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Can I Use Facebook Posts as Evidence in Court? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 5/4/12

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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.

Tan: This is a question for Ask Joe. Could any pics and/or stats that appear on one’s facebook page would be deemed admissable in court, especially if it could be proven as incriminating on grounds for divorce as well as being granted full or joint child custody?

Joe Escalante: Yes. Facebook is a great place to get incriminating evidence to use in court. The judge will decide if it is probative or prejudicial, but in general. it’s fair game.

Sharon: Question for Joe: I settled a P.I. lawsuit, signed the settlement closing statement and rec’d my check for a P.I. case in January of this year in the state of Florida. The statement outlines how much my attorney withheld for his fee AND for medical bills that he is contractually supposed to pay directly out of my settlement. It is now May 2nd, and I am finding out that he has not paid ANY of the providers, that some are in the process of going to collections and some, which should have had a LOP, never heard from the attorney and have already gone to collections!! He also has not paid the insurance company on their subrogation settlement. I have sent him 5 emails in the past two months which he never responds to, called today only to be put on hold and then told he must have “stepped out” and never received a return call. What do I do? Do I now have to hire an attorney to collect from him? What about the 3+ months of interest he has now gained on MY money? Do I make a Bar complaint too?

Joe Escalante: You should contact the state bar and file a complaint. Every once in a while a lawyer takes the money in his client trust account and buys cocain and hookers with it. I’m not saying this is what happened, but it is possible; maybe not hookers, perhaps gambling debts.
You may have to hire another lawyer to sue this lawyer.

Rania: I finally made it ;) – Question for Joe: If you have a product idea and need to get it patented, do you have to have a physical sample of the product prior to submitting for a patent? In addition, is there a “how to guide” or “tutorial” anywhere that will assist me in following the correct legal steps to protect that idea? (maybe on or other resources?) Thanks in advance!

Joe Escalante: You don’t have to actually have the product. However, you need some designs that show what it does and why it qualifies for protection. For example, is it novel and non-obvious? You could demonstate this from plans, designs, schematics, etc. without actually building it.
Look at legalzoom’s Introduction To Patents (link below). Smart patent people prepared it. I’m not a patent lawyer. It’s quite a specialty. Engineers, nerds, etc. are required.

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to our PDF patent guide, Rania: Let us know if you have any questions!

Debbie: If I want to sell a house on my own, what do I need besides the deed? This house was left to me by a relative and I’m the executor of the estate. The deed is still in her name. What do I need to do? Do I make up a deed with her name in care of me? Are there any other considerations? I found out about any liens on the house and the seller has agreed to pay that out of the money he’s paying for the house. The house isn’t worth much as houses go, which is why I don’t want to use a realtor…

Debbie: Does it make a difference that the was not left directly to me? All of the other heirs have signed a renunciation agreement to let me handle the estate. How, exactly would I go about probate?

Joe Escalante: There is a process for all this, but it must be done within the confines of the probate process. Contact the clerk at the probate court in the decedent’s domicile and they will get you started.

Joe Escalante: The house needs to go through probate. When you get your Order of Final Distribution (or your state’s eqivalent) from the probate court, you can take that to the county registrar and file a Change Of Ownership report. The deed will then be recorded with the beneficiary’s name. Then the beneficiary owns it and can sell it, convey it, or whatever to whom ever.

Teresita: is it better to put your house in LLC than TRUST HOLDING

Joe Escalante: An LLC is a business entity. It could own a house. A trust is an estate planning device. It could also own a house. The legal implications would depend upon many factors, but basically what’s best for you is probably whatever your tax lady says.

Kathy: Back in 2009, I worked for a small newspaper, they stiffed me 1200.00 on pay. I did go to the state wage enforcement, I did win the suit. She was an LLC, so needless to say there was the disappearing act and no satisfaction. I wasn’t the only one, also, she has many judgements against her by clients, printers & personal debt. My question is, is there anything else I can do? Has this run its course and is no longer worth pursuing or is valid? I technically get 3 times the amount, because she never responded at all.

Joe Escalante: It’s not really worth hiring an employment attorney it looks like. Bankruptcy laws protect LLC’s if they are run correctly. You could sue her personally and attempt to “pierce the corporate veil” if she’s running a phony LLC by comingling funds with her personal assets or something like that. But for $3,600, you have to ask yourself if it might be better to move on.

Scott: Is A SMS (Texting) Contract Legally Binding Contract If It’s An IMPLIED Contract And The Agreement To Make A Contract CLEARLY Indicated In The SMS Message Cause It To Be Law Binding AND Can I Sue For Damages If On Twitter The Result Of Someone Calling Me A Hacker/Scammer Results In Financial Loss, Interferes W/ My Business And Destruction Of My Online Status

Joe Escalante: This stuff is so serious that you need to consult with an attorney. Posting this stuff on line will not get results. It’s too fact intensive. Speak with a plaintiff attorney asap.

Gilbert: question good morning Joe . on a dui case driver runs over a person and driver and passenger takes of in car would the passenger be charge with not Rendering Aid to pedestrian

Joe Escalante: If that statute and or legal duty actually existed, the passenger could be charged with it, but it probabl wouldn’t stick. Any defense attorney could raise enough doubt about whether the passenger had the ability to jump out of a car in the middle of a hit and run rampage. This is why in general society doesn’t bother with good Samaritan laws. Great question though.

Crystal: I have a guestion…. Are parents required to keep medical insurance on their 20 year old son if he is in college? Can they drop his medical coverage if they choose?

Joe Escalante:

Dashing: My ex fiance took $6k from my bank account this week since I decided I didnt want to get married due to her infedelties. We had a joint account…the bank said there was nothing I could do. Can I take her to court?

Joe Escalante: You should take her to small claims court based on conversion of joint property. Let’s se how she explains this to the Court. You have the burden to prove that this money was not hers to take. It shouldn’t be that hard to prove that 1/2 of it was not hers.

Rhonda: In Ohio, when you file bankruptcy and include a court ordered restitution, are you exonerated of that payment??

Joe Escalante: Court ordered restitution is not dischargeable in bankruptcy court.

Kelly: Whats the time period in the state of ohio to file an annulment n how do You go about doing it n how much does it cost or would it be cheaper just to file for a dissolution?? No kids or property as a prenuptial was signed. Thanks for ur time and answer sir!

Joe Escalante: You have two years in Ohio for an annulment. If you qualify, it’s better to do an annulment but it’s not easy. An uncontested divorce is probably the cheapest, however, the consequences could have long term effects as opposed to an annulment which pretends the marriange never happened. Consult a Family Law attorney in your area to apply your fact situation to Ohio law. It’s worth at least an hour of legal time.

Bethany: Why is it so hard to get a dead beat dad to pay child support, and why doesn’t the state do more to go after them. My ex is over $14,000 behind. It’s sad!

Joe Escalante: The state doesn’t have unlimited resources and tax payers would eventually revolt if too much of their money was used to chase down dead beat dads.

Jennifer: Joe,

Last month my son stood in front of an ice cream truck and threw a rock at it. The driver came to my house after dark – about 8:45 pm – and tried to convince me the rock caused a perfectly horizontal 2″ gash in the paint.
The other day I found a repair estimate the driver put in my mailbox. She did not make an insurance claim and she did not call the police.
While I don’t deny my son made minor damages, I feel this woman is trying to scam us.
What is the best way to handle this?

Joe Escalante: The best way to handle it is to pay for the damages she came up with. This is a good lesson for your son. When you treat people badly by throwing a rock at them or their stuff, you don’t get to nitpick about the resolution too much. The larger the amount she comes up with, the bigger favor it is to your son’s future. He wont forget it if he’s mowing lawns all year to pay for it. Her scam may work out to your benefit. Take her up on it. The last thing you want is for your kid to think that people are required to be “really fair” after you hurt them, and if they aren’t, your mom goes after them for you. Just my advice. It’s free and worth every penny.

Corey: I signed a common law affidavit several years ago (2005). We’re no longer together. Am I still on the hook?

Joe Escalante: I’m going to assume you are talking about a “Common Law Affidavit Of Marriage” used in some states. The rest depends on what “on the hook” means. If you hold yourself out as married, and someone relies on that, it’s the same “hook” as being married.

Aaron: Hi Joe, I have a tax question for you: I am openning a retail site; I live in MA but my product supplier, who will also be handling fufillment (packing and shipping) is in CA. Do I need to charge taxes on orders from CA in addition to orders from MA?

Joe Escalante: Technically you have to charge sales tax to the people of both states. How does Amazon get away with what they do? Well, this area of the law is in flux and states all over the place are scurrying to write laws to hang on to this tax revenue. Some day, you may be forced to collect from all states, but in the mean time, just charge people from these two states.

Kyle: What is the best way for a multi member LLC to pay its owners?

Joe Escalante: This sounds like a tax question. The legal answer is just, pay them in full so they don’t sue you. Your tax lady will have some other answers.

Karri: I have sole custody of my children can I move them out of Michigan without going through a long court process?

Joe Escalante: Yes, unless it is prohibited in the support and custody order. However, be prepared for it to be challenged by your good-for-nothing ex.

Tim: Any way other than bankruptcy to get rid of default judgement?

Joe Escalante: Bankruptcy generally doesn’t discharge court ordered restitution.

LaKitta: I use to work for a boys home/residential center for young boys. I never received my check for training. I addressed it to the manager and gave them a copy of my hrs. They were supposed to pay me for it, but let me go with out telling me. I would call to see about my hrs, no one would answer, nor would they return my voicemails. I didn’t know they let me go until 2 months later when I finally told them I’m calling the EEOC. They state that they’d keep the LAST check if an employee separates from the company within a certain amount of time, but technically that was my first check. What can I do???

Joe Escalante: It sounds crazy. File a claim with the state labor commission or your state’s equivalent agency.

Marquesita: Is there a law, or code against termination of employment due to a legal charge (off work), before a conviction? If so, which law or code is it, and what would be the best course of action for any type of retification? Thanks in advance Joe.

Joe Escalante: This would all depend on the terms of your employment. You might have signed a contract with a morals clause that allowed for termination if you are “charged” rather than convicted. Best bet is to consult with a wrongful termination attorney and perhaps file a complaint with the state labor board.

Angie: My question is about my grandson. My son never gets to see his son because the mother moves every 6 months or so to a different state. We live in Missouri. What can he do to be able to at least get visitation to his son. There are no court orders due to them not being married.

Joe Escalante: Sorry. He should petition the court for a formal order of support and custody and get it all straightened out. Once an order is made, any violation of it is contempt of court and could land the mom in jail. That will wake her up. In the meantime, read up on grandparents’ rights to see how you can get involved.

Nick: At what point does it make sense to protect, trademark, or copyright your logo/brand for a start-up?

Joe Escalante: It depends on the type of business you’re in and the risk of someone using your name in the same business. If your company is adequately funded, with shareholders, etc. you kind of owe it to all of them to do everything now. However, if you are doing it on the cheap, and it’s just you, you can prioritize somewhat and save some expenses for when it’s more real. Listen to my radio show on Sundays and Fridays. This is all we talk about. Http://

Jodi: Hi Joe – I’m a photographer in New Jersey and don’t know if I need to collect sales tax on print purchases via my photo lab that I contract with out of the state of California? Can you help?

Joe Escalante: This is a gray area, as you probably know. Some aggressive on line businesses would say “hells no.” Others would collect it only in those two states, still others would collect it in all states. What does your tax lady say?

LegalZoom: Free legal advice Friday morning, 10am PT/1pm ET! Joe’s gone for today, but he’ll be back on Friday:

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May 10th, 2012 at 6:22 am