Living Trust

Living Trust Key Terms

  • Trust:
    • A Financial structure that contains money and assets
    • Must be managed by trustees according to founding documents and terms
  • Revocable vs Irrevocable:
    • Revocable – Trust whose assets and terms can be managed and changed
    • Irrevocable – Trust whose assets and terms are permanent after creation
  • Trust Grantor, Trust Settler:
    • The person who establishes the trust
    • Default beneficiary of the trust
  • Trustee:
    • The person who controls the trust according to founding documents and terms

Living trusts are an important tool to being prepared for the future. A Trust is a legal vehicle that allows for different options for managing assets. It is a fiduciary arrangement where assets are held for one party (the beneficiary) and managed by a different party (the trustee).

The main benefit of a Living Trust is its flexibility. Living Trusts can be arranged in many different ways, can hold different types of assets, and can come with different types of conditions. For example, the creator of a Trust can designate the age at which the beneficiary will receive all the assets in the Living Trust. Until that age, access to the assets will be managed by the trustee.

The benefits of a Living Trust include:

  • The articles of Living Trust helps avoid Probate. This means any asset in a Trust is likely to be accessible by the Successor trustee or beneficiary more quickly than if the same assets were transferred using a Will. Avoiding probate also means savings in court fees and added privacy, as probate is a matter of public record.
  • Living Trusts allow you to plan for the future of your assets while still giving you control during your lifetime. A Revocable Trust allows the owner of the assets to continue to access them during their lifetime while also specifically designating who, and under what circumstances, may receive the assets after the owner’s death.

While one of the main benefits of a Living Trust is its flexibility, this also means it presents a number of important questions and considerations while being created. Contact us now for assistance with establishing your Living Trust.

In our LT you will receive the Articles of Trust, Pour Over Will, and 2 Powers of Attorney – one for health and one for finance.

The Importance of a Revocable Trust

When building a living trust, it’s vital to remember that it must be revocable to continue to be managed by you or others outside of the founding documents. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or altered after it is made. These are useful for all sorts of predetermined asset distribution styles, like setting aside college money or a wedding fund for your children or ensuring continued donations to a specific charity.  

However, most people look for living trusts in estate planning and asset management to be revocable. A revocable trust is more like a financial storage container, where you are able to place new assets, retrieve stored assets, and “change the locks” whenever the need arises during your lifetime. At the same time, a revocable living trust can be managed by you or any appointed trustee according to the terms established to govern the trust.  

By default, you should look for a revocable living trust. Irrevocable living trusts are chosen only when the circumstances are intended to create a permanent asset management or distribution structure.  

Ways to Use a Living Trust

Estate Planning

Living trusts are most often used in estate planning as a way to more smoothly direct the transference of property after the grantor’s death. Personal assets put into a living trust are not part of the will and are not subject to probate. For example, a home placed into a trust, with a surviving spouse set as the trustee, will pass smoothly into the ownership of that spouse without having to wait months for probate to allow them to legally and financially take over expenses.  

A living trust can be used much like a will to hold personal items and then distribute them according to set terms. You can use a living trust to send family heirlooms to relatives, to distribute your financial assets fairly after death, and even to support causes and organizations once the grantor passes on.  

Asset Management

Living trusts are also useful for legal asset management. Some assets may be too large to comfortably own personally, and some assets may be so important that they warrant a separate financial management strategy. Artwork and real estate are among the two most commonly protected assets through living trusts. A living trust allows the assets to become financially separate from the grantor and to be given their own set of rules for management, upkeep, and ownership.  

Family Future Plans

Finally, living trusts are often used to help wealthy patriarchs and matriarchs plan for a family future. A trust may be part of your child-rearing policy or granting your offspring trusteeship of some assets may be a way to prepare them for future success. A trust can be used to put away assets for a child’s future, provide a rainy-day fund for future family emergencies, and hold important family keepsakes until the rightful inheritors are ready.  

Living Trust by Will Kenton for Investopedia
9 Reasons Why You Should Consider A Living Trust by Christine Fletcher for Forbes  

Financial Power of Attorney

Power of attorney refers to a legal document that grants an agent the legal right to make decisions on behalf of another individual. The individual in question chooses the agent ahead of time and grants them this power, often in case of emergency or accident. One form of power of attorney is a financial power of attorney.

What is a Financial Power of Attorney?

A financial power of attorney is a legal document that allows another person, an agent, to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable. An agent can also help you execute a financial transaction if you will not be available – such as authorizing an agent to sign real estate paperwork.

What Does a Financial Powerof Attorney Do?

Financial power of attorney essentially allows someone else to make financial decisions on behalf of the signer. Financial power of attorney is often reduced to situations where the person in question is mentally unable to make financial decisions. This can be due to an injury, disability, or other circumstances. It should be noted that this only stands while the individual is considered unfit. Once they recover, the agent no longer has authority to make decisions on their behalf.

However, financial power of attorney can also be granted so an individual has a representative capable of signing financial documentation without having to be physically present. For example, someone with limited mobility or someone who frequently travels abroad could both benefit from having someone act as their financial agent. In cases like this, the agent is acting with knowing approval from the individual in question, and is merely acting as a stand in. This is also common between married couples. 

Another misconception about financial power of attorney is that an agent has complete control over the financial affairs of the signer. This is not true. A financial power of attorney lays out the exact situations and guidelines the agent has to follow. If something is not stipulated in the power of attorney, the agent cannot act on behalf of the signer. 

For example, a financial power of attorney may grant an agent the power to pay bills and medical costs on behalf of the signer, but not allow the agent to make financial decisions regarding property investment or inheritance. This protects the signer’s assets and assures that their agent acts in good faith.

Does Financial Power of Attorney Override a Spouse? 

Spouses often share finances and have equal say in making joint financial decisions. However, marriage does not automatically grant financial power of attorney. If a husband were to establish a financial power of attorney and became unfit, the financial agent would have jurisdiction over financial decisions made on his behalf. 

Spouses should discuss their financial wishes ahead of time and establish if they would ever want to establish a financial power of attorney. In the case of a husband and wife deciding to grant each the right to make financial decisions, a formal financial power of attorney should be filed. This will prevent any legal confusion later on and ensure that a spouse will not be challenged when acting on behalf of an unfit partner. 

What is Durable Financial Power of Attorney?

Durable financial power of attorney refers exclusively to situations where an agent is making decisions on behalf of an unfit individual. This is often the most commonly known form of power of attorney. The “durable” aspect of the name represents the possible longevity of this type of power of attorney. As long as the signer is considered unfit or incapable of making financial decisions, the durable financial power of attorney will act on their behalf. 

How Do I Get a Financial Power of Attorney?

To assign a financial agent, a financial power of attorney form must be filled out and signed. Additionally, the document must be notarized or witnessed and the individual must be of legal age and mentally competentant.

How Do I End a Financial Power of Attorney?

In cases where an individual wishes to revoke financial power of attorney, such as divorce or an agent that no longer wishes to represent the signer, financial power of attorney can be revoked. A revocation of power of attorney form will be needed that includes information like your name and the date of filing, a declaration that you are mentally fit, a request for removal along with the name of your agent, and your signature.

For family members looking to end a financial power of attorney, the process becomes more complicated. In situations where the signer is unfit, but the family wants to end or change financial power of attorney, they must prove before a court that the current financial agent is not acting in the signer’s best interest.

A financial power of attorney can be a versatile and powerful document. You can ensure that your financial matters are handled expeditiously and in accordance with your wishes.  Contact the experts at Legal Docs by ME for information and assistance.


Financial Power of Attorney by Adam Hayes for Investopedia

Property Deeds

Maintaining up to date records detailing our assets is imperative for proving legal ownership. In the case of property, a property deed is necessary to prove legal ownership of a property. 

What Is a Property Deed?

A property deed is the legal mechanism used to convey real property (land and the property attached to it) from a seller to a buyer.  Issues related to property purchase and transfer can be quite complicated, and property deeds are no exception. There are several types of deeds and specific requirements for transfer.

Types of Property Deeds

The most common classification for Property Deeds is based on the type of title warranty transferred via the Property Deed.  These include:

  • General Warranty Deed
    This type of Property Deed is the most protective to the buyer. The seller must provide legally binding assurances to the buyer that it will protect the buyer from prior claims as they relate to the conveyed property.

  • Special Warranty Deed
    This Property Deed type provides more limited warranty due to the timeframe it covers and is therefore less protective of the buyer.  Under this Deed, the seller only warrants the buyer against defects that arose while the seller was the property owner.

  • Quitclaim Deed
    This is akin to a Non-Warranty Deed and is most protective to the seller who makes no promises or warranties regarding the quality of the title.  It simply conveys whatever interest the seller has in the title.  If it were to be discovered that the seller did not actually receive title to the property (and therefore had no right to transfer title), there is no recourse for the buyer.

  • Special Purpose Deed
    A special purpose deed occurs in circumstances where the transfer of property is not the result of exchanging currency with the owner for the property title. For example, situations involving the possessions of a dead individual would utilize a special purpose deed. A number of special purpose deeds commonly used in connection with court proceedings.

What Does a Property Deed Look Like?

A property deed doesn’t have a singular appearance. However, valid property deeds need some basic information to prove purchase and legitimacy.

A property deed must contain a legal description of the property. This is to ensure that the property you have purchased is the same property you are holding a deed for. Additionally the deed needs to be signed by the seller. The seller’s signature acknowledges that they no longer own the property and that they have been compensated for transferring ownership to the buyer. The sum of money exchanged for the property should also be present. 

How to Get a Property Deed

After purchasing a property, the property deed should either be given to you in person, or delivered to you by mail. If you have somehow lost or damaged your property deed, a copy can be purchased for a small fee.

How to Get a Copy of a Property Deed

In the event of you needing additional copies of a property deed, copies can be purchased from a recorder office. It is important that you contact the recorder office that has jurisdiction over your property, as any other recorder office will not have access to the property deed. Some offices even offer online records of property deeds that you can print in your own home. If your deed has not been filed with the recorder office, you can also try contacting a digital deed recovery service.

Requirements to Transfer a Property Deed

There is no standard form required for documenting a property deed, but it must be in writing.  Each party involved in the conveyance must be legally capable of entering into the transaction, for example, it cannot be a minor.  The property deed must describe the property, identify the buyer and seller, and be signed and notarized by all the owners of the property.

How to Transfer a Property Deed

Transferring a property deed can be extremely straightforward or extremely complex depending on the nature of the property. The basic steps of transferring a property deed are as follows. First, the current owner needs to choose the new recipient of the deed and discuss the terms of the transfer. Once that has been decided on, the owner files a change of ownership form and alters the deed title. A real estate attorney then prepares the deed for notary and filing. One the deed has been notarized and filed, the transfer is official. 

Looking to buy or sell real estate? Contact the experts at Legal Docs by ME for information and assistance regarding property deeds and transferences.


Understanding Property Deeds by Jean Folger for Investopedia
Transferring Property Ownership to Family, Charity, and More at American Financing

Business Incorporation

If you are starting a new business, and decide to create a corporation, your business will be a legal “person” under the eyes of the law.  Among the ways it will be treated as a person are that it can be named in a lawsuit, own property, and be taxed.

What are the Benefits of a Business Incorporation?

Two of the primary considerations when deciding whether to incorporate are the treatment of taxes and liabilities:

  • Taxes: Unlike a partnership, taxes do not flow through to the owners of a corporation.  Instead, the corporation is taxed based on its profits
  • Liabilities: Because the corporation exists as an entity separate and apart from the owners, owners are protected from personal liability for any obligations of the corporation. Instead, if the corporation is found liable for any debt or obligation, that liability can only be satisfied from the corporation’s assets.

Additional advantages of Business Incorporation include:

  • Established federal and state legal precedent as to the treatment of the entity;
  • Ease of raising capital through the sale of securities
  • Unlimited life
  • Straightforward transfer of ownership through transfer of shares.

While Business Incorporation comes with many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Increased administrative burden of running the company, including holding annual meetings;
  • More expensive to create; and
  • Additional paperwork and filings required with the state, including annual fees.

Missing even a small detail in your filing can slow down the Business Incorporation process and cost additional expenses.  Contact us now to find out how we can assist with your Business Incorporation.

Buy Sell Agreements

If you have entered into a business Partnership, you were likely thoughtful and cautious about selecting your business partner.  The assignment of your partner’s interest in the business in the unlikely and unfortunate situation that they pass away or leave the business, can be accomplished in  a Buy Sell Agreement.

What is a Buy Sell Agreement?

Also known as a Buyout Agreement, this agreement is commonly used by sole proprietors, partnerships, and closed corporations to ensure a smooth transition of ownership when a partner leaves the business.  The agreement will require that the departing partner’s shares of the business be handled in one of two ways:

  • Cross-Purchase Agreement: This requires that the shares be purchased by the remaining owners; and
  • Redemption Agreement: This requires that the business entity bused back the shares.

Either of the above formations of a Buy Sell Agreement ensures that the business interests will not end up in the hands of an outsider to the business.

Assessing Value

In addition to determining how shares are distributed, the Buy Sell Agreement details how the value of the departing partner’s shares will be assessed.  Having a valuation method spelled out can be helpful if the partners ever face a dispute about the value of the company or a particular party’s interest.  If the partners do not feel comfortable detailing a formula, the agreement can also specify that a business valuation expert will be responsible for the determination.

As you work to structure your business, reach out to us for assistance in creation of a Buy Sell Agreement.



When someone dies, the money and property which make up their estate will be distributed to their heirs.  Usually, for those assets to be properly distributed, the estate must go through the probate process.  This involves several steps, including proving the existence of a valid will (if applicable), identifying and inventorying the property, appraising the property, paying debts and taxes, and then distributing the remaining property.

California Probate

Before the proceedings can get underway, the court needs to appoint someone to oversee the process.  If there is a will, it typically designates a personal representative to take on this duty.  If not, the court will appoint someone to serve in that role.  The personal representative must be impartial in his or her representation of all parties who have an interest in the estate.  This person will take possession of the estate property and distribute that property accordingly.

How Does Probate Work in California?

Here are the 7 basic steps required in the California probate process.

Step 1: Filing the Petition

The first step in initiating probate proceedings is filing a petition with the California Superior Court in the county where the deceased resided at the time of her death.  This petition will trigger the court to schedule a hearing in approximately thirty (30) days.

Step 2: Handling of Notices

After the petition is filed with the court, the notice of hearing will be published a minimum of three times in the local newspaper.  It is also necessary to mail the notice to everyone named in the will (if there was one), along with all legal heirs of the deceased.  Notice must also be provided to potential creditors.

Step 3: Proving the Will

If there is a will, it is necessary to “prove” the will unless it qualifies as a “self-proving” will.  In some cases, the will contains specific language and/or an affidavit from everyone signing the will, which makes it unnecessary to prove the validity of the will.    Each state has its own rules regarding whether or not self-proving wills are valid and, if so, how they must be created.

Step 4: Asset Collection

One of the primary duties of the personal representative is to take possession of all of the deceased’s assets, but only those that are subject to probate.  There are some types of estate planning instruments that are not required to go through probate.  If the title of an asset needs to be transferred into someone else’s name, the personal representative must take care of that.  Some types of assets that may require a title change include:

  • Stocks and Bonds
  • Mutual Funds
  • Brokerage Accounts
  • Bank and Credit Union Accounts
  • Physical assets such as real property, motor vehicles, boats, and planes

The court usually requires an inventory of the estate property.  Sometimes an appraisal of certain property may be required.

Step 5: Payments to Creditors

Once the personal representative has provided notice of the death to creditors, those with debts payable by the estate must submit a claim.  If those claims are determined to be valid, they will be paid from the estate.  All valid debts must be paid before other distributions can be made.  This includes all bills, as well as funeral expenses.  California requires creditors to submit their claims within four months of the appointment of the personal representative.

Step 6: Estate Tax Payments

The personal representative is also responsible for making sure all estate taxes are paid, that includes federal estate taxes and state taxes, which the state of California imposes.  In most cases, a personal representative would not be held personally liable for estate taxes, but if the estate has been distributed before the taxes are paid and there isn’t sufficient property left to pay those taxes, personal liability may be imposed.

Step 7: Conclusion of the Estate

The final step is closing the estate.  This final step involves providing an accounting of all actions taken by the personal representative with regard to the estate.  A petition, which summarizes the estate and reports all actions taken on behalf of the state, will be filed with the court. The petition also includes the fees to be paid to the personal representative and the estate attorney, if applicable.  If there are no objections and the court approves the accounting, then an order will be entered by the court concluding the estate.  Once this happens, the personal representative can then distribute the remaining assets to heirs and pay any necessary fees.

How Long Does Probate Take in California?

California law says that the executor of a will or other representative of the deceased must complete the probate process within one year of the day they are appointed (usually months after the date of death), or they must formally explain to the court why they cannot. In practice, however, the process often ends up taking 18-24 months, especially when courts are backed up, or if an error is made along the way.

Do I Really Have to Go Through Probate? What If the Will Is Straightforward?

It’s a common and dangerous myth that a Will is all the legal documentation you need to claim an inheritance. In California, a “Last Will & Testament” does NOT prevent you from having to go through probate. Instead, think of a Will as a kind of letter written to a probate judge, expressing the desires of the deceased. During probate, you present the Will to a judge, and the judge decides what actually happens.

Does the Probate Process Vary Based on Real Property Value?

Depending on the value of the Real Property in question, the probate process may vary slightly. For example, the Petition to Determine for Real Property deals with values over $55,000 but under $166,250  and requires fewer hearings and time investment. An Affidavit RE Real Property of Small Value deals with amounts under $55,000 and does not require a hearing.

Remember that the Personal Representative has Personal Liability

If you accept the job of Personal Representative, keep in mind that failing to perform your duty can lead to catastrophic consequences. You may even have to pay for any damages out of your own pocket for problems you caused. You may, for example, be held liable for improperly managing the assets of the estate, overpaying creditors; failing to collect monies due to the estate; selling an asset without the authority to do so, or at an inappropriate price; not filing tax returns on time; distributing assets to the wrong people; distributing assets before creditors and taxes have been paid; and etc.

Need help with the Probate process? Contact us today.

HOW TO DO PROBATE IN CALIFORNIA: ON YOUR OWN OR WITH LEGAL HELP by James Cunningham Jr., Esq. Founder, CunninghamLegal


Copyright Transfer Agreement

Copyright is the group of rights that are automatically granted to an author of an original work. 

What is Protected?

There are three requirements for a work to be protected by copyright:

  • Original: The work must be independently created and cannot be copied from any other work.
  • Creative: Only a small amount of creativity is required. An example of a work not creative enough for protection would be a phone book.
  • Fixed: The work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  In order to be considered fixed, the expression must be sufficiently permanent to allow it to be perceived, reproduced, or communicated.

Assuming a particular work meets the above requirements, the types of work generally protected include literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreography, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures, other audiovisual works, sound recordings, and architectural works.

Ownership of Copyright in a work grants the owner the following exclusive rights with respect to the work:

  • Make copies
  • Create derivatives
  • Distribute copies
  • Public display
  • Performance
  • Perform publicly via digital audio transmission of sound recordings

Why Register for Copyright Registration?

While copyright automatically vests in a work that is sufficiently original, creative, and fixed, securing copyright registration brings many benefits, including:

  • Bringing an Infringement Action: A copyright application allows you to enforce your rights against a third party in federal court.
  • Validity: Registration is evidence that the copyright is valid, which provides valuable strength to any arguments of prior rights in a courtroom.
  • Statutory Damages and Attorney’s Fees: A registration is required to collect statutory damages and attorney’s fees.  The availability of statutory damages is important because damages can be difficult to prove in an infringement case.
  • Notice: Registration creates notice that your work is protected.

We Can Help With Copyright Registration and Copyright Transfer Agreements
The numerous benefits that accompany Copyright Registration make it important to accomplish registration quickly and thoroughly. And if you are considering a Copyright Transfer Agreement, it is important that your rights are properly transferred and protected. Contact us for help with your Copyright Registration or Copyright Transfer Agreement.

Notary Public

If you’re planning to sign important documents, you may need them to be notarized by a notary public.

Do You Need a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is a public official appointed by the state government to witness the signing of common documents such as:

  • Property deeds.
  • Some loan documents.
  • Wills, trusts, advanced directives and executorships.
  • Marital Settlement Agreements
  • Powers of attorney.
  • Employment contracts.
  • Commercial leases.

Notaries are trained to be impartial, avoiding any conflicts of interest, and are not allowed to discriminate. They can only work within the state in which they are commissioned, which includes notarizing a document in one state for use in the other.

How Much Do Notary Publics Make?

The exact amount a notary public earns depends on a few factors, such as state, experience, and working status. Many full time notaries report earning anywhere from $50 to $200 per signing appointment.

Where Can I Find a Notary Public?

Notary publics can be found virtually anywhere. Most businesses that provide legal services also provide notary services. If you want to work exclusively with a notary only business, or want a notary public with experience in a certain area, use your search engine to find local notaries that fit your qualifications.

How to Become a Notary Public

The process for becoming a notary public varies from state to state, but here is the general process for becoming a notary.

  1. Meet State Requirements
  2. Submit an Application and Pay Filing Fee
  3. Take a State Approved Course
  4. Pass a State Approved Exam
  5. File Commission Paperwork
  6. Purchase Any Needed Supplies

How to Become a Notary Public in California

To become  a notary public in the state of California, follow these steps.

  1. Meet State Requirements
  2. Take a 6 Hour State Approved Class
  3. Complete an Application
  4. Pass a State Administered Exam
  5. Provide Fingerprints for Background Check
  6. Receive Your Commission Certificate
  7. Obtain a Surety Bond
  8. File Your Bond and Oath
  9. Purchase a Notary Stamp and Journal

What are the California State Requirements for Becoming a Notary?

In the state of California, a notary must be at least 18 years old, a  legal resident of California, and without a criminal record. 

Do You Need a Notary Public?

Have your important documents notarized helps reduce fraud by verifying the identity of the signer, usually by checking a government issued photo ID.

If you need a Notary Public to witness a document, contact us today.

Stepparent Adoption

One of the most common forms of adoption is when a stepparent decides to adopt a stepchild. This important action means that the stepparent is agreeing to take on legal and financial responsibility for their spouse’s child. It also means that the child’s noncustodial parent releases their parental responsibilities.

A stepparent adoption is likely an exciting time for the stepparent and the child, but there are important considerations to ensure it is appropriately and efficiently executed.

How Does a Stepparent Adoption Work?

Essentially, once the adoption process is complete the stepparent is now legally considered a parent of the child, meaning they have all of the same rights and responsibilities a biological parent would have. 

If a stepparent is actively involved in a child’s life, it may not seem necessary to formally adopt the child. Adoption, however, brings a variety of benefits not available without this official process, including:

  • A sense of permanency for the stepparent and the child;
  • The rights and responsibilities of guardianship if the birth parent spouse dies;
  • Rights of inheritance and insurance coverage for the stepchild; and
  • The ability for the stepparent to provide medical consent for the child.

Once you have decided adoption is the right step for your family, you will need to make it formal through an official court adoption process.

Prepare for the Process

Each state has specific process requirements for all adoptions, including stepparent adoption. As you prepare for this milestone, you should prepare for the following:

  • State Laws
    You will need to understand your state’s adoption laws and legal precedents that may be unique to your situation. For example, as of 2013 the state of California now allows children to have three legal parents.
  • Court Assignment
    The court handling a stepparent adoption may be different from state to state. Some states may handle these matters in a juvenile court while others may have specific family courts familiar with adoptions.
  • Needed Documents
    As with most legal proceedings, a stepparent adoption requires accurate completion of a number of forms. In states where children can only have two legal parents, one critical form is consent of the non-custodial birth parent. This may be one of the most contentious aspects of the proceeding, as the birth parent will be required to give up all parental responsibilities.
  • Hearing Appearances
    Attend a hearing. The hearing will allow a judge to hear your particular facts and circumstances and will set a date for finalization of the adoption.

When finalized, you will receive adoption certifications that will allow you to apply for amended birth certificates.

What Documents Do I Need for a Stepparent Adoption?

In order to adopt a stepchild, a stepparent must fill out several forms directed to the adoption process and provide supporting documentation.

  • Adoption Request
    The adoption request form provides all the basic information about the stepparent and child.
  • Adoption Agreement
    This agreement provides the consent of the stepparent to the adoption. Depending on the state, the child may also need to provide consent based on their age. For example, children over 12 in California must also provide consent to the adoption.
  • Birth Certificate
    You will need a valid copy of the child’s birth certificate.
  • Marriage License
    Proof of your marriage to one of the child’s current legal parents.
  • Consent of Non-Custodial Parent
    In states that only allow two legal parents, you will be required to provide documented consent of the non-custodial parent forfeiting their rights as a parent. If the previous parent is dead, you will need to provide a copy of their death certificate.
  • Consent of Custodial Parent
    This document provides proof that your spouse or partner (and the child’s biological parent) consents to the adoption.
  • Custody Documents
    In the case divorce or other unique living situations, you should provide copies of all custody documents involving the child.

How Much is a Stepparent Adoption?

Stepparent adoption costs vary from state to state. In cases where the stepparent doesn’t hire legal representation and no one contests the adoption, expenses can be limited to the cost of filing documents, the cost of obtaining copies of documents, and the cost of a court investigator. For stepparents who want or need legal representation during the adoption process, fees can range anywhere from $1,500 or more.
As you approach stepparent adoption, it is important to navigate the state law nuances to ensure smooth completion. For assistance, contact us today.

Mechanic’s Lien

The name of a Mechanic’s Lien is a bit deceptive as this legal remedy is not limited to mechanics. In fact, it is most commonly used by subcontractors and suppliers involved in construction work.

How Does a Mechanic’s Lien Work?

A Mechanic’s Lien is an additional remedy available to subcontractors and suppliers who are not paid for their work. Imagine that you are having your kitchen remodeled, including installation of new appliances. If you failed to pay for the appliances and failed to pay for installation, both the supplier of the appliances and the subcontractor performing installation would have the right to place a Mechanic’s Lien on your property.

The lien creates a cloud on your property title, meaning that public property records will show that the property is encumbered by a lien. This makes it highly unlikely that you will be able to sell your property.

To secure a Mechanic’s Lien, a subcontractor or supplier will need to:

  • File a claim of Mechanic’s Lien in the county where the property is located; and
  • Work with the homeowner for resolution over a set period of time before filing a lawsuit

Work With Someone You Trust

If you are working with a general contractor who you are entrusting to provide payment to subcontractors and suppliers, be sure you select a general contractor that you trust. If you pay the general contractor and they fail to pay any subcontractors or suppliers, the unpaid individuals can still place a lien against your property until they receive payment.

How to Avoid a Mechanic’s Lien

According to the Contractors State License Board, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure you avoid a Mechanic’s Lien when working with a general contractor, including:

  • Joint Checks. Make out checks jointly to the general contractor and appropriate subcontractor or supplier.
  • Lien Waiver. Require the general contractor to get lien waivers from any subcontractor or supplier the contractor is responsible for paying. Confirm such waivers are valid in your state.
  • Control Payment. Take on the responsibility of paying subcontractors and suppliers yourself.

Whether you are kicking off a project and hoping to avoid a Mechanic’s Lien, are a subcontractor or supplier needing to file a Mechanic’s Lien, or own property encumbered by a lien, contact us today for assistance.