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Can I Handwrite My Will? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 5/15/12

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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.

Lynda: Is a hand written Last Will that is notarized just as legal as a Last Will drafted by a lawyer? I can’t afford to hire a lawyer or to buy Legal Zoom forms at this time, and I need to complete my Last Will now.

Joe Escalante: Hand written (or holographic) wills are allowed in only states. Here’s a list:
In general when they are valid, they need to be written in the same hand that signs them. If your state allows it, get a couple witnesses that are not beneficiaries to sign it too. Then throw it in a drawer, and start saving for a legal zoom will. I’ll pay for it if you leave me all your stuff. Just kidding about that last part.

Rhonda: my sister uses my address but actually lives with her boyfriend. She is on probation and missed one or two appointments. Now she has a warrant out for her. If the police show up at my house, can they come in and search anywhere (in drawers, closets, etc.) or would they only be able to search ‘her room’ which is actually just my spare bedroom. I don’t know if it matters, but I live in Iowa. Thanks for any advice you might have!

Joe Escalante: When the judge signed the warrant he was probably told she lives at your house Nd signed a warrant to get inside and look for her and any evidence of a crime. So that means they can ransack the place. The real question is whether they can introduce anything they find in a court of law as evidence agains your sister or you.
A defense lawyer would argue that they went beyond the scope of the warrant and thus none of the evidence should be admitted. The judge will make the decision.

Donna: Do we (my husband and I) really need a will if we just want everything divided equally between our 2 adult sons?

Joe Escalante: Yes. A proper estate plan is ideal, with real property and other stuff placed In a trust to avoid probate.
Dying intestate (without a will) is the opposite. It’s a terrible idea. A will insists your wishes are considered and followed. Intestate leaves you vulnerable to claims from outside parties, even long lost secret offspring.
The two kids may end up with the same stuff but it’s too much of a crap shoot when you can get a Bali will for 69 dollars

valid will, not Bali will. Bali will is nothing.

Richard: My wife and I own property in California and Arizona. The property is in both our names. If we create a trust through Legal Zoom and put the property into the trust does that invalidate our title insurance? If we include a child as a third trustee will that invalidate our title insurance? We were told by a real estate agent that changes to ownership invalidates title insurance. Thanks.

Joe Escalante: It depends on how the policy is written. Speak to the person who issued your policy. It’s so common to do this he will know exactly how to assure you. Sometimes it’s done with a simple endorsement adding the trust to the policy.

Susan: I was arrested in Pine Mt,GA for impersonating a police officer after I knocked on a womans door, I never said I was the police ,I said, after she ask who it was that it didn’t matter it might even be the police, I was taken to Harris County jail, and stripped searced, my car was searched after I was taken to jail without so much as asking me for the right to search. the woman has told the DA that she only called the police to make a statement,not have me arrested, because it was just a verbal argument. My charges have been dismissed after having to go to court 4 times and resisting all plea deals. My attorney said they had no evidence and there was no intent. what I want to know is do I have a case to sue Pine Mt,Ga police and Harris County?

Joe Escalante: My opinion is no.

Rasta: I have a drug felony that’s over fifteen years old, for I’ve bee told it can be expunged or downgraded, it’s a posession of a controlled substance, but I just don’t have the money to pay for, in addition this xtremely old and untrue
Prevented me to get fired right after I got hired @ a high paying job. I really would love to get rid of it. It’s not me any suggestions on how to help please and Thank you.

Joe Escalante: Sometimes you can do this, but never without a lot of money going to a good criminal defense lawyer. It’s very hard work.

Olga: Hello Joe, what can one do if you purchase property in California with a co-signer and that co-signer never contributes to the property or lives at same and you want him/her/they to sign off and they don’t want to because they claim to own the property as well what kind of recourse does one have in that situation?

Joe Escalante: If the person is a co signer to a loan it doesn’t mean they own the property. If their name is on the recorded title or deed, then they own the property, or at least a share. If that is the case I would assemble all cost an records of upkeep and send them a bill with a deadline to pay. If they don’t pay, I’d sue them for it. I might offer to settle the lawsuit if they quitclaim their share of the property to me. Done.

Decades: Can I post a photo of someone stealing from my store on Facebook with the heading “suspect wanted for questioning”

Joe Escalante: You kind of have the right idea. Don’t defame the person with something that may not be true. However, calling someone a suspect is not totally without risk. If you did that to me, and I was innocent, I might file a defamation claim against you anyway. This would be expensive for you even if you are in the right. Less risky to let the police handle it.

Hipolito: Hi Joe, here is a question. We sent in our paper work for an llc directly to the state, we got approved, but I just found out that the person that was supposed to follow up with submitting for the tax id never did and its now almost 4 months, what should I be prepared for when I call the state. This is in California. Thank you for this great service!

Joe Escalante: I’m no tax expert but it sounds like a correctable error without much drama. Good luck.

Elizabeth: How is taking Wolves off the endangered list in the Federal Budget LEGAL- Also it is the only law/rider EVER passed in both Senate and House signed by President of USA that CAN NOT BE OVERTURNED,APPEALED, Nor Contested….any thoughts? (sorry if off topic but it’s the looming question for us enviro law people since April 2011). Thanks-

Joe Escalante: Where’s the outrage? He said wearing a slightly worn 3 Wolf Moon shirt.

Victor: how do I go about getting my domestic violence case expunged it happened in 2006 in Indio California Riverside County Got 2 years probation 16 weeks of anger management program and court fees completed everything I’m trying tio get a professional license in California the court house told me they don’t have my case in their files anymore what should I do any help will be appreciated thanks

Joe Escalante: You’ve got to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in expungements. Be prepared for it not being possible. It is not just something you sign up for. Generally, it’s in the interest of society to not let it be expunged ever. You have an uphill battle.

Airian: How do you structure a federal tax filing for multiple Texas Series LLCs under the parent Texas LLC?

Joe Escalante: Over my head and above my pay grade. Consult your tax pro.

Peter: Have few products sports gear, thinking of having them produced outside US(Co$t in US kills profit) how to protect the Patents. How much RedTape I a looking at?

Joe Escalante: International patents are about as expensive as anything can get in the legal field. Try to get a free consultation with a certified patent lawyer with international experience.

Danyelle: I was wondering what could be done for someone who is being slandred on the internet?

Joe Escalante: The basics are suing for defamation if they are saying false things that make people spit on the ground in disgust, etc. court ordered takedown notices, Getting an injunction from further harm.
This is tough though, even if you know who did it. The good news is that every body is being defamed on the Internet so few people care anymore. You have to prove certain damages.

Tan: Is there a statute of limitation if I was the victim of a hit & run auto accident two years ago? My insurance advised me that suing the driver would be the only way I could recover my $500 deductible; however, this person is also incarcerated. And could I sue his family or next of kin instead?

Joe Escalante: This scenario does not bide well for you. It will never be worth the $500, or even $500,000. There’s no $ there. Next time get hit by Russell Crow or someone.

Tippy: Can a handshake, a wink, a nod or okay replace a written contract?

Joe Escalante: If both parties act as if there is a contract, these creepy gestures could amount to a valid enforceable contract.

Jessica: For Attorney Joe…I’m making a site for pumpkin stencils for making jack o’ lanterns. If I wanted to use a celebrity or a character from a movie/tv show or musician; do I need permission from someone to use a picture or what do I need to do?

Joe Escalante: Bad news:
You are making a commercial product using someone else’s protected publicity right, and possibly a copyrighted photo. Problems. Must get permission.
Good news:
I hereby authorize you to make a pumpkin stencil of me, royalty free, in perpetuity, in exchange for one free one, for my nephew.

Ann: What should be in a power of atty, for children of an aging parent, to make sure they are legally and financially covered? Thx!

Joe Escalante: A power of attorney just allows the agent access to property rights, bank account etc,
Sounds like these parents need to create a trust, perhaps evens special needs trust to ensure proper care of these grommets. Speak with an estate planning attorney. Try legal zoom’s attorney connect service to get started.

LegalZoom: Hi Ann, Check out our legal plans ( and Attorney Connect ( if you’d like to find an attorney in your area.

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May 16th, 2012 at 6:01 am