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10 Legal Tips You Can't Live Without

10. Use Professionals: Get or consult with a Lawyer

“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely”
— Buddha.

When we help clients create an estate plan, we help them think of every question they’ll want answered if the unforeseen occurs. If you were incapacitated, who would be able to make medical decisions for you? Who would know what procedures you would find acceptable or unacceptable? Who would know your thoughts on artificially prolonging life? If you haven’t put the proper documents in place your loved ones might be powerless to carry out your wishes, even if you had told them what you would wish in these circumstances.

It takes effort to put these documents in place, but doing so might save your loved ones untold stress and suffering.iii In addition to writing a will, putting in place a healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney, procuring life insurance, and other documents, make sure that you have clear beneficiaries for retirement/insurance plans, and keep info current for your records and include these documents with your will and other important documents.

Our job is to help our clients prepare for the unforeseeable and enable their families to know what to do on their behalf in the most stressful moments of life.

Our mission at McCarty Larsen is to fight to protect your dreams by providing fast, friendly, and affordable expertise.

5. At the Scene of Any Incident – Get Information

One unfortunate fact of life is that what you say under the stress of a particular moment very often comes back to haunt you. We have clients every day that find themselves on the hook for much more than they should be, simply because they spoke rashly without realizing the legal ramifications. In the event that there is an accident or that an individual or company claims that you acted wrongly, it is ok to simply remain silent and, if necessary, wait until you are able to speak to an attorney.

If you are accused of injuring somebody or committing a crime, immediately say that you would like to have your attorney present before speaking. If you are required to give a report, clearly state what happened like you would in a physics demonstration, and stay away from any opinions, especially as to who was at fault. Because insurance and other claims sometimes are dependent on which party is at fault, it is good to get in the habit of never admitting liability.

The reality is that most people involved in an incident aren’t very good at determining who is at fault anyway, and the experts will often conclude the opposite of your “gut feeling.” If you find yourself in this situation, McCarty Larsen is here to guide you through the process based on years of experience handling cases like yours.

6. Get Agreements in Writing

The workplace can be stressful. Many people understand that Utah, like many states, is an “at-will” employment state, which means that a company has more freedom to make employment decisions. What many people don’t realize is that there are still many rules and regulations that companies must follow.iv

Discrimination, retaliation for exercising your rights, and breach of contract are all reasons that will prohibit an employer from firing an employee. Employers should work with a competent attorney to ensure that they comply with these rules and regulations to protect their business. If an employee feels that he or she has been subjected to an unfair firing, it’s important to consult with a lawyer and review legal options.

At McCarty Larsen, we help employers to protect their rights and strategize about the best way to move forward with their business in the face of these claims. Additionally, there are workplace rights that have been established to protect workers, such as right to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment. Our attorneys help companies to make sure those rights are respected, defend companies when frivolous claims are made, and help employees whose rights have been infringed to get a fair shake.

As always, if things are occurring that you feel are likely to lead to litigation, take careful notes and gather as much information as possible since this will assist an attorney in determining whether the company has broken any rules, and how to best protect your interests.

3. Don’t Delay Preparing for the Unexpected – Create a Will or Trust

2. Protect Your Family and Business from Legal Risk

Accidents happen, and they can happen at any time. One of the most important things to do when the unfortunate occurs is to get information. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traffic accident, an injury in a public place, or a workplace accident, the information available immediately after the accident occurs is important.

Of course, the health and welfare of those involved is the most important thing to address immediately following an accident. But once those who need assistance have received it: get information. Take pictures, get the names and contact info of bystanders, and take notes about conditions such as weather, lighting, etc. Additionally you may need to exchange insurance information, call the police or 911.

It is often necessary to involve the legal system to get fair compensation for accidents, or to prove that you did not act recklessly and are not responsible for damages. In either case, McCarty Larsen can best help you protect your interests if you gather detailed, written information at the scene of the incident.

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1. Never Sign Anything Without Getting a Copy or Taking a Picture

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Consulting with a lawyer is not a difficult thing to do. Many lawyers will provide free or very economical consultations and you can take comfort in knowing that a trained professional will look over your issue and that lawyers are bound to keep the issues confidential.

While it is an option to engage in court proceedings without the help of an attorney, we see over and over that the benefit of representation is a very good investment. There is a lot of information available online, but it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the information you find is up to date or exactly applicable to your situation.

Every state has a professional organization that manages attorneys and in almost every state, there is a referral program to match individuals with an attorney that fits their circumstances.vi Save yourself the headache and reach out to an attorney as soon as possible before getting involved in court or making decisions that have significant legal implications.

No matter what stage of life you are in, everyone needs some form of a will, trust, or estate plan. In our practice, we see that life is fragile, and families are so grateful to know the wishes of the deceased when any death, expected or not, occurs. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, everyone should have in place a document outlining their wishes upon their death, including the guardianship of minor children, the distribution of personal items, and the management or care of pets, property, or anything else for which they are responsible.

Verbal promises made during life are frequently not followed by a court that has to determine how to distribute assets, and whenever a court is involved the costs, both financial and emotional, can skyrocket. The experienced, competent attorneys at McCarty Larsen can help you to prepare a will, trust, and any other documents necessary to ensure that your wishes are followed, even after death.

Every day we have clients who come in worried about a lawsuit they are involved in or somebody that is not keeping their end of an agreement. If you haven't been there, you may not know the level of anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration that these kinds of disputes can cause. They often cast a dark shadow over our clients' lives and lead to a lingering, unsettling feeling of contention and worry, until we are able to discuss their options and show them ways we will fight to protect them.

However, a huge majority of these cases would be resolved if every client had a copy of the agreement that they signed. When they do, we are able to clearly point out to the other party what they are obligated to do under the contract and they are much more willing to step up and do it. Save yourself potential thousands of dollars and up to several years in court by asking for a copy, or if that’s not convenient, quickly snapping a picture of every document you ever sign.

At McCarty Larsen, we see too many families and businesses go through major challenges that could have been avoided if they had known about unforeseen legal risks. We tell our clients to put our phone number on speed dial and feel free to reach out as they enter into agreements or make major life or business decisions. We make it affordable to access an expert’s advice, and to make sure to get documents in place that protect everyone involved.

When you start a business or enter into a real estate transaction, make sure to have a business (usually an LLC) in place that will protect your family from liability if a deal goes wrong or an accidents happens. Before signing a major contract, read the entire thing. If it includes special language, have an attorney review that language since those provisions often have serious and unexpected consequences.

Whether it is building a happy and prosperous family, making smart legal decisions in climbing the career ladder, or growing a business to change the world, there are unforeseen legal risks lurking around every corner that can put the things you love the most in jeopardy. If you take the time to set things up right at the beginning, you will avoid pitfalls that can cause everything you work so hard to build to come crashing down. We love to help our clients protect their dreams.

Rental properties can be great opportunities for both landlords and tenants; that is, until they aren’t. A landlord may have a tenant that hasn’t paid rent in months, is causing damage to the property, and won’t vacate the premises on their own. When necessary, an eviction can be accomplished quickly in Utah for tenants that are not keeping the promises they made in the lease.

On the flip side, a tenant might await their security deposit when moving out of an apartment and it never comes or when it does, it is much less than it should be. In Utah, a landlord must return deposit within 30 days of tenant moving out or 15 days after receiving forwarding address, whichever is later. A landlord must submit any deductions in writing.v

One thing that all parties should always do when entering into a rental contract is to read it carefully, and take special note of key provisions, like when the landlord is allowed to deduct from the security deposit or who pays for the costs of late rent notices or evictions, among other things. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a contract to protect yourself.

When starting a new lease, take pictures, document the state of the unit, and make sure that you notify the other party of all possible issues with property and keep a record of your findings. Upon termination of a lease, do the same thing. These steps are often part of the move-in and move-out process anyway, but be thorough and keep your own records. Remember tips #1 and #6, keep records and make sure everything is specified in writing.

8. Employers and Employees Are Both Protected by the Law

All agreements that you make should be in writing if possible. People are constantly making agreements, and often it isn’t convenient to carefully write down the terms. Although this seems burdensome, it is nothing compared to legal hassles that may arise. Even notes scribbled on a napkin and signed by both parties can help protect you.

We see case after case resulting from a rush to get moving on a job or to exchange goods, which could have been avoided altogether with the smallest effort early on to sit down and write out a contract. Many clients begin discussions in good faith, but occasionally circumstances arise which test the relationship, and when this happens, legal complications abound.

Courts cannot easily unravel verbal agreements, and in the case of written contracts courts are actually prohibited from considering anything outside the “four corners” of the contract.i Additionally, certain kinds of contacts, such as real estate contracts, must be in writing in order to be valid.ii It is safer to form a good habit of always putting your agreements in writing and making sure all parties sign, and, as stated in tip number one, always keep a copy.

9. You Have Rights as a Landlord and a Tenant

4. Don’t Admit Liability Until You Talk to an Attorney

i- https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/utah-contract-law-is-there-a-contract
ii- https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title25/Chapter5/25-5.html?v=C25-5_1800010118000101
iii- https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/12-financial-planning-documents-to-handle-health-end-of-life-care.html
iv- https://www.wrongfulterminationlaws.com/resources/wrongful-termination-law/state-job-termination-laws/utah.htm
v- https://www.thebalancesmb.com/utah-security-deposit-law-2125182
vi- http://www.utahbar.org/public-services/modest-means-lawyer-referral-program/