2014 30 Jun

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “Things do not change; we change.” I’m quite sure Thoreau was not writing about estate planning documents at the time, but he might as well have been. While we are constantly changing – jobs, relationships, homes, finances, family – the estate planning documents that have been sitting in a drawer or safe deposit box for years do not. This includes the beneficiary designations in those documents, which designate the people you chose to inherit your 401(k), company stock, and life insurance benefits. (more…)

2014 23 Jun

In October 2010, President Obama signed into law the “Plain Writing Act of 2010.” The law was the latest response to decades of complaints about the incomprehensibility of many government regulations. An Executive Order subsequently signed by the president stated that federal agencies “must ensure that regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand.”

Sadly, no such law applies to attorneys.

Not without reason, members of the legal profession have often been accused of using language that is inaccessible, unnecessarily stilted and complicated, archaic, and confusing. Throw in some gratuitous Latin, and what is often written or said by attorneys may as well be in another language entirely. There’s a reason that “legalese” is a word.

When clients come to me with questions or concerns about a legal issue, they are doing so because...

2014 4 Jun

Anyone who has been involved in litigation knows that the time between the filing of a complaint and the conclusion of the case is often far longer than seems necessary to the non-lawyer. Many, if not most, lawsuits filed in California, whether they conclude with a settlement or a trial, can take years to reach a final resolution. The slow turning of the wheels of justice is a source of understandable frustration for clients, especially for those with cases that appear relatively simple and straightforward.

There are many reasons why the process of litigating a dispute takes so long. Those reasons include everything from a court’s crowded docket, the limited number of available judges, and recent budgetary constraints, to pre-trial challenges regarding the sufficiency of the complaint or the validity of the cause of action, legal...

2014 4 Jun

Limited Liability Companies are rapidly becoming the preferred entity in California due to their flexible management structure and effective liability protection. California’s Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act, which became effective on January 1, 2014, made some significant changes to California LLC law.  As I discussed here, these revisions should motivate LLC managers and members to revisit and possibly amend their existing operating agreements to ensure that the new law does not inadvertently change the management structure, or the rights and obligations of the members and managers, from what was originally intended by the parties.

One thing that the new Act did not do was add a requirement that LLC operating agreements must be in writing to be enforceable. Under the new Act, as with the old law, an LLC operating agreement may be written or...

2014 4 Jun

California recently enacted changes to its laws governing limited liability companies (LLCs) which should cause LLC owners to dust off their operating agreements and consult with their attorneys to ensure that new provisions do not inadvertently and unknowingly alter the members’ relationships and obligations.

The new law, which took effect January 1, 2014, applies to all California LLCs, including ones formed before that date, and governs every act taken by a California LLC or its members on or after that date. Like the old LLC law, the revised law provides LLCs with certain default rules to be applied in disputes when the entity’s operating agreement is silent on the subject. To the extent that parties relied on the default rules when drafting their operating agreements, this can lead to unwanted surprises down the road.

Some of the...

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