Your Assets

Your assets are important to you, and you want to make sure that your estate planning documents leave them to the right individuals and organizations. Perhaps you want to fund that nonprofit you supported your entire life. Maybe you are trying to protect your home so that it remains in your family if you have to go into a nursing home with the help of Medicaid. There may be an important family heirloom that you want to ensure is left to a specific family member.

I can help you figure out the best way to preserve your assets whether it’s via a will or a trust. I bring my office to you via phone, email, or Skype. Contact me today so we can discuss the best options for you.

Your Company

business law employees contractsYour company can fulfill dreams and help you reach financial security. As a small business owner, you want to concentrate on your work and not worry about the legal issues that can affect your business. I handle those matters for you at a reasonable price and at a time and manner that is convenient for you.

I provide the following legal services for small businesses, both for profit and non-profit:

Contracts, including liability forms, releases and permissions, and contracts for leases, sales, services, and employment.

Legal Advice, such as navigating the tricky issue of when a worker is considered an employee versus being an independent contractor.

Business Documents, including business incorporation for both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

joanne belasco esq online virtual mobile law firm

Document Review, in which existing legal documents are reviewed to make sure they work for your business needs.

Conscious Company and B Corporation Legalities, including formation, document drafting, and continuing legal counsel services.

Contact me today to see how I can help you with your business’s legal needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Passion

horse law attorneyYour passion involves horses, whether it’s professionally or simply for pleasure. I provide outstanding equine legal services because I not only own and ride horses, but I spent many years working as a horse professional myself – as everything from a riding instructor and trainer to a clinician and even nonprofit horse-human relationship researcher. The result is that I am familiar with the many issues horse people face because I have witnessed and experienced them from both sides of the fence.

My skills as an attorney, integrated with my experience as a professional horsewoman, allow me to work with you to create the peaceful, enjoyable, professional, and profitable horse environment you want by drafting agreements that prevent conflict. For instance, I can draft boarding agreements that help minimize “barn drama,” prepare and file forms that incorporate a boarding facility or rescue organization, and create documents that help communicate your expectations to riding and training clients.

Isuba rescue horse mustang horse slaughter equine lawHere are the most common types of preventive equine legal services I provide:
• Boarding Contracts
• Liability Forms
• Sales Contracts
• Training Contracts
• Lesson Contracts
• Employment Contracts
• Breeding Contracts
• Lease Agreements
• Property rental agreements for shows and clinics
• Assessment of liability coverage
• Assessment of horse insurance needs
• Business formation – profit and nonprofit
• Intellectual property issues, such as trademarks and copyrights
• Horse syndication contracts
• Hauling release and waivers

My preventive legal services are available to individual horse owners, professionals who offer training and other equine services, owners of multi-horse facilities, and individuals wanting to start a horse business, including nonprofits. Because I offer virtual and site visitation services, I am able to offer legal solutions that are more convenient and affordable than many attorneys can provide — solutions that allow you to spend more time with your horse and less time driving to a legal office.

smlt-annie-and-bookHere are a few examples of common situations almost all of us have encountered at some point, and the ways preventive equine legal solutions can keep the peace.

• A frequent cause of conflict at a boarding facility is whether boarders and their guests and/or family members are required to wear riding helmets, and when they must have them on. Boarders and barn owner alike need to know in advance whether it’s acceptable in that particular community for a parent to make the sole decision about putting a child on a friend’s horse “just for a moment” without a helmet, for example. A well-designed plan, communicated clearly and in simple, plain-English writing, can impact everything from a rider’s experience to the barn owner’s insurance rate.
• Sometimes it’s the horses who behave in ways that inadvertently generate conflict. If a boarder’s horse escapes its stall and eats the expensive dietary supplements of another boarder’s horse, for example, a bitter argument can ensue about who pays to replace the eaten supplement. Does the barn owner reimburse the cost, does it fall on the owner of the horse who did the eating, or is it the responsibility of the owner who stored her horse’s supplements in the barn aisle instead of the feed room? A simple written policy that spells out where boarders are to store supplements and other feedstuffs, with the written stipulation that violation means the boarder is responsible for the cost of replacing damaged or eaten food, prevents that kind of dispute.

equine law class horse lawyerI am also an experienced workshop and seminar presenter, including presentations at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo and clinics in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  I am available to give an interesting and engaging webinar presentation to your group about Equine Law.

Contact me today to see how my practice of equine law can help give you peace of mind.

 

Your Family

Estate planning protects your family but many people put off getting an attorney to draft their will or trust because they think it will be too complicated, too expensive, and take too much time. But having an estate plan tailored to your specific needs provides you with peace of mind that your loved ones are taken care of if anything happens to you.  If you have property of any kind – real estate, cars, clothes, money, and even animals (they are considered property under the current legal system but read below to learn about how to provide for them) – then you have an estate.

I strive to make the process of drafting your estate plan easy, convenient, and affordable. I explain the differences between wills and trusts, and listen to your concerns so I can advise you about the best available options. I include other documents, which I fully explain to you, in each plan:  Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Advance Directive, HIPAA Release, and Declaration of Homestead. I also talk with you about issues that go beyond financial planning, such as your concerns regarding the emotional impact of your estate plan on your family and friends.

Many people, especially those who own land, want to find ways to preserve the land from being developed after they die. I help you conserve the land by using legal tools, such as placing a conservation restriction (called a conservation easement in other states) on the land so it is protected from development. I also explore options with you such as forming a family trust or foundation as a way to make sure the land is preserved.

animal lawyer animal trusts liability sales contracts breeding contracts business nonprofitYou don’t want to forget your animals when creating your estate plan. I also draft pet trusts so that you know your animal companion is taken care of in case of your injury or death. Many people don’t realize that even if you provide for an animal in your will, those instructions and finances can’t be administered until the will is probated, which does not happen immediately upon your death. A pet trust allows you to have peace of mind that your animal friend will be taken care of immediately upon your incapacitation or death.

Contact me today to see how I can help with your estate planning needs.

Protecting Rights of the Elderly

massachusetts attorney online estate planning elder law A recent article in The New Yorker entitled “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights” has caused many people to worry about their family and themselves as they age. The article details horrible abuse of elderly individuals and couples by unscrupulous people who become their guardians via the Nevada court system. The article tells the heartbreaking stories of several elderly individuals and couples in Nevada who had these guardians assigned to them without their consent or the consent of their families. After an investigation, individuals involved in the guardianship scams were indicted for various offenses, including theft. These charges, however, will never repair the harm done to the people mentioned in the article and their families. Some individuals died during the guardianship period, and many were left without money or personal belongings. The psychological toll may even outweigh the financial and material losses.

As this article makes the rounds on social media, I see many people range reacting with horror and asking how they can make sure this kind of situation doesn’t happen to their loved ones or themselves. I admit that reading this article is a terrifying example of how the judicial system can fail, and even add to, the abuse of elderly individuals. While the legal system concerning guardianship in Massachusetts differs from that in Nevada, there are ways to address these situations now so that the issue of guardianship does not land in a court later. What I have to say here only applies to Massachusetts law, so if you live in another state, please contact an elder law attorney or association to see how your state handles these matters. It is my hope that even if this law doesn’t apply in your jurisdiction, you will learn enough information that you can be an informed individual and ask the right questions to help you successfully address these kinds of situations.

wills trusts estate planning poa health care proxy advance directive conservatorship guardianshipOne of the first things to know is that in Massachusetts, guardianship and conservatorship are two different legal concepts. In the Nevada case, the guardian was able to have control over both the person’s medical treatment and finances. In Massachusetts, guardianship concerns an individual with a medically diagnosed condition and that person’s ability to take care of daily self-care, health, and safety. A conservatorship involves an incapacitated person who is unable to handle business, financial, and property affairs. The same person may be appointed as a guardian and conservator but they must do so with two different petitions to the court because the roles are separate. In order to be appointed as a guardian or conservator or both, a public hearing in the court is held. The court must first determine if incapacity exists and then determine if the person asking to be the conservator or guardian should be appointed.

Two important documents can protect your rights and interests when it comes to guardianship and conservatorship. A Health Care Proxy is a document that designates your Health Care Agent, which is the person you want to make your health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. A properly executed Health Care Proxy should guard against someone other than your designated Agent being appointed as your guardian to make your health decisions for you. In addition, while Massachusetts does not legally recognize Living Wills, which are called Advance Directives in this state, you can have one drafted and executed to keep with your Health Care Proxy. An Advance Directive states what kind of medical care you do and do not want in the case of your incapacitation. Having an Advance Directive allows your health care agent to know your wishes concerning medical care, and it shows the court what your wishes are.

massachusetts attorney poa power of attorney health care proxy advance directive living will conservatorship guardianshipThe other document to make sure you have drafted and executed is a Durable Power of Attorney. This document names your personal representative who takes care of your business, financial, and property affairs. You have the option of having a POA that is effective immediately or having one that is effective only upon your incapacitation. Either way, having a POA assures you that you know who is handling your affairs rather than the court appointing someone.

A Health Care Proxy, Advance Directive, and POA are all documents that can easily be drafted for you by an estate planning or elder law attorney. They can also be changed at any time, so you aren’t locked into decisions you make now that you might want to change in 5, 10, or 20 years. To make sure that your state’s laws concerning these documents are followed, please talk with an attorney rather than downloading forms or buying them in a business store. The last thing you want to have happen is for your documents to be invalid and a court to appoint a guardian or conservator that does not fit with your wishes. If you are a Massachusetts resident and would like to discuss these documents further or get them drafted, feel free to contact me. A consultation to answer basic questions is free of charge.