Thursday, February 23, 2017

When You Should Update Your Estate Plan

As much as we often like to imagine that we are invincible, no one will live forever. At a certain point, hopefully once we are well into old age, we will pass away. When that happens, our earthly belongings won't be all that remain - our assets, our debts, and our financial responsibilities will also be left behind.

Building Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is the process of organizing your estate so that all aspects will receive appropriate care and attention after something happens to you. Since it is impossible to predict when something may happen, we encourage all adults to have an estate plan regardless of their age. Your estate planning needs may vary depending on your marital status, whether or not you have children, the number and financial value of your assets, debts, and belongings, and other factors.

Updating Your Estate Plan

Once your initial estate plan has been established, you may need to update it periodically to ensure that it reflects your current wishes. This week, our Lake of the Ozarks estate planning attorney is here to discuss when you should consider updating your estate plan.

Changing Marital Status
If you already have an estate plan in place, it is important that you update it when you get married. Though many of your belongings may be automatically transferred to your surviving spouse upon your death, it is best not to assume that this will always be the case. If you do not want your spouse to receive immediate access to some of your assets, it important to specify this in your estate plan as well. Since your desires will likely change in the event of a divorce, you will also want to remember to update your estate plan if your marriage should end.

Having Children
Raising children is a big responsibility. Food, shelter, clothes, guidance, support, companionship... your little ones will look to you for absolutely everything. If something happens to you, your children will need someone else to provide for their needs. So as to ensure that each child's needs will be met, we recommend updating your estate plan every time you have (or adopt) a new child. The most important aspect of this will be to appoint a replacement guardian for your children, but you can also use your estate plan to dictate how your assets should be divided among your children and at what age they should receive access to these assets.

Purchasing A Large Asset
If you have recently bought a home, boat, car, or other expensive asset, we recommend you update your estate plan to reflect this new possession. You can use your estate plan to identify whom should inherit this asset after you pass, but that will not be your plan's only purpose. Assuming that you financed your purchase, your estate plan will also fill the important role of specifying how any remaining debt on this belonging is to be repaid. 

Changing Financial Situations
The format your estate plan follows will depend on your overall financial situation. If you first built your estate plan when you were just starting out, you may want to update it once your career is well established and your income has increased. You may also want to consider updating your plan if you receive a significant influx of money from an outside source, such as inheritance or lottery. By the same token, a decrease in financial status may also be cause to update your estate plan. 

Contact Gibbons Law Firm For Estate Planning Assistance
Planning your estate is an important responsibility, and one that should not be overlooked. If you pass away without a proper estate plan in place, your assets may become tied up in probate for several months (or possibly even several years) before it can be passed on to your heirs. 

Whether you are building your estate plan for the first time or updating an existing plan, we hope you'll consider Gibbons Law Firm in Osage Beach when the time comes. Your initial consultation with our Lake of the Ozarks general practice law firm is always free.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

Follow us on...

No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Protect Yourself From Troublesome Tenants: 5 Tips

Have you ever considered renting out your second home or vacation property? Leasing property to tenants can be a great way to supplement your income or, at the very least, cover the cost of the mortgage, utilities, and insurance on second properties. It is important to tread cautiously and cover all of your bases, however; if you aren't careful, you could subject yourself to a variety of legal hassles.

Gibbons Law Firm has a longstanding landlord-tenant practice at the Lake of the Ozarks, with significant experience representing landlords who are dealing with challenging tenants. Today, we are sharing a few simple suggestions to help landlords protect themselves from potential legal hassles. If you are currently leasing property or considering doing so, keep these points in mind.

1. Conduct A Thorough Background Screening.
The best way to avoid challenges with your tenants is screen prospective tenants to filter out applicants who may be more likely to cause trouble. As a landlord, it is completely within your rights to conduct a background check on all prospective tenants. Passing premature judgments based on superficial factors is rarely wise, but screening applicants based on their criminal and financial history may save you a great deal of grief in the long run.

2. Have Both Parties Sign A Comprehensive Lease.
A proper lease agreement is the foundation of a successful landlord-tenant relationship. Your lease agreement should clearly outline all expectations tenants are expected to meet. In addition to the basic components, (how much rent is owed, when payment is due, the duration of the lease, etc), your lease should also identify specifics such as what uses of the property are/are not permitted, who will be responsible for utilities, who will be responsible for repairing damages and malfunctioning appliances, etc. Both parties should sign this lease before the tenant receives the keys. In order to make sure your contract is comprehensive (and legally sound), you may want to consider having an attorney review your agreement before it is signed.

3. Keep A Written Record Of All Correspondence.
As you work with your tenant, it is wise to keep a written record of all communication. Since it allows for easy documentation, email is an optimum method of correspondence. Text-based communication and phone calls are sometimes preferred, however, so it is important to take steps to document correspondence that occurs via these mediums. Follow-up with an email documenting your conversation, or capture screen grabs of text messages. If your tenant fails to uphold an agreement that was formed after the lease was signed, you'll want to have documentation of this agreement.

4. Document All Payment Activity.
As a landlord, it is essential that you keep thorough documentation of your tenants' payment activity. Hopefully they will pay their rent in full and on time every month, but juggling bills can sometimes be challenging. If your tenants begin missing payments or find themselves unable to pay in full, you may negotiate a new payment schedule or consider eviction. If you decide to pursue legal action for your tenants' missed payments, you will need to have official documentation of all payment activity.

5. Consider Eviction As A Last Resort.
When your tenant violates your lease agreement or becomes problematic in another manner, your first approach should often be to simply talk with them. Communicate your expectations, and clarify the consequences they may face if they fail to meet those expectations. Be sure to document all communication that takes place. We typically recommend that eviction be reserved for a last resort, as it can be time-consuming and costly. If repeated attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful, however, eviction may become necessary. We recommend securing legal counsel to assist with the process to minimize your risk.

Gibbons Law Firm: Your Resource For Dealing With Challenging Tenants
If you are struggling with challenging tenants, we hope you'll consider scheduling a consultation with Gibbons Law Firm. As landlords ourselves, we have first-hand experience with some of the challenges that may arise and the strategies that may be used to effectively overcome them. Your initial consultation with our Lake of the Ozarks law firm is always free. Call 573-348-2211 to schedule yours today.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

Follow us on...

No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Long-Term Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Being charged with a crime is a serious matter, and one that should not be taken lightly. If convicted, you may be sentenced to financial penalties, incarceration, and/or a combination thereof. Even after you are released, your criminal record may continue to haunt you and affect multiple aspects of your life. Today, our criminal defense attorney in Osage Beach MO is here to explore some of the different long-term consequences of a criminal conviction.

What Happens If You Are Convicted Of A Crime?

If you are convicted of a crime, you will receive a sentence. You will be required to serve this sentence in whatever capacity it entails - failure to do so may result in further penalties. Your conviction will likely go on on your permanent (and public) criminal record, which means that you may continue to feel the effects of your conviction for years after your sentence has been served. Here are a few examples of how a criminal record may impact your life.

Difficulty Obtaining Housing
Individuals with a criminal history often find it challenging to obtain quality housing. If you are attempting to lease an apartment, you will likely be required to submit to a background check during the application process. Landlords are often hesitant to offer leases to individuals with criminal history. Unfortunately, buying a house may not be much easier; serving time in prison can create financial challenges that may lower your credit score, making it more difficult to obtain a mortgage loan.

Difficulty Obtaining Employment And Education
Education and careers are integral components of successful adulthood. Unfortunately, individuals with criminal records often find it much more challenging to secure stable, high-paying positions or be accepted into educational programs that may allow them to pursue professional positions later on. Applications for both jobs and schools often require you to reveal whether or not you have a criminal history, and this fact may deter companies and institutions from accepting you into their workforce/program.

Difficulty Obtaining Professional Licenses
Depending on your criminal background, you may find that certain careers are even more difficult to pursue than others - in some cases, certain careers paths may be completely out of reach. For example, careers that require a professional license (massage therapist, counselor, real estate agent, etc) often require applicants to submit to a background check before their application will be approved. Depending on your conviction, your application may be denied.

Difficulty Obtaining Child Custody
The desire to be closely involved in your child's life is natural and strong, but convicted felons often find it difficult to be legally granted custody. In some cases, visitation rights may also be limited. Custody is often determined based on who the court believes will be best able to provide for the child's best interests. If you have a criminal history, the court may deem you unfit to care for a child.

Other Impacts
Though serious, the challenges we just discussed are only a few examples of the ways that a criminal conviction can impact your life down the road. A conviction can also impact your life in numerous other ways, such as:
  • Denying you your ability to vote
  • Prohibiting you from owning a firearm
  • Limiting or denying your driving privileges

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney For Representation

If you are facing criminal charges, securing representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first step to protecting your rights and preserving your freedom. Depending on your situation, a Lake of the Ozarks criminal defense attorney may be able to reduce your sentence and penalties. You may also be able to protect your future by getting your records sealed or, in rare cases, expunged. Your Missouri criminal defense attorney can help you determine the best strategy for your specific situation.

Contact Gibbons Law Firm to schedule your free initial consultation.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

Follow us on...

No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pulled Over For Drunk Driving: Are You Giving Up Your Rights?

Even if you haven't been drinking, being pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving is a stressful experience. If you have had a few drinks, your heart rate will probably skyrocket as you anticipate what lies ahead. You desperately hope that the officer who pulled you over is in an agreeable mood - maybe he'll be willing to cut you a little bit of slack.

Unfortunately, the officer's mood is rarely an indication of how the overall process will go. Police officers are specially trained to watch for subtle variables that may indicate when a driver is intoxicated. Even if your officer seems congenial and agreeable, he will have a keen eye open for factors that will give him probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence. Our Lake of the Ozarks DWI defense attorney is here to help you avoid giving him exactly what he's looking for.

Reasonable Suspicion Of DWI

In order for an officer to pull you over, he has to have have what is legally referred to as "reasonable suspicion" that a crime is being committed. From a DUI perspective, this typically means he has to have seen you committing successive driving errors or traffic violations (even minor ones). For example, he may have noticed you weaving in and out of your lane, rolling through stop signs, or stopping and starting suddenly.

Just because he pulls you over does not mean he has the grounds to make an arrest. In order to make an arrest, he needs to have probable cause. If you aren't careful, however, you could give that to him during what you thought was an innocent, amicable exchange.

Once You've Been Pulled Over

If you've ever been pulled over, you are familiar with the typical exchange that takes place. The officer may either ask if you know why you were pulled over, or he may tell you outright. You'll converse briefly about the reason he pulled you over, and he'll ask you for your license and proof of insurance.

At some point during the conversation, he may casually ask you if you've had anything to drink. You might tell him that you had a couple of drinks with your friends, but that it has been a while since then.

Depending on your conduct during your conversation, the officer may decide to ask you to perform certain field sobriety tests. These tests are designed to help the officer evaluate multiple factors to determine whether or not you may have been drinking. As examples, the officer will be looking for:

  • Your ability to focus on a task
  • Your ability to follow directions
  • Your ability to balance
  • Involuntary jerking movements in your eye

Standard field sobriety tests include three specific tasks: smoothly following an object (such as the officer's finger) with your gaze, standing on one leg, and walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, then turning around and walking back.

If you fail any of these tests, the officer may ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. The officer will use the reading on the breathalyzer test as evidence to confirm suspicions he already has. In some cases, he may wait and not use the breathalyzer until after an arrest as already been made and you are at the police station.

What Should You Do Differently?

First and foremost, the best thing you can do is to never drink and drive. Appoint a designated sober driver, call a cab, stay with a friend, drink at home, and do anything else you can to ensure that you do not get behind the wheel after drinking. This is the only way to absolutely ensure you will not be arrested for drunk driving. We are in no way condoning driving under the influence. 

If you are pulled over, it is important to recognize that everything you say and do during your conversation with the officer can be used against you in court. The officer will be required to remind you of this fact (and your other Miranda rights) during an arrest, but he is not required provide this reminder at any time before an arrest. 

If you are pulled over under suspicion of DUI, the best thing you can do is to say as little as possible. No matter what the officer tells you, we can assure you that you are not required to say anything. You are also not required to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer test. Speaking unnecessarily or submitting to these tests only gives your officer evidence to use against you later on. This will make it much more challenging to back up your position when the time comes.

Contact Us For DWI Representation

Driving under the influence is a criminal act, and a DUI conviction carries serious legal consequences. If you are facing DWI charges, securing quality representation is essential. Our DWI attorney in Osage Beach MO has the skills you need to ensure your rights are protected at all times. Schedule your free consultation with Gibbons Law Firm by calling 573-348-2211.

Your Trusted Legal Resource

Gibbons Law Firm
4075 Osage Beach Parkway, Suite 300
Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2211

Follow us on...

No attorney-client relationship is created by the publication of this blog.