Separation vs. Divorce

When a married couple decides that they can no longer stay together, a divorce is usually the way the parties lean.   For some, jumping into a divorce may not be the right answer.   Separation may be the way to go.

Legal separation is an option for those that desire to live apart but do not want to sever the bonds of marriage.    The parties may continue to refer to the other as a spouse, while separated.   The parties can petition the Court to enter an order establishing support, custody, parent-time, debt repayment, property division and other issues that naturally arise from a separation.

In a legal separation, the assets and property of the couple remain joint property, unless otherwise agreed.  As this is the case, both parties retain legal rights over the marital assets, lessening the chances that one of the parties will be unlawfully defrauded by the other.

Health Insurance Benefits

Divorce terminates not only the bonds of marriage, but also terminates the financial bonds between the parties.   One of the natural outcomes of a divorce is the termination of health insurance for the non-employee spouse.   Just because you can no longer live together does not necessarily mean that you want to deprive your spouse of the ability to obtain medical help.   A legal separation might be the answer as it allows the non-employee spouse to retain insurance benefits.

Social Security

In order to obtain social security benefits your marriage needs to last at least ten years.   If you are near, but have not passed the ten year mark of marriage, a legal separation may be the answer.   The legal separation will allow you to live your separate lives while waiting for the marriage to hit the ten year mark.

Taxes

Married couples typically have the benefit of a lower tax rate and exemptions then do those filing as single.  Remaining married, through a legal separation, may be the answer for those that want to retain the tax benefits but no longer want to live together.

Reconciliation

A legal separation allows the couple the opportunity to examine their options, while living apart.   While divorce may be the answer for some, legal separation gives parties ample time to make sure that they are taking the path that is correct for them.  The parties, if given the time, may find that they do not wish to live apart and may reconcile.

If you have questions about whether separation or divorce is right for you, contact our divorce and family law attorneys for a free consultation. Call Mountain View Law Group today at (801) 393-5555.

Are there alternatives to Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  For businesses, bankruptcy is often used as a reorganization tool that allows the company to pick up the pieces and move forward in a better manner.  For individuals, bankruptcy is a way to legally eliminate or reduce debt that has become beyond their ability to pay.  However, some individuals fear that filing bankruptcy will make them look like they are “using the system” or “trying to stiff creditors”.  Some credit repair companies advertise that bankruptcy should be avoided.  Some financial “experts” claim that bankruptcy is the worst possible thing a person can do to eliminate debt.  The real question is this: Is bankruptcy a good idea for you in your situation?

Bankruptcy may not be right for everyone. For example, you can try negotiating settlements with your creditors, you could attempt to qualify for a consolidation loan, or you could just stick your head in the sand and hope that it all goes away.  But in many cases, bankruptcy can significantly help you to reduce or eliminate your existing debt. It can also help you rebuild your credit and future financial security.  After filing bankruptcy, you may have access to new lines of credit that you didn’t have before bankruptcy.  That car loan may no longer be out of reach.  You can start immediately rebuilding your credit so that you can purchase a home or refinance your existing home in the future.  Retirement account contributions might be a possibility now that you have a positive cash flow. Almost without exception, your stress level will significantly decrease.

So, are there alternatives to bankruptcy?  Yes.  But if you are struggling with debt, it would be worth your time to speak with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney and find out more about your options.

Call Mountain View Law Group today at 801-393-5555 for a free initial consultation regarding options for managing your financial situation.

Should You Have an Attorney Help You With Your Workers Comp Claim?

People who have been injured at work often wonder if they should have a lawyer represent them in obtaining Workers Compensation benefits. The primary question is “Can an injured worker afford a Workers Compensation lawyer to represent him or her?”  The easy answer is “yes.” You can afford to have a Workers Compensation lawyer represent you because you do not have to pay the lawyer until, and unless, he or she is able to win your case.  At that point, what do you have to pay the lawyer?  Under Utah law, Workers Compensation lawyer fees are limited to a percentage of the benefits the lawyer recovered for you.  Furthermore, the total amount of attorney fees is capped, but this amount changes periodically.

When do you need to hire a Workers Compensation lawyer?  As long as the Workers Compensation insurance adjuster is paying all of the benefits to which you are entitled, you normally do not need a lawyer.  However, once the adjuster starts to deny benefits you should seek the help of an experienced lawyer who represents injured workers in denied Worker Compensation claims.  Talking with a Worker Compensation lawyer about your case is not going to cost you anything but your time.  You will be able to get answers to your questions and help you make a decision about whether you should have a Workers Compensation lawyer represent you in your case.

If you have questions about your work injury benefits or if a Workers Compensation insurance adjuster is denying any or all of your benefits, call the Workers Compensation lawyers at Mountain View Law Group today at (801) 393-5555, and set up a free consultation to discuss your case.

Electronic Information and Estate Planning

An Important Component of Your Estate Plan Should Be a List of Logins and Passwords for Your Online Accounts.

Recently, I read an article that brought up an interesting, and I think, important estate planning issue: if you were to become incompetent and need to rely on another to assist you with you financial affairs, would that person have any idea how to access your online accounts?  This caused me to start making a mental inventory of all the online accounts that I use daily, weekly or monthly to manage my finances and communications.  The number of logins and passwords for all my online accounts added up quickly.  It became clear that it could be very difficult for someone to do something as apparently simple as paying my month bills without knowing how to access my online accounts.

For example, my wife, Nicole, and I don’t receive through the mail paper statements or bills from utilities or other providers – everything is delivered electronically to Nicole’s email, if at all.  We pay all of our monthly bills online, directing our bank to issue checks or make electronic payments when monthly bills become due.    For some types of bills, we have set up automatic payments that happen each month on a particular day.  When an automatic payment is made, the bank emails a confirmation to Nicole’s email address so we know the payment has been made and the amount of the payment.  For other types of bills, the process isn’t totally automatic.  When a bill will shortly become due, the bank sends a reminder to Nicole’s email account and then we log into our bank account online to manually authorize the payment through the website.  We then receive a confirmation through Nicole’s email when the payment is mailed to the provider.   In order to confirm that a payment was properly received and applied to a particular bill, we access our online account with each provider.

Does your spouse or significant other know your online accounts and how to access them? If you were to become incapacitated, would your family know how to access your financial account and information? By having this information with the rest of your estate plan documents, your family will know where to find it when needed. They can then help:

  • Locate any accounts you have online
  • Access those accounts or the information in those accounts
  • Distribute or transfer any assets to the appropriate parties
  • Avoid online identity theft

If you need assistance with your estate planning needs, contact the attorneys at Mountain View Law Group today for a free consultation. (801) 393-5555

Automobile / Pedestrian Rules and Laws

Recently, there have been several automobile/pedestrian incidents that have resulted in serious injuries and deaths to pedestrians.  I am sure that many of you who drive in Utah are surprised there are not more of these automobile/pedestrian incidents.  How many times have you seen drivers make a left hand turn and choose to continue with the left hand turn before the pedestrian clears the half of the crosswalk where the car must pass?  How many times have you seen drivers make a right hand turn when there are pedestrians in the cross walk and continue with the right hand turn before the pedestrian clears the half of the crosswalk where the car must pass?  These actions violate basic motor vehicle pedestrian safety rules and the laws of the State of Utah.

Under Utah law, drivers must wait for the pedestrian to clear the half of the crosswalk where the motor vehicle will pass through the cross walk before making the turn.  The purpose for this rule/law is the safety of the pedestrian.  Another motor vehicle pedestrian rule/law that drivers must be more aware of is the right of way of a pedestrian at a street intersection without a stop sign or traffic light signal.  When approaching this type of an intersection with a pedestrian entering the street, with or without a crosswalk, the pedestrian has the right of way and the driver must stop to allow the pedestrian to pass. Unfortunately, many drivers decide they are in too much of a hurry ignore these safety rules/laws.  If we all chose to follow these rules as intended the amount of tragedy in the news would be greatly reduced.

If you need representation for a motor vehicle crash, contact our personal injury attorneys at Mountain View Law Group today. 801-393-5555.

Hiring an Adoption Attorney

When hiring an adoption attorney you must choose carefully, to ensure that you are obtaining the best representation possible.   Below are a few of the most important items to consider when making your determination:

*Ask the attorney how many adoption cases he/she has handled.  Ask specific questions about cases they have finalized? What problems have they run into? What is their experience working with an adoption agency?

*Ask what you can expect if you hire the attorney. How soon will they respond to phone calls or emails?  Will you be able to meet with him/her?   Will a paralegal be doing the majority of the work?

*Ask how much of the attorney’s work is adoption related work.  An attorney who spends more time working in the area will be more experienced in the area.

*Ask if the attorney has experience in contested adoptions.   An attorney with extensive experience in contested adoptions can often give you a higher level of service, even if your case isn’t contested.  An attorney with more experience is better able to see, and avoid, potential pitfalls.

*Ask what the attorney charges for your type of adoption?  Are there filing fees? Do you need a pre-placement or post-placement adoption evaluation?   What are the costs for said evaluations?  Are there additional potential costs that could arise at a later date?

If you are considering adopting a child, contact the attorneys at Mountain View Law Group at 801-393-5555. We will provide you with a free consultation, where we will answer all of your questions and concerns.

How Cashless Purchases Can Lead to Big Financial Trouble

If you find yourself in financial trouble, just take a look in your wallet.  You will most likely find no cash at all; instead, most people’s wallets are filled with reloadable store cards, debit cards and credit cards.  Our financial information is even stored on our smartphones, which are used to make purchases.  Technology makes purchasing items incredibly easy, but tracking those purchases is not so easy.  If you are not consciously keeping track of your spending, you will quickly find yourself spending more than you earn.

In the past, when people paid for everything in cash, we knew exactly what we were spending and sticking to a budget was much easier.  Impulse buying was not nearly as prevalent, because if you didn’t have the cash, you just did without.  But with all of our virtual spending today, more people are finding themselves in financial trouble without even knowing how they got there.

Once you are in a hole, it can be incredibly hard to dig out.  But you can do it!  It may be old-fashioned, but try using cash for as many of your daily purchases as you can.  Small steps, such as paying for your morning coffee and muffin with cash instead of a credit card, will help you regain control of your budget.  Or set up envelopes – one for rent, one for groceries, another for entertainment, etc. and set aside money each month in each category.  But be careful!  Once your entertainment money is gone for the month, don’t take from other envelopes.  That would defeat the purpose of budgeting.

If you are already in financial trouble and are having trouble finding a way out, the attorneys and staff at Mountain View Law Group are here to help you!  We can discuss options with you, including whether filing bankruptcy is right for you.  Our attorneys have years of experience in preparing bankruptcy cases, which means that we have a high level of familiarity with the Bankruptcy Code, rules and regulations and can guide you and represent you throughout this process.

Kimberly Stevens, Attorney for Mountain View Law Group, bankruptcy lawyers in Ogden, Utah

Contact us today at 801-393-5555.

Last Will and Testaments Require Probate

On a regular basis, clients or potential clients will tell me that “I have a Last Will and Testament, so I won’t have to Probate when I die.”   Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

A Last Will and Testament, or a Will for short, is a document that is created during life, that identifies that upon the Will maker’s passing he or she wants a named individual to act as Personal Representative, or Executor.  The Personal Representative, or Executor, is appointed to gather in the deceased person’s assets, pay legitimate creditors and then to distribute the remaining assets to those individuals identified in the Will as the deceased person’s heirs.  Before the named Personal Representative or Executor has any authority pursuant to a Will, the Will must be authenticated by the District Court for the county in which the Will maker lived when he or she died.  Only then will the Personal Representative or Executor have the legal authority to gather and manage the deceased person’s assets.   Or in other words, until a judge reviews a Will and finds that the Will is a valid Will, the person identified as the Personal Representative or Executor has no authority and cannot do what the Will identifies that the deceased person wanted done with his or her assets.  The legal proceeding by which a judge reviews a Will to determine whether that Will is a valid (or invalid) Will and gives authority to the Personal Representative, or Executor, to do what the Will says should be done with the deceased person’s assets is called Probate.

There are several effective ways to avoid Probate, the most common of which is by having a properly drafted Living Trust.  If you have additional questions regarding Wills and Probate, or want to learn about how to avoid Probate through a Living Trust, contact Mountain View Law Group for a free Estate Planning Consultation with Addison D. Larreau.  Mountain View Law Group can be reached at (801) 393-5555 or at MountainViewLawGroup.com.

Can I keep my house if I file bankruptcy?

You’ve worked hard to buy a house and to provide a home for your children.  However, life happens – maybe you’ve had your hours reduced at work, or an illness has caused large medical bills.  Now the bank is breathing down your neck.  Bankruptcy can be useful in helping you get back on track and keep your house.  Of course, it does depend on your specific situation but filing for bankruptcy does not mean that you will automatically lose all of your property.  In a chapter 7 case, you can keep all property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of creditors.  In determining whether property is exempt, you need to consider the value of the property and any loans you may have against the property.

If you are current on your mortgage payments, and you are also able to keep making the loan payments, Chapter 7 may be an option for you to wipe out your other, unsecured debts so that you can focus on your home.  If you are behind on your mortgage payments, Chapter 13 may be able to help you stop a foreclosure and catch up on the back payments over a period of time

If you are considering bankruptcy, but are worried about how it will affect your home, please contact me at 801-393-5555 for a free initial consultation.

Workers Injured on the Job have the Right to Medical Care

At Mountain View Law Group, we help people who are injured at work recover the medical benefits, lost wage benefits and other benefits provided by law when those benefits are being denied by their employers and their employers’ Workers Compensation Insurance companies.

Our attorneys have worked on hundreds of cases, with injures ranging from herniated discs and subdermal hematomas (bleeding on the brain) to sprains and torn muscles.  While the severity of the injury is important in determining the type of Workers Compensation Benefits to which an Injured Worker has the right, the fact is that all workers injured on the job do have the right to at least some Workers Compensation benefits.  For example, every worker injured on the job has the right to medical care paid 100% by the employer’s Workers Compensation Insurance company.  Most employers will require injured workers to initially see a doctor at a clinic selected by the employer or the employer’s Workers Compensation Insurance company, however, the injured worker has the right to select his or her own doctor after that initial doctor’s visit.  There are some restrictions on how and when an injured worker can switch to a different doctor, so it is a good idea to consult with a Workers Compensation Attorney before changing doctors after a work injury.

If you have been injured while working, please contact us at (801) 393-5555, or go to utahslawfirm.com and ask for more information regarding your rights as an injured worker.  While we are located in Ogden, Utah, Mountain View Law Group serves clients located throughout Utah.

Is Spouse Entitled to Interest in Inherited Home?

So you are getting divorced and your spouse inherited the home where you lived during the marriage.   While inherited property is usually awarded to the inheriting party, this is not always the case.  The Utah Appellate Courts have advised that under certain facts you may be able to claim an ownership interest in property that was inherited by your spouse.  Specifically, if you contributed to the improvement, maintenance or protection of the property, you may be entitled to claim an equitable interest in the property.   What this means for you is that if you lived in a home that your spouse inherited, and you can show that you contributed to the home, you may have an ownership interest in the home, no matter what your spouse or his or her attorney tells you.

Contact the attorneys at Mountain View Law Group today 801-393-5555.   They can help make sure that you get everything that you are entitled to from your divorce.

Estate Planning to Care for Children with Special Needs

Parents of children with special needs must be particularly careful in how they estate plan to avoid creating a scenario in which their special needs child is disqualified for benefits such as Social Security Disability Benefits, Medicaid, housing benefits and other needs based benefits for those with special needs.  The use of a special type of Trust, known as a Special Needs Trust  is the ideal way to protect a special needs child’s right to benefits while also making assets available to supplement and enhance the special needs child’s standard of living.

If a parent fails to create a proper Estate Plan or creates a typical Will based or Living Trust based Estate Plan, upon the parents’ death, any inherited assets will transfer to the special needs child or his or her guardian.  Upon this occurring, the special needs child will typically be disqualified for need based benefits, such as Social Security Disability, Medicaid and housing benefits, until the inherited assets have been depleted.  Once the assets inherited from the parents or grandparents have been depleted, the special needs child will then need to reapply and requalify for benefits. This can create a significant hardship for the special needs child and his or her guardian.  There is a better way to Estate Plan to protect a special needs child from this hardship – the use of a Special Needs Trust (“SNT”).

A SNT is a Trust created by the parents or grandparents of a special needs child which provides that assets owned by the Trust are to only be used to supplement – and not replace – financial, medical and housing benefits for which the special needs child qualifies or may in the future qualify.  Someone other than the special needs child will act as Trustee and will have discretion how and when to use the SNT assets.  The special needs child has no ability to compel the Trustee to use or distribute funds for the special needs child’s benefit.  Because the special needs child cannot determine when or how the SNT assets are used, the SNT assets are not attributed to him or her as assets or as income for determining his or her qualification for needs based financial, medical or housing benefits.

The great benefit of a SNT is that assets left for the benefit of a special needs child can be used to supplement the standard of living for the special needs child, rather than be consumed in providing for the basic needs that typically would be provided for with financial, medical and housing benefits available to the special needs child.  SNT assets would typically be used by the Trustee for activities such as recreation, education, travel, uncovered medical and dental needs and other activities or needs which were provided to the special needs child by the parents or grandparent while they were alive.  This allows the parents or grandparents to continue to elevate and bless the life of the special needs child even after the parents or grandparents have passed on.

SNT are complex and must be very carefully drafted to be effective in preserving a special needs child’s financial, medical and housing benefits.  Addison D. Larreau, Mountain View Law Group’s Estate Planning Attorney, has extensive experience in drafting and implementing Special Needs Trusts for concerned parents and grandparents.  Please contact Mountain View Law Group at (810) 393-5555 to schedule a complimentary appointment with Addison D. Larreau to discuss your Estate Planning needs.