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Our firm is dedicated to providing high quality legal services at a reasonable cost. We are a full-service law firm and have the experience and qualifications to handle everything from simple legal matters to complex business transactions and litigation, yet we are small enough to give each client personal attention.
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We serve individuals, families and businesses, and we can help you with many types of legal matters, including:

• Personal Injury
• Estate Planning
• Family Law
• Business
• Real Estate
• Criminal Law
• Bankruptcy

 
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Dear Friends:
 
We are pleased to introduce the first issue of our email newsletter. One of the goals of our law firm is to keep you informed about legal matters that affect you and your family. Our newsletter is one of the ways we do this. If you have a question about any article, please contact us. We welcome the opportunity to help you.
 
We also encourage you to forward the newsletter to your friends, as they too can benefit from the information in it. If you receive this newsletter from someone else and would like to subscribe to it, please click on the "Sign Up For Our Newsletter" button.
 
We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter as well as future issues, and we look forward to serving your legal needs.
 
Sincerely,
Why You Should Have A Will
 
Most people know that wills provide many benefits, including letting them decide how their property is disposed of after they die and letting them select who will manage their estate during probate. Despite these and other significant benefits, one recent survey showed that over half the adults in the United States do not have a will.  Here is information about the many ways a will can help you and your family, as well as information about making a will.
 
Benefits of A Will
 
There are many reasons why you should have a will. They include:
 
• Determine how your property will be distributed when you die. A will lets you name your beneficiaries. These are the people and charities whom you want to receive your property when you die. If you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state law.  The property likely won't be distributed the way you want, since it goes to recipients without regard to whether they need it or how much they need. Only with a will can you be sure your property will go to the people and charities you want and that they receive the amount of money or other property you want them to get.
 
Some people think they don't need a will because they own property jointly with their spouse, and believe that he or she will automatically get the property when they die.  While it's common for homes, bank accounts and cars to be jointly owned, that's seldom true for home furnishings, jewelry and other things of value. Also, there are complex rules about jointly owned property.  If these rules are not strictly followed, property can be received by someone not of your choosing.
 
• Name an executor. Another key reason why you should have a will is to name an executor. The executor will oversee your estate's financial affairs during the probate process, including making sure your debts are paid and that your property is distributed in accordance with the instructions stated in your will. Without a will, the law designates someone to handle this job. The person chosen may not be the person you would want to serve in this capacity.
 
• Set up a trust. A will can also set up a trust, which can help protect assets and save taxes. Thus, for people with substantial assets (like a home), a will can be a cost-saving tool.
 
• Name a guardian. For married couples with minor children, wills are vital. Each spouse should have a will in order to select a guardian for the children in case both parents die while the children are minors. The guardian will be responsible for taking care of your child and managing your child's money until he or she reaches adulthood.  Although the guardian usually is chosen by the court, the court normally picks the person named in the will unless this person is unable or unfit to serve in this capacity.
 
Making Your Will
 
Once you decide you want a will, you must then make one. Most people have "formal wills." These are in writing and signed by you with some special procedures. For example, a formal will must be signed by witnesses. The number of required witnesses differs by law in different states. Rules for making a formal will are technical, so you should call our law firm for help in preparing one. Not following the proper procedures could invalidate the will.
 
Another type of will is a "holographic will." This is a will that is handwritten all in your own writing. Though this kind of will can seem easier to make than a formal will, it also has special rules for making it. Also, some states do not allow holographic wills. Thus, it is best to get a lawyer's help if you are interested in creating a holographic will.
 
A few states still allow oral wills. However, they do so only in very limited circumstances and if certain requirements have been met.
 
When To Make A Will
 
If you don't already have a will, it is best to make one as soon as possible.  Accidents and serious illnesses can happen suddenly, and it is always best to be prepared.  The only requirements for making a will are that you're at least a certain age (18 in most states) and that you are "legally competent."  This generally means that you understand what you are doing by making a will, you understand the nature of your assets and you are aware of your family members and others who are affected by the will.
 
Some people delay making a will because their family situation is about to change. They may be about to get married or divorced, have a child, or move to another state.  Because of this, they hold off making a will until this change happens.  It's true that major changes like these will probably affect your will. But you should not let an impending change stop you from making a will. You can change your will anytime you want.  It's wise to have a will in place, and then if the need later arises, to modify it.
 
Conclusion
 
Wills provide tremendous estate planning benefits. They give you the peace of mind knowing your property will be distributed the way you want when you die, that the person serving as executor is your choice, and that your children will be raised by the person you want in the event you and your spouse die while they are minors.
 
Call our law firm for help in making your will. Laws for making wills are specific, and you'll want to be sure everything is done right so that your will holds up in court and your wishes are followed.
 
Protect Your Rights
If You Have An Injury Claim, Don't Delay
 
If you've been in a car, slip and fall or other kind of accident and intend to make a claim, there are several reasons why you need to consult an attorney promptly.
 
One reason is there are time limits (called "statutes of limitations") for making claims. If you wait too long and the statute of limitations passes, you will be prevented from bringing your claim, even if it is otherwise valid.
 
Courts strictly follow statutes of limitations. In one case, a woman who was severely injured in a car accident made a claim one day after the statute of limitations passed. Even though this was a minor violation (just one day), a court dismissed her claim and she could not recover any money for her injuries and losses.
 
Another reason why you should seek legal help immediately is that delay can hurt your case. It is important to start the investigation and claim process as soon as possible, as the time right after an accident can be vital to your case. Evidence must be collected, witnesses interviewed, and the accident scene may need to be photographed. The more time passes, the more likely evidence will degrade or disappear, and that witnesses will be move or forget what happened. Also, the more time passes after a car accident, the more likely vehicles will be sold or fixed, making it harder to reconstruct the accident.
 
If you are in an accident, waiting can cause your claim to be lost or hurt your chances of getting the maximum recovery.  So seek legal help as soon after the accident as possible. This will help make sure a proper investigation is made and the best case is presented for you.
 
Business Law
How Businesses Can Avoid Lawsuits
 
Today our nation has more laws and government regulations than ever. From age discrimination to sex harassment, accommodating workers with disabilities to unfair competition, every business faces legal threats no one ever dreamed of a generation ago. These are in addition to age old legal risks from accidents, unhappy customers and contracts.
 
As legal risks and the potential for lawsuits increase, so does the need for business owners to take steps to control these risks. Here are areas where taking a few easy measures can help business owners avoid lawsuits and increase their chances of success in case a lawsuit does occur.
 
Review Contracts Before Signing
 
Many business owners lose money or get into lawsuits by not reading contracts before signing them or not having them reviewed by their lawyer. It's almost always best to have your lawyer review a contract before you sign it, especially important ones like leases and loan agreements.  This alerts you to provisions you may be unaware of but which can cause disputes later.  It also helps you include terms that will benefit you in case of problems, such as provisions to limit your liability.  If you cannot have a lawyer review a contract, be sure to read it carefully before signing.  If you are unsure about anything, seek legal help.
 
Handle Customer Complaints Properly
 
Have a system to handle customer complaints so they do not become serious disputes and eventually lawsuits. Your system should include at least the following key points:
 
• complaints should be handled by someone with authority to solve the problem.
 
• keep written notes of all discussions about the problem. This will help if the matter becomes a legal problem.
 
• try to reach a prompt solution, even if it involves some expense. This builds goodwill. Also, the cost of solving a problem early is usually less than the cost of legal proceedings.
 
Keep Your Premises Safe
 
One of the most common sources of lawsuits are personal injuries customers or others suffer while on the premises of a business.
 
To reduce the risk of personal injury claims, make sure walkways and stairways have adequate lighting, and that tripping hazards are fixed, such as loose stairs, torn carpet and other dangers.
 
Along with these suggestions, it's also a good idea to conduct regular inspections to make sure your entire premises are safe, including the work area, customer area and parking lot. In most states, if someone is injured on your business premises you can be held liable not only if you knew about a danger and did not fix it, but also if you should have known about it.
 
Research Your Business's Name
 
Many businesses are surprised when a competitor asks them to change their business name, saying they've been using a similar name for years.  Disputes over business names can quickly evolve into expensive lawsuits.  To help prevent disputes over business names, have a trademark search conducted to ensure your business name is okay to use, and then have it trademarked to prevent others from using it.
 
Reduce The Risk of Lawsuits Between Owners of the Business
 
Many business lawsuits are between the owners of the business themselves.  They may disagree with each other over the direction of the business or want to buy out the other's interest.  Having a buy-sell agreement, which is an agreement between the owners of the business stating what happens if an owner dies or wants to sell his or her interest, can make for a smooth transfer of interest between feuding co-owners and avoid a lawsuit.
 
Raising Money
 
Disputes involving people who invest money in the business are common.  Businesses can run afoul of securities laws when raising money, and this can lead to legal trouble.  To help avoid problems, see legal assistance when your business raises funds (including from friends and relatives) to assure that all securities and other laws are followed.
 
Protect Yourself In Case of Disputes With Suppliers
 
Problems can arise from dealings with suppliers, such as burdensome payment terms or getting poor quality products or services.  A good supply or purchase contract tailored to your business helps protect you when buying goods or services, including by making sure there are proper warranties.  It can also help you in the event of claims arising from these goods or services.  For example, asking your suppliers to agree in writing to indemnify you for claims relating to the goods or services they provide can give you a significant amount of protection.
 
Use Care In Hiring Employees
 
Employment related disputes are the most common kind of legal dispute faced by businesses.  Whether it's a former employee who feels he or she was improperly terminated or a job applicant who claims discrimination, these are reminders to take steps to prevent problems. To reduce the risk of job-related lawsuits, consult a lawyer before terminating employees. Also, have employment documents like job applications, contracts and employee handbooks reviewed by a lawyer to reduce disputes from their contents.
 
Some lawsuits cannot be avoided. To minimize their cost, review your insurance policies to make sure they will help defend claims.
 
These are some of the areas that are most likely to be the source of lawsuits involving your business. Taking a few proactive steps in these areas can help prevent time consuming and expensive lawsuits. Having proper insurance can reduce the cost of lawsuits that do occur.
The information contained in this newsletter is of a general nature. Due to constant changes in the law, exceptions to general rules of law, and variations of state laws, seek professional legal assistance before acting on any matter. © 2010 ANSI
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