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It Is Raining Legal Freebies!

By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Guest Column

As is my wont, at the beginning of a new year, I like to shower on my dear readers, legal freebies that may be of SOME utility or value as they navigate that minefield known as the legal system.

It can be full of pits, snares and surprises for the novice so, in my small way, I like to be a legal cornucopia and spread a little new year's cheer to everyone.

Now mind you, the following legal freebies should only be used in conjunction with an attorney who is knowledgeable of your particular concerns or dilemma.

Lafe Tolliver, Esq

So, just as you would not go to a dentist to install your home security system, make sure that the attorney you employ is a seasoned hand so you can avoid or minimize any hard lumps.

FREEBIE ONE: If you choose (and you shouldn't) to have a baby outside of

marital wedlock and you want to make sure that you are in the baby's future  (even if the birth mother wants to "lock you out"), you can place your name on a putative registry so that your rights as a birth parent are protected. This needs to be done within 15 days of the birth of the child. So, before you buy that first box of "Pampers, get on the registry!

FREEBIE TWO:  If you are expecting a "fat" tax refund but still need to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have urgent expenses, make sure that you keep a detailed list of whatever you spend out of that tax refund, including all receipts. Why? In the event that you file a bankruptcy and the trustee over your case asks about that X grand return, you can present evidence that you did not fritter it away on loose living and buying the latest Jordans.

But rather you spent it on necessities including back rent, utilities, food, clothing, attorney fees and costs to file the bankruptcy, etc...etc. Do not pay back friends or family members for any "loans" that they gave you. That won't fly with the bankruptcy trustee.

FREEBIE THREE: Danger! Danger! If you sign a consumer contract for goods and services, you normally have a three day rescission period by which you can reject the contract and not be liable to pay any contractual balance. However, this three days of grace does not apply to buying a car. So, be very sure that you want the car and the car checks out as not being a lemon or it will become your "bank" (in other words, you are always putting money into it!).

FREEBIE FOUR:  In the unfortunate event that you are a passenger in a car that is stopped by the police, the police can ask each of the occupants of the car to identify themselves and also to step out of car (safety of the officers).

If that happens to you, please refrain from loud mouthing the police or trying to play tough guy and not cooperate. The owner/driver of the vehicle can protest a search of the car but you can't. So, please cooperate so that you can get home safely and not be a victim of police misconduct.

FREEBIE FIVE: Being evicted? If so, make sure that the landlord files the proper paperwork in court and be very careful to make note if the landlord or his agents try to do what is called, "self-help"  by which they put out your belongings on the curb before the court process has finished. If they try that tactic, they can be sued for damages. Take pictures and have witnesses if at all possible about the damages done to your household goods and furniture.

FREEBIE SIX: If you are facing a foreclosure but want to save the house but the creditor says no, you may  file for what is called a Chapter 13 Plan by which, if you qualify, you can save the house from foreclosure and also you can catch up on any past due and owing house payments and property taxes. You must act quickly so that your rights are protected since after the foreclosure is done, your rights are extinguished unless you can pay the due amount in full which may include substantial attorney fees and costs.

FREEBIE SEVEN: If someone dies and they made out a will but you can not find it but you do have a copy of it, you can still ask the local probate court to admit the will and there will be a legal proceeding to validate the copy as if it was the original will. If no original can be found and neither can a copy be found, you can still probate the estate assets of the deceased that are not included in a trust document (trust documents are not admitted to probate court).

FREEBIE EIGHT: In the event that you want to deed property to someone but with conditions, you can do so and thus give a person a "life estate" in the property and when they pass on, you can (in the same document) determines who then gets the property or whether it should revert back to you or your heirs.

FREEBIE NINE: To save money as regards probating one's estate, consider having a possible heir, or two, placed on your checking or savings account so that in the event that you pass away, those remaining funds are now considered to be owned by those name heirs. This is called a "POD" (payable on death account) and can be set up by going to your bank and adding a name, or more, to the paperwork and thus it is a contract and as such will not be considered a probate asset and thus avoids going through probate.

FREEBIE TEN: In the event that you need to file a bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 Plan, the federal law allows you to include into your monthly budget an amount for tithing to your church (Note: there is no New Testament requirement for tithing, only for joyful giving) and which amount can be up to 15 percent of your annual gross income. Such giving could make a favorable result in you being able to file either a bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 Plan since that amount lessens what is available to pay to creditors!

FREEBIE ELEVEN:  In the event that you are sent an unsolicited gift in the mail (in other words you did not ask for it or order it), it is yours to keep and the sender is out of luck. So, if a package comes to you and you keep it and then you get letters demanding payment or its return, throw the letters away and enjoy the freebie.

FREEBIE TWELVE: If you and your spouse have to separate and you both agree upon a dissolution as opposed to a divorce (dissolution requires no grounds to be proven), make sure that each spouse will be present at the final hearing because if not, and one spouse does not appear, the court will/can dismiss it and you will have to start over and file a more costly divorce action.

     Well, there you have it. Freebies for all! Use them wisely and when you are in a contentious situation, do not get angry...get smart. Angry people lose while smart people win.

Contact Lafe Tolliver at tolliver@juno.com 


Copyright 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/10/19 09:02:47 -0500.

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