much of the company they own and if they can vote on fundamental aspects of the corporation.

There are a few similarities between these roles as well, for instance:

Assigning Directors and Shareholders for Your Corporation

Whether you’re incorporating a business, taking on a new position as a director or a shareholder in a corporation, or simply want to know more about the various roles in a company, there are many reasons why it is helpful for you to know about how corporations are structured.

Corporate structure is complex and can be difficult to understand, but reviewing the basics, such as what a shareholder and a director are and how these roles differ, is a good start to understanding the vast corporate framework.

Do you know any more differences between a shareholder and a director? Let us know in the comments.

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Things Your Executor Can and Can’t Do

When you create a Last Will and Testament, an important step is to choose someone you trust to be your executor. An executor is the person who has the legal duty to follow the directions listed in your Last Will.

After you pass away, your executor has the general task of sorting out your finances, including paying any outstanding debts you may have out of the remainder of your estate, and dividing your property and assets amongst your beneficiaries.

The executor of your Will is responsible for carrying out your wishes in the way you specified, but there are limits to what they can and can’t do.

This post goes into more detail about what you can and can’t ask your executor to do, in order to help you make an informed decision about who to choose for the role.

Things Your Executor Can Do

We’ve already covered the steps an executor would need to take to carry out a Will in a previous post, but have listed the general tasks below.

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, depending on the complexity of the testator’s (the person who made the Will) financial and family circumstances, an executor typically makes decisions about:

  • How to manage the testator’s assets and property until they are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs
  • Supervising the distribution of the testator’s property and assets
  • How to handle property and asset inheritance, including who inherits real estate (as indicated in the Will)
  • Validating the Will in probate court if needed
  • Paying for debts, taxes, and other ongoing expenses

In short, the executor makes the majority of the decisions with regards to the distribution of the estate. Although they must follow the instructions in the deceased’s Will, they do have the power to make certain decisions if the testator did not express their wishes clearly or at all in their Will.

Keep in mind that the executor can also choose to refuse to act even if they are named in the Will. In these cases, the court can appoint a new executor.

Things Your Executor Can’t Do

An executor has the fiduciary duty to execute your Will to the best of their ability and in accordance with the law, but it can be difficult to determine the limits of their powers.

However, here are some examples of things an executor can’t do:

  • Change the beneficiaries in the Will
  • Stop the beneficiaries from contesting the Will
  • Sign the Will on behalf of the testator, if it was not signed before the testator passed away
  • Execute the Will before the testator has passed away

In general, if the beneficiaries named in the Last Will feel that the executor is not performing their duties to the letter, they can get the court involved and ultimately have the executor removed. In this case, the court will usually take care of the executor’s duties in place of choosing a new executor.

Your Executor’s Duties

Being an executor can be quite a bit of work, so it’s important to choose someone that you trust and discuss your wishes with them to make sure they are up to the task.

At any rate, your Last Will and Testament should be as detailed as possible so that in the event that your executor changes their mind and the court needs to take over, the process of executing your Will can still go relatively smoothly.

Have you ever been an executor for a Will? Let us know in the comments!

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Who Gets the Pets in a Divorce?

In the last few years, pet custody has become a matter of interest for many state governments. Pet owners, state representatives, and judiciary officials are deciding to treat pets more like children than property in instances of separation or divorce.

Differentiating pets from property in law is bit of a grey area because the debate is fairly new, but since 2017, several states have passed bills that focus on putting a pet’s best interest at the heart of a custody arrangement.

In this post, we’ll discuss how pet custody is handled in the U.S. currently and how it can be managed without going to court by using a Pet Agreement contract.

pet-agreement-kitten

 

American Legislation on Pet Custody

Historically, deciding the ownership of pets in separations and divorces was managed in a similar fashion to how possessions and assets (like valuables, furniture, etc.) were divided among the parties. Recently, that has started to change.

In January 2017, Alaska became the first American state to enact custody legislation specifically for pets, allowing courts to take an animal’s well-being into account during divorce proceedings. The act describes a pet as a “vertebrate living creature not a human being” rather than property (which is the case in most other states).

After the enactment of this legislation in Alaska, many states, such as Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Illinois, are considering enacting laws that aim to treat pets like companions instead of household furniture in divorce and separation proceedings.

Regardless of legislation, there are still some finer points that need to be ironed out in regards to pet custody because there are some limitations, including:

  • The legislation typically only applies to pets that are considered marital assets, meaning the animal was purchased, adopted, or rescued by the couple once they were committed to one another (e.g. married or common law)
  • If a pet belonged to one person in the couple prior to a romantic commitment, the pet usually remains with that owner; however, visitation or a “joint ownership” can be argued if both parties have shared the responsibility of caring for the pet (e.g. walking the dog, paying for cat food, cleaning out the fish tank, etc.)
  • The legislation doesn’t apply to co-owners in platonic or familial relationships (like roommates or siblings)

pet-custody-agreement

 

Handling Custody with a Pet Agreement

Although there have been advances in pet custody-related legislation in some states, generally there is very little regulation for custody arrangements between separating or divorcing couples.

Creating a Pet Agreement allows spouses to maintain some control over the custody arrangements for their pets beyond what is covered by legislation

A Pet Agreement (sometimes called a pet custody agreement) is a contract that you can use to outline the terms of custody for your pet(s), including:

  • A visitation schedule
  • How costs for care will be divided (e.g. veterinary care, food, toys, litter, etc.)
  • Who the primary owner of the pet is (i.e. who takes care of the pet most of the time)
  • Important details about the pet (e.g. the date of their last visit to a veterinarian, medication lists and schedule)

This kind of agreement allows both parties to have their say in the care of their animal regardless of the parties’ relationship. Owners in any type of relationship (romantic or otherwise) can use this contract to sort out pet care and help avoid disputes and a possibly lengthy court battle.

For example, in 2000, Stanley and Linda Perkins fought for two years in court over custody of their pointer-greyhound mix, Gigi, resulting in close to $ 150,000 in legal fees. It’s likely they could have avoided court if they discussed how custody of their pet might work before their relationship ended.

In some particularly vicious divorce cases, people use their spouse’s emotional attachment to their pet to gain leverage in their separation or divorce proceeding. This problem can potentially be avoided by creating something like a Pet Agreement.

pet-custody-in-divorce

Putting Pet Welfare First

If the trend of animal custody legislation continues, animal welfare will potentially play a larger part in divorce and separation proceedings.

No one likes to think about the potential end of their marriage or relationship, but when your relationship status affects another living creature (like a pet), it’s wise to think about what might change in regards to their care and what’s best for them.

Would you consider creating a pet custody agreement?

The post Who Gets the Pets in a Divorce? appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract: Part 2

There are so many things to consider before signing an Employment Contract for a new job that we’ve decided to include a second part to our original post, “4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract”.

In the first post, we discussed how, before signing your employee agreement, it’s wise to:

  • Review your job title and duties to ensure they match the position you interviewed for
  • Double check the salary listed is the one you agreed upon
  • Ensure you understand how overtime and time off benefits work
  • Familiarize yourself with any additional or restrictive clauses in the employment agreement (e.g. non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality clauses)

In this second part, we’ll discuss considering travel requirements, clarifying work hours, reviewing employee benefits, and evaluating company culture before signing on the dotted line.

Consider the Travel Requirements in Your Employment Contract

Travel is something many people often overlook when they’re considering taking a job, but it’s important to keep in mind that traveling to and from work, in some cases, can be a large part of your day.

If you’re fielding multiple job offers where all other factors (like pay, benefits, workload, etc.) are equal, the commute could possibly be your deal breaker. Having a 30- or 45-minute trip doesn’t necessarily sound too horrible until you consider that both ways (to and from work) can mean up to an hour-and-a-half in your car or on public transit.

It’s also important to consider how commute times can alter (sometimes drastically) at different times of day (e.g. morning and evening rush hour, lunch time, etc.) and different times of year.

For example, in Maine or even upstate New York, a typical 30-minute commute can very easily become an hour or an hour-and-a-half in the winter.

One last thing to keep in mind is business travel. Some jobs expect no travel at all, while others expect the majority of your work time to be spent out of the office. This can mean traveling to various job sites or other cities, states, or countries for meetings and conferences. Before you sign your Employment Contract, you should ask about the travel requirements and you should clarify whether or not you’ll be compensated for travel time, meals, flights, gas, etc., and what that compensation will be.

Clarify the Working Hours for Your New Position

Sometimes there can be a difference between the hours you are expected to work on paper and an unspoken expectation of the hours you’re really meant to work.

This doesn’t mean that an employer might expect you to underreport your hours or leave off any overtime (although this does happen), it just means you might have to consider how your work life might intermingle with your personal life.

Many people work a standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job (or some such variation), and when everyone punches out, the day is done. But there are certain employers that expect their employees to check their work emails after hours and on weekends or to be on call at all times in case of work emergencies.

Before you sign your contract, you should ask about what’s expected of you in terms of being on call. Are you meant to put in your 40 hours in the office and keep an eye out for phone calls or emails from your boss on Saturdays?

Some employers expect you to work your 40 hours and nothing more, while others expect you to be at their beck and call. It’s best to clarify this before you accept the position so you know exactly what you’re getting into on day one.

Review and Understand the Benefits Plans

In today’s economy, employee benefits are an important factor when workers are contemplating employment opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor released a report in 2017 that detailed the percentage of employers (across the civilian, private, and local and state government sectors) that offer some form of benefits (retirement, medical care, and life insurance) to their employees. The results found an average of 72% of employees had access to these types of benefits and an average of 65% of employees used the benefits.

Typically, employers who offer benefits plans include some form of the following:

  • Retirement plan
  • Health insurance
  • Vision and dental coverage
  • Life insurance
  • Short- or long-term disability

With the majority of employers offering benefits, applicants and job hunters have the chance to compare benefits packages so they can make judgments about which job offer they might take. It’s a good idea to review the employer’s benefits plans, make sure you understand them, and see how they measure up to other plans from your current job or another position you might be contemplating.

Evaluate the Company Culture

One final thing you should reflect on is what the working environment is like. People struggle and thrive in very different environments, so it’s important to consider how you’ll fare in a specific environment before you sign up.

Determining a company’s culture can be a hard concept to navigate, so here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  • What kind of people will you be working with?
  • Do you think you’ll get along with your co-workers?
  • Do the people look content to be at work? Or are they all visibly stressed and discontent?
  • Will you fit in?

One last question you might also ask yourself is “Do I care about the company culture?” because it’s not something that matters to everyone. Many people can put up with working in an environment where they aren’t always content if other factors (like pay or benefits or the company’s mission) outweigh their needs for contentment. Hopefully, you’ll never have to choose between your personal happiness and a paycheck, but it’s a choice that some people have to consider.

Taking the Next Steps in Your Career

Receiving a job offer is a thrilling experience, but it can come with many uncertainties that you’ll want to clarify. Don’t be afraid to evaluate the implications of accepting the offer before you sign the contract. There’s no harm in being a little cautious and ensuring you understand everything you’re getting into before taking a new job.

What are some other things you consider before accepting a job offer?

The post 4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract: Part 2 appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

How to Find and Collect Unclaimed Inheritances

Wrapping up a person’s life with one document is difficult and sometimes doesn’t go as planned. Even using a Last Will and creating extensive estate plans doesn’t always cover all of the necessary bases.

In some instances, assets get missed and left out or are purchased after a Last Will was created. Other times, beneficiaries fail to claim their portion of their estate or don’t even know they’re entitled to a gift from the estate. When this occurs, portions of a person’s assets can end up unclaimed.

In this post, we go over how money goes unclaimed, what happens to an inheritance when it is not claimed, and how you can find out if any inheritances are owed to you.

How Does Money Go Unclaimed?

Money can go unclaimed in all sorts of ways and it doesn’t just happen when someone fails to collect their inheritance after a relative passes away.

Unclaimed money from past wages, life insurances, pensions, tax refunds, and more are all examples of how money can be abandoned by a person and then defined as “unclaimed”.

As an example, in 2013, nearly 60 million dollars was left unclaimed by Americans.

In terms of unclaimed inheritances, there are a variety of reasons as to why someone’s estate goes unclaimed.

For instance, it could mean:

  • A beneficiary in the deceased’s Last Will did not accept their gift (or passed away before it was gifted)
  • The asset was left out of the Last Will (perhaps due to error or because that asset wasn’t owned when the Last Will was drafted)
  • The deceased didn’t have a Last Will before passing away (i.e. they died “intestate”)

What Happens to Unclaimed Inheritances?

When you pass away without a Last Will, your property is divided between your heirs in a pre-determined order, often starting with your spouse (if you have one), your children, and so on until you have no living relatives left. If you have no living relatives, your estate becomes state property.

So, if your relative passed away without a Last Will, claiming your inheritance could be as simple as identifying yourself as a rightful heir to their estate with the proper authorities.

Likewise, if your relative had a Last Will but you didn’t claim your inheritance, it might also end up with the state and thus require you to do some digging and come forward in order to retrieve it.

How Do I Search for Unclaimed Inheritances?

If you think you might have an inheritance waiting to be claimed, it’s time to put on your detective hat to find it.

The US Government recommends to first check your state, which you can do using National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

There are also a few other organizations that could help such as missingmoney.com and Bureau of The Fiscal Service.

With the assistance of one of these services, you may be able to find the information—or money—you were looking for.

There isn’t just one service to use, so use your judgment when contacting an agency who specializes in finding your unclaimed cash and returning it to you and, most importantly, be careful of scams.

 

tips-for-finding-unclaimed-money-unclaimed-inheritance

Finding Your Unclaimed Inheritances

The easiest way to claim your inheritance is to do so during the reading of your relative’s Last Will and Testament. However, attending the reading—or even knowing about it—isn’t possible for everyone, which is why knowing what happens and how to find unclaimed inheritances is important.

Do you have any unclaimed inheritances you are going to search for? Let us know in the comments.

The post How to Find and Collect Unclaimed Inheritances appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

4 Things to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract: Part 1

When you’re reading over your job contract, you should make sure you understand everything from your job duties to your rights as an employee—you don’t want to run into any surprises after signing on the dotted line.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some things you should consider before signing an Employment Agreement.

Job Title and Duties in Your Employment Contract

The first thing you should check in your Employment Contract is that your job title and responsibilities match the position you interviewed for. If the description doesn’t match your expectations, bring it up to your supervisor or the HR representative walking you through your orientation before you sign.

It’s possible that there was just a clerical error, but if that’s not the case and you suspect your new employer’s expectations are different than what you thought, you can take this opportunity to voice your concerns or leave before you’re bound to a written contract.

For instance, some employees find themselves in circumstances where they interview for a “Manager” position but find their job title changed to “Lead” on their contract.

While a small change in wording like this doesn’t seem like much, it can affect things like wage increases because a team leader is often below a manager within a company’s structure. Moreover, being a lead versus a manager might also affect your job responsibilities.

Reviewing Your Salary Before Signing Your Contract

Salary is something many people take for granted when looking over their employment contracts.

You’d think the salary you agreed on in your job offer would be the same as the one included in your contract, but mistakes can happen. It’s best to be safe and check before signing your job agreement.

If your salary is different than you expected, it’s important to determine if there is an explanation in the contract. For instance, part of your salary might be divided into commission or bonuses or other benefits granted by your employer.

It’s crucial that you understand exactly how you’re meant to be compensated for your work and if economic incentives based on job performance (like tips, commission, or bonuses) affect your salary or hourly wage.

You should also take time to familiarize yourself with how often you’re paid (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) as the pay period can differ from company to company.

Some employers even offer advances, which might not be something you’re aware of before signing your contract and could come in handy later if you’re ever in a financial pinch.

Although many employers pay their employees through a direct deposit system, there are still those who use checks. Be sure to double check the manner in which you’re paid in case you have to plan cashing your check into your regular routine.

Overtime and Time Off Benefits at Work

Many employers offer overtime pay and time off allowances (like vacation and sick time), but they can differ from job to job. Some employers pay out overtime (usually an increased wage like time-and-a-half for each extra hour worked) and others will bank overtime which can either be used later in the form of time off or can be cashed in at your regular hourly wage.

When looking into overtime, you should consider:

  • When overtime kicks in: Does it kick in after you work more than 8 hours in a day? Does it only take effect if you work more than 40 hours per week?
  • How much your wage increases if the time isn’t banked: Is it time-and-a-half? Double-time? Does it increase as your overtime hours increase?
  • How to cash in banked overtime hours: Do you get time off? Do you cash it in as your hourly wage? Do you cash in an overtime (increased) wage? Can you do a mix of both time off and payout?

Be sure to look at your state laws on overtime as well, as there may be regulations on when and how overtime is calculated.

You should also ask about the time off procedure if you’re unsure. Is it divided up into sick time, personal time, and vacation, or is it just one lump of time that you can divvy up however you’d like?

Keep in mind, some employers require you to work a full year to build up vacation and sick time before you’re entitled to use it. Others simply require you complete your probation period (usually three to six months) before you start using your time off benefits.

Additional and Restrictive Clauses in Your Employment Agreement

There are some clauses that appear in many Employment Agreements that you should familiarize yourself with.

Non-compete: A non-compete clause prevents the employee from unfairly competing against the employer during employment and after it ends. For example, an employee cannot open a competing business while employed with the current company.

Non-solicitation: A non-solicitation clause is a stipulation that prevents an employee from recruiting any of the company’s employees or contractors after said employee has left the company. Although poaching is popular in many industries, a former employee who is bound by a non-solicitation clause cannot participate in this practice without the risk of getting sued.

Confidentiality: A confidentiality clause keeps employees from divulging the company’s confidential information to anyone outside of the company or who is not privileged to that knowledge. This gets many people in trouble especially if they leave one company for a competitor and pass on client, supplier, or employee information to the competitor.

It’s important to read through these clauses in your contract and keep them in mind should you ever leave your current employer. The last thing you need is a lawsuit against you for passing on the names of your former employer’s major clients because you didn’t know the potential consequences.

Beginning a New Chapter in Your Career

Starting a new job is an exciting experience that can present you with new challenges and opportunities. Though it may be difficult, try not to let your excitement get to your head while you’re reviewing your contract.

After you look over your Employment Contract, write down any questions you have so that you can go over them with your manager or the hiring manager. You may feel obligated to return your signed contract quickly, but you’re entitled to take time to review it carefully to make sure that you understand what you are signing.

What’s the first thing you look at in an Employment Contract? Let us know in the comments!

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Common Questions About Estates

It’s not unusual to hear about how important it is to plan your estate, so when you pass away, your assets and property can be distributed according to your wishes. Navigating what exactly an estate is and what an estate plan consists of can be confusing, especially for people who haven’t really thought about these questions before.

Learning about what your personal estate consists of and making decisions about how you would like it to be distributed after you pass away can be beneficial in many ways.

This post takes a closer look at estates and estate plans and offers some answers to common questions about them.

What is an Estate?

Everyone has an estate. An estate consists of all your assets, which includes property and possessions; interests, entitlement to property (basically your right to possess and use a property); and legal rights.

If you don’t have a plan for what happens to your estate when you pass away, your estate is distributed to surviving family members (if there are any) according to your state’s laws.

If you want to control how your estate is distributed and to whom, you need to indicate your wishes using a Last Will and Testament. After you pass away, your Last Will will be executed through a process known as probate.

You can choose to bypass the lengthy probate process for some assets by creating a Revocable Living Trust for high-value assets such as jewelry, bank accounts, and real estate that you might want your beneficiaries (the people you choose to receive your assets and property) to receive as soon as possible. Essentially, with a Living Trust your beneficiaries will probably only have to wait a few weeks instead of months or even years to receive their gifts.

You still need to create a Last Will for the property and assets you don’t include in a trust.

What makes up an estate?

Your estate is made up of your assets (things that you own that hold monetary value. Common assets in an estate plan include:

  • Vehicles
  • Property (real estate)
  • Businesses and investments
  • Personal property (such as jewelry, antiques, artwork and electronics)
  • Life insurance
  • Taxable death benefits from pensions and annuities (generally used as an income stream for retirees)

It’s important to note that while you must consider your assets when estate planning, you must also consider any debts that you might have, since your assets are usually used to cover any of your debts before they can be distributed.

For example, if you have $ 20,000 in debt, and $ 100,000 in assets, your assets will be used to cover the debts that you owe, meaning you are left with $ 80,000 to distribute to your beneficiaries.

How Do I Plan My Estate?

The actual process of planning your estate can be lengthy, but as long as you take the time to be organized and thorough it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some general steps to help you start planning:

  1. Set your goals for estate planning. Begin with making a list of your personal wishes and goals, like who you want to receive a certain item or if you want to leave any gifts to charities.
  2. Document your assets and debts. Ensure you know where you stand financially so that you can make sure you have enough to cover any outstanding costs that remain after you pass away.
  3. Select individuals who will take care of your wishes (such as an executor, trustee, etc.)
  4. Consider your medical care preferences (such as if you want palliative care, when/if you want to be resuscitated, etc.) and indicate those wishes in a Living Will.
  5. Consider which documents you need in your estate plan (such as a Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust, Power of Attorney, and/or Health Care Directive.)

More detailed information regarding estate planning can be found in our estate planning guide, or if you want more specific information for your situation, we also have estate planning guides for singles and married couples.

Can I Change My Estate Plans?

Yes. What is included in your estate and who you want to take care of your wishes can (and most likely will) change over time. Your estate planning documents should be reviewed following major life events, such as:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption
  • Selling or acquiring real estate
  • Selling or starting a business
  • When someone in your estate plans passes away (a beneficiary, your executor, etc.)

Navigating Estates

Once you know what your estate consists of, you can begin the process of estate planning. Taking the time to be thorough and detailed with your documents will help make the process easier, especially if you need to make changes later on. Since we can’t predict the future, it pays to be prepared by planning ahead.

Have you reviewed your estate or started estate planning? Let us know in the comments!

The post Common Questions About Estates appeared first on LawDepot Blog.

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4 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Temporary Guardian

Spending time away from your children can be difficult, especially when they’ll be in someone else’s care.

Whether you’re preparing for a childless trip to another country or are going away on business, you’ll need to find a responsible adult to watch over your children in your absence—someone that cares about their well-being and will ensure their safety.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know who you should ask to be a caretaker or if the person you’re considering can handle the demands of caring for your children.

In this post, we cover four preliminary questions you should ask a potential temporary guardian before leaving your children in their care.

1. Can I Name You as a Temporary Guardian for My Child?

This is an important question that some of us may forget to ask. However, it’s imperative that you find out if your temporary guardian is actually willing to care for your children and be responsible for their well-being while you’re away.

You may be considering someone who babysits your children often, but keep in mind, being a guardian—even temporarily—is a heavier responsibility than being a babysitter. Essentially, it requires someone to be a replacement parent for a limited time, including the possibility of having to make important decisions related to medical care, education, and more.

Whoever you ask, you should always make sure your selected guardian understands the responsibilities attached to guardianship and confirm that they are willing to act as a guardian for your children.

You may also want to discuss if the guardian’s home is big enough for everyone to live in comfortably, and, if not, whether everyone should stay in your home while you’re away.

As well, if your child has specific extracurricular activities, be sure to ask the guardian if they will be able to uphold your child’s schedule.

2. Do You Have Experience Caring for Children?

This question may be a no-brainer but it’s something you shouldn’t forget to ask as not everyone has an appropriate understanding of how to parent a child.

If your friend’s eyes bulge every time you ask them to hold your baby, for example, it’s probably not the best idea to ask them to watch your child for an extended period of time.

An appropriate caregiver should understand how to handle a child, from providing guidance to enforcing discipline.

So, if they have no experience caring for children (or if they’ve never cared for a child overnight), you may want to find someone more suitable for the task.

3. Do You Have Moral Objections Regarding Certain Medical Treatments?

It’s important that you find a temporary guardian that will make decisions similar to how you would, especially when it comes time to make a medical decision for your child.

Because a person’s moral beliefs can alter whether they would consent to certain medical treatments (like blood transfusions or surgeries), it’s recommended you find someone who shares your moral beliefs (or, at the very least, knows and respects them).

You may also want to discuss specific scenarios and determine how both of you would handle certain situations if they occurred. For example, you could discuss what to do if your child broke a limb and required surgery or if your child were to get sick and be prescribed a certain medication.

Knowing how your children’s potential guardian would approach these matters before you authorize consent will help you ensure your children are in the right hands.

Keep in mind, a Child Medical Consent form lets you exclude consent for particular treatments that you may not be comfortable allowing another person to authorize for your children. For example, you may not want a temporary guardian to be able to make decisions about mental health treatments for your children.

4. What are your interests and hobbies?

While it might seem arbitrary, this is actually an important question that serves two purposes.

First, some hobbies and interests are not suitable for children (or children under a certain age).

For instance, if your temporary guardian plays M-rated video games, you may want to know so you can ask them not to play in front of your children.

Second, if your proposed guardian has scheduled times for their hobbies or interests, you’ll want to know if their schedule will interfere with the care of your children.

If the caretaker you’re considering goes to a spin class every Friday night, for example, you’ll want to know if they can reschedule or if they’ll arrange for a babysitter during that time (if you’re okay with it).

Choosing A Temporary Guardian

Choosing a temporary guardian is not always easy, and sometimes your first choice is not the best option.

It’s always a good idea to interview your potential guardian before signing a Child Medical Consent form, so you can be sure your children are in capable hands.

What questions do you ask a proposed temporary guardian? Let us know in the comments.

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6 Common Cover Letter Mistakes

When companies put out a new job position, they can receive hundreds (sometimes thousands) of resumes. This means that a hiring manager needs to find a way to filter out weaker candidates and trim down the stack of applications.

In many instances, employers reviewing applications will ignore cover letters altogether (especially for positions that don’t require a high level of written or verbal skills), but as an applicant, you have no way of knowing how much the person reviewing your application will care about your Cover Letter.

Unless the job you’re applying for indicates that no Cover Letter is required, it’s best to have your bases covered and submit one—it might be the thing that bumps you ahead of other equally qualified applicants for an interview.

To give you an advantage over other applicants, we’ll discuss the six most common mistakes people make in cover letters that can cause employers to disqualify candidates.

1. Typos and Other Errors in Your Application

Typos and other grammatical errors may not seem like much of a problem, but they continue to be one of the top Resume and Cover Letter mistakes employers use to disqualify candidates and cut down the stack of resumes they’re reviewing.

The easiest way to avoid grammatical errors is to have someone else look over your work after your own self-editing efforts.

You should also double-check:

  • That your contact information is correct (e.g. you included your preferred email address and spelled it correctly and you didn’t make any mistakes in your phone number)
  • You’re addressing the proper person in the right department and company (when people are sending out multiple applications, it can be quite simple to mix up which company you’re contacting)
  • You have the correct version of your Resume and Cover Letter sent to the proper job posting (many people accidentally send an application tailored to a specific position to the wrong posting)

2. Focusing Too Much on Yourself in Your Cover Letter

When an employer puts out a call for resumes, what’s really happening is they have a problem that needs solving. The problem, in this case, is that there’s a hole in their ranks that they need filled to keep the company running smoothly.

The point of a Cover Letter is to demonstrate to an employer how you are the answer to that problem. It can be tempting to spend the whole time talking about how great you are as a worker, multi-tasker, and team player, but you need to make sure you’re always relating back to the company. What can you do for them? How does your previous experience speak to your ability to deliver on the promise to solve all of their problems? These are the things you need to focus on.

3. Discussing Your Entire Work History

Odds are you’ve had dozens of jobs—probably since you were a teenager—but that doesn’t mean all of that work experience is necessary in your Cover Letter. Sure, it’s great that you got a steady job flipping burgers at McDonald’s when you were 14, but it’s probably not terribly relevant when you’re applying to be a Financial Analyst at AT&T.

Discuss your related training and be sure to illustrate how those experiences show you can tackle any challenges you may face in this new position.

4. Discussing Too Little Work History

Although disclosing too much job history is problematic because it can dilute your relevant work experience, the opposite (i.e. not discussing enough of your work history) can also be an issue.

Many people make the mistake of simply repeating their Resume in their Cover Letter, but that doesn’t provide the hiring manager with any other details about your skills—they’ve already looked over your Resume, they don’t need to see it twice. An employer will want to see your accomplishments from previous jobs and they’ll want to know how they relate to the position you’re applying for now.

5. Clichés in Your Cover Letter

As we’ve already mentioned, someone sifting through applications is probably glazing over hundreds of resumes and cover letters. The last thing you want to do is sound like everyone else. Everyone believes they are “the perfect candidate for this position” because they are a “team player” with “exceptional customer service skills” who “takes pride in their work.”

Although it’s important to use some of these buzzwords (especially if an employer is using an electronic system to sort resumes), you need to make sure you don’t just blend into the herd.

If you really want to make your Cover Letter stand out, be sure to include some concrete examples of your accomplishments (i.e. facts and figures). Something like “In my last position, I was an expert salesman” is fine, but “I had the top sales average on my team, which amounted to $ 10,000 per month in revenue for the company” is better.

6. Being the Company’s “Super Fan”

Applying for jobs can be a stressful experience—especially in turbulent economic climates—and it often results in people applying for and accepting positions they don’t want at companies they don’t know, want to work for, or care about.

A common tactic people use in situations like this is pretending to be the company’s biggest fan, so their cover letter reads more like fan mail than a professional summary of skills. The end product comes off as very disingenuous.

Put yourself in the hiring person’s shoes. If you read that type of Cover Letter, would you fall for the ploy? What would you rather read about? It’s likely that writing about what you can do for the company (how your experience and expertise can solve their problems) will resonate better than random praise.

You can tailor your letter so it aligns with the company’s values and culture to show you’ve done your research, but you don’t need to pump up their ego.

Crafting the Strongest Cover Letter

Although cover letters don’t carry the weight they used to in the hiring process, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time by submitting a poor one. You need to give yourself any advantage you can in a competitive job market, and you only have about half a page to prove to a hiring manager that you’re worth pursuing as a contender for the open job position. By avoiding these six common mistakes, you can get ahead of the competition.

Be clear about your skills, provide concrete examples, and convince the reader that you are the answer to their problem.

What do you do to ensure your Cover Letter stands out? Let us know in the comments!

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