OTHER PRACTICE AREAS
The very word sends fright up the spine of many and for years it was considered an act of shame and disrepute to turn to bankruptcy as a way to get out from paying debts that a person has accumulated over time. Well thanks to the reckless practices of the banking world and the common use of it by big business such as the airlines and some tech companies, it’s now quite fashionable to file for bankruptcy. It’s a way to have your debts forgiven, maybe even keep your home and give the financial part of your life (and maybe your romantic one, too) a fresh start.
This is how it works. The law says that if you give up just about everything you own in life, the federal government will make sure that no one will try to collect on any of your debts that you have so far piled up. Being a Florida resident, there are a few perks added to this deal. In most cases, you can keep your house or condo if you keep making the payments (if you can’t, please refer to our Real Estate section for some options that the law affords you). You can also keep some of your personal property, like your bed, a kitchen table set, and your now-dated Versace print shirts. If you were ever given a Cartier watch or you’re sporting an LV belt, you’ll have to hand them over. If you lease a car you’re good, but if you have a lot of equity in a car that you own, we’ll discuss with you your options.
This type of bankruptcy is what is commonly called Chapter 7 or Consumer Bankruptcy. You can file for it even if you are working, so long as you don’t make too much money, and it’s what is typical for most people who petition the court for debt relief. Over a million people do it every year. Yes, I said million.
The other type of bankruptcy that you may have heard about is what is called Chapter 13 or Reorganization. In this situation, you must show income because what kicks you into this category is the fact that you actually make more than you spend on a monthly basis and so the court wants you to pay back some of what you owe to creditors. But while this may sound like a raw deal compared to a Chapter 7 petitioner, there are some real advantages here. For example, if you owe two mortgages on your home, if the value of your home has dipped below even the first mortgage, the court could, in most cases, cancel the second mortgage and you’ll never have to pay it. If you own other property besides your primary residence with mortgages exceeding its value, you may even be able to reduce your obligation not only on your second mortgage, but maybe even your first! Some deal, huh? Of course the law is riddled with exceptions and qualifications, so just give us a call and set up a time for a free consultation and we can discuss which approach may work best for you.
BUYING A BUSINESS
We so much want to believe that the land of opportunity is spotted with blossoms and bright foliage, and the drive to fulfill a dream will often consume our thoughts and impede our normally good appetite. But to avoid mental reflux and sleepless nights, seeking the advice of your attorney and your accountant is like Tums for the conscience.
No attorney will rightly interfere with whatever goal it is you wish to pursue, because yours are basically business decisions, and it is your own perception of the need for the service or product which you intend to market that is paramount. A lawyer’s role is best suited to helping you through the tangled web of rules and regulations which you will confront at every turn. And sometimes you may just need a shoulder to lean on–we’re here for just about everything.
To start out, a new business owner should first select the most appropriate business entity in which to conduct business. Should you do it on your own, is a partnership with others going to be necessary, or, regardless of the number of players, should you incorporate, and what type of corporation best applies to your situation?
The laws continue to change in the area of business entities, and they each come with their own assortment of rules, protections, and tax advantages. On the one hand, a sole proprietorship provides an owner with the greatest flexibility in the operation of a business, but it also imposes the greatest risk of liability. On the other hand, a limited liability corporation insulates much of the liability, but the ease of doing business is somewhat reduced and accountability to others is increased.
This is why an initial consultation with our office is important from the get-go in order to insure that you’ve selected the right business entity to suit your needs. This is also the time to discuss what licenses are necessary to conduct business, especially if you’re planning to own a restaurant or other type of regulated business. This is Florida, remember. There’s plenty of opportunity to make lots of money. There’s also still plenty of swampland.
SELLING A BUSINESS
Whether your dream turned into a nightmare or your IPO took off like wildfire, the day comes when you sit back in your Ralph Lauren Stagecoach recliner and say that it’s time to move on. So you kick off those Bally Crocs, heave a big sigh, and immerse yourself into that tempting bliss of what it will be like once you’ve sold your business.
Now, of course, the flip side of this Gloria Jean moment is someone who is looking to succeed you, to turn that failure around or to pump up your venture to even loftier heights. We all think we can do better than the other guy.
The process of buying or selling a business should not be plagued with drama or remorse. It should be a smooth transition from one owner to the next, where each party is assured that their rights have been protected, their investment secure, and that no eye-popping poltergeist rears its ugly head months after the ink has dried on the bill of sale.
Can every contingency be anticipated and accounted for? No, especially when business interests compete and even after parties shake hands and part company. But problems do materialize, and our guidance and experience will ensure that your best interests are realized.
Not everyone can afford to own a house or condo, so maybe you’ve decided to rent until your finances are in better order or you’ve just moved down to Florida and you want to get the lay of the land before you commit to a purchase. Renting may be your best bet, and there are plenty of places to choose from. Chances are you will be asked to sign a lease, and this is where you will need the guidance of a professional to explain to you your rights and obligations before you sign on the dotted line. Issues regarding repairs, security deposits, or wanting to add that cove molding you just can’t live without are all matters that we can assist in explaining to you. There is no investment greater than few minutes of free consultation.
If you’re looking to set up a business, we can also help you out in deciphering often volumes of pages found in a commercial lease. We can even assist you in negotiating the terms of a new lease, trying to get you the best deal at the best price. Commercial leases are actually a lot trickier than standard residential leases, but our experience will help you avoid the pitfalls tenants often fall victim to and only realize their mistake when it’s too late.
Our experience in this area comes largely from representing not just tenants, but landlords as well. Our office has prepared dozens of leases over the years, and we have represented numerous property owners. We know what features are most common in both commercial as well as residential leases, and we can sleuth out those rogue clauses that may be onerous to a tenant or too indulgent to a landlord.
Part of our experience comes from representing both landlords and tenants in court regarding the enforcement of terms in a lease. We have gone to bat for all of our clients, and have made worthy arguments in pursuing or defending their claims. Of course, once you get before a judge, there is no one able to predict the outcome of a case, but at least you know that we will have worked side-by-side in aggressively representing you.
Do you have a legal issue not addressed here? Contact us to find out more.