JUSTLAW

The Importance of Website Terms of Use

INTRODUCTION

On a website, ‘Terms of use’, which are more often referred to as the ‘Terms of Service’ or Terms and Conditions’ (hereafter, “Terms”) set out rules and regulations which are applicable to the visitors of a website or mobile application. Despite their importance, many entrepreneurs and other site operators often copy these Terms from other sites, giving very little thought to their unique application. At JUSTLAW, we always caution against doing so, as these terms should be tailored to your business and its customers, and they do carry important legal significance.  Read on to learn more.  (Est. read time 2-3 minutes)

At bottom, these Terms are a legal document. They create a contractual relationship between the website visitor and the website owner. Such Terms clarify various aspects of that relationship,  from conditions of providing service, IP ownership, the code of conduct of one user in relation to the other, limits of liability if something goes wrong, disclaimers, and how a user can be suspended from usage.[1]

NEED FOR ‘TERMS OF USE (ToU)’

Because of the legal nature and protection afforded by Terms, they are a ‘must- have’ for all the parties who desire to run their business or offer service efficiently and without any hindrance. These Terms are essentially sine qua non for every company or business who desires to flourish online. This furnishes a need for the development of code of conduct to regulate the user-service provider relation and at the same time govern the relation among different users with ensuring minimal interference with their right to privacy and self-expression.

IMPORTANCE AND ADVANTAGES OF ‘TERMS OF USE’

While is it true that a business does not require legally to set up Terms at the initial stage of their business, to ensure clarity and avoid misunderstanding any good business attorney will recommend that you do so. Such Terms and conditions legalize the control of the service provider on deliberating as to what is acceptable and what is not.[2]

There are a number of inherent advantages that are provided by the Terms.  One of the most important is permitting a site owner to limit the scope of their liability by adding disclaimers, affording substantial protection to the owner in case any error presents itself on the website. Another important benefit of setting up such governing regulations is allowing the effective use and applicability of the Intellectual property law which allow the website owner to product their trademarks, copyrights, patent and other intellectual property or proprietary rights which may be registered or not. This advantage allows the website owner to protect their content, logo, design etc. Furthermore, such terms and conditions are one of the main policies of every company or website owner which  ensure that their website offers a safe environment, free from any abuse, misuse etc. It also allows parties to establish guidelines for suspending account, to mention the laws applicable and the terms to be followed in case a dispute arises.

CONCLUSION: HOW CAN WE DRAFT A STRONG TERMS OF USE DOCUMENT?

Terms of Use plays a Pivotal role in governing the relationship between the owner of the website or service provider and the user for the time period till the service provider carry out his operations, therefore, utilizing term of use which are not properly drafted to cater the need and requirements can be titled as a perilous approach. There are many ways of creating Terms of Use; one may simply duplicate the sample available online or use a terms of use generator. One of the best option available is to hire a professional lawyer who is well-versed in such technical drafting. A good business lawyer can not only draft a strong document of terms of use which may protect the service provider but at the same time allow such Terms to be flexible in case of occurrence of any contingencies.[3]

JUSTLAW founder appears on Legal Tech Startup Focus Podcast

JUSTLAW founder & CEO Jason Gabbard was recently interviewed by leading legal tech podcast, the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast, hosted by legal industry veteran Charlie Uniman. 

In this terrific episode, Jason dives right into a recounting of his career and, we learn, it is a varied one from a business standpoint.  A Winding Career

logo for Legal Tech Startup Focus

After law school, Jason spends four years in corporate law at NYC law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Jason goes on from there to:

(i) found, in the early 2000’s, a “distributed” law firm, (ii) to create a legal tech startup in 2010 that extracts M&A deal clauses from SEC databases and that, with humans in-the-loop, also analyzes those clauses and (iii) to found Counselytics, another legal tech startup, one that automates much of the analytics that went into Jason’s previous startup’s clause-based work.  

Jason has successful exits from both of the above-mentioned startups. And, in fact, for several years works at Conga, the company that acquired Counselytics. All this leads to Charlie and Jason discussing the (over?) abundance of companies in the CLM space and the frothiness in the market for investing in legal tech startup (and in startups, in general).

Charlie and Jason next turn to Jason’s latest venture, JUSTLAW, that aggregates small business demand for legal services and surfaces that demand to solo and small/medium-sized firm practitioners.  What’s of particular note here is that the practitioners charge for their services available on the basis of a tiered monthly subscription model (with the tiers corresponding to different levels of lawyer services).

Lessons Learned

Jason concludes this podcast episode with words of wisdom to other legal tech startup founders/leaders (i) who are eyeing (or may someday eye) an M&A exit, (ii) whose startups are deluged with customer feature requests, (iii) who are building senior level teams and (iv) who are just moving from practicing law to starting up a legal company.

How to use FL’s Sunbiz to form an LLC

Using Florida’s Sunbiz: What to Know Now

Quick primer from your friends at JUSTLAW on how to use Florida’s Sunbiz system (3 min read)

Florida is on fire these days from a business and cultural perspective. For that and other reasons, we see a lot of folks wanting to form new companies in Florida. If you want to form an LLC in Florida, you should read on. There are 4 steps to get your LLC started:
    1. Understand the requirements for filing your LLC’s Articles of Organization.
    2. Assemble and organize the information you’ll need to file.
    3. Complete the online Sunbiz Articles of Organization.
    4. Pay for the filing with an acceptable method of payment.

FAQs

Where can I find more information about starting and running a business in Florida?

The Florida Division of Corporations has published a very helpful set of content to answer most general questions that is available free of charge on their website.

How can I pay when filing my Articles of Organization?

There are multiple options, but we recommend using your credit card.

Is the name of my LLC available for use?

Good question. To answer it, just head over to the Sunbiz name search tool to perform a free search.

Do I have to file online?

No. But we find it to be the fastest, most convenient manner of filing.  But you can also download an Articles of Organization application and then submit your application and payment by mail. When submitting by mail, you must pay with either a money order or check.

Do I need to hire a registered agent?

No. But many entrepreneurs do for a few reasons. A registered agent agrees to ALWAYS accept mail and lawsuits on behalf of the business. You may move and change addresses in the future, but the agent won’t (or at least will keep the records updated). In addition, hiring a registered agent, like JUSTLAW, will help you personally keep private. Many entrepreneurs value the privacy.

After filing the Articles of Organization, how long will it take for them to be processed and posted?

It depends on how you filed and current demand, but it’s typically fast. Sunbiz is a remarkably efficient engine for the State of Florida. If your Articles of Organization were submitted and paid for online, they are processed in the order received, which typically results in a 2-3 day processing time. If you submit the Articles by mail, expect processing time in the 3-5 business days range.

How can online forms be signed? 

Under s.15.16, F.S. typing your name will fulfill the signature requirement. Legally, e-signatures are the same as physical signatures. If you sign someone else’s name without their permission, this is considered forgery.

How do I get a copy of my Articles of Organization?

After your Articles of Organization have been posted, you can download a free copy at Sunbiz.

Why would my application be rejected?

Every application will be closely reviewed to make sure they meet state requirements. In the event your application is rejected, you likely failed to fulfill one of these requirements.

What can I do after my application has been rejected?

You can make any necessary corrections to your Articles of Organization by visiting the Sunbiz website and entering your PIN and tracking number.

Limited Liability Company Name

Florida, like most (if not all) states, requires you to have a unique name for your LLC.

Before you submit your formation documents, you should perform a search to determine the availability of your LLC name. In addition, make sure that the name of your company includes the words limited liability company, or LLC/L.L.C. If you’re establishing a professional limited liability company, the name of your company should include the abbreviations PLLC or P.L.L.C, or the words Professional Limited Liability Company or Chartered. You should not use your LLC name until it has been approved by the Division of Corporations.

Requirements

When submitting your formation documents, you should make sure to include the following:

    1. The business name
    2. The business purpose of the LLC (eg, “to engage in the sale of apparel”)
    3. The principal place of business of the company
    4. The mailing address of your LLC (or other entity), if different
    5. The registered agent’s name
    6. The registered agent’s mailing address
    7. Signature of the registered agent

Optionally, you may include the names and addresses of the managers and authorized representatives of the LLC.

If you need help with your LLC Sunbiz filing, you can use the JUSTLAW marketplace to find a top attorney at an affordable price. At JUSTLAW, we have over 300 attorneys in our network, and many of them are drawn from top law schools like Yale and Harvard, and have worked in the top firms in the world.

How to Form an LLC Quickly and Cheaply

Most lawyers won’t tell you this, but you can form an LLC by yourself. It’s fast and affordable. You’ll need a little patience and attention to detail, but that’s it. And for a very limited time, JUSTLAW will even do the work for you. Free of charge!  That’s right. See the button below for more details.  (Estimated 3 min read)

1. The LLC Business Type
2. Clear the Name
3. Get a Registered Agent
4. File the Articles of Organization

Want to form a limited liability company (LLC) yourself, quickly and cheaply? To do so, you need to select a business name, appoint a registered agent (which in some cases can be you), file the Articles of Organization, obtain an Employer Identification Number, and open a business bank account. The time and cost associated with forming a new LLC varies by state.

The LLC Business Type

The LLC entity type is probably the most popular business type in 2021. This popularity stems from its flexible nature, limited liability protection and ease of administration, especially in contrast with traditional corporations. Many entrepreneurs would like to set up an LLC, but have avoided it due to time and costs. A traditional attorney might charge upwards of $2,500 to form an LLC and complete and prepare the associated paperwork. This essential primer will help you understand how you can form an LLC by yourself.

Clear the Name

Searching your state’s database of corporate names before you file the Articles of Organization might be a good idea. If your name is relatively common, someone else may have already taken it. That would lead to your filing being rejected. Many secretaries of state, such as Delaware, have free, online databases where you can research the availability of any name you have in mind. In some states, you can even reserve a name online by paying a small fee. Naming requirements may vary slightly from state to state, but generally you must assure:

  1. Your LLC name must differ from the names of other businesses that are already registered in the state; and
  2. Your LLC name must contain a limited liability signifier, such as “LLC”, or “Limited Liability Company”. Eg, ACME LLC.

Get a Registered Agent

The name and address of a registered agent are normally required on the formation papers for your LLC. An agent is a person or entity tasked with receiving legal papers on behalf of your LLC in the event that your company is sued. The agent must have a physical address in the state and must be available during work hours on all workdays for this purpose.

Get Your Free LLC Today

File the Articles of Organization

Articles or Organization are usually submitted to the state’s Secretary of State along with a filing fee. When the Secretary of State accepts your Articles of Organization, your LLC has officially been formed. Many states will accept articles and have your company “live” in 24-48 hours. This document provides the fundamental details on your business, such as:

  • The name and address of the company.
  • The business purpose of the company (e.g., “to engage in e-commerce cat food sales”).
  • A statement on whether the company will be managed by a manager or the members.
  • The name and address of the registered agent of the LLC.

Although successfully filing the Articles of Organization indicates that the state recognizes the LLC, there are additional steps to get yourself truly in business.

After the Articles have been filed and accepted, other considerations are:

  • Publishing the Articles of Organization. In some states, such as New York, new LLCs must publish the fact of their formation in a local newspaper and to file an affidavit of publication with the state. Publication costs can exceed $1,000, so you should consider this fact when selecting a state.
  • Drafting an operating agreement. You will not file your operating agreement with the state, but you need one as an internal contract between the members of the company. If you have partners, or other members, you should likely find a good business lawyer to help you with this work.
  • Procure an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Banks and governments both require an employer identification number. This number acts, in essence, as a social security number for your new company. EINs are available free at the IRS website.
  • Getting a business bank account. Your LLC will need a business bank account or the members’ limited liability protection can be called into question by the authorities.
  • Determine if your business requires a license.  Some states or cities may require you to obtain licenses to do business. It varies by jurisdiction and a complete survey is beyond the scope of this primer, but Google will at least get you started.

Hopefully, this primer gives budding entrepreneurs all they need to set up an LLC alone. If not, and you’d still like to set up your own LLC, for a limited time (through Labor Day 2021), JUSTLAW will do the paperwork for free. JUSTLAW maintains a network of over 300 attorneys in all 50 states. Our lawyers graduated from places like Harvard, Yale, Berkeley and UVA.   Click the button below to get started.

Get Your Free LLC Today

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.

* * * * *

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

What you must know about conformed signatures

Electronic signatures facilitate rapid and efficient signing of documents, more commerce, and a great deal of flexibility to tailor tools and protocols across an organization. In recent years, the practice of and market for electronic signatures has exploded, and many technology analysts predict this trend will continue into the future. 

person signing document
A person prepares to sign a document with a “wet” signature.

The transition, however, has not been easy for some, and many business technologies have yet to be phased out. Signatures, faxing, scanners, and landlines are all antiquated business technologies that have yet to become fully phased out. There are plenty of new technological solutions that effectively eliminate the need to keep up with these methods but the adoption rate has been relatively slow, which comes to the detriment of business speed and efficiency. 

When looking at the concept of signatures, it is easy to understand the reasoning as to why e-signatures have yet to have full adoption across the board. 

Everyone has a unique signature, and signatures are an integral part of validating that an individual actually signed and agreed to the terms of the document. The s-signature has become a standard way of electronically signing documents that has become accepted in some use cases. 

Below is a discussion of what the characters /s/ means in a signature line and why it is utilized.

What is a Conformed Signature?

“Conformed signature” almost sounds like an oxymoron. A conformed signature is a typewritten signature indicating that the original version of the document has been signed by the appropriate party, and it should be maintained with the records of the company. A conformed signature replaces the traditional “wet” signature line with a typed name preceded with a “/s/” designation. A conformed signature usually looks similar to this example:

/s/ Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald

There are a multitude of  ways that a conformed signature can be written, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides resources to what formatting an electronic signature should follow. 

As you will see below under “When is it legal?”, governing bodies have different regulations regarding acceptable formatting for conformed signatures. 

Because of these differences, it is important to have a competent and tech savvy legal team. As a business owner, your signatures are constantly needed, and the ability to utilize a conformed signature whenever possible will save time and effort. 

Having a legal resource that acknowledges the importance of your time and providing e-signatures whenever possible is a must. 

Why Is It Used?

A conformed signature is utilized mainly as a way of making signing contracts and documents easier. Convenience of a conformed signature is what has drawn many to utilize it, and some government agencies now accept it in lieu of a traditional signature. 

The conformed signature eliminates the need for an individual to print, sign, and scan a document to submit it electronically. To save paper and reduce the number of intermediary steps, conformed signatures offer a perfect efficient solution to a signature. 

Conformed signatures allow for a seamless process of viewing, signing, and submitting a document all without having to print or scan. Conformed signatures are utilized in a number of ways and gives a signer the option of how they are able to digitally sign a document. 

Conformed signatures can be easily done from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other mobile device, drastically increasing the speed at which individuals can certify a document. 

Additionally, a conformed signature is a great tool for attorneys to quickly and efficiently certify batches of documents. Many courts in the United State permit attorneys to use conformed signatures, including New York and CaliforniaThis process saves countless hours for attorneys, allowing them to focus on the highest value add activities for clients. And when value is prioritized, a lawyer is better able to advance a client’s interests.

When is it legal?

E-signatures, and more specifically, conformed signatures, are not a full substitute for legal handwritten signatures. The signature itself is not more reliable than a standard signature, and as such, makes the acceptance of e-signatures vary greatly, especially when it comes to geographic location.

sign here
Sign Here

The following states allow conformed signatures, with some exceptions:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

In some of these states, a conformed signature may be allowed for certain filings and not others. In Florida, for example, an LLC document can have a conformed signature, but a filing for a non-profit corporation cannot.

While a lot of states allow conformed signatures in contracts, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t allow such signatures; therefore, SS4 forms and other tax documents must have an original signature.

The two regulations regarding e-signatures are the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act and the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act, which give a basis for the inability to deny a document’s validity only on the basis that it has an electronic signature. 

Ultimately, it is the states’ decision in whether or not to accept conformed and electronic signatures.

Because these laws vary from state to state and agency to agency, it is important to ensure that a business has legal representation that is well-versed in the process of online signing and document submission. Documents signed inappropriately can lead to costly and time-consuming missteps. In the world of legal filings, this could mean the difference between the closure of a successful business deal or a costly mistake. 

Conclusion

Essentially, the “/s/” in a signature line signifies that a conformed signature is being utilized in lieu of a traditional handwritten signature. 

There are many forms of e-signatures and each have specific utilizations and formatting requirements. The s-signature is a great e signature method that can be utilized by many people. 

The ease of use and convenience of the signature type allows for businesses and attorneys to waste less precious time and energy printing, signing, and scanning documents, and more time to focus on their clients. 

If you need legal assistance, we suggest you look for lawyers that readily utilize new technology to eliminate inefficiencies. Traditionally, you pay lawyers by the hour and benefit from time-consuming, antiquated technology. 

JUSTLAW has over 300  highly trained and licensed attorneys that can ensure that your legal documents are as they should be. JUSTLAW saves you time, effort, and money. Leave the guesswork out of your legal needs and allow a JUSTLAW attorney to help you through complex paperwork. A good lawyer will navigate the different signature requirements for different documents and ensure that they are done correctly to reduce inefficiencies in having to refile for something that was done incorrectly the first time. 

The utilization of e-signatures is just one way in which a lawyer is able to save time and facilitate a smoother experience for their clients.  With a smart legal team on your side, you can avoid the legal headaches surrounding what type of signature to use and focus your precious time on business.  

 

 

 

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)

Business Insurance: Is it Really Necessary?

Does anyone ever question insurance? 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 

 

Contact an attorney now to determine which of each listed above are right for your business. You may need all of them. You may need only one. However, no matter how many you need, insurance is the safest way to protect your business. 

 

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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, [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. 

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].

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.

Tax Breaks for Home Based Businesses 

 

Home based businesses are starting to become the norm as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as every business owner knows, their business is subject to taxes. Yet, most small businesses that qualify as home based businesses do not take advantage of a tax break offered by the IRS. Publication 587 permits such small businesses to take advantage of this deduction mentioned above. We explore and simplify this deduction in detail below. 

What is a Tax Deduction? 

 

Every business has tax liability. Generally, that tax liability comes from a person’s or business’s income. For purposes of this article, a home based business has the ability to claim a deduction if they can prove the elements of this deduction listed below. If the taxpayer successfully can prove they meet the requirements for this deduction, they will have the ability to lower their tax liability. In other words, the home based business taxpayer can offset expenses they incurred in running their business with income they earned from the business. This in effect reduces the business’s gross income and thereby lowers their income that is subject to tax liability. 

For example, let’s say a taxpayer’s business generated revenue and thus has taxable income of $50,000. To set up the business in their home, the taxpayer had to spend $3,000 in expenses. If the taxpayer can meet an allowable deduction offered by the IRS, they can successfully deduct their taxable income to $47,000. Therefore instead of owing tax on $50,000, they now only owe tax on $47,000. While this may seem like a small difference, such tax savings go a long way in keeping money away from the IRS. However, it sounds like this taxpayer will have to prove the deduction offered in Publication 587 for home based businesses. Let’s find out how they can prove such a deduction. 

 

What Do I Need to Show in Order to Meet the Requirements for this Deduction? 

 

To prove this deduction, there are a variety of elements that need to be proved and are directly laid out in the link attached to Publication 587 above. For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on three of the more important elements to prove: 

1) Exclusive Use 

 

To show exclusive use, you must be able to prove that a room in your house is exclusively used for the purpose of your business. (NOTE: You can claim this deduction even if you are not working out of your house. The deduction also applies to apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, boats, or anything that provides living accommodations to you).

 

We must emphasize the exclusivity of this room. For example, if you work out of your living room where your child also plays video games and watches television, you will not be eligible for this deduction. You must exclusively work out of a room solely dedicated to your business. 


2) Regular Use

 

Regular use of the room is also required. Occasional use of the room for your business will not suffice. 

3) Trade or Business Use

 

Finally, you must use it solely for your trade or business. Both this and regular use of the room should be easy to prove as long as the space is regularly used only for trade or business use.

 

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We understand that many small businesses have been started or moved to the owner’s home because of the pandemic. Thus, we urge you to take advantage of this publication. Contact a tax attorney today to determine if you meet this deduction.