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What Are the Steps in a Criminal Trial?

A criminal trial has many parts. Here is a brief overview of the steps of a criminal trial:

Jury selection

The first thing that happens in a criminal trial is that a jury is selected to hear the case. A pool of jurors is called to the courthouse, and then the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the judge ask questions of the jurors in a process called voir dire. Some jurors who cannot judge the case fairly for personal reasons may be dismissed, and others will be dismissed by the parties for other reasons. Ultimately, a jury who will hear the case will be seated, given instructions by the judge, and sworn to perform their duties as jurors.

Opening statements

The prosecutor and the defense attorney will give an opening statement. The opening statement outlines for the jurors the evidence that the attorneys expect will be presented in the case. The defense attorney is allowed to wait until after the prosecutor’s presentation of witnesses before they give their opening statement, but most give their opening statement right after the prosecutor.

Prosecutor’s presentation of witnesses

The prosecutor will then present the testimony of their witnesses. They will call a witness to the witness stand, and then ask them questions in what is called direct examination. Then, the defense attorney will have a chance to question the witness in what is called cross-examination. Depending on the judge, sometimes the prosecutor will be allowed to question the witness again after cross-examination is completed, and the rounds of questioning will continue until the parties are done. Other judges only permit one round of direct and cross examination.

Prosecutor rests

Once the prosecutor is done presenting their witnesses, they will rest their case. Sometimes, at this point, the defense attorney makes a motion for the judge to direct a verdict of not guilty. It is rare for such motions to be granted, however.

Defense presentation of witnesses

The defense will then be given an opportunity to present their witnesses, if they want to produce any. This time, the defense will question first on direct examination, and the prosecutor will question second on cross examination.

Defense rests

The defense will rest after their presentation of witnesses, if they choose to present any evidence at all. Nothing requires the defense to present witnesses.

Closing arguments

The prosecutor and defense attorney will then make closing arguments to the jury. This is an argument summarizing the evidence that was presented and arguing for the result that the party desires from the jury.

Jury instructions

The judge will then instruct the jury about the rules that they must follow in their deliberations, and ask them to go back and deliberate until they reach a verdict.

Verdict

The jury will then reach a unanimous verdict.

If you have been charged with a crime and are facing a jury trial in a criminal matter, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal lawyer Greenville, MI trusts right away.


Thank you to our friends and contributors at Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense and the steps in a criminal trial.

 

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How Does a Judge Decide My Sentence?

Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might be wondering how it is that the judge will decide your sentence. A judge has to consider many factors in weighing what sentence to impose upon a defendant who comes before them. Here are some of the factors that a judge will consider in deciding how to sentence you:

  1.     Statutes and case law.

The first thing that a judge will consider is the law. Criminal offenses will have minimum and maximum punishments that are set by statute. Further, case law and constitutional considerations will also impact the judge’s ability to determine a particular sentence. If a judge were to fail to follow the law, the sentence would be overturned on appeal.

  1.     Prior criminal history.

A judge will look at your prior criminal history in determining how to sentence. Lack of a criminal history will likely benefit you greatly, while a lengthy criminal history is a tough hurdle. Even criminal convictions far back in time will be considered, although more recent criminal convictions will be more damaging.

  1.     Age.

Your age at the time of the offense will be considered. Youthful first offenders are often cut more breaks than older offenders, as their immaturity and lack of brain development can contribute to poor decision making. On the other hand, elderly offenders who have kept a clean record for most of their life and have a momentary indiscretion are also often cut some slack by many judges.

  1.     Seriousness of the Crime

Of course, the seriousness of the crime and the facts surrounding the commission of the crime will play into the judge’s decision. If you can provide the court with mitigating factors that help to provide some context to the reasons that led you to commit the crime, it can be helpful.

  1.     Community Support.

Having the support of your family, friends, and other members of the community can be a positive factor for a judge who is determining a sentence. Many lawyers will ask your family and friends to write letters of support to be submitted to the judge prior to sentencing, so that the judge can take into consideration that community support. Further, letters from friends and family can help humanize you for the judge, so you’re not just a number.

  1.     Remorse.

To many judges, it is important to know whether or not a defendant is remorseful for his or her actions. If you can demonstrate sincere remorse to the judge, it may positively impact your sentence.

  1.     Professional evaluations.

If you have a professional evaluation that discusses the factors that led you to commit the crime and gives a positive outlook for your future risk to commit further crimes, that can be helpful. For example, if you were being sentenced for a sexual offense, a sex offender risk assessment by a licensed psychologist that indicates that you are at low risk to reoffend will likely result in a lower sentence.

  1.     Risk to the community.

The judge will look at what he or she believes to be your risk to the community. If you have an assaultive or sexual offense, your risk to the community will be higher than if you are being sentenced for a financial crime or other non-violent offense.

  1.     Punishment v Rehabilitation.

The judge has to decide how much punishment is appropriate in your case, versus how much they want to focus on rehabilitation.

If you are being sentenced in a criminal case, it is important that you are represented by a lawyer, and that you speak to experienced criminal defense lawyers  about your case.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense cases and how a judge decides sentencing.

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How to choose a court reporter for a criminal case

Criminal Defense Lawyer

You may ask yourself, are all court reporters the same? Are all court reporter services the same? The answer to both questions is a firm no. In researching different service companies, it becomes evident that there are quite a few to choose from. There are a variety of methods that can be used to document the information and there are different certification opportunities that may better qualify the court reporter for your specific area of law. When it comes to criminal law, it is imperative to have the testimony and anything that occurs in the courtroom be documented accurately and with discretion. Our company has access to experienced and knowledgeable professionals with extensive experience in the courtroom.

Our court reporters are:

  1. Knowledgeable with criminal court proceedings.
  2. Professionals and show discretion despite the content of what they are recording. Not only do our court reporters show discretion in the courtroom but in the community as well. Confidentiality is something we hold in high regard and so do our court reporters.
  3. Trained and experienced. Our court reporters maintain the proper licensure and certifications that go above and beyond the federal and state requirements. We encourage our court reporters to keep up with current trends in court reporting methods and the field of criminal law.
  4. Educated in legal terminology- specifically related to criminal court cases. We hold our court reporters to a high standard of knowledge when it comes to documenting testimony and other occurrences in the courtroom.  Since it is imperative for a court reporter to work quickly, there is no time to translate or even pause to think about how to spell a word or figure out what was just said. In being knowledgeable on the content, the documentation is fast and accurate.
  5. Able to remove his or her own emotion and opinion on the subject. Criminal law is meant to keep society safe and to determine and then punish criminal behavior. Inevitably, most people have strong opinions on criminal behavior. It is important for a court reporter to document what they hear with accuracy. It would be unethical for the court reporter to show his or her own bias in the way they document the testimony and attorney presence in the courtroom. Neutrality is of utmost importance.

The area of criminal law is important to keeping society safe and harmonious. As any attorney knows, there are many aspect to building and arguing a criminal case. In the event that the court does not provide a court reporter, it behooves you to make the additional expense and hire a court reporter offers as soon as the deposition phase. In doing so, you will have access to the testimony in the future and will be able to build a case based on the details and discretions that are revealed throughout the deposition and trial phases. In addition, if there your client wishes to appeal in the future, there is no chance it will be granted without a written transcript of the trial.  

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Veritext Legal Solutions for their insight into court reporting and how to choose a court reporter for a criminal case.

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Why might I not need a living trust?

Child Support Lawyer

Each day, a lawyer receives questions by people who are wondering whether or not they should have a living trust, or if it’s more practical to create a will. As a trust lawyer, the common answer is “It depends.” Some people should choose nothing less than a living trust, and others will not ever need one. For the average American, they will fall in the middle. The following information is a general overview of some situations that may indicate you do not need a living trust.

Avoiding Probate

Probate is a process that involves the inventory and distribution of a person’s assets after they have died. Probate is time consuming, expensive, and often involves many challenges. Because of this, many people try to do whatever they can to avoid probate.

There are many ways that assets can be transferred to inheritors without going through the probate process. This can usually be done within a few weeks or one month following the death. Examples of these methods include making gifts prior to the death, creating a pay-on-death designation to any bank accounts, naming a joint tenancy, with right of survivorship, on a property deed, naming a life insurance beneficiary, naming a retirement account beneficiary, and more.

A living trust can be used for all physical and financial assets and offers the ability to include precise planning while remaining considerably flexible. In a living trust, it is also possible to name alternate beneficiaries should the primary beneficiary die before you. This cannot be done on pay-on-death bank accounts or other asset transfer methods mentioned above.

Downsides to a Living Trust

There are drawbacks to a living trust. Unlike a will that is easy to draft, a living trust takes time to establish. It also requires ongoing maintenance and is not easy to modify (although it can be done). Asking a trust lawyer to draft a trust can cost upwards of $1000. You will also need a simplified will as a backup.

Should You Have a Living Trust

The drawbacks of a trust significantly outweigh the benefits for those who have significant assets or large estates, and also for people who will likely die in the next ten years. To help you decide, consider the following:

Your Age

People who are under 60 years of age, with middle-income or less, and in decent health often do not need a living trust. A serviceable will, which is easier to draft an maintain, should be enough to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries.

If you’re concerned about probate, changes in the US court system are being made. Even in the last decade, probate-avoidance techniques have gained a wider acceptance in the court. It is possible that the probate process will continue to be made easier.

Your Wealth

In general, the more money you have, the more you can save for your beneficiaries by creating a living trust. Furthermore, if you own a small business or significant assets that you don’t want tied up in probate, you may want to create a living trust – even if you are young.

Your Marriage Status

If you are married and you plan on leaving most or all of your assets to your spouse, and vice versa, you likely don’t need to worry about the probate process. Any jointly owned assets typically do not go through probate, and in many states, surviving spouses can use the expedited probate process.

What You Should Do Next

To ensure you do or do not need a living trust, it may be in your best interest to consult a trust lawyer for further advice. If you’re thinking about drafting a will, a trust attorney offers can also assist you and ensure everything is correctly worded, signed, and prepared.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning and why you might need a living trust.

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The Many Ways that Divorce May Be Prolonged

Family Law Lawyer

Once divorce has finally begun, it is likely that each spouse cannot wait for the entire process to be over. Divorce can be heartaching, grueling and last much longer than most spouses would prefer. If many couples could have it, divorce would be a one-day process. Unfortunately, the legal system just doesn’t work that way. There may be designated waiting periods that are legal requirements before the divorce can continue on. No matter what stage of the divorce you are in, it can help to know who is a skilled divorce lawyer so you can feel more confident about the process leading up to finalization.

Here we have answered a series of questions related to all the ways that divorce may be prolonged:

Q: What if my state requires that I am separated from my spouse for a certain period of time prior to filing for divorce?

A: Every state has a set of laws regarding the divorce process. Some may have more or less requirements as to how much time must go by before the divorce can proceed. For example, some states may necessitate that the spouses are separated for around 1-2 years before filing a complaint or petition for divorce.

If one or both spouses do not want to wait that long, they may have to use fault-based grounds that are permitted in that state. But then, that spouse must try to gather proof that the other was unfaithful, abusive, or became medically insane. A spouse that wants to start the process right away, may want to consider meeting with a lawyer who is familiar with divorce legalities for advice on how to get things going faster.

Q: If I am considering moving out of state, do I have any new options?

A: Yes, if you move to a state with no waiting period, you may be able to file for divorce faster than if you remained where you are currently. However, you may need to be a resident within this new state for a designated period of time prior to filing. Before making any moves in haste, you may want to get more information on the laws for your state and the one you plan on moving to. Many states require that a person is a resident for up to 24 months before being allowed to request divorce.

Q: What other divorce requirements besides residency may I encounter?

A: In several states, the spouses must be living apart for a duration of time prior to being able to legally divorce. Additionally, other states may require that some time passes after filing for divorce before proceeding to the next step. Once a spouse files a petition or complaint for divorce, he or she may have to wait 90 days before a court hearing is scheduled or receive a final judgement. In other states, the spouses may have to attend mediation, marriage counseling, or a parent education class about how divorce can impact children. After finding out more about how both their children may be impacted, parents may consider giving the relationship one last try.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Scroggins Law Group for their insight into family law and ways that divorce may be prolonged.

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The Many Factors of Child Custody Battles

Custody Child Attorneys

When the court is deciding which parent is awarded child custody, there are several factors that weigh into the outcome. In general, a judge wants to place the child with the parent that has his or her best interest at heart, and where the child can grow into a healthy adult. During the hearing, each parent will express their side in the custody battle, and what makes them most suitable for sole custody. There may be instances where the parents end up sharing custody, if this is the most beneficial situation for the child.

Most parents have a very strong connection with their child, and want to do what they can to obtain custody. Due to how sensitive and complex these case can be, many parents meet with a family law attorney for help.

Q: Are the wishes of the parents considered?

A: Yes, the preferences of the parents are a factor in child custody battles. Each parent may be fighting for a different type of custody. For example, one parent may want sole custody while the other desires joint legal custody. The court system may feel that parents sharing custody could be the healthiest outcome for the child, as he or she can grow up with two loving and involved parents. Both parents must bring forward evidence and facts that support their requests. The court will then review each side and make a choice based on what information is given. An instance where sharing joint custody is unlikely to be awarded, is if one parent has shown to be aggressive, abusive, neglectful, or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

Q: What about the work obligations of each parent?

A: The ability of each parent to financially support the child is incredibly important. But, a parent must also be able to care for the child’s developmental, psychological and physical needs. If a parent can afford care yet spends most of his or her time at work, that parent may not be ideal to have custody. The court may look further into how much time that parent will be able to spend with the child outside of work.

Q: What other factors can influence child custody disputes?

A: In addition to what has been stated above, there are other factors that can have a weight in the child custody verdict. Keep in mind that the laws pertaining to child custody may be slightly different depending on what state you live in, so it can be helpful to talk with qualified child custody attorneys  offers for more information. Other factors of a child custody battle can include the following:

  • The child’s age (whether they are an infant, toddler, in school, or teenager)
  • Each parent’s willingness to support the child if custody is not awarded
  • The capacity of each parent to provide a stable and healthy environment
  • How the child’s education may be impacted after awarding custody
  • How the child’s extracurricular opportunities may change
  • How many children are part of the custody case
  • The distance from one parent’s home to the other

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Scroggins Law Group for their insight into family law and child custody battles.

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Revoked probation

Criminal Defense Lawyer

For many, being on probation is just as bad as jail time. Feeling like you are under a microscope and constantly have to look over a shoulder, almost any little thing may cause you to violate the terms of your probation. It is important to pay attention and understand every detail of the terms of your probation so that you do not violate and are at risk of having a warrant out for your arrest.

Several questions may come to mind such as how many times is too many times, how much jail time will you face, and what is the likelihood of having your probation revoked now that you have violated. These are all good questions and it is best to understand your rights and what is likely to happen to you now that there is a violation.

You may want to know what your probation officer is going to do. Sometimes warnings are given, but sometimes you are not so lucky and may be on your way to jail. Any wrong move and you may have violated, this also means you have to watch your surroundings even if you are not exactly involved.

If it gets to a point where you have already been arrested due to a violation, it is likely that you will be released on bond but you will need to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately. If you happen to be convicted after your court appearance which is called a revocation hearing, you may be required to pay fines, or do community service; with the right defense attorney but it is ultimately up to the judge. If your probation is revoked, you are likely going to jail. However, your sentence will not exceed the original jail sentence listed in the terms of your probation, not even by a day.

Hiring the right DUI lawyer can make all of the difference in your case so it is best not to quit on yourself. Speak with someone that has knowledge of the law and will know how to navigate in the courtroom and fight for you. An attorney with experience may not only have rapport with the judges, but also the probation officers and sheriff. Many law offices even offer free consultations also, if you or someone you know has violated their probation and is at risk of having their probation revoked seek legal representation immediately.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and revoked probation.

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What is Jury Nullification?

Criminal Defense Lawyer

One state has defined “[j]ury nullification [a]s the power to dispense mercy by nullifying the law and returning a verdict less than that required by the evidence.” People v. St. Cyr, 129 Mich.App. 471, 473-474, 341 N.W.2d 533 (1983). This essentially means that a jury is deciding to return a verdict of not guilty (or guilty of a lesser offense) even though the jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offense charged.

Because the Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the prosecution from appealing an acquittal, all 50 states explicitly or implicitly acknowledge the right of a jury to nullify and return a verdict less than is warranted by the facts of the case and the law of the state. However, this doesn’t mean that a criminal defense lawyer is permitted to expressly ask a jury to nullify.

Most, if not all, states prohibit a criminal defense lawyer from telling a jury about their right to nullify. In fact, most standard jury instructions would suggest to the jury that it has no option but to convict if the facts are proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Despite this limitation, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to effectively present a nullification defense. Many states have a standard jury instruction which explains to the jury that their decision on a particular fact is final (and not subject to review or appeal). This can be an effective way for a criminal defense lawyer to explain to the jury that nobody can ever make them explain why they chose the way they did and nobody can appeal their decision. In that way, they are able to choose what is right based on the facts as they see them and based on what facts they believe are important.

Similarly, many jurisdictions also tell the jurors that they should vote in good conscience. This instruction can be very compelling to a jury if they have heard facts that make a conviction seem unfair or unjust under the circumstances. If a criminal defense attorney has told an effective story during trial about how a conviction would be unjust, jurors may feel compelled to vote their conscience, even if the facts would appear to clearly support a conviction.

Jury nullification is difficult defense and generally not one that should be used if there is another viable defense available. The system is largely set up to avoid jury nullification, so if you have another defense available, you should thoroughly explore it before committing to a nullification defense.

If you’re wondering whether nullification could be a viable defense in your case, you should consult with an experienced criminal law lawyer Grand Rapids, MI relies on to explore whether nullification could work for you.

 


 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal cases and jury nullification.

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What Happens if a Contract Falls Through?

Business Lawyer

In the most ideal world, agreements would be made and both parties would be happy with their choice. Ideally, no disputes would come up and each party would benefit from the contract to the fullest extent. If you are in need of legal services regarding an agreement gone wrong, you can contact a breach of contract attorney for help. They understand that in the reality, business delays occur, financial problems arise and other events can prevent a contract from being carried out as promised.

Below we answer some common questions about what a breach of contract is, and what happens if an agreement falls through. For additional questions, please contact a law firm.

What is the Definition of a Breach of Contract?

When making a business contract, there are specific obligations both parties must fulfill. In legal terms, any party that fails to uphold their end of the agreement, is committing a breach of contract. A breach can also occur if a party fails to fulfill a duty within a time frame listed in the contract.

What Happens After a Breach is Committed?

If there is an alleged breach of contract, one of the parties can attempt to enforce the terms, or seek compensation for any loss of finances. If informal attempts at solving the problem do not work, then a dispute can be handled through a lawsuit. If both parties are able to solve the issues through mediation, it can prevent the stress and expenses of a lawsuit. Out of court attempts at fixing disagreements over a contract, can be referred to as alternative dispute resolution.

Damages for a Breach of Contract

A breach of contract can be remedied through awarding payment of damages. There are four different types of damages, and are briefly defined as the following:

  1. Punitive Damages – intended to hold the breaching party accountable for their actions through having to make payments to the non-breaching party.
  2. Compensatory Damages – aims to put the non-breaching party in a position they normally would have been, if the breaching party had fulfilled their agreements.
  3. Nominal Damages – if there was no financial loss due to the breach of contract, the court may issue a small award of a few dollars to the non-breaching party.
  4. Liquidated Damages – an amount both parties agreed upon in the contract that the non-breaching party can collect in the event their end is not upheld.

We do not recommend handling a breach of contract alone. Due to the complexity of contracts, most cases can benefit from representation of a breach of contract attorney who can explain how a business contracts lawyer in Sacramento, CA may help.

 


 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at the Yee Law Group for their insight into business law and breach of contracts.

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How Do Judges Determine the Amount of Bail?

If you have been arrested for a criminal offense, chances are that a judge may require you to post money bail in order to get out of jail. While judges do have the option to permit you to be released without posting a money bail, often called release on “personal recognizance,” many judges will require payment of some money bail in order for you to be released. Here are the factors that the judge will likely consider in setting the amount of the bond:

  1.     The seriousness of the alleged offense.

The judge will consider the seriousness of the alleged crime. For example, bail on a murder case is going to be significantly different than on a misdemeanor shoplifting case.

  1.     Prior criminal record.

The judge will take into account your prior criminal history, no matter how old. This generally includes offenses committed as a juvenile.

  1.     History of appearing in court.

If you have a history of failing to appear in court on prior cases, your bond will likely be set significantly higher.

  1.     Flight to avoid prosecution.

If you left the state or hid from the police in order to avoid prosecution, and they had to come after you for this arrest, it’s likely that your bail is going to be set fairly high.

  1.     History of substance abuse or addiction.

You don’t have to answer any questions about drug or alcohol use or addiction when you’re in court, but if your criminal history indicates a problem with substance abuse or addiction, bond will likely be set higher.

  1.     Mental condition.

If you have documented mental health concerns or a reputation for dangerousness, your bond will be set at a higher amount.

  1.     Probability of conviction.

The judge will consider the strength of the evidence against you. The stronger the evidence, the higher the bond.

  1.     Employment status.

Being employed is a bonus. Employment will likely result in the judge setting a lower bond.

  1.     Financial history.

The judge will consider your financial history for the purpose of determining whether you have the ability to post money bail. If you are indigent, the judge shouldn’t be punishing you and keeping you in jail simply because you are poor.

  1.  Ties to the community.

The judge will consider your ties to the community, including factors such as whether there are community members who will vouch for you, family ties to the area, and length of residence. The more ties to the community that you have, the lower the judge is likely to set your bail.

If you are going to be arraigned on criminal charges, you should contact an attorney, like a criminal defense lawyer Grand Rapids, MI looks to, to discuss the bond factors in your case.

 


 

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense.

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Tips for Getting Hired With a Criminal Record

A criminal conviction can follow you around long after you’ve finished a prison or probation sentence. Having a conviction on your record can make it especially more difficult to obtain employment. Many employers do background checks these days and may be weary about hiring individuals without clean backgrounds. However, that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Although you may have to jump through more hoops, it’s still possible to get a job. Here are some tips for getting hired with a criminal record:

Tell the Truth

If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you may feel embarrassed about revealing it to a potential employer. You know how just how judgmental people can be toward those with criminal records and don’t want that sort of thing to jeopardize your chances of getting a job. However, you should never lie about your criminal background. If you lie to an employer about your criminal record and he or she finds out about it later through a background check, you most certainly won’t get hired.

Be Brief

While it’s important to tell the truth about your conviction, you should be careful about revealing too much information. Just tell the employer how you got in trouble in the first place and what you got convicted of. If you go into too much detail, it could backfire on you.

Don’t Make Excuses About What You Did

The last thing an employer wants to hear when questioning you about your criminal background is an excuse. Instead of telling the employer you were young and naive or that someone talked you into committing the crime, accept responsibility for what happened.

Focus on the Positive

When asked about your criminal history try to focus on the positive as much as possible. For example, if more than 10 years have passed since you were convicted and you’ve stayed out of trouble since then, mention that to the employer. Also, talk about how you’ve worked to improve your life since then and what kind of accomplishments you’ve made.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

If you bring letters of recommendation from respectable people, it may improve your chances of getting hired. For example, if you did a good job for your last employer, don’t hesitate to ask him or her to write a letter of recommendation that highlights your strengths, such as your punctuality and willingness to work hard.

Consider Expunging or Sealing Your Record

If you don’t want your criminal record following you around forever, it may be a good idea to talk to a criminal attorney about getting your record expunged or sealed. He or she can look into the details of your case and determine if you are eligible for either option. If your case is eligible for sealing or expungement, a criminal defense lawyer State College, PA residents rely on can help you with every step of the process.

Many criminal attorneys offer free initial consultations, so there is no risk to setting up a meeting with one.

 


 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at De Boef Lucchesi, P.C. for their insight into criminal charges.

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How to Simplify Your Executor’s Job

Getting named the executor of an estate can be a big honor. It shows that you trusted a person enough to put him or her ahead of managing your affairs when you can’t. Being an executor is also a huge responsibility that involves a lot of work. It can take time away from the executor’s job and other responsibilities. The good news is that there are several things you can do to make your executor’s job a little easier.

Here are some tips on simplifying your executor’s duties:

Make Sure Important Documents Are Easy to Find

One of the first things an executor has to do after the owner of the estate has died is look for important documents, including bank statements, the will, insurance policies, birth certificates and cemetery deeds. If these documents are not organized well, the executor might have a difficult time finding them and become stressed out. To help your executor out, consider placing these documents in a special binder.

Leave a Cash Account

When someone dies, there are a lot of bills to take care of, including medical expenses, funeral costs and lawyer fees. Make sure your executor has access to cash so that he or she can pay off these estate expenses easier.

List Your Wishes for a Funeral

It is difficult for people to make fast decisions about funerals when they are mourning the death of a loved one. That is why you should include your preferences for your funeral in your estate plan, such as is if you prefer cremation or burial. Doing this will help your family avoid a lot of disagreements and grief.

Determine Who Receives Little Items

It is likely that you listed who you want to receive your house, investments accounts and other big items in your estate plan. However, you might not have included who you want to inherit your smaller items, like your dining room set or souvenirs from family vacations. Believe it or not, many family members have gotten into arguments about small items like those after the death of a loved one. That can create a lot of unnecessary turmoil. To prevent fights, remember to specify who you want to receive each item you own.

Consider Giving Compensation to the Executor

Being an executor is a time-consuming job, so you may want to compensate him or her for all the hard work. However, if your executor is a family member, he or she may be hesitant to accept payment. If you believe your executor might not accept payment, there are ways to work around this. For instance, you could leave your executor money in a separate bank account or leave him or her a higher inheritance.

If you help make your executor’s job easier, he or she will appreciate it. If you have any further questions about your estate plan, consult with a qualified estate planning lawyer Memphis, TN residents trust as soon as possible.

 


 

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC for their insight into estate planning.

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A Guide to Business Contracts

Do you need a business lawyer to review or draft a contract?

If you are starting a new business, contracts will be one of the most common legal transactions you’ll be involved in. This means it will be important to take time and learn about business contracts.

The Definition of a Contract

A contract is an agreement that is legally enforceable. It will involve at least two parties and creates an duty(s) for at least one party to do or not do certain things. A party can be an individual person, any sized company, an organization, or a corporation.

The Laws that Govern Contracts

Contracts are typically governed and enforced the legislation that has been set forth in the state  where the contract was agreed to. A contract could be presided by two different types of laws:

  • Common Law – Leases, employment agreements, and standard business agreements are usually governed by the common law of the state. Common laws come from the judicial decisions of the court and evolve overtime with each judge’s ruling or decision on a case.
  • The Uniform Commercial Code – Contracts that are for the sale of any service or goods is not controlled by common law, but rather UCC. This is a set of guidelines that control the laws of any commercial transaction. Most states have adopted the entire UCC, but some only partially. A business lawyer can explain more about the UCC, common law, and what type governs your contract during a consultation.

How a Contract is Created

  • An offer is made,
  • there is an acceptance of that offer, and;
  • reasonable consideration to make the contract valid.

The term consideration in this sense, is a legal term for the “bargained-for exchange” between all parties of the contract. Furthermore that the contract will benefit both parties in some way.

The Different Types of Contracts

There are a few common types of contracts. A business lawyer will know what contract you need for your situation and will be happy to explain the details of these contracts when you speak with him or her.

  • Bilateral Contract – A mutual exchange of promises between parties.
  • Unilateral Contract – A performance is requested, the performance is complete and a reward is given in return.
  • Express Contract – An explicit written or spoken contract which details the terms and conditions of an agreement.
  • Implied Contract – Established through the behavior of the parties, particularly when there is a clear intent to enter an agreement.
  • An express contract –  is formed by explicit written or spoken language, expressing the agreement and its terms.

When the Terms of a Contract Are Not Met

When a party does not adhere to the terms of a contract, it may be considered a breach. It is possible to enforce a breach of contract through dispute resolution or litigation. If you are involved in a contract dispute, please call a business lawyer for further advice.

Do You Have Questions About Your Business Contracts?

If you are involved with a high stakes contract, require a contract to be drafted, or are facing a dispute over a contract, do not hesitate to contact an attorney, like a business formation lawyer Roseville CA turns to, to ensure that you are in a proper position.

Call now to speak with an experienced business lawyer who will listen to your needs.


Thank you to the Yee Law Group for providing their legal insight on business contracts.

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How does a Parent’s Death Affect Child Support?

The death of a parent is a very difficult event for everyone to deal with. It can make it even more challenging when child support payments are needed and those left behind have to determine what the death means in regards of child support payments. To determine what the next step should be, it will depend on whether the deceased is non-custodial or the custodial parent. Every family’s case is different and difficult. It is recommended if you are going through the death of a child’s parent to consult an attorney to discuss specific advice. If you are having child support issues, do not hesitate to contact experienced attorney, like child support lawyers Plano, TX families trust, to assist you with your case.

There are ways to receive child support payments after one of the parents dies.

Death of a Custodial Parent

If the custodial parent dies, the main focus will be who will care for the children. This could result in guardianship from the grandparents, the non-custodial parent, friends of the family, or other relatives. If the non-custodial parent takes on custody, they could try to modify their child support. They could also seek to receive child support from the deceased custodial parent’s estate to help with the costs of rising the children.

If the non-custodial parent does not take custody of the children after the death of the custodial parent, the appointed guardian could seek child support from the non-custodial parent as well as from the custodial parent’s estate.

Death of a Non-Custodial Parent

When the non-custodial parent dies, the custodial parent may be wondering how they will be able to afford taking care of their children. There are a few different situations to figure out how to receive support after the non-custodial parent’s death:

  1. If the deceased parent had a life insurance policy that names the children as beneficiaries, the surviving parent can call the insurance company to start the process of collecting the insurance policy for the child.
  2. If the deceased parent had any assets including houses, bank accounts, and cars, the estate will become responsible for paying for child support.
  3. If the deceased parent was employed, the surviving parent may try to receive benefits for the children from the Social Security Administration.
  4. If the deceased parent has a partner, the partner will receive notices from family court to continue paying child support. In this case, the surviving partner must call the family court to explain their partner’s death. They will need to provide a death certificate so the court can verify the death.

Creating an Estate Plan

The most important step to remember once you have children is to set up an estate plan. By creating an estate plan, it will directly address what happens when one parent dies. It is also important to update your estate plan if you and your spouse get divorced. Keeping an estate plan updated will ensure your children are taken care of when you die. After a parent’s death, the obligation of paying child support does not end with them. No matter the relationship of the parents at the time of death, it is in the best interest of the child for the surviving parent to keep receiving support.


Thank you to Scroggins Legal for providing their insight and authoring this piece on child support.

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Contesting a Will

An estate planning lawyer can tell you that contesting a will may be unusual, but it is not unheard of. Under certain circumstances, the law allows for interested parties to contest a will. Many times, the risk of a will being contested can be minimized or eliminated with careful planning with the help of a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. Call us today if you would like to discuss your concerns regarding a will, whether you are considering contesting one or would like to ensure that your will is unlikely to be contested.

 

Reasons for Contesting a Will

 

There are many reasons for why a person might wish to contest a will, though not all of them are legally recognized and so therefore do not have grounds for contesting a deceased’s will. For instance, just because you were friends with someone does not mean they were obliged to leave you money, even if they were affluent.

 

The deceased was not of sound mind and body when they wrote their will. The court understands that a person can be unduly influenced by others who wish to set themselves up to inherit assets, to the exclusion of others who otherwise would stand to inherit those assets. An estate planning lawyer can work with you to determine if there is sufficient evidence available to prove the deceased was not capable of understanding the consequences of what they wrote in their will.

 

The will is a forgery. An estate planning lawyer will have to present evidence that the will is forged and is therefore invalid. This usually requires the inclusion of testimony and documentation from experts such as handwriting analysts, archival document specialists, etc.

 

The will is not the latest will that the deceased left behind. If you and your estate planning lawyer can present a valid will that is more recent, you may be able to invalidate the previous will. If you have valid reasons for why you believe there is a more recent will though you have not yet located it, the currently recognized will can be held for a period of time as designated by a judge. However, this is only for a limited amount of time and will only delay the carrying out of the current will unless you can find a more recent version.

 

Protecting Your Will

 

With a clearly written will, possibly in conjunction with the use of other estate planning tools, we can help make sure that your heirs and others who are not included in the will, are not likely to have legal grounds for contesting your will. In the event that you need an attorney, like a wills and trusts lawyer Scottsdale, AZ relies on, do not hesitate to contact one to make sure you are in the best position to tackle your case.


 

Thank you to Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for providing their insight and authoring this piece on estate planning.

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