Irvine Business Litigation Blog

Creating an estate plan after the loss of a loved one

Some people set up an estate plan at a young age, aware of the risks they will face throughout life and determined to prepare for the unexpected. Others may wait for many years to set up an estate plan. Moreover, someone may lose a loved one due to an age-related illness or at a very young age following an unexpected motor vehicle accident. Either way, losing someone you love can be extremely difficult, and it may also prompt people to think about difficult decisions related to the end of life, such as creating an estate plan.

If your loved one passed away without an estate plan, you may have realized how important it is to prepare for what will happen to your assets after you have died. Without an estate plan, it may be even harder for your family members to deal with your death, and your estate may not be distributed in the way you want. Setting up a will or a trust can eliminate uncertainty after you pass away, and it can also provide a variety of benefits for the rest of your life. For example, you may have a sense of calm with the knowledge that you have accounted for these matters.

The benefits of performing a land survey

If you have your eye on a new piece of land in the Irvine area or just a new home, consider hiring a land surveyor to come out and take a survey of the property. No matter what your future plans are for your new piece of real estate, making sure you have the exact boundaries of your property mapped out can prevent possible problems when you want to implement your plans down the line.

First, as Angie’s List explains, a land survey can clarify where your neighbor’s property ends and yours begins. This is important if you are contemplating putting up a fence. You do not want your fence to encroach on your neighbor’s land. You might also find that a piece of your neighbor’s property, like a fence or a building, is actually on your land.

What to do about a dispute between construction business partners

Many business owners in the construction industry in California have at least one partner. While there are many benefits of this arrangement, it could lead to a serious dispute at some point.

If you're facing a dispute with your business partner, it's important to take immediate action to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution. Letting a dispute linger for too long can take a toll on you, your partner and the health of your business.

Excessive work hours and on-the-job accidents

In the workplace, things go wrong in all sorts of ways and some fields are particularly hazardous. For example, construction workers face a number of risks on a daily basis, and these accidents can leave them injured (or worse), which can bring up many problems for workers, their families and the businesses that employ them. After all, many injured workers have taken legal action against their employer. If you run a business, it is pivotal to do what you can to reduce the chances of a work-related accident by recognizing potential dangers. For example, you should ensure that employees are not placed at risk by working excessive hours.

Some people may have to work overtime once in a while, while others may frequently push themselves beyond their limits. In some fields, such as those which involve manual labor and exposure to difficult conditions, this can be particularly concerning. Unfortunately, some workers may even request that they be given more hours, even though they will struggle to spend so much time carrying out their job duties.

Make sure your employee handbook is complete

Whether you have a large corporation in California or you only employ a couple workers, it is imperative you have a thorough and complete employee handbook. It outlines expectations, gives clear details about company policies and, in turn, prevents legal issues for you as the employer. Take the time to craft a good one so you do not run into difficulties later on.

According to Inc, it is best to outline company policies in a positive and friendly manner. This helps set up employee expectations as well as protect the employer from litigation in the future. A handbook should reflect the culture of the company and be clear and understandable. Some detailed policies you should have in an employee handbook include

  • How the company rates the performance of workers
  • How the employer determines raises and promotions
  • Benefits such as health insurance, retirement, disability etc.
  • Time off such as vacation, personal time and sick days
  • How the company treats disputes  

Employers Must Pay For Small Amounts Of Time Employees Spend On Work After Clocking Out

A new potential trap for employers was set forth in a recent decision by the California Supreme Court in Troester v. Starbucks Corp. The Supreme Court ruled that employers must compensate its employees for minutes of work that are regularly reoccurring activities, even if it is brief in duration.

California Passes New Law Aimed at Increasing Corporate Diversity

California has become the first state to require all publicly traded companies based in California to have at least one woman on their board of directors in a push to increase equality in the workplace.

Better Late Than Never - Late Notice May Not Be Detrimental To Coverage Under An Occurrence Policy

As anyone who has ever tried to read through an insurance policy can attest, there are pages upon pages of terms, conditions, exclusions, limitations, definitions, and ... notice requirements. Most notice requirements in policies mandate that notice of a claim be provided in a prompt or timely manner. While the failure to strictly adhere to the policy's notice requirements can result in a forfeiture of coverage, late notice may not always be detrimental. In Marty Lat v. Farmers New World Life Insurance Company (10/16/18 Court of Appeal 2nd Dist.), the Court of Appeal held that an insurance company may not deny an insured's claim under an occurrence policy based on lack of timely notice or proof of claim unless the insurer can show actual prejudice from the delay.

The facts of Marty Lat are relatively straight forward. Maria Carada purchased an "occurrence" life insurance policy from Farmers New World Life Insurance Company ("Farmers") and named her sons - Marty and Mikel Lat ("Lat") - as beneficiaries. The policy established an "accumulation account" to which Carada's premium payments and interest were added and from which the monthly costs of insurance and other amounts were deducted. If the accumulation account was reduced below the amount needed to cover the next month's deductions, a 61-day grace period began within which Carada could pay the premium needed to cover the deduction. If the grace period expired before Farmers received the necessary premium payment, the policy terminated and could not be reinstated. Importantly, the policy also included a rider under which Farmers agreed to waive the cost of insurance while Carada was totally disabled if Carada provided Farmers with notice and proof of her disability.

In August 2012, Carada was diagnosed with cancer and became totally disabled. She did not, however, notify Farmers. On May 20, 2013, Farmers sent a letter to Carada advising her that the premium payments were insufficient to pay for the coverage under the policy and gave her until July 20, 2013 to make payment or the policy would lapse. On July 23, 2013 Farmers sent Carada a letter stating that the policy's grace period had expired and coverage was no longer in force. Carada died on September 23, 2013 and Lat submitted a claim which was denied by Farmers. Subsequently, a suit was filed. Farmers moved for summary judgment which was granted. The trial court held that the 61- day grace period had expired and the premium had not been paid. Consequently, the policy lapsed. An appeal was filed and the Court of Appeal reversed.

What is the cy-pres doctrine?

During the course of your estate planning in California, you may wish to set up a trust that will benefit a particular cause or charitable organization after your death. This is a very generous gift and can ensure that your legacy lives on. However, because it is impossible to predict the future, circumstances may arise after you are gone that make it difficult or impossible to honor your intentions for the charitable trust exactly as written. In that instance, rather than allowing the trust to fail and the assets to go to waste, the court may apply the principle of the cy-pres doctrine. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service, "cy-pres" comes from a French term meaning "as near as possible." If it eventually becomes impossible or impracticable to carry out your charitable trust for its designated purpose, the court will revise the terms of the trust to benefit a charitable object that is similar to what you originally intended. 

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