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The 11 Things You MUST Know About a Power of Attorney

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on February 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

A power of attorney (POA) is a powerful tool that allows someone to act on your behalf in medical, legal and business affairs. Call your law firm and an attorney will explain the benefits of a power of attorney to you. In the meantime, here are some important things to know about powers of attorney:

 

 

  1. A person must be legally competent when signing (granting) a POA. A person who is not mentally capable of handling his or her own affairs cannot grant a valid power of attorney.
  2. The individual granting the power of attorney is known as the grantor in the United States and the donor in Canada.
  3. The individual granted power is often referred to as the agent, attorney or attorney-in-fact.
  4. The powers granted by a POA may be limited or general. A general power of attorney allows the agent to act broadly in the handling of financial and personal matters, while a limited power of attorney grants only specific powers to the agent.
  5. A medical or health care POA limits the agent’s power to medical decisions, including the termination of life support. It is important that the attorney drafting your POA and the individual you appoint as agent understand your wishes.
  6. A “living will” or advanced medical directive is different than a medical power of attorney. In a “living will”, the maker gives instruction on the limits of medical care he or she desires directly to family and medical staff. No agent is appointed.
  7. Give copies of your medical POA and “living will’ to your physicians and trusted friends or family members and ask them to keep them in a safe place in case they are needed.
  8. You must know and trust your designated agent. An unscrupulous agent with a general POA could drain your bank accounts, sell your car or open lines of credit in your name. Once the damage is done it can be extremely difficult to repair. If you have any doubts about your choice of agent, do not sign a POA naming them.
  9. Your agent should be financially sound and capable of making important financial decisions. Be sure your agent manages his or her own affairs satisfactorily before giving that agent a power to manage yours.
  10. A POA or “living will” can be revoked. If you wish to revoke a previous POA or “living will”, call your law firm and speak with an attorney.
  11. POA documents are no longer valid after the grantor or donor is deceased. After the grantor dies the executor manages the estate in accordance with the will.

 

4 Legal Tips to Help Save You Money in 2013

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on January 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Taking charge of your finances is a great way to kick off 2013. The following tips are designed to help you survey where you are, diagnose any potential problems and with the help of your law firm, resolve legal issues.

 

1. Review Your Credit Report – The best way to monitor your financial history and ensure the accuracy of your credit score is by reviewing your credit reports each year. In the United States, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that the three consumer credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—provide you with a free copy of their report once every 12 months. You may order your free annual credit report online at annualcreditreport.com (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp) or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Canadians may view the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website by here (http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/eng/consumers/creditloans/reportScores/index-eng.asp). The FCAC website offers information on how to obtain credit reports and correct errors. If you need assistance correcting inaccurate information on your report, call your law firm today.

 

2. Check Your Mail – Monitor your bills and any collection notices carefully. Ignoring collection notices will only lead to headaches, increased fees and potential legal action including wage garnishment. Even if you cannot afford to pay a bill in full, working out a reasonable payment plan with the lender or collection agency may buy you time and save you money in the long run. If you need assistance working out a payment plan or disputing an inaccurate bill, call your law firm and speak with an attorney.

 

3. Review Your Insurance Coverage – You need to periodically review your policies to insure they cover the essential investments in your property, changes in your life and recent purchases. If you need help deciphering the terms of a policy or disputing a denied claim.

 

4. Start Preparing Your Taxes – Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your tax return. In the rush to complete returns last minute, many filers omit deductions or overpay. Taking your time early in the year, organizing paper work and carefully reviewing returns will help make sure your filing is accurate.

7 Tips for Stopping Cyber Bullies

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on January 15, 2013 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Today, online bullying is a reality for adults and teens alike. The personal nature of social networking, the ability to broadcast information to large groups of people in seconds and the bully’s feeling of anonymity can make this type of harassment particularly damaging and hurtful. These tips are designed to help you prevent and/or stop cyber bullies.

 

  1. Talk to your children. Keep an open dialogue with your kids about their online social circle. Let them know if they are bullied they can talk to you. Also, make sure they understand the damage that bullying can cause others. Look for warning signs that your child is being bullied or bullying and step in right away.
  2. Do not respond to a bully. Save or copy emails, messages or other evidence, but avoid engaging with a tormentor.
  3. If the perpetrator is a minor you may try reaching out to a parent or guardian to intervene in the matter. Many parents are surprised to learn that their children are bullying and will help intervene.
  4. If the bully attends your children’s school, discuss the matter with an administrator or counselor. Some schools have guidelines for dealing with cyber bullies and preventing escalation.
  5. File formal complaints with phone and internet providers to block the bully.
  6. Physical threats, stalking or harassment may constitute a criminal matter. Contact the police to report the abuse right away.
  7. Talk to your law firm to find out what other options may be available to you and your family. Laws dealing with online harassment vary; it is important to discuss the matter with an attorney who knows the laws in your state or province.

Hit-and-Run Accidents: What Victims NEED to Know

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on December 27, 2012 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Hit-and-run accidents leave victims feeling helpless. What can the police do? What will insurance cover? These tips are designed to help you in the aftermath of a hit-and-run auto accident. If you have been involved in any type of auto accident call your law firm today.

 

  • Do not chase the other driver. It may be tempting to follow the other driver, but anyone willing to flee the scene of an accident may be dangerous.
  • Call the police. Filing a police report is extremely important. Even if you have very little information about the other driver, a police report will be necessary for any insurance claim or legal action.
  • Gather as much information as you can at the scene. If you can only remember one piece of information make it the other driver’s license plate number. Knowing the make and model of the car will also be helpful. Take note of the location and circumstances of the accident as well as where the other driver was coming from. Write everything you can remember down and take pictures at the scene if at all possible. Also gather contact information from any witnesses.
  • File an insurance claim. If the other driver is identified, the police or your insurance company may obtain their insurance information. It is important to file a claim with their insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Understand your coverage. Do you have uninsured motorist coverage? Some states and provinces make purchasing this type of coverage mandatory. Without adequate coverage you may end up footing the bill for car repairs and medical expenses. Talk to your law firm about the laws where you live and make sure you are adequately covered.
  • Do not sign a settlement agreement or accept payments from an insurance company without first speaking with your attorney.

What You Need to Know Before an ER Visit

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on December 3, 2012 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Unfortunately, visits to the emergency room often increase during the holidays. While it is impossible to predict an ER visit, there are a few tips that can help you prepare in advance of an emergency.

 

Coverage – It is important to understand your health insurance coverage. Make sure you know which hospitals in your area are covered under your plan. If you are traveling for the holiday, understand what you need to do to inform your insurance company in the event of an emergency.

 

Know Your Local Hospitals – Just as important as knowing where you are covered or where you will get the best rates if you are uninsured, is doing your homework on quality care in your area. Hospitalsafetyscore.org allows visitors to check the safety score of hospitals. Consumer Reports also offers hospital ratings to its subscribers.

 

Medical Power of Attorney – Everyone should have an up-to-date medical power of attorney or advanced medical directive. These documents ensure your family members know what you want in the event of a health crisis.

 

Important Documents – Make sure all of your estate planning and insurance documents are kept somewhere safe, yet remain easily accessible to your family or caregiver in the event of an emergency. It is important that these documents can be easily retrieved if they are needed.

5 Holiday Scams to Avoid

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on November 27, 2012 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

With the holiday season upon us it isn’t just retailers looking to turn a profit. Scammers exploit the spirit of the holidays to help separate victims from their money. Many of these scams are used throughout the year but are given a new twist for the holidays.

 

  1. Bait-and-Switch – Scammers frequently use cheap tablets, smart phones, MP3 players, jewelry and gift cards as part of bait-and-switch scams. They may approach potential victims in a mall, on the street or through the Internet offering a deal that is too good to be true. They may even allow the victim to check out the item, but rest assured, after the money is exchanged the victim will not get the item they are expecting. Only purchase big-ticket items from respected retailers and avoid this common holiday scam.
  2. Hard Luck Stories – Scammers often take advantage of the holiday spirit of giving. They may send victims an email requesting assistance or approach victims in public. Scammers will often have an elaborate hard luck story and sometimes even use children to elicit sympathy from victims. Some scammers may also pose as stranded holiday travelers in need of assistance to get home for the holidays. Be wary of these scams and never give out your address, bank information or large amounts of cash to strangers.
  3. Charity Scams – Fake charity scams also take advantage of the spirit of giving. Beware of scam charity emails. Research a charity before making a donation and make sure they are legitimate. You should never make large donations in cash and always ask for a receipt when making a large donation.
  4. Gift Card Swap – The rise in popularity of gift cards has led to a new type of scam. Scammers will use high tech scanners to read the numbers off of the gift cards sold in the aisles of major retailers. They will then return the cards to the store shelf and monitor them to see when they are activated. Once activated, they will use the card numbers to spend the funds before the intended recipient has a chance to use the card. Whenever possible purchase your card from behind the counter of a retailer.
  5. Email Greetings – Holiday emails can sometimes be a Trojan horse for hackers. Do not open attachments from senders you do not know and be wary of strangely worded emails. Make sure your computer’s antivirus software is up to date and use it to scan anything suspicious.

7 Legal Tips for Holiday Shopping

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on November 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner consumers and retailers are ready to kick the holiday shopping season into high gear. Before you head out for the big sale or start shopping online, read these tips for safe and secure holiday shopping.

 

  1. Understand your finances before going to the store or shopping online. It is easy to throw your budget or financial planning out the window when confronted by the newest gadget or a great sale, but it is important to set and follow a strict budget for your holiday shopping. Do not let eager sales staff or your own excitement sell you on products that are outside of your budget
  2. Beware of retail credit card or quick loan offers you cannot afford. Many lenders use the holiday cash crunch to attract borrowers. Do not sign up for any new credit cards or loans without reviewing the rates and terms carefully. 
  3. Know the retailer’s return policy. Many holiday retail disputes stem from misunderstandings over the return or refund policies. Make sure you read and understand the store policies before purchasing big-ticket items. Some returns will require costly restocking fees and some sale items may not be eligible for return.
  4. Beware of service plans and warranties. Additional protection is offered as an add-on during checkout at many retailers. Before purchasing a protection plan or warrantee make sure you understand the terms, limitations and likelihood you will need the added protection.
  5. Shop online from trusted retailers. It is important to make sure you are on the correct website by checking the domain name in the browser. Sometimes unsolicited emails that link to products will actually direct you to scam sites designed to look like a trusted retailer. Make sure the website’s checkout is also secure. The domain name at the top or bottom of your browser should contain https://.
  6. Do your homework when using an unknown online retailer. Make sure the company has a physical address and a working phone number. Run their name through a search engine to make sure they have a good reputation.
  7. Never pay for items purchased online with wire transfers or money orders. These types of payment offer no tracking or protection in the event of a scam.

7 Critical Legal Tips for Homeowners

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on November 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Home ownership is an investment fraught with potential legal problems. The following tips are designed to help you plan for potential problems in the future and handle unexpected events when they occur. If you have questions contact your law firm today.

 

  1. Homeowner's Insurance – Having an adequate homeowner's insurance policy is extremely important. Buying a policy because it is the most affordable may be a recipe for disaster. Make sure your policy covers natural disasters common to where you live. You should review your policy yearly to make sure your losses will be covered in the event of a disaster.
  2. Important Information – Keep important information, such as insurance documents, warranties, deeds and wills in a safe location where they will not be lost or destroyed.
  3. Preventative Maintenance – Few things are more frustrating to a homeowner than unexpected and costly home repairs. Having major appliances as well as your home’s plumbing, electrical and roof checked before a problem arises can save money in the long run. If a costly repair is needed, seek out a second opinion and always get an estimate in writing.
  4. Home & Appliance Warranties – Home and appliance warranties are only as good as their fine print. Before signing up for a warranty have your law firm review the terms carefully for exclusions and hidden costs.
  5. Neighborhood Nuisance – Disputes between neighbors can quickly spiral out of control. Before taking matters into your own hands, understand the local laws regarding common neighborhood disputes such as litter, aggressive animals and loud noise. Contact your law firm and discuss your concerns with an attorney who understands the local laws.
  6. Mortgage Scams – The mortgage crisis led to a booming industry in mortgage relief scams. Be wary of forensic mortgage audits, loan modification guarantees and class action mortgage relief. Scammers use direct mail and phone calls to solicit victims. Do not sign any agreements or make any payments before speaking with your law firm.
  7. Renting – Before you consider renting your property make sure your mortgage allows the space to be used as a non-primary residence. Many homeowners’ insurance policies exclude renters. Review the terms of your mortgage and insurance carefully. Your law firm may also help review any lease or roommate agreements before they are signed.

What You Need to Know About Quick Cash Loans

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on November 5, 2012 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Quick cash loans are marketed as an easy way to get cash in the event of an emergency. Also known as pay day, title, cash advance, check advance, post-dated check or deferred deposit loans, they can cost borrowers a staggering amount in interest and fees. Borrowers should avoid quick cash loans whenever possible. It is important to understand the terms of any loan and discuss the consequences with an attorney before signing anything or accepting money.

 

A quick cash loan is a small loan that often does not require a credit check. The loans must be paid back quickly, usually within a few pay periods. If they are not paid back on time fees can multiply rapidly. In most cases the annual percentage rate (APR) on a quick cash loan averages about 400%, but it can be as high as 5,000%. A standard credit card has an APR of 12% and a standard loan APR is around 7%. In addition to high interest, quick cash loans can often involve extremely high processing and late payment fees. The fees may even exceed the total amount of the original loan.

 

There may be alternatives to quick cash loans:

 

  • A small loan from a credit union or local bank may offer better interest rates and more manageable repayment terms.
  • Shop for credit with the lowest interest rate and be sure to understand any additional fees.
  • If you have a 401K plan you may be able to take out an emergency loan against those funds. The interest rate is generally low and in some cases the interest may be paid back into your 401K.
  • If you need money quickly contact other lenders or your utility companies and request an extension on those bills.
  • Develop a budget and savings plan to help build a buffer against emergencies.

4 Legal Tips for Saving Money on Car Maintenance

Posted by Edna & Roger Boisjoli on October 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Unfortunately every car breaks down at one time or another. The following legal tips will help you save money on vehicle repair and maintenance. 

 

  1. Warranty Terms – A new or used auto warranty is only as good as its terms and the company providing it. Nearly all used car dealers now offer third-party warranty coverage. Research the company behind the warranty on the Internet. Review used car warranty plans especially carefully. Understand what the warranty covers and does not cover and what regular service you are responsible for covering. If you violate even a small provision of your obligations under the warranty, you may inadvertently void the warranty. If you are paying for the warranty, make sure it is worth the cost. Consider whether the cost of the warranty and its limited terms outweigh its benefits. Ask yourself if you would be better off saving the price of the warranty and holding it back so that you can pay for your repairs directly?
  2. Find the Right Mechanic – It is important to find a mechanic who is trustworthy and familiar with your type of vehicle. Talk to friends, family and coworkers about where they take their vehicles. You may also check the Better Business Bureau or online reviews. Lawsuits between a customer and repair shop are common – and expensive. Reputable mechanics minimize lawsuits.
  3. Regular Maintenance – The best way to avoid costly unexpected repairs is to properly maintain your vehicle. Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and have your mechanic regularly check the vehicle for problems. Knowing a potential repair is on the horizon will help you prepare for the expense.
  4. Second Opinions –If your mechanic says your vehicle needs a costly repair, get a second opinion before authorizing work and NEVER authorize work before getting a detailed, written estimate from the mechanic.