How to Choose the Right Executor for Your Estate

How to Choose the Right Executor for Your EstateAn executor is the person in charge of administering a deceased person’s estate and paying their creditors. Choosing a competent executor can make things easier for your family and help them avoid problems that may arise after your passing. Talking with an estate planning lawyer about who you think is right for the job can give you a more objective perspective and help you choose an executor who will settle your estate in a harmonious and effective manner.

Things to Consider When Choosing an Executor

Depending on the complexity of the estate and any issues that may arise, the job of an executor can last for more than a year. Choosing the right person can mean the difference between settling an estate harmoniously and efficiently and getting bogged down in a time-consuming legal quagmire. A good executor should be honest, responsible, well-organized, diplomatic and methodical about properly filing paperwork and meeting deadlines. An executor gets paid a commission for doing their work; and you should expect them to take their responsibilities as seriously as they would for any other job.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you need to ask potential executors and alternates before naming them. If the person(s) you choose is unaware, they may be in for a rude awakening upon your passing.

Should You Choose A Family Member?

Many people think of choosing a close family member such as a spouse or child as executor because they assume that the person will understand your intentions and have easy access to the assets that must be distributed. Each situation is unique, and one of the most vital things to consider is whether the person you choose has the time and gumption to handle all that is involved in the distribution of an estate.

Take some time to consider different aspects of your family dynamics. If you have children and know that they do not see eye to eye, you may want to avoid selecting one of them as your executor.  If you come to the conclusion that a close friend, accountant or wills and trusts attorney would be a better choice, it’s probably best to go with your gut and avoid choosing a family member.

Choosing More Than One Executor

Some people feel that they need to name all of their children as co-executors to treat them equally. Generally, this is not recommended by probate and estate lawyers. Siblings often get into conflict about various issues surrounding an estate or one person ends up doing the majority of the work. Not only that, when important documents need to be signed everyone must be rounded up to collect signatures. Naming just one child as executor and the others as alternates can preserve harmony in the family and make the distribution of your estate run more smoothly.

At Carosella & Associates, our experienced estate planning attorneys can provide you with the counsel you need to help you make an informed decision about choosing an executor for your estate.

Easements: What You Should Know Before You Buy

Easements: What You Should Know Before You BuyBefore signing a real estate purchase agreement, it is important to find out if an easement exists on a property so you have an understanding of the impact it may have on the use of the home or property. An experienced real estate lawyer can help you understand the different types of easements and advise you on how they may affect your property.

What Is An Easement?

Sometimes referred to as right-of-way, an affirmative easement is a property right that gives the easement holder an interest in land that is owned by someone else. Negative easements usually place restrictions on what can be done on nearby property, such as putting height limits on a building to preserve a view. A Pennsylvania easement is typcially created by written and signed agreement or by a deed or grant of easement.

Easement in Gross

An easement in gross is attached to an owner of a property; not the land itself. For example, if you have an easement in gross with your neighbor that allows you to pass through their yard, that easement could be revoked if the neighbor sells their property. If you’re considering buying a house, it is vital to find out if it has an easement in gross, as they are typically non-transferrable. However, the transfer of easements in gross for commercial uses such as electrical lines and railroads is often permitted.

Easement by Necessity

These types of easements are ‘appurtenant,’ which means that they benefit a specific property, not an individual person. Easements by necessity are typically used to provide access to a landlocked piece of property when a landowner divides a parcel of land and a portion of it no longer has access to a public street. If you’re purchasing property to build a home on land that has been split up by an owner, seeking the counsel of a West Chester real estate attorney will ensure that any necessary easements are properly addressed.

Easement by Prescription

An easement by prescription falls under the legal concept of “adverse possession”.  It allows a person to gain use or ownership rights to another’s property if they have openly and continuously used the land for a certain amount of years. Easements by prescription often happen when rural landowners fail to realize that a fence has been erected or part of their land has been used by a neighbor for many years.

Easement by Estoppel

When a landowner misrepresents the existence of an easement when selling a property, the courts can step in and create an easement. If the court determines that the buyer acted reasonably and relied on what the seller promised, the court can create an easement by estoppel. Having contract attorneys thoroughly review all documents surrounding a real estate transaction can help you avoid having to deal with the hassle of getting an easement down the road.

At Carosella & Associates, our Pennsylvania real estate lawyers protect your interests and assist you with your real estate transaction from start to finish.

Things you Need to Look for in a Franchise Agreement

What to look for in franchise agreementsBecoming a franchisee can be a great way to start a business but it’s important to make sure you read the fine print before committing to anything. Seasoned contract law attorneys can help you understand your obligations under a franchising agreement and advise you on the best course of action to ensure your rights are protected.

What Is A Franchise Agreement?

A franchise agreement is a legally binding contract that lays out the terms of the arrangement between you and a prospective franchisor. Franchise agreements are usually valid for 5-10 years with an optional renewal clause. It’s vital to seek the counsel of experienced business lawyers who are well-versed in handling franchising contracts, as a lengthy commitment like this can box you in for many years and the manner in which your business is run is often at the discretion of the franchisor.

Common Elements of a Franchise Agreement

Fees and Royalties: The agreement should lay out any up-front fees you will be required to pay. It must also clearly state the amounts of any ongoing royalty payments and marketing fund contributions.

Build Out: Many franchise agreements include an estimate of the required expenditure for building out a physical location and other expenses such as signage.

Territory: The agreement should define the terms of your geographical territory and outline whether it is shared or exclusive.

Supplies: This section usually provides the specifics on how supplies are provided to the franchise and supply costs the franchisee may be responsible for.

Insurance: Most franchisors require that a franchisee acquire certain types and amounts of liability insurance.

Right of Inspection: Many franchisors reserve the right to inspect your premises and other aspects of the business at any time.

Non-compete Clause/Confidentiality: A non-compete clause prohibits franchisees from starting a similar business if they quit the franchise. You will also be obligated to keep details about the franchise and its operations confidential during your time of ownership and after departure.

Termination: If you or the franchisor chooses not to renew your contract, the agreement should clarify what happens after termination. Depending on the type of business, these terms will vary but often include first right of refusal, which means that the franchisor has the right to buy the business back from you before you sell it to a third party. The franchisor may also reserve the right to repossess equipment and supplies. This is one of the most vital elements of a franchise agreement, so have your attorney goes over it with a fine-tooth-comb is essential to ensure your rights are protected should the agreement be terminated.

Operations Manual

Most franchises have an operations manual that dictates how the business must be run from day-to-day. Franchisors usually reserve the right to amend the operations manual at their discretion, so it is good idea to have your attorney review this as well.

If you’re considering purchasing a franchise, our  business lawyers in West Chester provide top-notch legal counsel that ensures all your legal bases are covered.

Title Insurance: What it is and Why You Need It

Title Insurance: What it is and Why You Need ItReal estate may be one of the largest financial investments you make in your lifetime. It is vital to know how to protect yourself throughout the purchasing and financing process. Title insurance is one way you can make sure that you don’t lose out if you run into any snags regarding title or ownership of your new property. Experienced real estate lawyers assist you with your transaction to ensure it runs smoothly from beginning to end.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects a policyholder if there are inconsistencies or issues with the title for a property. Title insurance covers both known and unknown discrepancies in the full history of ownership of the property. There are two kinds of title insurance—an Owner’s Policy, which protects the buyer, and a Loan Policy, which compensates the lender should issues with the title arise. Most lenders require that title insurance is included in a buyer’s mortgage closing costs. Typically, the mortgage lender’s Loan Policy does not safeguard the buyer. Although Owner’s title insurance is often optional, it is well worth the cost of protecting your rights and interests

Why Do You Need Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects both the owner and lender in the event that something goes wrong and issues of ownership arise. The recorder of deeds in most municipalities does not guarantee 100 percent accuracy in its record-keeping. Although most title searches are accurate, there are some risks of title issues such as filing errors, forgeries or undisclosed heirs. Although it is a rare occurrence, someone with an older document that shows ownership could try and claim your property, which can cause stress and lead to costly litigation.

An Owner’s Policy is usually equal to the amount of the purchase price. This policy is valid for the duration of time the owner or their heirs hold a stake in the home or commercial property. In addition to mitigating risk before a transaction is finalized, an Owner’s Policy pays valid claims and attorney fees if someone disputes the accuracy of the title after the property is purchased. A Loan Policy serves as a safeguard for a lender’s financial interest in the property. It is typically issued in the amount of the loan. Liability diminishes as the mortgage is paid down.

How Do You Choose Title Insurance?

Real estate lawyers in PA have relationships with local title search and title insurance companies. They can help you find affordable title insurance and handle all aspects of your transaction. Your attorney will also draft and review contracts, handle negotiations, prepare the deed and accompany you to the closing. Seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney and being proactive about protecting your rights and securing your title can help you avoid costly court battles and give you peace of mind.

Our knowledgeable West Chester real estate lawyers at Carosella & Associates can help you avoid any title issues that arise and assist you through the real estate transaction process every step of the way.

How to Update Your Estate Plan After a Divorce

How to Update Your Estate Plan After a DivorceEven in an amicable divorce, failing to change your estate plane can lead to unintended consequences and costly litigation down the road. Seeking the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you sort out the details of updating your estate plan ensures that your interests are protected and your wishes are carried out after you’re gone.

Make a New Will

If you made a will while you were married, you most likely left everything to your spouse and named them as your executor. In Pennsylvania, the provisions in your will that involve your ex-spouse may be automatically revoked, but having a lawyer help you draft new estate planning documents such as family wills and trusts gives you a fresh start and allows you to name new beneficiaries, executors and trustees.

Naming a guardian for your minor children is also a vital part of a will. You can name whomever you want to serve as a guardian, but keep in mind that even if you don’t want your ex-spouse raising your children in the event of your death, courts only appoint guardians in cases where a parent is found to be unfit.

Update Other Beneficiary Designations

Many assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies and payable-upon-death bank accounts and brokerage accounts are not included in your will. Make sure to contact the administrators of these accounts to change beneficiary designations and update them in writing as soon as possible.

Create New Powers of Attorney

If your powers of attorney give your former spouse authority to make decisions on your behalf, revoke them and make new documents. Powers of attorney allow someone else to make decisions and act on your behalf should it become necessary due to incapacitation. You should have two powers of attorney: one for health care and one for finances. A durable power of attorney may give your spouse access to all of your accounts and assets even if you are not incapacitated. It’s important to revoke it as soon as possible, even during the divorce process, especially if your split is not amicable. Your divorce lawyer will execute a new one and provide your spouse with notice of the revocation.

If You Own a Business, Make a Succession Plan

Business succession planning is not only a valuable estate planning tool; it can protect your business in the event of divorce. Divorce can have a significant impact on a small business when issues of investment and ownership are involved and dealing with negotiations during the divorce process can make it difficult to focus on running your business. Protecting your small business before getting married or considering divorce is the best way to avoid getting mired in costly court battles. An experienced attorney can help you come up with small business succession planning strategies that safeguard your business and your financial future.

At Carosella & Associates, our experienced attorneys can guide you through the divorce process and ensure your updated estate plan protects your family’s interests.

 

Risk Mitigation for Your Business: What is it and why is it so critical?

Risk Mitigation for Your Business: What is it and why is it so critical?From theft to property damage to employment issues, risk is a part of doing business. It is important to be aware and get ahead of potential risks that could hurt your business and risk mitigation provides a wide array of benefits that can protect your company’s brand and your bottom line. An experienced business liability lawyer can advise you on potential pitfalls and help you create a risk management plan that is tailored to meet the specific needs of your business.

What is Risk Mitigation?

Risk mitigation is a set of measures designed to reduce or eliminate the risks associated with a business or project. Regardless of the type of business you own, risk management planning can improve the efficiency and consistency of your operations, boost your bottom line and reduce the impact of risks you take that don’t turn out as planned. Risk mitigation can be utilized in all types of businesses, and real estate attorneys find it particularly useful when it comes to construction and real estate development projects.

Benefits of Creating a Business Risk Mitigation Plan

There are many benefits to having risk mitigation policies and procedures in place. Knowing how to avoid and being properly prepared to deal with any risks that may arise is vital. Having a risk mitigation plan also makes financial sense because it allows you to strategically prepare for all kinds of problems that can cost your company money and make or break your business.

When structured appropriately, management of strategic risks can create highly profitable operations and increase a business’ appeal to lenders. A skilled attorney can help you determine how to prioritize potential risks and create a plan to deal with each possibility accordingly, which increase efficiency and preserve important resources when problems arise. If you’re well prepared, there will be less chaos and you’ll have more time focus on the important task of running your business.

Protecting Your Company’s Reputation and Brand

Being proactive about risk management lets other businesses, customers, investors and employees know that your company is run with integrity and that the people leading it are responsible and competent. For example, if you’re considering an IPO for your company, risk mitigation plans are an important piece of the puzzle that could increase its value. Including risk mitigation as part of a business succession plan can also instill confidence in lenders, investors and employees, which can make it easier to expand or get a new business off the ground.

The Importance of Insurance

Making sure you have adequate insurance coverage for workers’ compensation, liability, property damage and other potential issues is one of the best ways to reduce negative impacts on your company. The amount and type of insurance you purchase is based on the nature of your business and the specific risks it faces.

Interested in learning more about creating a risk mitigation plan to protect your business? Our business lawyers in West Chester have extensive experience in helping businesses develop risk mitigation strategies that work.

What to do if You’ve Been Accused of a Hit and Run

What to do if You’ve Been Accused of a Hit and RunEven if a crash was the fault of another motorist, failing to stop at the scene of an accident can have life-changing consequences. Under Pennsylvania law, anyone who is involved in a motor vehicle crash that results in injury, property damage or death must stop at the scene of the accident, provide identification and insurance information and lend aid to those who are injured. If you’ve been charged with a hit and run, it is essential to seek the counsel of a local criminal defense lawyer right away.

Penalties for Hit and Run in Pennsylvania

Being charged with a hit and run can lead to hefty fines, license suspension, probation and even jail time. Depending upon the level of damage and injury that was caused, penalties for leaving the scene of an accident vary. If no one was injured but there was property damage, it may result in a misdemeanor hit and run charge, which usually involves fines and license suspension. If you left the scene of an accident that involved injury or death to another person, you may be charged with a third-degree felony and more. If you were in an accident that caused injury to another person or their property, they may sue you for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage. Many auto insurance companies will cancel your policy if you’ve been convicted of a hit and run.

Contact an Attorney to Defend Your Rights

A traffic violations lawyer will assess the facts of your case and the charges you are facing and advise you on the best course of action to take. Experienced attorneys are often able to get charges reduced or dismissed, but it is imperative that you are honest and upfront with your attorney.

In some circumstances, you may not be criminally responsible for leaving the scene of an accident. These circumstances may include:

Involuntary intoxication—If you were unknowingly drugged before getting behind the wheel, seeking the counsel of a lawyer who is well-versed in handling DUI cases is vital.

Emergency response—If you’re on the way to the hospital or involved in another type of emergency, it may be a valid defense for a hit and run.

Unaware of property damage or injury—If you did not realize that you hit another vehicle, object or person, your attorney may contend that you were unaware of the accident or injury.

Fighting hit and run charges can be complex. A skilled attorney will know how to develop a defense that protects your rights and advances your interests. Your lawyer will investigate the facts and evidence surrounding the incident, come up with a defense strategy, negotiate with prosecutors and represent your interests in court if need be.

At Carosella & Associates, our legal team is dedicated to providing top-notch legal representation to all our clients. If you’ve been accused of a hit and run, our experienced defense attorneys in West Chester pursue all avenues to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Mediation or Litigation: Which Should You Choose for Your Divorce?

Mediation or Litigation: Which Should You Choose for Your Divorce? Mediation can be an effective option to come to a fair divorce settlement agreement and can help you avoid the lengthy process of hashing things out in front of a judge. Understanding the difference between using mediation versus going to court can help you understand which option is best for you and your family.

What is Mediation?

A mediator is an independent, neutral third party who helps people involved in a dispute come to a resolution and agreement. In cases of divorce, the mediator’s role is to help both parties identify the issues that need to be resolved, facilitate negotiations and come to an agreement that is acceptable to both spouses. Unlike a court case or arbitration where a judge controls the decision-making process, each spouse has full control over the decisions they make in mediation.

Can a Lawyer Act as a Mediator?

Mediators can be attorneys or other professionals who have experience in helping people resolve disputes. Mediation requires a specific set of skills that many experienced divorce attorneys possess. A mediator who is well-versed in handling divorce negotiations will understand the specific issues that often arise in the divorce process; such as spousal and child support, custody, division of assets and other complex financial matters.

Which Option is Right for You?

Mediation

If you have no children, few assets and the decision to divorce is mutually amicable, mediation can be an effective and affordable option to help you reach a fair divorce settlement.  Each case presents its own unique challenges, so it is best to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable divorce lawyer before you decide whether or not mediation fits your needs. A mediated divorce typically takes less time than a lawyer-facilitated divorce, depending on the spouses’ ability to come to an agreement.

Using a Divorce Attorney

Your attorney represents your interests and acts as your advocate, which is essential in most divorce cases. If issues like custody are being contentious, or your spouse is incapacitated or unable to make sound decisions due to addiction or other problems, an attorney can help you reach an outcome that is not only beneficial to you, but best for your children. If you fear for your safety or domestic violence is involved, mediation is virtually impossible.

Mediation requires both parties to act in good faith. If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, acquiring legal representation for your divorce is a must. There are specific procedures that must be followed for full financial disclosure in a divorce to ensure that each party has comprehensive knowledge of the other’s financial circumstances. If collecting information on your spouse’s finances is difficult, your attorney can investigate and obtain it though the discovery process in court. Divorce lawyers who deal with wills can also help you create new estate planning documents that properly reflect your wishes.

Interested in learning more about obtaining legal representation in a divorce?  Carosella & Associates can help.

 

How to Avoid a Judgment Lien in Bankruptcy

How to Avoid a Judgment Lien in BankruptcyBankruptcy can give you a fresh financial start but removing judgment liens on your property can be tricky. A local bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand how judgment liens work and advise you on the best way to handle them before, during and after bankruptcy.

What is a Judgment Lien?

A lien isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, mortgages and other loans could be considered liens. However, if a creditor files a lawsuit and obtains a judgment against you before you file for bankruptcy, the judgment could be attached to your home or other property as a lien. This means that the debt you owe is secured by your property, and the creditor could call and demand you pay the entire debt you owe.  In many cases, a judgment lien will prevent you from selling or refinancing unless the lien is first satisfied.

How A Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Help

Seeking counsel from experienced attorneys at a bankruptcy law firm can help you get ahead of any judgment liens that may be placed on your property. If a judgment lien has already been filed, bankruptcy may stop the lien from being imposed and help you avoid foreclosure.

Judgment lien avoidance in bankruptcy requires an additional legal procedure as outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Unless this procedure is properly completed the judgment lien will continue to attach to your property after your bankruptcy case is discharged. However, an experienced bankruptcy attorney may be able to void the lien under certain circumstances.

A judgment lien has to meet the following conditions to qualify for avoidance:

You must qualify for a homestead exemption on the property to which the judgment lien is attached. A homestead exemption is relief from liability that is given to the value or a portion of the value of your primary residence.  Homestead exemption amounts and laws vary from state to state. Residential real estate lawyers can advise you on the specific laws that apply in your home’s jurisdiction.

The lien being avoided must be a “judicial lien.” Generally, this means that the judgment lien resulted from a judgment that was entered against you in a lawsuit. This type of lien cannot be associated with child or spousal support, a mortgage foreclosure, or tax or government lien.

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

If you qualify for avoidance in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the full or partial amount of a judgment lien may be taken off the title. The voided amount is permanently discharged when bankruptcy is completed.

The voided judgment lien amount is added to the rest of your general unsecured debts in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It is included in your repayment plan, which is typically 3-5 years.  As long as you make payments on your general unsecured debt as agreed upon in your repayment plan, the portion that has not been paid is discharged when your repayment plan is completed.

If you need assistance with a judgment lien, our experienced West Chester bankruptcy Lawyers at Carosella & Associates can advise you on the best course of action to protect your interests.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Write A Shareholder Agreement?

Do I Need A Lawyer To Write A Shareholder Agreement?You have decided to start a new company and have chosen a business entity. So what’s next? Although corporate bylaws are required, they don’t address important issues that may arise if you have two or more shareholders in your company. One of the first things you should do is to have an experienced business lawyer help you create a shareholders’ agreement and other important legal documents associated with your business to make sure your company’s and shareholders’ rights and interests are protected.

What Is A Shareholder Agreement?

A shareholder agreement is a legal document that outlines how a company should be operated and defines shareholders’ rights, liabilities and obligations. When drafted properly, a shareholder agreement ensures that shareholders are treated equitably and protects them from certain actions that may be taken by other shareholders and outside parties.

What Is In A Shareholder Agreement?

In addition to outlining the privileges and protections of shareholders and how the company will be managed, shareholder agreements often restrict a shareholder’s ability to transfer shares to third parties outside the company.  Your agreement may also contain the number of shares issued, the fair pricing of shares, each shareholder’s percentage of company ownership, pre-emptive rights for existing shareholders to purchase shares, and specifics on payment if the company is sold.

A shareholder agreement also explains what will happen to shares should a shareholder pass away, retire or decide to leave the company. A shareholder agreement is often a vital element of small business succession planning and can ensure a smooth and equitable transition upon the death, retirement or disability of a shareholder.

A shareholder agreement may also address:

  • Membership of the board of directors
  • Officers of the corporation
  • Majority or supermajority voting requirements on certain decisions
  • Buy-Sell obligations, options or rights of first refusal
  • Issues surrounding termination and dissolution of a corporation
  • Employment agreements for shareholders/employees
  • Bonus provisions
  • Termination of employment of a shareholder
  • Shareholders’ life insurance
  • Dispute resolution processes

Why Do I Need An Attorney To Draft A Shareholder Agreement?

A shareholder agreement should have both the company and the shareholders’ best interests in mind. As a company grows and changes, conflict may arise, and a shareholder agreement can help you avoid costly legal battles down the road. Creating this type of agreement without assistance from a skilled business contract attorney may lead to contentious shareholder disputes.

An attorney who is well-versed in business law will create a contract that helps you understand your rights and responsibilities and ensures that your interests are protected. If you’re a small business owner or shareholder, it’s particularly important to seek the counsel of an experienced lawyer who can help you create bylaws, articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, nondisclosure agreements and other legal documents that will help your business start off on the right foot and run more smoothly.

From choosing a business entity to creating an effective business succession plan and shareholder agreement, the knowledgeable attorneys at Carosella and Associates  help make starting your business a smooth process.