By Associate Attorney Danielle Nodar
When a business is formed and registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, the business must comply with certain filings in order to remain in good standing and able to do business in the state. Scammers are aware of these requirements and target North Carolina business owners through the mail. These mailings may look like official government documents, and they quote statutes, cite scary penalties, and prompt the business to pay a fee for a certain “required” form.
One misleading mailing comes from C.F.S., a Michigan company that sends a solicitation for preparation and filing of 2022 annual reports for a fee of $295. The solicitation indicates that the company is not affiliated with the NC Secretary of State and that the annual report may be filed directly by the business owner with the NC Secretary of State’s Office. However, if you are not careful, you may pay a company for a service that you can complete yourself. Businesses can file their annual report themselves and pay a fee of $200 directly to the NC Secretary of State.
Another scheme targeting new business owners is from a company called NC Certificate Service, which mails out a form requesting businesses to order an NC Secretary of State Certificate of Existence for $82. However, there is no state requirement that each registered business entity obtain an annual Certificate of Existence. A Certificate of Existence is only required if a business does business in another state and can be ordered by the business directly from the NC Secretary of State for $15.00 or less.
Finally, another mailing scheme comes from Annual Minutes Filing Services, LLC, also based out of North Carolina, offering to prepare annual minutes to business entities in North Carolina for a fee of $159. The mailing indicates that the company is not affiliated with any government agency in North Carolina but fails to mention that meeting minutes for a company are internal documents that are not required to be filed with the Secretary of State.
There are ways you can protect yourself when receiving a document requesting additional filings or fees for your business. First, always read the fine print. These mailers often come from private companies that have no affiliation with the North Carolina Secretary of State or other government agency, and many are from out of state. Also, some mailings may indicate that you are not obligated to obtain the services to meet North Carolina’s requirements for your business. Do not blindly mail in a check when you receive mail like this. Read it carefully. Contact your attorney or the Secretary of State’s office if you are concerned about a required form your business receives in the mail.
By Attorney Kelly Jesson
North Carolina has a procedure whereby the surviving spouse can claim an “allowance” when their spouse dies, allowing them to obtain, free and clear of any creditor claims or expenses, their deceased spouse’s singularly owned personal property up to $60,000 less any liens or encumbrances. Any jointly owned property will automatically become the surviving spouse’s and is excluded from the $60,000 cap. If a deceased spouse had real estate only in his name, the surviving spouse could not use the spousal allowance to get the real estate and would then have to resort to the probate process. The spousal allowance law applies whether or not the deceased spouse had a will.
The benefits of the spouse allowance statute are clear. Example: you and your deceased wife own a house jointly and own joint bank accounts, but she had a car in only her name worth $30,000 and a stock account in only her name worth $20,000. She also had a $20,000 Macy’s credit card bill in only her name. You can go up to the courthouse with proof of her death and proof of your marriage, fill out a fairly simple form, pay $20, and leave being able to transfer those two items to you directly. There is no need for a costly and time-consuming probate proceeding. Additionally, Macy’s will not be paid.
It is very important to note that a surviving spouse only has one year to file a claim for the allowance. There are no exceptions to this rule. If the deadline had been missed in the above example, the stock would likely have to be sold to pay the Macy’s debt. Also, there is a $5,000 child’s allowance available for children under the age of 18 or certain children over age 18. Finally, government entities may not recognize the state statute, so debts like taxes may still be owed.
If you or a loved one need assistance with the probate process, please give Jesson & Rains a call!
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