By Attorney Edward Jesson
People and businesses get sued every day, and while no one enjoys being on the receiving end of a lawsuit, there are certain things that should be done to try and make the experience as painless as possible. In North Carolina, a lawsuit is generally started when an individual or a business (also called the “plaintiff”) files a complaint. The clerk of court issues a summons, which must be served on the defendant (the party being sued). This can generally be done by mailing it certified mail, return receipt requested, sending via FedEx or UPS, or having the county sheriff personally deliver a copy of the summons and complaint.
Once the summons and complaint have been served, the defendant has 30 days to respond to the complaint in district and superior courts. In small claims court, when a defendant is served (in some instances this can be achieved by the sheriff leaving a copy of the complaint taped to the front door), they will usually receive a notice of hearing along with the complaint.
Here is the first point that I would like to make clear: if you are served with a lawsuit, please do not wait until day 29 to contact an attorney. Evaluating your position as a defendant in a lawsuit and preparing the correct response takes time. While you can usually get a 30-day extension of time to respond, doing so at the last minute is not always possible, and the extension likely won’t be granted if it is after day 30. If you fail to respond to the complaint in time, the plaintiff may be entitled to a default judgment. It is exactly what it sounds like— they will automatically win “by default”! A default judgment can be hard to overcome once it is entered, and the excuse that you simply “forgot” to respond is usually not enough.
Point number two: Do not answer the complaint without first consulting with an attorney. In an answer, you will generally just admit or deny the allegations to the complaint, but that is not the only response that is available. There are several ways that you may be able to get the lawsuit dismissed (meaning the case is thrown out), but that option is not available if you admit or deny allegations in the answer first. By doing that yourself, you may be preventing an attorney from later dismissing the lawsuit.
For most people who are sued, it is for the first time in their lives (and hopefully the only time). Once the shock, confusion, and anger has worn off, it is important not to bury your head in the snow. Contact a litigation attorney who can help you navigate through the civil system and, hopefully, get your case resolved in the most efficient way possible. If done correctly, you may save a lot of money; however, trying to handle it yourself oftentimes results in the expenditure of more money. If you or anyone you know has been sued, please give the attorneys at Jesson & Rains a call.
By Associate Attorney Danielle Nodar
One of the most important decisions when creating an estate plan is determining what will happen to your assets when you pass away. When thinking of assets, the usual tangible or financial assets come into mind: real estate, bank accounts, cars, jewelry, etc. However, today as more and more of us are active online, another important and often overlooked asset are digital assets. Digital assets cover a wide range of a client’s assets, from the sentimental and personal items such as photos stored online and email and social media accounts, to assets with a monetary value, such as PayPal accounts, domain names, intellectual property stored on a computer, business information such as client lists, and cryptocurrency.
Without creating an estate plan that references these assets, state and federal data privacy laws may make it difficult or even prevent loved ones from accessing your digital assets when you pass away. If no planning has been done, an online provider’s terms of service agreement will likely control what happens to a consumer’s account after death. As the law slowly catches up to technology, legislation has been enacted to allow the owner of digital assets to protect these assets after death. For example, The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act has been passed in the majority of states (including North Carolina) and provides that an owner of digital assets can specify who will be able to access and dispose of the digital assets after death. Therefore, by creating a formal estate plan, your documents can designate a specific person (such as your executor or trustee) to have access to your digital assets when you pass away. You can also include provisions that this person will have the ability to reset or recover any passwords in order to access your data and assets.
After determining who should be allowed access to your digital assets after death, additional steps should be taken to ensure that this person will be able to more easily access any relevant data or digital assets. During your lifetime, you can create a list of your digital assets so that your loved ones have an idea of where to begin in collecting digital assets. This list should include usernames, passwords, security questions associated with accounts, and instructions on what should be done with accounts after death, such as which accounts should be deleted. As this list contains key information for accessing digital assets, it should be kept in a secure location that can be accessed by loved ones after death. We do not recommend that clients include this information in their wills, as they can be accessed by the public after death.
In addition to creating an estate plan that plans for access and disposition of digital assets, certain online providers have internal procedures and policies that you can use to protect your digital assets after death. For example, Facebook ‘s privacy and security settings allow you to name a “legacy contact” to handle your account after you pass away. Instructions can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/help/103897939701143?helpref=faq_content.
Google also has an option where you can name an “inactive account manager.” This allows the Google account owner to specify what should happen to the account after it has remained inactive for a period of time. The account owner can list persons who will be notified that the account will be closed before it is deleted, giving loved ones time to access the account and download any important content before the account is deleted. Instructions can be found here: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3036546?hl=en.
With some basic planning, you can provide your loved ones with access to assets that could have considerable sentimental and monetary value. As society and our lives continue to get more intertwined with the digital world, it becomes crucial that estate plans are comprehensive and provide protection and instructions for our digital assets.
By Attorney Edward Jesson
Running a business can be tricky! Having employees can be even trickier! We are frequently asked about minimum wage and overtime.
The federal law that controls employee pay is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets the minimum standards that the states must comply with—but there is nothing stopping the individual states from setting standards that exceed those outlined in the FLSA. For example, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the minimum wage in Colorado is currently set at $11.10 per hour. If you are an employer in Colorado, you have to pay $11.10 per hour regardless of the federal law. Conversely, no state can set a minimum wage below the federal amount. In North Carolina, the minimum wage is $7.25.
Does FLSA apply to your business? Probably, yes. Generally, the FLSA applies to all businesses that make over $500,000.00 per year gross or are engaged in interstate commerce, which is a very broad term. Most businesses engage in interstate commerce. The FLSA can also apply to day workers, housekeepers, cooks, full-time babysitters and other “domestic service workers” under certain circumstances. If you believe that the FLSA does not apply to your business, it would be a good idea to check with a local attorney to ensure that your analysis is correct.
Most people know that overtime is calculated at a rate of at least 1.5 times the regular hourly rate. That 1.5 times the hourly rate kicks in for any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. It’s important to note that the FLSA looks at workweeks and does not allow an employer to average the amount out over a longer period. For example, if an employee works 45 hours one week and 35 the next, the employer cannot average that out to 40 hours per week over those two weeks. The employee will be entitled to 5 hours overtime for the first week, and no overtime for the second week.
Even if the FLSA does apply to your business, there are certain exemptions to the law. For example, executive, administrative, and professional employees who earn salaries may be exempt from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, so long as that salary is equal to at least $455 per week. Similarly, outside sales employees may also be exempt from FLSA requirements. Employees of movie theaters are exempt from the overtime requirement but must still make minimum wage.
Even commissioned employees are entitled to minimum wage (unless they are considered exempt). For example, if a commissioned employee works 30 hours, at the federal minimum wage, they would be entitled to at least $217.50. If the commissions earned for those 30 hours worked totals less than $217.50, then it is the employer’s responsibility to make up the short fall. There are a number of exceptions to this rule.
Tipped employees must be paid at least $2.13 per hour in direct payment from the employer. Tipped employees are entitled to at least minimum wage, so if their direct pay and tips for a workweek do not equal what they should be entitled to at the prevailing minimum wage, it is the employer’s responsibility to make up that short fall. Similarly, tipped employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a single workweek. The calculations for a tipped employee’s overtime rate are more complex than for a regular hourly rate employee.
As you can see, the exceptions to the FLSA are varied, and there is no “one size fits all” answer. It is advisable to consult with an attorney licensed in your state or a human resource professional to ensure that your employees are being paid the correct amount based on the particular circumstances of your employees and your business. If you have any questions regarding how you are supposed to pay your employees, please give Jesson & Rains a call.
Kelly will be co-hosting a complimentary estate and retirement planning seminar with Joe Roseman, Jr. Managing Partner, who will be talking about retirement, at the South County Library.
Sign up today!
*Determine if a TRUST is right for YOU
*Avoid the most common mistakes retirees make with their estate plan
*Reduce future costs and taxes for your FAMILY
*Understand how to avoid letting the NURSING HOME take your house
*Discover powerful retirement and estate strategies you never knew existed
RSVP using this link
Congratulations to our friend, Melisa Galasso of Galasso Learning solutions, for being named one of Mecktimes Charlotte’s 50 Most Influential Women!
Congratulations to our friend, Melisa Galasso of Galasso Learning Solutions, for being named one of The Mecklenburg Times Charlotte’s 50 Most Influential Women!
Written by Associate Attorney Danielle Nodar
For most assets, the transfer of title from the individual’s name to the name of the trustee of the revocable living trust is a fairly simple process—such as changing the name of a bank account from “John Doe” to “John Doe, Trustee of the John Doe Revocable Trust.” Oftentimes, we can change title for clients by creating a deed or transfer document. For other assets, however, transferring title can be trickier. An example of such an asset is a vehicle. When clients ask us if they can transfer their car into their revocable living trusts, they often get the dreaded lawyer answer: “It depends.”
To transfer title of a car to a trust, the owner will have to first check with their insurance company to determine if they will permit the vehicle to be owned by the trustee. This is because some insurance companies have internal policies prohibiting the insuring of vehicles owned by a trustee of a revocable living trust.
If the insurance company does allow the trustee to own the vehicle, the next step is updating the registration and title at the DMV to reflect that the ownership of the vehicle has now been transferred. This can often be a cumbersome process requiring multiple trips to the DMV because each office is different in terms of what kind of documentation they may require. For example, while the DMV indicates that a copy of the front and back of the first and last pages of the trust is required for showing proof that a trust is in existence, some DMVs will allow you to use a Certification of Trust instead. All DMV offices will require the owner of the vehicle to fill out a title application (which must be signed before a notary), notarized vehicle title, proof of the trust, and acceptable identification for the owner. There will also be fees, and, in some cases, taxes imposed for transferring the title and registration.
If you have any questions about titling vehicles or any other property in a revocable trust, or creating a revocable trust in the first place, please give Jesson & Rains a call!
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