Category Archives: blog

intel-prop

Securing Your Digital Property and Passing it Along

intel-propIn this day and age of websites, blogs, coaching programs and such, if you own a business that has these things, if something were to happen to you, what would happen to these things?

These sort of things are what is referred to as ‘intellectual properties’ and if you have a will or estate plan that includes directives for your business you might think more about protecting these aspects to your business or endeavor.

Under the law, in the broadest sense an intellectual property is an abstract item such a concept, ideas or formula and so on. To protect things … Read More

important-documents-for-college-students

Important Documents for College Students Leaving for College

important-documents-for-college-studentsNo doubt many parents are wishing that colleges these days would decrease tuition as online curriculums for fall classes commence. Yet in this time of COVID-19, here are some important things to reckon with as you prepare to send your 18-to-19 year- old to college.

Your car insurance policy might have your daughter or son listed as a dependent. Even so, currently in the eyes of the law your 18 to 19-year-old college bound student is considered an adult.

What that means is that you as parent must be extra prepared to manage through a potentially difficult bureaucratic labyrinth of … Read More

Uber_logo_2018

AB5 and UBER

Uber_logo_2018This past summer the State Supreme Court drummed in again to Uber & Lyft that ride-share companies like themselves must be in compliance of CA State Law AB 5, meaning that they must classify their drivers as employees.

Uber and Lyft are the largest ride-share companies that use app-platform technologies to conduct business. In fact, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, Uber is proceeding to buy Postmates, a food delivery app that is similar to DoorDash and GrubHub for over $2 billion in stocks.

Some experts note that Uber and such companies have been able to operate and be … Read More

name change

Name Changes & Legality

Recently as marriage equality and identity classifications have been critiqued more closely by the LGBTQ community, here’s some info about name changes.

Basically it’s not that difficult.

Anybody can change their name legally. Just make sure it is not to commit fraud or make a false identity.

The simplest and most common is when people marry.

Today’s customs and attitudes about marriage lets women keep a “maiden name” or allows for a hyphenated name.

Hyphenated names are used in England. Historically, it has been part of the class or caste-system in English society. Hyphenated names were passed down as a … Read More

bankruptcy

Beginner’s Guide to Bankruptcy

by Mary Piasta

bankruptcyWhen we talk of asset protection, many think of bankruptcy.  But there is a social norm with this type of word preventing many from considering it seriously.  The truth is that many very wealthy individuals in our country are not so dissuaded and utilize filing for bankruptcy as a means to preserve wealth.

For example, one entrepreneur went through bankruptcy four times in his life and left a legacy including a private foundation.  For others it means wiping the slate clean to rebuild their wealth.

Historically speaking bankruptcy was a way to depart from the English precedent … Read More

Collecting on A Letter of Credit to Circumvent Bankruptcy

bankruptcyBusinesses should be wary of language in contracts. Attempting to promise that amounts of money borrowed in particular could read in a phrase such as… “shall be payable without regard to the existence or notice of existence of any dispute, litigation, bankruptcy, or arbitration. Unless, the issuer is prevented from doing so by a court of competent jurisdiction.”  These types of clauses run directly afoul of the automatic bankruptcy stay.

Referred to simply as an LC, this is something that is typically furnished by a bank. Often companies will obtain a letter of credit that by their nature states it … Read More

Blended Families

by Mary Piasta

people on the beach watching sunsetLegal Strategies for Blended Families

Estate planning can be a simple, positive experience or a tedious, complex one.  Much of whether it is one versus the other involves whether the client has been married or had a domestic partner that they separated from.  It becomes even more of the latter when the client remarries, especially more than once.

The first series of questions needed from such a client pertain to the terms of their dissolution agreement, and if a prenuptial agreement was entered into for the prior relationship, as well as the latest.  Conditions such as alimony, … Read More

Why Relying on Another to “Take Care of You” Is Garbage, Especially for Women

grandmother and grandchildby Mary Piasta

While estate planning benefits all individuals regardless of gender, there are reasons why estate planning has different importance to women.

Factors both economic and cultural play a part in this discriminatory unequal treatment of women according to Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP, Partner Mary Piasta who heard from Betsy Butler, the current Executive Director of the California Women’s Law Center. A former state Assembly member, Ms. Butler explained that statistics paint a picture of why women need estate planning.

In general, women are more likely to be poor in old age than men. Nearly two-thirds of people … Read More

Business Strategies During Changing Times

playing chessBy Mary Piasta

As states and municipalities are taking initiatives on their own, regardless of Federal intervention, business closure orders are nothing new right now. But as this is the second time this has happened in our county, there are now many examples of how businesses have pivoted to modify their operations to stay open during this time.

Before we get to that, the recent closure order requires high-risk businesses to close.  The lists of businesses included are salons, theaters, wineries and indoor-dining.

Indoor service is the theme here.  If businesses are able to offer services outside, then there are … Read More

People are People

rainbow flagby Mary Piasta

Our firm stance is that people are people and that in general estate planning is the same for all families.

Dying without a will or trust, or even a poorly written one also means it is subject to attack through consternation rules.  For LGBTQ people, especially this means that someone who does not like where you are leaving property can protest for various reasons. (For example, they were forgotten, they have the right to property, etc.).

An estate planning consultation always in California begins with issues of legality of marriage, parenting rights and property rights.  While the … Read More

Will My Stepchildren Inherit?

will my step children inheritby Mary Piasta

Sometimes folks come in with specific questions about their estate plans. One such question is whether their step-children will inherit? As with any question, the answer depends upon various things and the strategy driven by the desired objectives.

For starters, a stepchild is a child of a partner or spouse that you haven’t adopted. If you have adopted them, they are your children.

The answer then turns on what sort of estate documentation exists, if any. If there is a will and/or a trust, sometimes those documents answer the question.

Often there are no estate documents. In … Read More

peace of mind

Peace of Mind Even in Troubled Times

peace of mindCOVID-19 exacerbates worries and fears for everyone. What steps can you take to stay safe from a financial and legal perspective? Now is the right time to improve your business and estate planning with practical financial steps and legal documents to protect your assets now and in the future. The solutions may vary by circumstance, but the practical tips below will provide you with concrete ideas you can use right away.

Check out our recent update, FACTS over FEAR – Financial, Legal and Real Estate Updates, hosted by The Sonoma Brain Trust. For related discussions of other finance, real … Read More

ppp reform

PPP Reform Questions and Answers

ppp reformThere are lots of questions about the anticipated changes to the PPP loan that is awaiting presidential signature. Assuming the legislation is signed as passed, our lawyers consulted with local tax manager Nate Lamar, CPA of Pisenti & Brinker LLP to shed some light on this complicated interplay of laws, tax and regulations.

Of course, before getting into the nitty gritty, as professionals we need to provide a disclaimer that the answers are based on current and proposed federal law and guidance from the Small Business Administration available as of June 4, 2020. Interpretations of the law and SBA guidance … Read More

wineries

Current State of Wineries

wineriesSince the onset of the Coronavirus wineries have been operating at a slower rate than normal, by at least more than 60 percent according to Wine America – the national association of wineries.

This based upon a recent survey also indicated that wineries anticipate a decrease in the purchase of grapes from growers for wine production somewhere between 9 to 22 percent. With layoffs of workers and canceled events numbering in the thousands, some estimates tally that financial loss just for the month of March (when the virus went into “Secure In Place” ordinance mode) reached $40,439,764.

While by that … Read More

Eviction Ban Demystified: Resources for Landlords & Tenants

house-with-teens-on-porchIn response to the pandemic, various governmental bodies have acted to provide protections for residential and commercial tenants.  There is a broad eviction moratorium in effect throughout the state as the Judicial Council of California issued an emergency rule effectively prohibiting evictions for 90 days after the lifting of the Shelter in Place requirements.

By way of background, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a COVID-19 Eviction Defense Ordinance formally referred to as Executive Order N-28-20.  While the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed with Gov. Newsom’s executive order last month to limit residential tenants from evictions due to economic impact … Read More

The Scoop on Short Term Rentals

house-on-hillMy team is fielding numerous calls from panicked landowners who have been served with notices.  “How can I reduce this $7,000 fine?” They ask.  “We paid our Transient Occupancy Tax – through Airbnb?” “And, what about Penalties?” The list from clients goes on and on.

For years folks have benefited from renting parts of their dwellings or ancillary buildings without the benefit of permits.  Technology platforms like Airbnb play into this by allowing an individual to list a property as available as a short-term rental without requiring any permit or verification of such.  The result? Many entrepreneurial folks were able … Read More

Get It, Your Peace of Mind

flowers in a fieldA solid estate plan in its simplest sense is a roadmap.  It sets the decision-makers for when you cannot make them before you die and then after you do so.  Specialized planning can also minimize your long term care expenses or eliminate them all together.  Of course, a solid estate plan documents your wishes with respect to your worldly belongings to be distributed according to your stated desires.

A solid estate plan also can provide peace of mind in moments of uncertainty, a light in the dark, or the clarity in the fog.  It’s a rather simple process.  According to … Read More

Demystifying AB 5 California’s New Independent Contractor Law

person on laptopWith more than 30 new laws on the books affecting business in California, many businesses are now facing increased regulation and mounting expenses.

The implementation of AB 5 by the State of California labor code will no doubt cause confusion. It states as follows…a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee rather than an independent contractor unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following conditions are satisfied: (This is being referred to as the ‘ABC Test’ or ‘Three-part test.’)

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity … Read More

Price Gouging – It’s Still a Thing

row housesAs we move away from the local fires of 2017, we may think less and less about certain emergency orders that were put in place.  Those orders are still in effect.  One is of particular importance for businesses or individuals offering goods, services or rentals: the price gouging statute.

In short – for clients or potential clients looking at renting real estate, the safe value of the property should be linked to the pre-fires value plus an additional 10 percent.  This hopefully will change in a few months as an extended ban on raising rents to fair market values places … Read More

Business Succession Planning

wine barrels in a rowOne of the greatest challenges family businesses face is how to hand over the reins to the next generation.

Even faceless corporate entities struggle to ensure their long-term survival; add the potential for interpersonal drama and hurt feelings among parents and children, and it’s no surprise that the odds are stacked against family businesses enduring the transition. Just 30 percent of family-owned businesses make it to a second generation, 10-15 percent make it to the third, and 3-5 percent make it to the fourth generation, according to a Harvard Business Review study.

We need look no further than our own Read More

Employee of Independent Contractor? A New Ruling Changes Things

man with satchelIf your company relies on independent contractors to do business, you may want to reevaluate your relationship with those workers in the wake of a recent California Supreme Court decision changing the way their employment status should be determined.

The April 30 ruling sent shockwaves through the state’s so-called “gig economy” – created by customer service providers such as Lyft, Uber and GrubHub who use independent contractors to avoid the higher costs that come with hiring employees.

It’s not just these tech-centric startups, however, who may now need to restructure their businesses to avoid the risks of fines, restitution of Read More

2018 LEGAL UPDATES PROPERTY LAW

  • business newspaperNEW RECOMMENDED DISCLOSURES:In light of the fires, there are new disclosures that are recommended for use in conjunction with sales.

    • What you see are folks disclosing and shifting responsibility

    • Increased advisories regarding condition of land, water, air, contamination, engineering

    • Use of attorneys

    • Questions on insurance – can they get it for the property

  • Many Properties that were cleaned up are subject to liens for fees and reporting requirements

    • PROBLEMS – time frames for this, but the County is behind.Lake county took 2 years

  • WINE COUNTRY’S NEW CROP

    • SB 94 – effectively made the marijuana law for adult and recreational use

Read More

10 Tips to Stronger Contracts

person at computer by window1. Clarify the parties contracting, is it a business or an individual? Make sure it’s the correct name, etc.

2. Nail down essential terms

3. Memorialize them in a way that they’re easily understood. Think of it being understandable to a regular person.

4. Include all essential terms to make the contract the only reflection of the agreement.

5. Consider termination provisions

6. How do you want to be given notice of things? The antiquated fax, email. regular mail?

7. Dispute Handling – long process of court, expedited arbitration, or want to try an informal resolution first?

8. Attorney fees … Read More

Insurance Tips

woman with boxing glovesInsurance Coverage

Your Rights

(1) Know your rights.  You are entitled to be treated in good faith

(2) An insurer cannot present an unreasonably low settlement

(3) An insurer must perform reasonable investigation and taken into account things you’ve provided (think photos, lists, etc.)

(4) An insurer cannot misrepresent policy provisions

(5) Discrimination laws apply

(6) You are entitled to prompt and honest communications

(7) You have a duty to cooperate with your insurer

Negotiation Tips

(1) Calling about your claim even if you don’t have all the info is helpful;

(2) You don’t have to agree to initial amounts, … Read More