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Advancing an Inheritance, Red Light Tickets and More – Free Joe Friday 5/27/11

with 2 comments

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.

Ramona: FOR FREE JOE: I have an idea, I have googled many ways to try and find, which I am thinking of sharing w/ some businesses. How do I protect my idea as intellectual property and make money from it? I’m not inventing a NEW product, but a new WAY to offer it. What are my first steps in protecting my idea?

Joe Escalante: OK. But answer this. Are you proposing an advertising campaign? Business method?

Ramona: No. I want to propose a convenient way to package something. I was thinking of going to the companies that make the product I want repackaged. I would source the packaging and present the idea.

Joe Escalante:  You should do a little research on patent law by reading this book

Joe Escalante:  It has a dog on the cover. If he can figure this stuff out, so can you. You want to figure out if it’s a novel, unobvious product that you have invented or perhaps a patentable business method. A provisioinal patent that would protect your invention for a year before a actual patent could be done is easy to do through Click the link below for more info.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Ramona:

Tracy: do you really have to pay the red light photo tickets that are taken with a camera?

Joe Escalante:  You can plead not guilty, that is if you are “not guilty.” But as you know, even guilty people plead not guilty. The people have the burden of proof in a traffic trial. I handle many of them as a judge pro tem. If you ignore them, you will have a warrant issued for your arrest eventually. If you have the time, fight it. If you love America, just pay it, with a 15% tip or something like that.

Brandi: Why is it that a woman can have an abortion without the consent of the father but when a man has a one night stand and begs for an abortion, it’s like he’s paying for sex for the next 18 years that happened only once? How is that fair? And is there ANY way to give up parental rights and responsibilities to a child whom you don’t want contacting you EVER? I’m looking for a genuine answer, no bashing please, but feel free to comment on my horrible question because I know you people will….

Joe Escalante: If a court deems it is in the best interest of the already born child, parental rights can be terminated, and granted to someone else, but if someone wants to terminate those rights just to save money, that’s not going to cut it. You can take your kid to any firestation and drop him or her off these days if you really don’t like the kid, or you can give the kid to me. My wife and I are a sad childless couple.

Art: Hi Joe, what steps do I need to take in adding family member to my house deed. There is no sale or complete transfer, I want my name to remain. Please let me know.

Joe Escalante: Art, that can be simple, or it can be weird if there are encumberances on the property, like a mortgage. Read what my favorite Texas lawyers have to say about this:

Bonnie: How do I fill out garnishment paperwork on a small claims judgement?

Joe Escalante: Writ of garnishment forms are available through your court where you got the judgment. Are they refusing to help you fill it out?

Seth: What sort of licensing agreement would be appropriate for a non-monetary use of a name and logo?

Joe Escalante You basically just need written permission. Unless it would qualify as a Fair Use under the US. Copyright act. Google that and prepare to have your mind blown. Listen to my radio show or better yet, call it for more details. That’s what we do there. it’s on right now at

Sally: Three years back I hired (paid) a computer programer. I had him sign a letter of confidenciality agreement regarding my idea for streaming video. I heald a domain name which indicated my intention. I ran into he and his wife in December 2010 he mentioned had set up a meeting with a particuarly large video mail rental company . This company implemented this idea. It is utilizing it is the same fashion as I introduced to this programmer. It is big. They are doing exactly my idea which was patentable as a utility patent. Can I do anything about this?

Joe Escalante: There are a couple causes of action here, but since you have not patented the idea, patent infringement is going to be a tough one. You may be able to prove some unfair and anti-competitive business practices for a state claim. Get your chronology and documents in order and consult with an attorney who has sued in this area. You might be able to at least end up with a royalty on their exploitation of your wrongfully acquired idea. It has to be protectable though, if it’s not unobvious, and not novel, etc. it’s just an idea that anyone can run with. Check out attorney connect for a good plaintiff’s attorney. Click below.

LegalZoom: Here’s the Attorney Connect link, Sally:

Tova: As a 501(c)(3) what kind of insurance do we need. What are the legal implications if we don’t have ins? (We teach group classes an do in home consolations for families. We are NOT licensed therapists; we are independent parent support/educators.) Thank you.

Joe Escalante: You should talk to an insurance guy. You’re going need some protection against general liabilities involved in operating a cult, or whatever you’re into, and workers comp insurance for employees. I’m not an expert in all that but your insurance guy will give you some options. One thing you can do to protect yourself is make sure that the financials and administrative things are all in order so that you are more likely to have your personal assets exempted from any liabilites not covered by your insurance. I’m in a cult, that’s why I thought I could joke about it. Sorry.

Kim Gordon: FOR FREE JOE: I want to trademark my company name and logo. I have 3 versions of my logo. Do I have to file separately for all 3 or can I do it in one filing? Is there an extra charge involved? Thanks!

Joe Escalante: Only ONE mark may be filed per application. If you have multiple marks, they require separate applications, each with its own filing fee.

Chereese: Hi Joe, Thinking about either a) opening up a 2nd office out of State for my small biz, and have a family member run or b) starting a franchise that they can run, what’s the major difference, and is the liability greater in a) or b)? Thanks!

Joe Escalante: That would depend. Starting a franchise would be more complicated at this stage, you’d have to define a lot of revenue and responsibility issues. Franchisee agreements are very thorough and technical. You would need to do a lot of set up. However, you could eventually decrease liablity this way down the road and shift it to your franchisees. But you could open up a 2nd office today, with your same business model you have now. Just get insurance and have your corporate entity in order.

Benito: What are the steps for copywriting and publishing a novel?

Joe Escalante: Those are two very different things Benito. If your novel is done, fill out the copyright stuff. I wold let legalzoom help me out with that cuz it’s not that easy and you want it done right, but an attorney might be overkill, unless it’s me, at my full rate, which is always a bargain.
This is something can do as soon as you are done with the work. However, even if you don’t register it, you still own a valid copyright. Registration gives you many advantages like statutory damages and attorney fees if there is an infringement.
Publishing happens if someone wants to pay to make a bunch of copies of that thing you wrote and distribute them to stores. You can always self publish. Call my rado show this sunday night on KTLK in L.A. and we’ll discuss it further. That’s what we do on this show. For more info go to

LegalZoom: Here’s a link to our copyright services, Benito:

Marti: Hi Joe, how do u figure out a fair settlement in an Auto accident, 100% their liability? $14k in repairs and rental car on my 9k KBB car, 4500 med bills, w perm nerve damage in my knee and going on ten months. Thank u!!! PS, they offered me 300 bucks.

Joe Escalante: You need a personal injury attorney, now. Legalzoom can help you find a good one. click below. This is exactly what personal injury attorneys are for.

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, Marti:

‘Phyllis: For Free Joe: My nephew fathered a child who is in Foster Care, he never filed his paternity rights, he thinks he doesn’t have to do this as the DNA test came back showing he is the father. (which the state paid for to locate the birth father) Will the judge just place the child with him when they terminate the mothers parental rights? He also thinks he is free and clear of child support because after 2 years no one has asked him, I say once he files paternity rights they will go back to the day the child was born. Why hasn’t the state came after him for child support? any information be appreciated.

Joe Escalante: It varies from state to state, but your instincts sound pretty good on this. I can’t advise him on how to avoid child support.

Mike: Do I still file Ohio state sales tax even if I have had no customers to report yet?

Joe Escalante: I don’t about Ohio, but in California, my experience is that the State Board Of Equalization doesn’t bother you until you’ve had some sales. Check with your state’s sales tax authority.

Christian: My wife and I are thinking about filing bankruptcy. We had bought a time share when we were both working and now that she has no job we cam barley afford our bills with out the time share. If we file and put everything except the time share into the bankruptcy,would that get it out of our business.

Joe Escalante: You can’t favor one creditor over another in bankruptcy proceedings. That would be shenanigans.

Joyce: If a husband is divorcing a wife can she seek spousal support from him if she receives SSI & never reported her husband’s income to Social Security?

Joe Escalante: I’m a little confused by the question but in general, I would ask for spousal support based on need, other factors that are used in your state. If someone challenges your claim for support, let them present evidence or pipe down.

Nikole: I’d like to ask for an advance on my inheritance–according to Nolo this is possible but how possible/usual is this? Also, could you speak to the statistic I read lately about how a large percentage of people never even receive their inheritances?

Joe Escalante: No one is entitled to an inheritance. Who are you? Lady Guinevere? You can weasel a gift out of your parents in a manner that might have certain tax advantages over bequeathment upon death if you consult with an estate lawyer. I wold approach this subject delicately with your parents or they might start hiding the sharp items around the house.

John: What steps do I take to set my business up as an LLC. And what books/literature is out there to help me in the steps necessary to take to accomplish this and to give me more information on the pros/cons of an LLC~Thanks

Joe Escalante: Start with this one:
Actually start by reading the stuff on Legalzoom. Then buy this book. You’ll be one smart lemur at that point.

Steven: I am a retired military Veteran. I’d Like to find out if it is legal for my ex to be able to get money from my disability allowance. The state of New Mexico makes me pay her a portion of my disability to make up for me getting disiability awarded 8 years ago.This took a portion of money from her half of our divorce settlement from the military split. I heard no one can take disabilty away from a disabled person.Do i have grounds to get this turned around and can i sue the state for allowing it to happen.

Joe Escalante: This is a great question. The Supreme Court and State Courts have been hashing this out for a while now and it’s really complicated becasue traditionally disability benefits for veterans have been indivisible in a divorce, but other retirement benefits are divisible. It has always been in the person who served’s interest to make sure as much of their benefits are in the form of disability for this reason, and there are some tax reasons as well.

You really need to consult with an attorney that specializes in military retirement benefits. It will be worth a few hundred dollars for a consultation. Maybe you can get a free one, I don’t know. Check Legalzoom’s attorney connect service to see if there’s one in your area LZ would recommend.

LegalZoom: Here’s the Attorney Connect link, Steven:

Wendy: i’ve been trying to get divorced for over 6 years…lawyer told me twice that papers expired, charged more money…then when last papers were signed-the future ex was in the state prison, and he signed from there…the lawyer says that he didn’t sign-that someone else did. but won’t let me see the papers to show me that someone else signed. he wants another fee, just to talk to me. found out from the courthouse that some of the papers are there, and that they don’t expire. how can i get to see the papers that the lawyer says the ex had someone else sign?

Joe Escalante: Talk to the state bar and tell them this story. Go to the court and ask for all the papers they have. Get a new lawyer. Try attorney connect from Legalzoom, cuz whatever you tried last time didn’t work out so great. :)

LegalZoom: Here’s the Attorney Connect link, Wendy:

Cindy: Joe, I had a tornado distroy my home April 23, 2008. State Farm was great and gave me money to build a brand new home. I hired a builder, which took all my money, but didn’t pay all his contractors. Now I have over $30,000 of liens on my property. I live in Texas, so what can I do? The builder is no longer building homes under his the name he had at the time he built mine. He keeps telling me he is taking care of them, but I am not seeing any action. Thanks, Cindy W.

Joe Escalante: Sorry about this, it’s a mess. Talk to the agency that issued him his contractor’s license. If he’s not licensed or bonded properly,you may have to file a claim against him in court for all the money he owes to get the liens off your house.

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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