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Do I Need a Business License? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 7/31/12

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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.

Danette: Is a business license required for an online business?

Joe Escalante: If you ask your city clerk, they will say, “yes, write me a check.” So the question is, “why would you ask them?”
Because you want to be diligent? That’s nice, but bring your check book. Then the county might come after you as well. Do some research in your area before you alert them to what you are doing. In general, any government can make you get a license for just about anything.


Joe Escalante: Yes, if it is signed in the same way that your state requires a will to be signed, a codicil will be just as valid.

Steve: In Pennsylvania, if my corporation or LLC leases a property from a religious non-profit does that change the property tax status?

Joe Escalante: I don’t really answer tax questions, but I don’t see why it would change anything for you. Double check with your Penn. tax lady.

Cassie: Can I get my child support increased without a lawyer? and if not do you know of a really cheap lawyer in birmingham, alabama to do this?

Joe Escalante: You can do this by filing a petition with the court to modify the support order. Yes, a good lawyer will get a more favorable outcome in most cases, but many people file these petitions in “por per” without an attorney. You need to have the evidence that the circumstances have changed so the kid deserves more support. Good luck.

Khalia: Hi Joe, I would like to know if my girlfriend could legally change her sons last name to mines. We are living in Michigan as domestic partners, I would live to adopt him as well.

Joe Escalante: You do this through the family court system. You fill out forms (legalzoom has this service), then you publicize the notice of the hearing in the local paper, and serve the biological parent if living. If no one objects, the court will approve it, likely. click the link to get started:

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to our name change service, Khalia:

Bhryan: I have an idea to improve an existing product-video game controllers. I did put together a video and uploaded it to youtube, letting people know. I am asking, if a company uses my idea, would I be entitled to compensatin-even tho I didn’t have a patent purchased?

Joe Escalante: You’re not going to get a dime unless you patent your improvement. If you have one to one meetings with potential licensors, you might get some dough without a patent, but if you through it up on the internet all will-nilly like, you are unlikely to get anything but accolades, which is sometimes better than nothing.

Bhryan: I understand. I live in a small city, and not sure whom to seek representation. Any ideas on franchise-based legal counsel?

Joe Escalante: You can register a provisional patent withe legalzoom, then run around and try to get a company to back you. But that protection only lasts a year. A full blown patent is quite expensive. Click below for more info:

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, Bhryan:

Tamela: My son was struck by a vehicle in front of his high school during school hours. He sustained massive injuries. The driver only had liability insurance and no assets. What are my options ?

Joe Escalante: You need to get a good personal injury attorney to see if the school has any liability. He will also know if the school has paid out in the past. Maybe it’s a repeating problem that they need to fix and you’re the one that’s going to make that happen. Click the link below to find one in your area. The consultation should be free. If not, go to someone else.

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, Tamela:

Tamela: Thanks, as far as the woman that hit him, is there no other recourse. She admitted fault and was issued two summons

Joe Escalante: Your P.I. attorney is going to sue her, her insurance company, and maybe the school.

Martha: Hi, I just retired from my job last Nov. and my health insurance premiums went up 300%, so I opted for something cheaper that doesn’t cover a recent GI test that I went to the hospital to receive, but couldn’t be completed. The hospital, doctor, and the administrative offices have all sent me bills totaling nearly $5,000. Am I legally responsible for a test that was not completed?

Joe Escalante: No, unless they can justify the expenses based on reliance. For example, maybe they say they had the testing systems reserved for you, you didn’t show up, they sat unused while others waited, and you cost them money. That’s the theory. But if it’s not your fault, you have no liability.

Rhonda: I bought a hottub from a company and paid for it 5,400.00. They didn’t have the money to make it. It’s been 3 yrs now trying to get money back or hottub, now I can’t even get in touch with anyone. What can I do?They had a company I was supposed to go thru, like an arbritory, when I called them, they said they didn’t handle small claims,thats all they would say. lost and broke, Rhonda

Joe Escalante: Dear Lost and Broke, it seems like your only option is small claims. You can go after who ever you wrote the check to, and whoever’s name was on the contract.

KC: Question for Joe. What is the best way for a person to approach an attorney or find an attorney for Limited Scope representation?

Joe Escalante: The best way is to get a referral from someone you know. That will make things go a lot smoother. There are a lot of sharks out there.

Tracy: how can i get a disolution done and how much does it cost? I want child support, some of these bills that were in my name paid off

Joe Escalante: If you both agree on how to divide property and on support issues, you can use Legalzoom for a divorce. If you don’t agree, you likely need an attorney. I would start by reading this classic book with a dog on the cover:

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to our divorce service, Tracy:

Cindy: after signing a land contract lease to purchase, in ohio, does a person have say 3 days or a certain amount of time to back out?

Joe Escalante: There is no “cooling off period” for Ohio land leases or purchases as far as I know.

Mark: Can my employer split my hours between employees ?
I make $ 9 an hr, work 2 hrs but he say he will pay me for 3 hrs,when it’s time for monthly pay, the employer says between 2 people you split the hours that’s 1hr and a half each. My question is is this legal ?

Joe Escalante: That sounds like straight up shenanigans. Go to the State Labor Commissioner’s office and tell someone there about it. They are there to help with stuff like this.

Julie: Yes actually….if you had evidence of what appears to be a Huge Cover up within the Government, Manufacturers, etc…of Domestic Drywall….would it be feasible to go to the Attorney General ???

Joe Escalante: Yes. You can start with just an email. But this is sometimes dangerous. It’s called Whistle Blowing. There’s a lot written about it on the internet. These lawyers have compiled some helpful info on the topic that might help you.

Frankie: How do I dissolve my California LLC?

Joe Escalante: Legalzoom actually has some good info on this already:

Eric: Joe,

Do you have any advice on closing trust accounts in Illinois? Although we moved to Georgia 20 years ago, my parents set up educational trusts for my kids in Illinois. Both children are now 21, so I think it’s time to wrap things up. I understand how to handle the tax side of things; what do I need to do to terminate the trusts from a legal perspective?

Joe Escalante: Each state may have their own specific requirements, but in general, you follow the Termination Language in the trust itself. Some trusts end pursuant to specific goals being met or not.
If all the property in the trust has not been transferred to the beneficiaries according to the trust, it could be premature. Then there’s the rule against perpetuities, which prevents perpetual trusts, but again, this was probably referred to in the trust language itself.
If not, I would definitely have a lawyer help you wrap it up with final accounting and Revocation of a Trust documents.

Becky: My sister n law is using heroin. My neice and nephew 4 r w me and my dad . He wants to make it permanent. Easier for grandpa or aunt to get custody? Did make a cps report since kids were neglected no food or clothes .btw dads in jail thats why we have them

Joe Escalante: It sounds like your dad has pretty good standing to petition the court for custody on the ground that it would be in the best interest of the children. I’d get a family law attorney to prepare the petition for you. Click below if you need help finding one.

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, Becky:

Thazo: Am a law student bt am still undecided on which field to stay in.which 1 is more interestn n fun to learn to?

Joe Escalante: Most lawyers I know hate their jobs. I don’t because I work in the glamorous world of entertainment law with people like Scarlet Johanson and Milie Cyrus. But this job is hard to get because ladies like them are so attractive. However, the only other lawyers I know that are happy are county prosecutors and F.B.I. agents. This is just my personal observation. Basically, the job is a bum out in most situations. Stay away from student loans to keep your options open.

Patti: Is it legal to create a FB page for a famous person in history (specifically one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) and use that person’s name and family name to promote personal views and political opinions which include criticism of the current President of the United States and indorsement of the opposition party’s candidate for election?

Joe Escalante: It’s not against any law. Facebook might have a policy against it, but as far as legal issues go, you have none. Go get ‘em.

Brian: With congress failing to meet their constitutional obligations as it relates to passing a budget what if anything can the courts do to enforce the constitution on congress

Joe Escalante: The courts can only react to court cases that come before them. That’s it. If a case comes before them addressing these issues, they can rule on it. If it doesn’t come, they can’t do anything. They can’t even blog about it, really.

Brian: Would it do any good for a lawyer to bring it before the court and if they did would the court hear it and what could they do to congress if they found congress not meeting their constitutional obligations

Joe Escalante: A plaintiff, with standing, must initiate a lawsuit against a defendant that doesn’t have immunity from prosecution. This is the only way things come “before the court.”

Kyle: Hello Joe,
How are you today?
Here’s my question:

What kind of employment contract would you recommend for a touring event company hiring one term promoters to advertise their tour?
Note: The same promoters will be used every time the tour comes to their location.


Joe Escalante: This sounds like an agreement between independent contractors and not an employment contract. My advice is to hire an attorney experienced in the field to draft a good form that you can adapt on your own for each promoter. Spend the money now to avoid huge liability in the future.

Garry: Hiya,

I’d like to know how the infringements of copyright committed on the Internet are detected ? In the sense that I would like to know how for example the police or others match an IP address (or similar technique to trace content back) to the identity of someone and then how can that identified person be considered as the (actual) infringer ?
And how does the law tackle the argument of someone saying he’s not the real infringer (but having its IP adress showing illegal activities) ?

Thank you in advance
Best regards

Joe Escalante: You could always say your maid uploaded the content while dusting your keyboard, and thus the I.P. address. But, that’s probably not going to fly. Courts recognize I.P. addresses so if yours is implicated in an infringement case, the burden is probably on you to disprove that it’s you.

Alicia: Can an attorney request production that has nothing to do with the motion that the production request cites? Any idea of how to get pro bono legal help in Florida?

Joe Escalante: I’m not aware of any reliable pro bono sources in Florida, but if the requests for discovery in a trial are “frivolous or improper,” you would file a motion for the court to impose sanctions on the attorney for doing this.

Av: My landlord had come over to fix the window for re-inspection and had decided to go through the unit and inspect the carpets. Unknown to me my daughter did have some stains on her bedroom carpet that she had not told me about, and had hid under a carpet in her room. I had vacuumed the carpets and they were not filthy in anyway. I was not home at the time the landlord was in the house and my fourteen year old was taking care of her siblings while I was at work. According to my daughter the landlord pulled out a flashlight and was crawling along the floors and throwing the kids belongings into the middle of the room to look under them. My daughter texted me at work and said that he was being rude. She however at that time failed to tell me about the stain on the carpet.

A week later, the landlord sent me an email saying that he had seen various stains on the carpet and would be sending a carpet company to clean them at my expense of $200.00. His wife’s family owns the carpet cleaning service. I found it quite odd that he would wait an entire week before informing me of this and I did not appreciate the tone of his email. I informed him that I was not aware of the stains, which he did over exaggerate, and that I would be happy to take time and date stamped photos of the carpet to show that they were not overly damaged, but that I would not be paying for the service. I did find a stain on my daughter’s carpet after I sent my reply, and I did go through the house and scrub the carpets myself.

The landlord did not call me but said he would come today Sunday the 29th at 3pm to talk to me. Do to the tone of his emails I thought it best I record the discussion and have informed him that I have. Please view the attached video, it runs about 15 minutes. When I brought the landlord upstairs to show him the cleaned carpets he became very rude and ignorant about the fact that I cleaned them and there was no longer a stain. That is not on the video but before and after is. Please view this and help me with this situation, he greatly upset my kids and is asking us to leave the house within 60 days.

Joe Escalante: To make a long answer short, I don’t believe you are legally obligated to pay for carpet cleaning in the middle of your lease. Normal wear and tear cannot even be billed to you when you leave. Don’t pay it. Save all the photos. When you leave, you might have to present this evidence in small claims court to recover any portion of your deposit that may go to this.

Trudi: Adult child on Social Security Disability. Can Adult Child inherit without being penalized with reducted SSD monthly payments. Thanks.

Joe Escalante: Disability payments are not based on your assets. You can be rich and collect it.

Andres: I’m a photographer and currently operate as a sole proprietor, but at what point should I make a switch to an LLC or an S-Corp?

Joe Escalante: At the exact moment your tax lady says it will save you something in taxes. Legally, as long as you have insurance against liability, it’s not going to be necessary.

Diana: My ex is trying to take me back to court to minimize his child support payment and his child care payment since he is not making enough money. We been in court about 7 months ago and got in agreement, but he is trying very hard to go around this agreement and see if he can pay less. My question is : how many times he can change his child support in a year? what if he will find better job later but still wants to pay less. What do i do?

Joe Escalante: Then you go back to court and petition for another change based on another change. This is how it works. The trick is to be good at filling out those court forms and filing petitions. Or reconciliation also works. But I’m assuming he’s jerk, so I’m not going to push that on you.

LegalZoom: That’s a wrap for Free Joe Tuesday! Attorney Joe Escalante will be back on Friday with more free legal advice, so join us then with your legal questions!

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August 2nd, 2012 at 6:13 am