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Do I Need a Business License for My Internet Business? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 7/13/12

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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.

Bernard: Do you need a business license to start an on-line store? Thank you!

Joe Escalante: Not from the On-Line Sheriff. However, your city, county, and state, often have their hand out. Start with the city. A city business license isn’t that much and they are probably the only ones you have to worry about. Most people just wait until they get a notice.

Annabelle: Hi joe,what are legal rights of a home owner against a neighbor who is parking illegally in front of home owner’s driveway,at times throwing a 3 inches nail or screws along the homeowner’s driveway,several times now,the home owner reminded the neighbor to park on the right way and confronted regarding the nails .Any legal advise for the home owner what can be done to stop this irritating behavior of inconsiderate neighbors.

Joe Escalante: When things get really bad between neighbors, one solution is to petition the court for an injunction against this repeated activity. If an injunction is granted (after notice and hearing where you present the evidence and he has a chance to rebut), any further repeated activity, covered by the injunction would amount to a violation of a court order and be punishable by fines or even jail time.
As far as the nails go, you will probably need some hidden camera footage to prove that, but neighbors do it all the time.

Jesie: Good Morning Mr. Escalante….I wanted to make sure I get my question in today..My son is 15 years old and he lives with his father in SC…he has been getting in trouble with the school and the police due to drugs and alcohol. About 8 weeks ago, he was detained/arrested by the sheriff at a party because he was drunk and everyone at the party was under 21….his father did not know where he was at when he got detained/arrested, the sheriff actually called me to go pick him up because they could not get a hold of his dad, after 1hr, my husband got in contact with him and told him what was going on and that he needed to go pick him up. His father is always traveling, leaving him for days and even weeks alone. Will a judge or DCF award me custody? and if so what should I do?

Joe Escalante: This is the kind of evidence that a judge would look at if you petition the court to change your custody order. He will weigh it against the stories that the father will tell about how much worse you are than him. Be prepared.

Enrique: Can I collect Disability benefits over a year after my injury?

Joe Escalante: It varies by state and is often one year, but if your case is more than a year old you should consult a disability specialist law firm, and their are many, to evaluate your specific circumstances.

Jackie: Attorney Joe Escalante: I want to start a business and trademark the name. About how much does it cost (all fees) to get that done in Los Angeles, and/or can you refer me to someone who can help.

Joe Escalante: Trademarks are hard to complete, but hiring an attorney is sometimes overkill. If cost is an issue, I would really recommend using legalzoom’s process. Click below to check the prices. At a law firm you are looking at 3 to 10 thousand dollars in legal fees.

LegalZoom: Here’s the trademark link, Jackie:

Nate: I think I was wrongfully fired, is there any free advice I can get. I experienced death threats, followed my the same person throwing scissors thrown at me and the Cops would not arrest him. I called and reported to the DOL he was underage and working to many hours and now I’m out of work because, “they no longer need my services”

Joe Escalante: File a complaint with the department of labor, or labor commissioner in your state. File a written report, don’t just call and complain to someone answering the phone.

Elwanda: Can one be made to be responsible for another person? My sister has POA for my mom who is in nursing home. She listed my name and address on form as “person responsible” to apply for state aid. I want no part of responsibility. I went to state office and asked them to remove my name/address. Then I found out both the hospital she was in and the nursing home has me listed as responsible party. My sister never talked to me about situation and used my name without my permission. Anything I need to do legally to prevent this in the future?

Joe Escalante: Write a letter to each facility where you believe you’ve been listed as a responsible party and refute it. And no, your sister cannot just foist unwanted responsibilities on people willy nilly. However, if you know about it, and don’t refute it officially, it might be reasonable for the institutions to believe you have consented.

Stacy: I live in Fl and grandparent rights are not recognized. I have been denied a relationship with my g-daughter
(my sons daughter) by her mom. She’s 6 yrs old and we were sooo close. I pray often for our reunion and her well-being. What would you suggest?

Joe Escalante: Other than moving next door and laying a Skittles trail to your porch, it’s up to the State to decide if laws forcing parents to allow visitation rights for grandparents are constitutional. So you are at the mercy of the law of your state. However, if you feel that the kids are not being cared for, you can always petition the court to terminate parental rights as they presently exist. That will get their attention. After a few petitions filed with the court over lack of grandmas love, they might negotiate a peace settlement with you.

Debbie: Can a law student assist me in filing bancruptcy??

Joe Escalante: Only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice. In fact, even document preparation companies need to be licensed in most cases. However, you can do this yourself. Here’s a book:

Kenny: Would someone be able to copy right the characters and places in a story they were making using legal zoom? What is the exact process?

Also, do you run some sort of check on what can and cannot be copy written? What are the stipulations of your copy rights?

Fianally, I have a story that I would like to make into an television series of 30 episodes. Is there a specific copy right that I’d use for that? I will gladly make it into a book or comic if I must.

Joe Escalante: In general, yest, there is a way to copyright your characters, However, most of what you are asking is a little too complicated for this forum. There is no data base of all copyrighted works in the country.
If you call my radio show we can go over all this stuff in depth. Copyright questions are what we specialize in. To reserve a time for your call, place this question in the contact section of

David: I’m wanting to start a business that I already run but have not filed paperwork. I want to move forward where the company is separate from my assest. Also I want this company to have other companies that operate from it… like DBAs. So I am trying to figure out if I don’t want to have multiple players involved.. like CEOs and a Board etc… Should I start this main company as an S-Corp, LLC or what other option do I have? I want to be able to take money from the company to pay myself at any time though… unless I can’t do that and have to set a salary.

Joe Escalante: You could start any of those entities and you could pay yourself a salary or randomly when you need cash in the middle of the night. It’s up to you. However, talk to a tax professional. They will tell you what entity is right for your particular situation. Corps., LLCs, and even a sole proprietorship with insurance, can provide asset protection but the trick is to have a beneficial tax structure.

Alverna: is a hand written will legal?

Joe Escalante: Yes, but in most states it must be signed by the same person who physically wrote it. It’s called a holographic will.

Nada: Joe, 1st let me say thank you from all of us for spending your time answering our questions.
Next, my question is:
I am disabled. My ex-husband abused me while I was on chemotherapy & oxygen, gave me an std (thankfully it was cleared up by antibiotics but…), and spent 2 years, long years being stalked by him while my divorce was pending.
It took over 2 years in and out of court to obtain the divorce decree and support order. He never complied and here I am going on 2 years after the orders were obtained and still nothing. I’ve been back and forth to the court and he has blatently ignored the orders. What, if anything, can I do to make him pay this support as I am unable to work due to a rare illness and 3 time broken neck? I look forward to hearing your suggestions. By the way, because he refuses to comply I am forced to live in a shelter with a compromised immune system.

Joe Escalante: The court system is set up so that when one spouse violates the support decree, that person is in contempt. You have to file more papers to enforce the decree with proof that it is being violated. Then the process rolls along, but if he never complies, they should issue a warrant and arrest him.

Vicki: My Ex-husband and I own a house together that he is living in. I pay him half the house payment every month. We did try selling the house, no luck. He said he was looking into refinancing the house in his name only and I would do a quick deed and get out of any more responsibility with the house. But there are always reasons why it isn’t happening. Our divorce papers said we were both liable for the debts we had together. The house is the only one. I have not lived in the house for over 2 years. My question is, can I still do a quick deed or something else even tho he hasn’t refinanced the house since he is living there and I am not? Thank you.

Joe Escalante: You can’t get out of responsibility for paying mortgage payments by issuing a “quitclaim” deed. However, you could petition the court for a “forced partition sale.” In that case, the court will get someone to sell the house. This is good if you believe that your ex is dragging his feet.

Sharon: My husband received his only write up ever for misconduct at work and when he filed his grievance his boss took it and told him he was cruel and should have lost his job, then responded to the grievance within 5 days and wrote; with your thought process the way that it is, I am concerned that your decision making skills are not in the best interest of the inmates nor the facility. They already gave my husband a sanction yet this response to his grievance sounds like a threat. Off paper the Captain said my husband should have lost his job. Does he have legal recourse?

Joe Escalante: Just for saying he should has lost his job? No.

Geri: Can owners of a a corporation that has been dissolved but is still operating under the same name be sued for shoddy workmanship?

Joe Escalante: It depends on how complete and final the dissolution was. The court would look at who is really responsible. If it was a phony dissolution, then they are still on the hook. If it was legit, they are not.

Terri: I am having a hard time with getting surgery for my dad at the VA. They keep putting things off and his health is getting worse everyday. He is suppose have open heart surgery in Cleveland and nobody from the VA will help me. Who can I contact?????

Joe Escalante: When the VA is misbehaving, most people go to a congressman or senator’s office. They usually have staff that are sympathetic to vet issues. Also, the American Legion is good. Your dad should join.

John: i had an annuity from my mom who left me 23k plus interest and my brither is in charge of it do i have the right to that money or am i out of luck

Joe Escalante: You have right if you are a beneficiary. If you are in the will, trust, or on the annuity paperwork, you have rights. If you think there’s been shenanigans, you should re-open the probate if it has been completed and sue for an accounting. This sounds like fun, huh?

Carol: My Mom passed away in 2010 and left a house to her children (8) and I want to sell my share, but the family refuses to come up with a way to buy me out. Currently, none of the heirs are living in the house and I don’t wish to live there either. I just want my money out of the house. Presently the money would help me and my family during this difficult time. What are my options?A bit too late wouldn’t’ you say! People have already lost our homes! So what’s next! How about giving out some Section 8 vouchers? This is just how out of touch you are with what is going on. People don’t have homes to refinance anymore! Get it together!

Joe Escalante: Any of the heirs get petition the court for what is called a “forced partition sale.” The court will force a resolution. They might even hire a real estate agent to do it. They do it all the time.

Cheryl: Ok ty for posting a diagram to come where it says “write something”. My question is: I own a home in the State of Florida, I want to leave the house to my 30 yr old daughter who at this time has some financial issues and my 16 yr old son who struggles with learning difficulties, ADHD and I am afraid to just leave the home to them outright. I was wondering if there is a way to leave the house to them but protect the home from the kids of making bad decisions long term. Also with the large age gap they are not close and coming together amicably has been difficult for them. I’m very confused I am not healthy and fear not working this out before they get the home. Thank you for your time.

Joe Escalante: You should talk to an estate planning attorney. You should probably put the home in a trust and name your daughter as the beneficiary of the trust. The estate planner will give you some options on how to carry out your wishes as you have described them above. It is a very common thing to do.
Ask him about perhaps creating a “special needs trust.” That could be used to carry out wishes you have for the son and prevent liquidation of the assets too soon.

Carol: Good Morning Mr. Escalante….On 6/23/10, I filed a modification of my ARM Loan. On 7/7/10, after they rec’d the mod, GMAC pd my real estate taxes that I normally pay on my own then sent me a letter that I was now in arrears & they could no longer auto-deduct my house pmt from my checking. They refused to reinstate auto-deduct & let me pay them the taxes back. Said they could not do so while case in mod review. Arrears started adding up til finally rec’d a mod agrmt on 10/23/10, which they wanted back in their ofc by 10/25/10. Called, requested an extension & person told me I would be fine as long as they rec’d the signed mod paperwork & 1st pmt no later than 11/15/10 (1st pmt due 11/1/10). Overnighted both signed mod & pmt by check & they rec’d on 11/5/10. They then denied mod because they did not get it back by the 10/25 deadline. Immediately filed another mod in 11/10, but they denied on basis that I didn’t make enough money even tho my financial info was the same as the 1st & no further arrears had accrued since I filed so soon. They said they were sending my check back to me. Never got the check & found they cashed it in 11/10 & applied as a house pmt. In 1/11, they began foreclosure. I sought help thru a HUD Counselor & Senator’s Ofc. Filed 3rd, 4th & 5th mod…all denied. Wrote to White House & they turned over to Dept of Treasury for investigation. Treasury suggested I file 6th mod while they investigated & finally got that one approved eff 4/1/12. However, Colorado contract law states they should have given me sufficient time to review initial mod docs sent 10/23/10, only giving me til 10/25/10 to return. Colo. contract law also states that by cashing my check & accepting that tender for 11/10, they accepted that initial mod contract (which was a lower amount by the way). I also feel they purposely paid my real estate taxes to put me in arrears so they wouldn’t have to modify the loan. After all, in 2008, I didn’t pay my real estate taxes until the end of July & they didn’t come forward then to pay them. This is a much longer story lasting almost 2 yrs. They put me thru hell & severe depression, not to mention their illegal practices. I want to file a lawsuit against GMAC for all of the above, which would include punitive damages, but seems that real estate attys in Colo. wont do it as many of them already represent these mort companies on foreclosures & I want no part of a class action lawsuit. Do you believe I have a case? How do I find an atty? Can I file a lawsuit on my own and, if so, in which Court would I file…local District, Federal, etc? I was a paralegal supervisor for 20 yrs & I believe I could do this on my own if forced to do so however, “any” assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

Joe Escalante: It sounds like you know more about how this works in Colorado than I ever could. It seems like it would be virtually impossible to find an attorney that would take this on a contingency because the damages a court would award might be very small.
You would have to prove fraud to get punitive damages. Here, it seems you just have incompetence. That will entitle you to be made whole, but proving mental distress and subsequent medical costs would not be easy.

If I were in your shoes, I would prepare breach of contract papers and send them to the bank. Give them a deadline. If they don’t do what you need them to do by the deadline, file it. That will give you some leverage because now they are trying to get you to drop a lawsuit. However, if they call your bluff and proceed to litigate, it will make your live a living hell, so think it though.


LegalZoom: Joe Escalante will be back next week with more free legal advice. Get the details here and come join us next week!

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July 17th, 2012 at 5:34 am