Similar to a health checkup, a legal checkup provides a thorough assessment of your affairs and helps to ensure that your new year gets off to the right start. Although legal checkups are essential for business owners, personal legal plans can benefit as well. During a legal checkup, your attorney will review any existing contracts. Are they up to date? Does your business structure still align with your business model? Is it time to create a trust or amend a will?
It is not uncommon for clients to first come to attorneys with situations that would have been easier, and less expensive, to deal with had they been addressed earlier. Once you’ve reached a point of conflict, your legal rights can be severely impaired and your stress and expenses can skyrocket.
A legal health checkup can identify potential problems before they escalate, heading off costly situations by ensuring that documents are updated, regulations against misleading advertising are being followed by business owners, and individuals have updated insurance policies and powers of attorney.
For business owners
A legal checkup for your business will involve a review of current contracts and the filing of state documents, permits, and licenses. Your attorney may also review internal contracts, such as nondisclosure agreements and employment confidentiality terms. If your business is a corporation, the legal checkup may also include a review of minutes and stocks.
During a business legal checkup, a lawyer can help to ensure that you:
- Adhere to privacy legislation when you disclose personal information.
- Understand and follow signed agreements for terminating an employee.
- Have your employees sign non-competes to prevent the loss of clients and trade secrets.
- Understand and adhere to policies dealing with discrimination and sexual harassment.
- Are in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
- Carry adequate liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Have complied with all tax filing requirements.
- Understand, and are taking, the necessary steps to avoid litigation.
- Have an action plan in place in the event that you do get involved in litigation.
Personal legal checkups, on the other hand, generally involve reviews of personal affairs. These may include tax documents as well as financial and estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts. Life changes, including birth, death, and divorce may require a change of beneficiary designation.
Family changes, including marriage or divorce and the birth of grandchildren, typically require updates to the will. As do changes in assets, such as the sale of a home or business. Further, if you move to a new state, your will may need amending. Estate planning requirements vary from state to state, so ensuring that you are in compliance with your new state’s laws is essential. And tax law changes, especially those related to estate tax laws, can have serious consequences if you fail to update your will accordingly.
Whether for business or personal reasons, a legal checkup can help you to ensure that your personal affairs are kept in order, even if your life doesn’t always feel that way.
According to Nick Fogel, a Colorado-based attorney with Burg Simpson, it’s advisable to maintain regular contact with your legal representation regardless of your legal needs.
“Your attorney may not always know if you have a question or if the legal landscape of your circumstances has changed,” says Fogel. “Creating a regular schedule to review your legal matters is a good way for you to ensure that your attorney is up to date on your legal needs. However, having a regular schedule should never preclude you from contacting your attorney anytime the need arises.”
Better late than never
End of year is the best time to get a comprehensive legal checkup for your business and personal affairs. However, if you are just getting started or simply feel that a checkup is in order, any time will do. And if you are long overdue for a legal checkup, the time is now. A skilled attorney with experience performing legal checkups can ensure that you and your business are protected for years into the future. Legal checkups can save you thousands, but the peace of mind alone is worth its weight in gold.