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Spousal Support Provisions in Prenups

Marriage. It is supposed to be happily ever after for the bride and groom.

However, not all marriages are built to last that long, as some end sooner than expected. The average marriage length for a marriage that ends in divorce is just eight years. In the latter scenario, couples can benefit from knowing they have a prenuptial agreement in place. Prenuptial agreements (also referred to commonly as prenups, premarital agreements and antenuptial agreements) between spouses allow them to protect certain assets.

Those who are not familiar with them may think they only pertain to wealthy couples. They don’t. Any couple can benefit from one, regardless of how much money they make or how old they are. Spousal support provisions exist in these agreements, which is why it is important for couples to know what they are and how they work. Here is everything you need to know about a prenuptial contract.

What Are Prenuptial Agreements?

Prenuptial agreements are contracts that both spouses enter and sign before they get married. Generally, the contract outlines rights to certain assets such as property, business ownership, and cash acquired before the marriage in case the marriage results in divorce. This agreement is usually designed to protect a spouse that has significantly more assets than the other spouse. A perfect example can be one spouse who has $10 million in their bank account plus a house worth $1 million while the other spouse has maybe $10,000 in their bank account and no other assets.

These agreements can also protect investments that were made by one party before the marriage. An example can be if someone had bitcoin back in 2011 and decided to include that in a prenuptial agreement. In this scenario, the couple could have ended up divorced eight years later, when the bitcoin was worth significantly more. That would be a case where the previous investment could possibly be protected for one spouse.

Spousal Support Provisions

Spousal support provisions are one part of a prenuptial agreement that will most likely need to be ironed out. This part of the agreement lays out how much financial support one spouse will receive in the event of a divorce. In other words, it is coming up with alimony terms before a divorce. In some cases, spouses may be asked to waive their right to spousal support outright and receive nothing if there is a divorce. Sometimes, there can be specific clauses in spousal support provisions that may restrict that spouse from receiving any support if they commit certain actions, like adultery.

In some states, it is not only against the law, but it can affect how much the cheating party gets in a divorce settlement. The question is, does it have any impact in New York? The answer is no, not really. It is not usually accepted anymore as pure grounds for divorce and while it is technically still a crime, the punishments are rarely enforced to the fullest extent of the law.

States That Enforce Provisions

Every state has a different set of divorce laws, which means some states are more likely to accept provisions laid out by a married couple than others. You should know which states are the most accepting of these provisions in advance of signing any prenuptial agreement.

The five states that are most known for enforcing these spousal support provisions are:

  • California
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Texas
  • Virginia

This means that whatever terms that you two agreed to when you formed the prenuptial agreement, it is more likely to stick in these states as long as it is considered fair and reasonable.

When Are Provisions Waived?

Of course, there is not always going to be a situation where the provisions that were previously laid out are going to be accepted in a courtroom. When it comes to these provisions, most courtrooms will review the agreement thoroughly and then determine if these provisions are fair to both parties or not. However, they are particularly reviewing if the provisions would cause hardship for somebody.

Let’s say there was only one spouse that was working throughout the marriage. But that spouse asked the other spouse, who does not work, to sign a prenuptial agreement. In this example, the first spouse asked the second spouse to waive their right to any spousal support in the event of a divorce.

The problem this creates is that the second spouse would barely have any savings of their own and may not have been working for the last dozen years. That would make it very difficult for the second spouse to land on their feet without some kind of spousal support. If there is overwhelming evidence of this being the case, a judge may rule to waive the provisions that were previously put in place. So, when you are creating spousal support provisions, you had better make sure that they are fair for both parties and that it does not create hardship for either party. Failure to do this can result in those provisions being thrown out.

Hire a Prenup Attorney

When it comes to prenuptial agreements and spousal support provisions, you need to have a professional prenup attorney on your side to go over every angle of the agreement with you. This can not only protect you from future legal trouble but also possibly add more to the agreement than what you already have.

Do you need legal counsel for your prenup? Schedule a free consultation with us today.

9 Steps to Start Freelancing the Right Way

June 30, 2021
New York, New York

In a recent podcast from the Wall Street Journal, a different kind of outbreak was featured in the episode “Why is everyone quitting? Workers, especially young ones, are leaving their full-time jobs in droves in search of more satisfying, more flexible and often more lucrative work. In fact, 2.7% of workers quit their job in April 2021, according to the podcast.  And freelancers are more in demand than ever before, as everyone from small businesses to large corporations hires freelancers for a variety of projects, ranging from copywriting and web development to catalog design and consulting.

Working as a freelancer typically means working your own hours ( remember, if you’re successful, you’re going to have a new boss: your clients) on your own terms. But it also means sourcing your own clients and managing an entire business yourself. 

If freelancing sounds like the right fit for you, this guide can help you. Below we outline 9 simple steps you should take in order to get started in your new career as a freelancer. 

1.  Set up a website. Establishing an online presence for yourself is important. Clients need to be able to look at your work and find you quickly. Maintaining a basic website is fairly simple. Nowadays, no-code platforms like Squarespace allow you to get a professional looking site designed and launched without any particular design or html expertise.

Remember that your website will need a well drafted privacy policy, terms of use and it should be compliant, at minimum, with the ADA’s laws on accessibility, the GDPR if you’re doing business in Europe, and the CCPA if you’re doing business in California. Subscription legal plans for small business sometimes include this legal work at no additional cost.

2.  Get a DBA, sole proprietorship or another entity. For most business entities other than LLCs and corporations, the legal name of the business is the personal name of the business owner(s). If you want to do business as “John Doe”, you can stop reading this section now, as nothing else is required. However, if you plan to do business under a name other than your own, such as ACME Digital Consulting, or if you want to set up a bank account under your business’s name, you’ll likely need a DBA. In this case, you’ll be operating as a “Sole Proprietor” and should become familiar with two tax forms: W-9 and 1099-MISC.

3.  Plan for taxes. Equally important to your choice of business structure (#2 above) is planning to optimize your taxes. Expenses on business meals, home offices, and mileage when you’re driving for business, among other items, can all serve to minimize your income – through deductions – and lower your tax liability. Understanding the tax impacts of these expenses will be important to your finance well-being, so start early. 

4.  Get your permits in place. In addition to a DBA, your state may have specific laws for individuals doing business. Research and obtain any state and local permits or licenses you’ll need for your business. Or check a site like NerdWallet that does some of the research for you.

5.  Order business cards and stationery. A significant challenge as a freelancer will be sourcing clients (more later). Online companies like VistaPrint offer inexpensive solutions for business cards and stationary, to give you a polished and professional look, and to make sure you make a lasting impression as your network grows. 

6.  Think about your future. As a freelancer, you’ll have to sort out your own path for retirement savings, medical insurance, dental, etc. Speak with your accountant or a financial advisor and set up a plan to make sure your needs and goals will be met and review websites like Value Penguin to see and compare health insurance quotes from a variety of insurers.

7.  The infrastructure plan. Without the right tools to perform your trade, your work product and efficiency will suffer. Freelancers will often tell you that while working at your leisure sounds glamorous, there are a few drawbacks. For some, the solitude can get lonely. Freelancers working remotely can’t talk to a co-worker between projects the way employees in an office can. On the other hand, freelancers don’t have to deal with office politics.
For maximum productivity, set up an in-home office, or find another place where you can focus and get work done. The absence of a boss down the hall may be a highlight; however, that just means you have to be the one to manage deadlines and productivity.

8.  Promote and network. Working for yourself means promoting yourself, and getting started as a freelancer can be very time-consuming. Online networks like LinkedIn permit you to publish your goals, ask questions, and network with other professionals.

But don’t stop there. Spread the word to friends and family that you’re venturing into freelancing and ask for referrals where appropriate.Set up a blog. A blog can help you connect with other freelancers and bloggers as well as potential clients. It will also help your website with search engine optimization (SEO) over the long term.

9.  Be an influencer. You don’t need a famous TV show or a massive social media following to be an influencer. You just need to own your lane. So figure out what it is, and get to work. Many times, asking and answering questions is the easiest way to get people involved and invested in what you do, and while you could meet 10 people during a networking event, you could meet 75 online. When you combine a strong digital presence with meaningful personal interactions, you’ll really see your stock rise. So get busy! 

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Working as a freelance entrepreneur can be intellectually rewarding and financially lucrative, but you need to build the right foundation from the beginning. Using this article as a guide to start laying that foundation can help you to later focus on your work, your customers and enjoying the flexibility you’ll gain from this important career choice. 

 

Top Tax Deductions for Small Businesses

Small businesses provide a critical pillar within the United States economy. According to the JP Morgan Chase Institute, small businesses comprise 99.9% of all U.S. businesses, accounting for 45% of the national GDP. However, many small business owners actually pay more tax than they need to; while large corporations tend to retain accountants, working full-time to find tax savings, many small businesses do not have this privilege. As a result, small businesses will often miss out on a plethora of potential tax savings that fly under the radar.

This article covers the most commonly missed deductions for small business owners — and how you can determine if your business is eligible.

The Home Office Deduction

Many small businesses conduct business from a home office. A home office can be located within a room within your residence or an outbuilding unattached to your home. Working from a home office comes with several benefits such as flexibility, ease of access, and of course, inherent tax deductions.

However, the IRS can be a stickler for eligibility; to ensure that your home office is eligible for deductions, it must pass two tests.

1. The Regularity Test: You must use the room regularly.
2. The Exclusivity Test: The room must be exclusive to business activities.

In addition, your home office has to be your “principal place of business.” As your principal place of business, you must use your home office as the primary location for meeting with clients or conducting business activities. If you perform administrative or management duties elsewhere — or have a secondary office — the IRS will reject your home office deduction.

The Mileage Deduction

Business travel can make up a significant expense, especially for small business owners. Luckily, there is a deduction for that; currently, the IRS permits a deduction of 56 cents per qualifying mile. This rate is subject to change each year but should remain within the same ballpark. You can easily track your business miles with QuickBooks Online or a service such as Mile IQ.

Unfortunately, you cannot deduct your commute. However, there is a workaround within the tax code language; the difference lies in how ‘commute’ is defined.

Commuting travel is defined as travel to and from your home to your business. Traveling from your business to another business site, such as a branch or a meeting place with a client or prospect, is considered travel eligible for a mileage deduction. This is where a home office can come in handy; when you have a qualifying home office, business travel from your home to another place of business can be deductible because it doesn’t meet the definition of a commute.

For the sake of example, let’s say you own a restaurant 30 miles from your residence. Suppose your restaurant doesn’t have any office space, and you can do business in a qualifying home office. In that case, the 30-mile trip can count as deductible mileage instead of a non-deductible commute.

S-Corp Tax Benefits

While the S-Corporation designation is not for every business, it may open the door to some next-level tax savings. Unlike standard corporations, S-Corps are considered “pass-through” entities because income, losses, and deductions “pass through” directly to shareholders, circumventing corporate income tax. After being passed through to shareholders, income, losses, and deductions are taxed at each shareholder’s income tax rate.

The S-Corp designation can be a popular choice for certain business owners because they avoid double taxation, but it is not suitable for everyone. In fact, many businesses are not even eligible — companies with more than 100 shareholders or foreign shareholders, ownership by a separate corporation or partnership, or multiple classes of stock are disqualified.  If you are unsure whether the designation is right for you, find a good small business lawyer to help you evaluate the option.

Even if you are eligible for an S-Corp designation, several downsides must be weighed. For example, S-Corps must run payroll and withhold taxes. In addition, the IRS closely watches S-Corps to dissuade those taking advantage of the designation. Also, outside investors tend to prefer investing in C-Corps over S-Corps because C-Corps are more conducive to growth. S-Corp profits are subject to taxation, whereas C-Corp gains are only taxed once distributed, encouraging C-Corps to keep money in the business to fund growth.

Designated your business as an S-Corp is not optimal for every business, but for highly profitable small businesses with shareholders, it can save a lot of money by circumventing double taxation.

Business Meal Deductions

Business meal deduction goalposts are constantly shifting, but 2021–22 is shaping up to be an optimal period for meal-related tax savings. The recent COVID-19 Relief Bill permits businesses to write off 100% of the cost of business-related restaurant meals, food, and beverages in 2021 and 2022.

By definition, deductible food and beverage items include all food and beverages, including snacks, alcohol, and other non-traditional “meals”; delivery charges, sales tax, and tips included. Notably, entertainment expenses are not deductible — but meals at entertainment venues can be. While it may seem like an inconvenience at the time, always ask for an itemized receipt at entertainment venues that separate the meal from the entertainment expense.

It’s always good practice to document every business-related expense, and business meals are no different. After each business meal, remember to put the receipt somewhere safe like in Hubdoc of QuickBooks Online; doing so is crucial to protect your finances in the event of an audit.

Miscellaneous — But Useful — Deductions

Giving gifts to your clients is more than a fast-track to their hearts; it can save your business money on its tax return. The IRS allows a business deduction of up to $25 per client per year.

Business clothes can also be deductible, but with many strings attached — you cannot deduct street-appropriate work clothes, for example. To qualify for the business clothes deduction, the clothes in question must be “mandatory for your job and unsuitable for everyday wear.” Unfortunately, this means you cannot deduct a brand-new, custom-tailored Italian suit — even if it is required for your job — but a bariatric welding contractor could deduct the cost of wetsuits, for example. However, there is a workaround to deducting street-appropriate wear: if the clothing contains a visible business logo, it can be considered advertising — which is deductible.

Another deduction opportunity lies in charitable contributions. However, deducting these contributions is not as straightforward as one might expect. The only businesses that can directly deduct charitable donations are C-Corps — and most small businesses are not C-Corps. Fortunately, there is a workaround: classifying the charitable contribution as an advertising expense. This isn’t a simple “misclassify the deduction and hope the IRS doesn’t notice” type job — which, by the way, is illegal. To successfully classify your donation as advertising spend, you must be able to show how you leveraged the donation into an advertisement. A business can accomplish this by, for example, donating money to a local high school sports or arts program, which will, in turn, list the business as a sponsor, such as in a printed program or on a scoreboard panel. In turn, the donation becomes classified as a “necessary business expense” and is now deductible as advertising spend — while still supporting a cause you care about.

The Big Picture

Tax benefits for small businesses exist for a reason. Unfortunately, many small business owners who aren’t financially savvy — or don’t employ specialized small business accountants — miss out on what is, basically, free money. Familiarity with top tax deductions is highly beneficial for any business’s bottom line and may even help business owners scope out opportunities for further tax write-offs. Because the business tax landscape is prone to rapid, yearly change, it is crucial for business owners to keep their ears on the ground for more upcoming opportunities to save.

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ANNOUNCING FREE WEBINAR

Want more great tax and legal tips for your business? If so, we invite you to join us for a complimentary webinar co-hosted by JUSTLAW and FinancePal, where we’ll take up such critical topics as:

• Most commonly missed deductions
• Selecting the right corporate structure for your company
• Understanding the difference between employees and independent contractors

Wednesday July 14, 2021 at 2:00 pm ET

Register Here

Attention Small Business Owners: Is it Time for your Business to Get Back in the Office?

If your business is still working remotely, it could potentially be time to get back to the office. In order to do so, small businesses must put together a robust reopening plan to properly address any and all concerns you or your employees may have. 

 

Employers who have returned their companies to the office have done so in a variety of ways. Some businesses have mandated their entire workforce to return. Others have asked employees to return, but have not mandated it. Another group of businesses have created flexible schedules where employees rotate on when they come to the office. Choosing which path to take, if any, is unique for each business. Therefore, keep reading to receive more insight on what your company should do. 

employee legal rights
Returning to the office

 

JUSTLAW has recently surpassed 1,000 small businesses enrolled in their small business legal protection plan. Thus, our small business members have asked two questions that I am sure all other small businesses are wondering as well: (1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office? (2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?

 

(1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office?

 

The short and long answer is yes, but it may be dependent on your state’s laws. Generally, it is acceptable for employers to condition employment on a return to the office. Exceptions do apply to employees who have a specific reason as to why they cannot return. Those employees cannot be compelled to return to the office as a condition of employment. 

 

While it is true that employers generally are permitted to mandate a return to the office, subject to state laws, that does not mean all small businesses should. There are potential issues with returning: 

 

  1. Will you mandate that everyone has to get the vaccine?
  2. Is the office large enough to follow CDC guidelines and precautions? 
  3. Will your workforce feel safe returning? 
  4. Will your workforce productivity increase or decrease as a result of returning? 

 

These are all questions worth asking yourself before you mandate a return to the office. 

 

(2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?

 

If an employee contracts COVID-19 in the office or an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in the office, small businesses can be liable for workplace safety laws such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

 

Are you providing your employees a safe working environment?

 

In order to protect against your business from liability of such occurrences, employers should have employees sign waivers. The waiver would state that the employee agrees to return to the office, provided that the employer provides employees with a safe work environment. 

 

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Clearly, the status of returning to the office for all businesses is still a question mark in the minds of most employers. JUSTLAW hopes this article has provided employers with some insight on whether or not your business can open up. 

 

JUSTLAW also urges small businesses to sign up for its small business legal protection plan. Continue your business with the legal security and comfort you need to be as productive as possible. 

 

Speak to a JUSTLAW attorney today to initiate your first consultation. 

 

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice. 

 

Grants & Lending Programs for Women and Minority-Owned Business Leaders

As a business owner, it’s not unusual to have a lot on your plate. The pressures of leading a business sometimes make it difficult to look at things past your daily to-do list. But as a female or minority business owner, did you realize you could be passing up on financial opportunities?

 

There are several grants and lending programs available through CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions) and related organizations that provide lending specifically to minority and female-owned companies and small businesses. Here are a few you should know about:

 

5B Small Business Grant

As of April 23, the Small Business Administration has been giving out an additional $5 billion in grants to businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are available to businesses even if they already took advantage of the EIDL Advance from March-April 2020. Find out who qualifies here.

Let JUSTLAW Help you Apply

 

Finance Justice Fund

Opportunity Finance Network selects CDFIs that work towards financial justice in underserved communities. These include businesses that primarily cater to Native, Black, Latinx, and other communities that have historically experienced hardships. Terms and applications can be found here. Small businesses seeking financing can find out more here.

black and minority business grants

 

Grow With Google Small Business Fund

The Grow With Google Small Business Fund was established during the COVID-19 crisis to help minority and women-owned businesses reach their financial goals. This fund works with both for-profit and non-profit institutions.

 

Google.org Grant Program

The Google.org Grant Program is providing grants to underserved communities during unprecedented times. Grant Program 1 will be awarding $125,000 grants to 28 CDFIs working with women and minority-owned businesses in underserved communities, including nonprofits. Grant Program 2 will be awarding grants ranging from $125,000 to $500,000 to CDFIs with a focus on those that serve Black-owned businesses.

 

Native CDFI Awards

The Native CDFI Catalyst Award picks one Native CDFI to provide a $100,000 grant based on plans and strategy via an application process. The Native CDFI Seed Capital provides a $25,000 grant through an application process based on potential. Find both applications here and more information about previous winners here.

 

Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program

The Wells Fargo Diverse Community Capital Program works with CDFIs that serve diverse small businesses, with the end goal of increasing lending to these small businesses. Find out more here.

 

 

Unfortunately, applying for the various programs and grants and managing the process thereafter can be extremely complicated and time-consuming. Fortunately, JUSTLAW is here to help. With any of our paid annual memberships, we provide free assistance in applying for these programs and managing the application process.

 

But the benefits don’t stop there. All company owners can benefit from an affordable prepaid monthly legal plan from JUSTLAW. A plan like this can help you identify, mitigate and manage legal risk, seize new opportunities and provide you with round-the-clock legal peace of mind. Protect your small business as it grows with this simple long-term investment.

 

Learn More

Can Same Sex Couples Adopt Children?

The right to family life and family unity is a fundamental right guaranteed to all human beings across the globe. This right has been enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This multifaceted treaty was adopted by the U.N General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in the year 1976. This treaty put an obligation upon its 173 signatory ratifying member states, including the United States of America, to preserve and honor the enlisted civil and political rights of individuals. Article 23 of the Covenant states that “[t]he right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized” and “[t]he family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”[1]

 

That being said, adoption for same sex couples has always been a peculiar and idiosyncratic affair. A couple often ends up in grey waters when they decide to start and raise a family of their own. The legal system of the United States shared a skeptical approach towards the growing trend of same sex couple. Thus, the constitutional recognition of same sex marriages by the Supreme court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges[2] proved to be a landmark judgment in favor and recognition of support of the LGBTQ+ community. This very judgment created a positive impact on the adoption laws for same sex couples, however several legal hurdles remain yet to be tackled nationwide.

 

The history of same sex parenting before the Obergefell case has its roots dating from around the time of World War II, most notably in the context of prevention or explicit denial of adoption rights to LGBTQ community or the absence of any specific laws in this regard. Several countries have laws against gay or lesbian couples adopting children, for instance, Hungary in December 2020 has expressly banned same sex couples from adoption. Other countries including Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Romania, etc. adopted the same negative approach towards same sex couples.

 

Opponents of same sex adoptions, which often includes private religion-based organizations, preach the moral objections to same sex adoptions and relations. Furthermore, there is also a shared opinion that children raised in gay or lesbian households are most likely to suffer from gender related disorders. However, these blatant opinions were rejected by a study conducted by the University of Oregon, where it was found that there was no difference between children raised by same sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. [3]

 

In the United States, adoption is governed by the adoption laws which varies from state to state. In addition, various federal laws (Adoption assistance act, Family and Medical leave act, Omnibus act, etc.) and additional laws (interstate compact etc.) operate in the area of adoption.

Same sex adoption rights have been strengthened every now and then by the judicial system. With the decision of the Arkansas Supreme court, adoption for same sex couple became legal in all 50 states of the USA.[4] It is an established ruling that marriage equality would amount to parents in a marriage whether both heterosexual or homosexual to be lawfully recognized as parents. This marriage equality has also allowed married same sex couples to adopt in several states where they were earlier, not allowed to do so.[5] A study conducted by the University of California’s Williams Institute has revealed that 21% of the U.S same sex couples had adopted children and around 3% had experienced fostering children, the rate, which in comparison to heterosexual sex couples was more than 7%.[6] There has been an increasing shift in the ideologies in the United States towards understanding the human rights of both parents and a child to have a family life with a keen understanding that adoption is a better option for children compared to orphanages along with the awareness that the sexual orientation of parents plays no role in raising a child. However, the fact remains that the process of same sex adoption is not an easy road to venture on. The difference in the laws relating to same sex adoption that vary from state to state often results in the procedure to become complicated, legal, and technical. Thus, it becomes imperative to hire the service of a legal professional with expertise in adoption and family laws to ensure a smooth experience.

[1] https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx ( last visited  12:45 ,dated 9/04/2021)

[2] Obergefell v. Hodge, (576 U.S 644)

[3]https://www.familyequality.org/2017/10/20/a-ver-brief-history-of-lgbtq-parenting/ (last visited 1:38 PM, dated 09/04/2021)

[4]https://www.acluarkansas.org/en/cases/arkansas-v-cole (last visited on 2:30 PM, dated 9/04/2021)

[5] Pavan v. smith, (582 U.S_2017)

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lgbt-adoption-idUSKBN21D01I (vast visited 4:21, dated 10/04/2021)

Covid-19 Vaccine, the Employers Perspective

It was only about a year ago that our pre-pandemic world changed, and employers everywhere sat up and took notice. Before March of 2020, going to work used to mean having a cup of coffee with a colleague and talking about the day. Good employees made every effort to get to work on time and do their job well. Good employers ensured their employees were safe and treated fairly. This was according to the brick-and-mortar business model we all took for granted. Then, Covid -19 hit the world.

At that point, all the rules seemed to change. A lot of confusion ensued about what was allowed and what was required. Vaccines became available and with them, a myriad of information. What was right to do? What was safe to do? What was legal? One of the biggest questions was about rights surrounding the vaccine. Did an employer have the right to require the vaccine for its workers? If an employer did not require it, could they face legal ramifications?

While this situation seemed uncertain and chaotic, the answer to this question was straightforward. Federal law states that employers do not have to require their workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine because the vaccines are not licensed by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that employers can encourage employees to get the vaccine, but everyone has the option to accept or decline so they cannot require it.

Although this answer was straightforward, the issue of employer responsibility in the midst of Covid-19 is complex and multi-layered.

For example, while employers do not have to (and are not legally allowed to) require the vaccine, they do have to provide a safe working environment for all their workers. Employers have to show proof of providing reasonable accommodation for their employees such as remote work, protective gear, and social distancing. If these accommodations are not provided when there is a “direct threat”, then there could be legal trouble for the employer.

 

worker safety
Are you providing a safe working environment for your employees?

 

Under the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) describes the pandemic as a “direct threat” which is defined as “a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.”

Evidence of providing reasonable accommodations is required and protects the employer. On the other hand, if reasonable accommodations present an undue hardship on the employer to run the business, then the employer can require the vaccine of its workers instead. This is where things get multi-layered.

This exception to the rule stands unless the employee has a medical reason not to have the vaccine. In this case the employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation for the employee and allow their employment to continue. In addition, religious beliefs preventing an employee from having the vaccine is a valid circumstance to not have it. In this case, the employee is protected by Title VII.

For an employer, liability exposure could come under ADA, Title VII, OSHA, or Tort Liability. With the ever-changing pandemic landscape, employers need to be constantly aware of new and evolving laws. The truth is this is not simple. Everything is still changing. It is also true that despite the world’s current situation, employers are not alone. There is help. For current guidance to employers, please read this CDC page.

 

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Speak to a JUSTLAW attorney today to initiate your first consultation and receive immediate advice as to whether to hire an employee or an independent contractor.

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice. 

Employee v. Independent Contractor

Are you starting a business and need to hire more personnel? If so, have you thought about whether to hire an employee or an independent contractor? If not, please take a second to learn of the main differences between the two, below:

Why does it matter?

At first glance, you may be asking yourself: why does this even matter? Well, JUSTLAW is here to tell you it does, most importantly for tax liability purposes, among other things. 

Employers must pay a whole variety of taxes for their employees. However, that is not the case for employers who hire independent contractors. Employers don’t have to pay any taxes such as Social Security, state and federal unemployment tax, etc. If employers hire employees for their business, those taxes mentioned above and a list of others must also be paid. Therefore, it is clear that employers almost always prefer to hire independent contractors over employees from a tax liability standpoint. 

In addition, employees are protected by federal laws such as minimum wage, laws protecting their overtime work, and employment discrimination. Independent contractors have no such rights provided by federal law, specifically for overtime and employment discrimination. 

business law regarding freelancers
It’s vital to establish whether someone who works for you is an employee or independent contractor

Employers also should know that independent contractors do not normally receive employment benefits. To the contrary, employees enjoy such benefits including paid time off and various health benefits. 

Accordingly, it is quite obvious that almost anyone would prefer to work as an employee. However, most employers prefer independent contractors. From an employer’s standpoint, it really depends on the type of business they are operating and the type of positions they are looking to fill. For example, a startup has different needs compared to that of a 20-year successful public company. 

How can you tell if someone you have hired is an employee or an independent contractor? 

Usually, it is pretty obvious and easy to decipher. Employment contracts will explicitly state if the person hired is an employee or an independent contractor. 

However, in other cases, it is not as obvious. Luckily, courts have provided us with an array of factors to consider to determine whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor. These factors are commonly referred to as the “Economic Realities Test”: 

 

  1. What is the degree of control over the person’s work? Who exercises that control?
  2. What is each party’s (person and business) degree of loss in their exchange?
  3. Who has funded the person’s purchase of materials needed to complete their tasks such as equipment and supplies?
  4. How long-lasting is the person’s position? 
  5. Would the business suffer if this person was not present? How important are they to the business? 
  6. What degree of skill and expertise is needed to complete the applicable work? 

* * * * * *

Speak to a JUSTLAW attorney today to initiate your first consultation and receive immediate advice as to whether to hire an employee or an independent contractor. 

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice. 

Business Insurance: Is it Really Necessary?

Does anyone ever question the need for an insurance policy? Some people pay for insurance, never to actually reap a benefit from it, besides the comforting feeling of financial security. Others pay for insurance and reap all the benefits of the insurance because of a tragic loss, accident, etc. Most people do not question their car or home insurance. But is it common for businesses to have insurance? Do all of them have it? 

 

The answers to those questions are yes and no. It is very common for businesses to have insurance. In fact, most lawyers would strongly advise any business to have some form of insurance. However, some businesses ignore insurance and take on all different scary risks. Why do you ask? Well, maybe people think when they form a limited liability company, corporation, or other business entity that avoids personal liability, they insure their businesses as well. However, that is not the case. The creation of a limited liability company and a corporation do not also provide the business insurance this article refers to. 

 

Because it is often that business owners confuse this concept, JUSTLAW is providing you with a guide to Business Insurance.

 

How do I know if my Business Needs Business Insurance?

 

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get Business Insurance: 

 

  1. Does your business have property (equipment, computers, laptops, inventory, trucks, etc.) that is not easily replaceable without expending a lot of money? 
  2. Do you have an office building? Factory? Land? 
  3. Could your business be sued as a result of an accident (i.e. use of dangerous equipment, slip and falls, regular use of transportation, etc.)

 

Types of Business Insurance:

 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you will then have to determine what type of business insurance your business needs. Here are a few types that are provided to businesses: 

 

  1. Liability Insurance 
  2. Property Insurance 
  3. Products Liability Insurance 
  4. Vehicle Insurance 
  5. Identity theft Insurance 
  6. Workers’ Compensation Insurance 
  7. Professional Liability Insurance 

 

Still Have Questions? Let's Talk!

 

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Utilize JUSTLAW attorneys to get the best advice on how to procure the most affordable and protective business insurance for your business. While you’re at it, check out our Business Membership to receive 24/7, 365 peace of mind for your business. Legal protection for your business and you is our #1 priority. 

 

To learn more about Business Insurance and to determine whether your business needs it, contact us at:

JUSTLAW Client Services, hell[email protected]

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

 

JUSTLAW’s 50-state survey of E-Notary laws

As more individuals and companies are forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple federal and state governments are working to enable fully electronic processes to keep businesses operating. At JUSTLAW, our top attorneys we’ve been working hard to make sure our customers are fully operational, but also safe. 

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The Secure Notarization Act

On March 18, 2020, Senate Bill 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (the “SECURE Notarization Act”), was introduced as bipartisan legislation to authorize and establish minimum standards for electronic and remote notarizations that occur in or affect interstate commerce. This legislation would authorize every notary in the US to perform remote online notarizations (RON). Unless and until it is adopted into law, some federal agencies and multiple states are enacting various independent measures. Eg, the IRS issued Notice 2020-42 allowing retirement plan participants or beneficiaries during the year 2020 to satisfy the witnessing requirements for certain participant elections through use of remote notarization, including the spousal consent required under § 417 of the Internal Revenue Code. 

At a state level, there are currently 29 states that have enacted some form of RON law: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. [as of 2/11/21].

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The rudiments of each state’s RON law are to:

  • Allow notarial acts to be completed using audio-video communication, including acts where the signer is located outside the state in which the notary is authorized to operate;
  • Require that the notary authenticate the person signing; and
  • Require recording of the audio-video communication.

 

Each state’s laws may vary as to authentication, record-keeping and retention periods.

The chart set forth below reviews each state and any RON law and/or emergency order enacted in such state supporting any form of remote notarization:

RON & Emergency Order Status – 50 States

State Permanent RON Emergency Order Notes
Alabama Y  

 

Alaska Y  

 

Arizona Y  

 

Arkansas Y The notary and the signer are both physically located in Arkansas at the time of signing, among other conditions.

 

California X X Secretary of state advocates “mobile notaries”.

 

Colorado X X  

 

Connecticut Y Persons physically located in CT.

 

Delaware Through end of June 2021.

 

DC X Y Awaiting guidance from Mayor’s office.

 

Florida Y Florida enacted RON effective January 1, with the execution of wills and estate planning documents using RON effective July 1.

 

Georgia Y  

 

Hawaii Y  

 

Idaho Y  

 

Indiana Y  

 

Illinois Y  

 

Iowa Y Iowa notaries must register with the secretary of state and utilize one of a limited number of vendors in order to perform the act.

 

Kansas Y  

 

Kentucky Y  

 

Louisiana Y Terminates upon the earlier enactment of the federal SECURE Notarization Act or February 1, 2022.

 

Maine Y  

 

Maryland Y  

 

Massachusetts Y  

 

Michigan Y Through July 1, 2021.

 

Minnesota Y Automatically expires January 6, 2021.

 

Mississippi Y During the pandemic and for 14 days after.

 

Missouri Y  

 

Montana Y  

 

Nebraska Y  

 

Nevada Y  

 

New Hampshire Y Ends when the declaration of emergency ends.

 

New Jersey Y For the duration of the pandemic.

 

New Mexico Y  

 

New York Y  

 

North Carolina X X Emergency measures were set to expire 3/1/21.

 

North Dakota Y  

 

Ohio Y  

 

Oklahoma Y  

 

Oregon Y Through June 2021.

 

Pennsylvania Y  

 

Rhode Island Y  

 

South Carolina X X  

 

South Dakota Y Enables the use of communication technology only “if the notarial officer: … affixes the notarial officer’s signature to the original tangible document executed by the [principal]” and only if the notary personally knows the principal.

 

Tennessee Y Y  

 

Texas Y Y  

 

Utah Y  

 

Virginia Y  

 

Vermont Y RON adopted but not yet implemented by the secretary of state. Current measures enable the witnessing of a power of attorney and filed in land records and enacted SB316 the same day to enable execution of self-proving wills using remote notarization.

 

Washington Y  

 

West Virginia Y  

 

Wisconsin Y  

 

Wyoming Y Through July 1, 2021.

 

*Current as of March 1, 2021. Please contact your friends at JUSTLAW for the most current information.*

To learn more and keep current on the status of remote online notarization across the US, please contact:

JUSTLAW Client Services, [email protected]

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

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