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Stolen Copyrights, DIY Divorce, and More – Free Joe Friday 5/13/11

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

Naty: Once in a while, there are minor legal matters and situations which we find a need to have a lawyer to do or consult. Is joining a legal prepaid plan such as those advertised online a good idea? Also, how do we know or find out if a particular legal plan is reputable? Your advice will be appreciated. And thanks again for the great advices that I got from you already. They have been helping me tremendously.

Joe Escalante: Thanks Naty. one thing to really focus on with a pre-paid plan of any kind is “how can I get out of this if I don’t like it?” Make sure they’re upfront about this and read the fine print.

Karen: I wrote the first draft for a book that I was going to collaborate on with another person. The first draft was all my work. The second draft was mostly my words from that first draft, with some changes and additions by 2 others that I agreed to collaborate with on this project. My understanding is that my work on the first draft is my copyright, and the second is shared copyright with the other 2 people that made edits by copyright laws in the US. One of these individuals has taken the book drafts and signed a contract with another author and is excluding us from this book project now. They have not gotten written permission from me or the other person to do this with our work. What can I do? should I register the first book as my sole authorship, and the second as joint authorship with the other 2 people based on this previous draft that I wrote, to secure this intellectual property?

Joe Escalante: You basically have the right idea. Register the stuff asap. When you create something, you always own the copyright in your creations immediately. You have to sign stuff if you are going to give up any of those rights. There are occasions where your rights can be transfered on a non-exclusive basis without a writing, but permission is still required.

Write a letter to the person that signed the new contract with the other author and tell them you are prepared to start writing letters to anyone they try to talk to about exploiting your work to warn them that they don’t have the rights. This will scare them. you hold the cards in a way here.

Also, you should call into my radio show for this kind of stuff so we can discuss it in detail. It’s what we do. Go to for more details and listen today on at 11 am PST.

Chris: I live in California, I’m married, and we have a 14 year old son. I desperately need to “get away” from my husband, but I don’t have ANY income or any other financial backup. If I was to file for divorce, would I have to pay for it, or my husband? This is urgent!!!!!

Joe Escalante: A lot of good advice on here for you Chris. A shelter should take you for being abused on the inside (even though there’s no physical abuse visible). People handle divorces by themselves all the time with a minimal amount of legal aide from the court house. But it takes a while and if you are under control of someone hostile, your d.i.y. divorce efforts will eventually fall apart.

Michael: We live in Oklahoma and our line of credit ( 2nd mtg ) holder threatening foreclosure since were 31 days late and heard from friends they have been at 2 mths past due…we have financial issues and they are NOT willing to work with us. Are there options including bankruptcy ? thanks

Joe Escalante: 31 days isn’t that long. You should try to keep it current before you consider drastic measures like bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a last resort, not a 31 days past due whimsical decisioin.

LaRelda: Dear Joe, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. I want to know if legalZoom prepares any kind of docs? Like settlement letters on judgements or demand letters.

Joe Escalante: Legalzoom provides forms. The customer prepares them. Check out the extensive legal forms section and see if any apply to your situation. Follow the link.

LegalZoom: Here you go:

Renee: Me and my husband are divorced and I have custody of the kids he is suppose to pick the kids up at 6 pm but he always try’s to come at 4pm what can I do about this?

Joe Escalante: If he is violating something clearly written in the divorce decree, he’s arguably in comtept of the court order. You could point this out to him as a warning. If he persisits, and it’s a problem for you that you can’t deal with in any other way, petition the court to find him in contempt. That’s really bad for him

Nikole: It’s always been my understanding that when someone well off passes, their lawyer contacts the heirs and distributes the inheritance. My grandma elected a Personal Representative who is now supposed to do these things but has stolen and lied and generally been an untrustworthy person and my mother is currently trying to replace her. Drama, drama, drama–couldn’t we just pass this off to a good attorney instead of a PR?

Joe Escalante: You are using unusual language Nikole. Are you speaking of an Executor chosen by your grandma? A trustee? Is there a will? Have you been in contact with the probate court?

Jamie: Joe, Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to answer our questions. I want to know what is the best organizational structure to start with when starting a business. My goal is to create some sort of formal organization for my freelance consulting so I can use a business name and get a separate work bank account. It’s just me. I don’t want a lot of administrative rules or taxes as my freelance work isn’t very often or lucrative. I just need something formal to help me advertise myself and create distance between my personal identity and my business identity. Eventually, I hope to start other businesses solely owned by this new entity, but it may be a few years. Any quick recommendations on what to start as? An LLC? A C Corp? If not, what factors should I be looking at to make my decision? THANKS!!!

Joe Escalante: Since you are a Bruin, I whipped up a little chart for you to help discern which entity you should go with. I always recommend the simplest first if there’s little income. In California, you’re going to have to pay a minimum tax of $800 for a corp or LLC even if you make zero in corporate income. enjoy:

Christine: Do the credit scores stay separate even after 2 people marry?Is there a situation where a newly married spouse is responsible for the other spouse’s debt incurred before the marriage? Does a pre -nup agreement help keep debts separate throughout the marriage?

Joe Escalante: 1. Don’t do it. 2. If you must, wait til he pays his debts. 3. If you can’t wait, a pre-nup will protect seperate assets from being claimed by a spouse. Regarding debts, in most states with which I am familiar, your debts incurred before marriage do not become liabilities of your spouse in connection with credit, creditors, and credit scores, etc. But if you re-finance the debt, or consolidate student loans while married, the creditors could then come after both spouses, even if the loan is in one name still, arguably.

DeeAnna: I am taking over as treasurer of our choir choir booster club and we are have to file as a 501c corporation. What are the main differences in a nonprofit and a for profit corporation? What should we be doing differently?

Joe Escalante: A non-profit corporation sounds wonderful but they take a fair amount of maintenance and if you don’t keep it up, they can bite you in the bottom. I have two pieces of advice for you and your Gleeks. 1. Read the book from Nolo Press called “How To Form A NonProfit Corp.”

2. Get a good tax lady with some experience in non profit corps. :)

LegalZoom: That’s it for Free Joe Friday. Thanks for joining us and have a great weekend! Come back next week for more free legal advice: Don’t forget to check out the Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante Facebook page!

Get more info and all the details and fine print about Free Joe Fridays. And join us on Facebook next Friday at 10am PT for more Free Joe!

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May 17th, 2011 at 6:21 am