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Are Electronic Signatures Legal? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 11/11/11

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On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Lois: Joe, I had a will drawn up when married, now divorced I need another -can I draw up one with LZ? I live in VT -will they accept it? I also have a trust and I want that covered–what would be the TOTAL cost for the forms,drawing up the will and whatever else to make it legal? I must know TOTAL please. Thank you

Joe Escalante: What am I, a cashier? Yes you can use legalzoom, yes it will be valid in VT. Click the link below before you die.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Lois:

Lisa: If someone puts a partial fence on your surveyed property how long can you give them to remove it before you can remove it yourself? They are clearly well within our survey markers.

Joe Escalante: A court would use the standard of a reasonable man. You give them a reasonable amount of time to remove it. What is the reasonable man standard? That’s what juries are for, so err on the side of plenty of time.

Sherri: HELP….I have a problem with a tenant that does not like to follow the rules. My issue at hand is this tenant called the Board of Health on me because they got bedbugs in their unit. Massachusetts law requires Landlords to rid of these pests which I so have been doing required by law. I guess it wasn’t fast enough so they called Board of Health. I have complied with the Board of Health and have done what they require of me. My problem now is that Massachusetts law says I can not evict or raise rents for 6 months.

I was planning on raising rents prior to the call to the Board of Health and the tenants knows this. I feel they called Board of Health so I could not raise their rent. Never-the-less now I have an issue with these particular tenants not following house rules and breaching their lease by having another person with three children move in with them. Slamming doors, being disrespectful to other tenants, loud noises, loud banging in their apartment and just plain rude to me. I feel they think they can do what they want because they have Board of Health over my head for the next 5 mos. (I can’t retaliate) So my question is, what rights do I have? What is it that I can do to alleviate this problem.

Joe Escalante: If they break the lease, you can evict them for breaking the lease. You cannot evict them because they complained. That would be retaliation, but it doesn’t require you to let them break the lease.

Karin: I have had a house in foreclosure, they dimissed and now its been sitting there 5yrs..what a waste. tried to contact loan place no one will contact me back, cant sell because of same issue!! where can I find help on this? Im tired of paying rent when I could be paying on home…angry in Indiana

Joe Escalante: What do you mean by “they dismissed?”

Karin: the court told me they dismissed foreclosure in 09, march to be exact.

its a disaster!! I only moved cause loan company sent out foreclosure notice after divorce husband didnt pay and when I moved back in thats when I got notice, I tried to catch up and sent in modification papers but never heard back, I had it sold twice but mortgage holder didnt respond so buyer backed out. mean while home is just sitting there. the company that was suppose to look after stole doors and fixtures so I made police reports, I had just remolded before divorce so this is very frustrating!!!! i pay more in rent than I did in mortgage…

Joe Escalante: You might need to talk to one of those lawyers that sues banks who lent money to people. Usually they file frivolous lawsuits against lenders to keep people in their homes longer, but it looks like there is more to your case. Get a consultation with a lawyer in your area and explain this scenario to them.

Heidi: I have a child (shes 14) who did not want her and refused to sign the birth certificate in recent years he has decided he wants to be a father and is very demanding as to when he wants to see her the last 3 years he has been giving me $300 a month, my question is does he have any say or rights and at what point is it up to my daughter when if at all she wants to see him and is it my responsibility to get it to and from his house to see him I have heard that at 12 she no longer has to go there and I no longer have to do any of the driving if he wants to see her it is up to him

Joe Escalante: This varies by state but in order to make this kind an arrangement enforceable, you need to go to court. You need a proper support decree that the parties can live by. Spend an hour with a family law attorney in the area where you and the child live.

James: Is the poor mans copyright legit?

Joe Escalante: No, but it is poor. I can mail myself an open envelope that is empty. Then I can put anything I feel like claiming into it. Click the link below and let go of this fantasy:

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, James:

Socialicia: I’d like to be able to create contracts that prospective clients can sign electronically. Is that OK or do I need to have a hard-copy on file as well? Basically, are electronic signatures on online contract legally acceptable?

Joe Escalante: They are valid if done within the acceptable boundaries recognized by the U.S. and international regulations. You should get some help from a lawyer in your area establishing a method that courts in your state will recognize as valid.

Yolanda: Hi Joe,
My bank has offered to refinance my house to a lower rate. I am very skeptical of banks who want to regonance a home that is underwater. Are there any new laws being discussed to address the housing crisis? Are they sererious, or more political discussion? Thank you.

Joe Escalante: Any laws that get discussed or passed take so long to trickle down to actually affecting borrowers like you, I would take advantage of the bank’s offer now. They are trying to help you not default. Since the house is underwater, that would be the worst case scenario for them.

Ana: Question: I just formed a professional corporation in Queens, NY. Do I need to publish in newspapers? Also, for the sign that I will be displaying to the public for advertising purposes to bring in clients…do I need to follow any laws/regulations?

Joe Escalante: Yes you do have to publish notice of business formation in New York. It’s expensive and that’s why people move to Texas.
Regarding signs, you will probably need a permit from the city. They have regulations that govern, for example, how many services you can list on a sign. The goal being to avoid clutter. Some cities insist that it’s in English so firefighters can find you if you are smoldering.

Ana: Thanks Joe, but I keep on getting so many different answers to this. Most people have said that only LLC’s need to publish, not P.C.’s. I’m confused again.

Joe Escalante: Although it’s hard to navigate through the requirements exactly, I believe that LLCs and Corps are treated the same in terms of need for publication. And, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

Alicia: We have an idea for a party game—a sort of ‘board game.’ After doing some market research, we discovered that there is an existing game (since the 80′s) that is remarkably similar to the idea of our own—similar premise, slightly different play process and, of course, totally different name and branding. Legally, are we okay to continue to develop our game?

Joe Escalante: The idea for a board game is not protectable. E.g., a game where you answer trivia questions for points. However, the creative expression of the idea is protectable. You have to be careful that the expression of your idea is not too similar to the original. How much is too similar? You will find out when they send you a cease and desist. Be cautious.

Mariecor: Hello :) [1] Is there a copyright or trademark infringement when a product or brand is mentioned in a nonfictional article (that isn’t a review)? [2] Are there any rules regarding when a fiction writer mentions a brand or product in the body of a book he is writing?—–do royalties have to be paid to the brand or product being mentioned in the fictional work? Thank you :)

Joe Escalante: In a work of fiction, you may mention or show (in a film) any brand or product you wish as part of your story as long as you:
1. are showing the product being used as it was intended (e.g., don’t have people drinking Draino as an energy drink);

2. don’t associate the product with something that would cause it’s brand to be harmed. (e.g., trying to say something like “all pedophiles love Yoohoo Chocolate Drink.)

Tim: I recieved a traffic ticket for speeding and the officer put the wrong information concerning that I have a CDL does that make the ticket void ?

Joe Escalante: No. Not at all.

Maggie: In Colorado can a spouse file bankruptcy? If so how hard will it be to do so?

Joe Escalante: Without telling Mr. Boop? I don’t understand.

Everett: In Florida, is bad reception a legal reason to ditch a cellular company without paying ETF for a business plan?

Joe Escalante: I think it’s a decent argument but they will fight it and ding your credit, etc.

Egwolo: I want to go into fashion,what do I do?

Joe Escalante: Watch episodes of Project Runway. Then Google “Fashion Careers.”

Nikole: There’s a law in Idaho to stop people smoking in public places. However, it’s worded that its purpose is to protect those who don’t smoke so they can breathe clean air. Could this law be used to prohibit smoking on adjoining patios (I don’t… smoke, my neighbor does and our patios are separated by a piece of plywood that doesn’t even go floor-to-ceiling)?
I found out about this law b/c of a bar in Boise that had to basically create separate smoking and non- *building*. Also, this apartment complex receives HUD funding.

Joe Escalante: Your damages are somewhat speculative. The right to enjoy one’s own property is less so. Public streets are different than private property so this will be tough. You might be better off getting rich and moving to where this wont be a problem. Litigation between neighbors is the worst kind of litigation there is.

Michelle: While working out with a personal trainer in AZ at a gym, I incurred an injury (tore my acl, medial meniscus and stress fractured my tibia) while following the instructions of a paid personal trainer. I called the gym recently to file a medical claim and was told I would have to sue them in order to get access to make a claim. I didn’t want to file a personal injury suit against the personal trainer, but I guess at this point they are forcing me. Is this the right course of action or is there another way?

Joe Escalante: You should talk to your insurance company to see what they will cover. Anyone answering a phone who is told “how do I sue you?” will not always give you correct information. First you send a demand letter asking them to pay for your harm.
They will answer this, probably. If you don’t like the answer, you file a lawsuit against them.

Chuck: I have a joint bank account with someone that is now unable to make decisions for themselves. A family member had them committed to the hospital with a state dr’s orders. No family members have power of attorney. The family member that had this person committed wants me to withdraw that money in this account and send it to them in money orders. Any help please? Thanks

Joe Escalante: According to this scenario, only you can legally withdraw funds for any purpose.

LegalZoom: That’s it for Free Joe Friday! Thanks for joining us and don’t forget to thank the men and women who serve our country. See you next week!

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November 15th, 2011 at 5:46 am