Time to Dust off the Cobwebs on Those Important Legal Documents

Practical Steps for a "Legal Inventory" During Legal Spring Cleaning Time
By: Atty. Steven Rosenberg

For many of us, spring indicates a time of  renewal and getting a new start.  
Taking the squeegee to the outside windows and turning over the mattress are just some of the physical spring cleaning chores at my house. 

But this time of the year should also be used for a more important cleaning than just chasing after those cobwebs in the corner. It is time to dust off those cobwebs on every legal document and legal-based plans in your life.  Every person and/or business owner reading this should use spring to review and update the legal documents that govern their business or personal life.  Just like life, laws change and your legal matters must be up-to-date to reflect these changes or the results could be less than optimal.

We’ve put together a checklist of some of the legal “to do’s” for individuals, families and business owners. So wipe off those cobwebs from those legal documents and let's do a legal inventory:

Legal Spring Cleaning for Business Owners

The summer season is usually a time when some businesses' profit margins increase and businesses are optimistic for the coming months. According to the latest survey of smaller businesses finds a double digit uptick in measuring that confidence.

1) Employee Handbook:  For business owners, a legal spring cleaning should involve one of the most overlooked areas that should be reviewed every year, employee handbooks or employee guidelines governing all employee policies. 

Every year laws governing such subjects as how employees are compensated and even how employers calculate time off change.  Is your handbook up to date on the latest social media policies or is your handbook reflective of the state's new sick time law?  Chances are something has happened or changed in the last year that is not reflected in many organizations Employee Handbooks.   Feel free to contact one of our qualified employment attorneys at our South Shore Law's Legal Center for Business and have them review your company's Employee Handbook, policies and protocols. An employment practices audit today can prevent future legal problems.

All employers should ensure Employee Handbooks are up to date concerning new or changes in:
-Sick Time, Vacation Time and Overtime Regulations;
-Massachusetts Employment Laws and Federal Employment Laws;
-Mass. Commission Against Discrimination Regulations;
-Proper Employee Classifications and Tax Withholding.

2) Protect Your Personal Assets
Running a business, especially a new one can be a tremendous investment of both hours and investment of one's life.  One things we see with business owners or those who have assumed an ownership stake in a business, is a lack of legal separation between the business
assets and the individual's personal assets.

If your personal holdings are not completely insulated from your business, the consequences could be very
painful financially. Although buying business liability insurance protects you from lawsuits, this won't help you with business debts which could place your individual holdings at risk. All business owners should consider forming a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Only one person is needed to form either of these types of business entities. It is a relatively quick process and can save your business from many future headaches.  If your business has been incorporated or is currently an LLC, according to this Forbes article many are not properly classified and ultimately not insulated from tax liabilities and other potential legal as well as financial pitfalls.  In addition, every business should have a proper operating agreement which proves for what happens if an owner dies, retires, relocates or wants to gift his interest in any business to a relative or sell that interest to a third party.
As part of your business' legal spring cleaning, its a good thing to review those fillings with a qualified business attorney such as the ones here at South Shore Law.

3)  Review all current contracts and put everything you do in writing.

A business can not run on a handshake.   That type of business practice will not hold up in court if a dispute arises.   Likewise, even if  a business uses a standard business contract, when is the last time you reviewed the legality of that contract to ensure that it protects all of your business’ interests? Did you know if a company changes its classification status from an LLC to LLP, as an example, a new contract must be negotiated?  Properly written and monitored contracts can greatly reduce the cost and mitigate the risks of doing business. Without proper control, bad contracts can result in major damage.
Legal Spring Cleaning for Individuals and Families

1) Review and Update Estate Plans
Astonishingly, a majority of Americans do not have any kind of will or estate plans.  And believe it or not, many who fit in this category do not realize if they don’t have a proper plan in place, there’s no guarantee where your accumulated wealth will go.  Even if you have a will, an estate plan that was written years ago, may not reflect the most up to date changes in the laws. We also recommend all of our clients explore obtaining durable power of attorney
and health care proxy/ HIPPA authorization to ensure all of your decisions are in line with what you want, in the event you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

2) Update Retirement Plans:  Just as you are preparing your estate for the inevitable, it is important to review any and all retirement plans to ensure they meet today’s laws.  Additionally, during this review we recommend everyone of clients review their tax withholdings for the upcoming year to ensure enough is being allotted to the tax man, diverting funds to your retirement plans will help reduce tax burdens. 

3)  Contracts and Agreements:  Review all contracts and agreements; From your insurance policies to the agreement you have with a live-in nanny.   Are you withholding the proper amount of taxes when you pay a nanny ? Is your insurance policy up to date and does it properly cover you ( our attorneys are particularly good at finding gaps or holes in insurance plans). We have the wherewithal to protect your interests with any kind of contract dispute. Our attorneys at South Shore Law have been writing and reviewing contracts and protecting our clients’ interests involving contract disputes for more than three decades.   A basic contract review is very affordable and can save your business time, headaches and ultimately money. 

 These are just a few practical legal tips. There are many more things a business or an individual should  review to protect all of your interests. We can perform a basic audit for you or your businesses at a very affordable rate. If you know someone who may benefit from these tips, please pass along this blog or our contact information. Contact South Shore Law to discover how we can help with your Legal Spring Cleaning. 

Do you know someone who could benefit from this information?  Pass it along and tell them about South Shore Law.   Our experienced attorneys are committed to successfully solving any current legal challenges while insulating you from potential future threats to you or a business.  Everyday, our lawyers who live right here on the South Shore, strive to deliver exceptional legal representation to our neighbors and friends at affordable rates
  The information provided in this website and accompanying materials are all presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to be comprehensive legal guidance nor be interpreted as legal advice. Communications with South Shore Law, its lawyers and agents shall not be interpreted in such a manner as to form an attorney-client relationship. To begin exploring such a relationship, consult an experienced attorney at South Shore Law by filling out the contact form or call us at 781-749-5600.