How To Apply For Disability And When To Seek Legal Assistance

If you have become disabled and unable to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration understands that the disabled person may not be able to come in for their own appointments and also lets a loved one apply on his or her behalf. Disability benefits come in the form of monthly support that helps with living expenses, medical expenses, and bills. Disability benefits may be short-term or long-term, depending on the situation. There are also disability attorneys and non-legal representatives out there who can advise you on how to apply for disability.

We will talk about the different types of disability, how to apply for disability, and when it might be helpful to seek legal help. Read below for more on how to apply for disability.

What Is Disability?

There are two types of disability, or disability insurance. Both types are obtained through the Social Security Administration. The first benefit is Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. The second benefit is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

Disability

The difference between the two is that Social Security Disability Insurance is an insurance program more geared towards people who had been working regularly before their disability. Supplemental Security Income is specifically for disabled persons who have a demonstrated financial need.

To qualify for SSDI, you must have total disability. This means you are completely unable to perform your last job or any other job you have ever performed before. Total disability also means you must be incapable of adapting to a different job suitable for your level of ability, skill and education.

The criteria for SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is demonstrated financial need and a disability that keeps you from holding gainful employment. People over 65 years may not need to show total disability to be eligible for SSI, per the SSA’s rules. To qualify for SSI, you must show both that you are completely disabled and that you do not have adequate means of supporting yourself. Completely disabled means showing you cannot perform any work, either work for which you have previously trained or work you could be trained for.

Applicants for Supplemental Security Income cannot own more than $2,000 in countable assets outside of the home in which they live and one vehicle.

Is There a Need to Apply for Disability?

If you became disabled, cannot work, and cannot meet your living expenses, you may apply for disability. It is also possible to apply on behalf of a disabled family member. If you find out you have a serious illness that is expected to be terminal you should apply for disability immediately. At least you will have peace of mind knowing you will have some support in meeting your living and medical expenses.

In all cases you should begin your application as soon as you expect to be disabled more than a year, as the disability application process can be lengthy. Children with certain medical conditions also meet the qualifications for receiving SSI benefits. Check with the SSA for more information on accepted medical conditions and for how to apply for disability for a child.

The process is mostly straightforward but requires you to be tenacious in pursuing your or a family member’s claim. It is important to remember that SSA denies many claims at first but that does not mean that you should give up if you are experiencing a total disability. SSI or SSDI can be a lifesaver if you or a family member experiences such a hardship. The application process should be taken seriously and not abused if you are not truly disabled. If you are truly disabled, do not be dissuaded as you go through the filing process for either SSI or SSDI. Many denied cases are appealed in the Appeals Court and won.

You may be eligible for SSI or SSDI or both. You can receive both SSI and SSDI at the same time. Even if you haven’t worked in a while and aren’t eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for SSI if you have a demonstrated financial need.

How to Apply for Disability

There is a lot of help available regarding how to apply for disability. You can apply online for either SSI or SSDI using the Social Security Disability Insurance online application. The SSA will accept any documents submitted online through the SSDI online application and will follow up with you for any additional documents needed. If a friend or family member applies for disability on your behalf, the SSA will be in touch with you to have you sign the documents.

person holding tab with social security form

You can go to your local SSA field office to meet with an SSA representative who helps you prepare your SSI or SSDI claims. You can make an appointment by calling 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment or just stop by your local field office. Friends or family members can also be present with you during your phone or in-person interview with the SSA.

You should stay in close contact with your primary doctor as you navigate how to apply for disability.  You should notify your doctor immediately if you plan to file for disability. Your doctor can help you fill out forms. The SSA will probably be in touch with your doctor for more information on your condition.

When to Seek Legal Help

Before seeking legal help on how to apply for disability, consider the pros and cons. The costs of hiring a disability attorney are thankfully clear and unambiguous. Disability attorneys’ fees are regulated by federal law. Usually the cost is the lesser of 25 percent of your disability back-pay or $6,000, whichever is lower. Disability attorneys only get paid if you win your case.

social security law printed papers

It can be beneficial to seek legal advice during the initial filing process on how to apply for disability. Since the Social Security Administration denies many initial applications, it is common for applicants not to seek outside legal help until the appeals process on how to file for disability.

Filing Your Initial Application

There are a few things to consider in your initial application. Disability attorneys can consult with you best on how to file for disability. First, disability attorneys advise you on your “alleged onset date”, or AOD, for Social Security Disability Insurance. Supplemental Security Income pay starts when you first apply.

For SSDI, AOD determines the date at which you were first eligible for disability and decides how far in the past your back-pay will reach. If you became disabled on a date before your filing, you can get pay as far back as 12 months before your filing date. However, there is also a 5-month waiting period after you first apply during which you are neither owed nor given any benefits. So you would have to have become disabled 17 months before the date on which you applied to get the full 12 months of back-pay. The SSA makes the final decision on the date on which your disability first started. This date set by the SSA is called the EOD, or Established Onset Date.

After that, often lawyers or non-attorney representatives do not get directly involved until the appeals process. If your initial disability application is denied, remember you have 60 days to file an appeal. You also must notify the Social Security Administration if you plan to hire a legal representative using the SSA’s Appointment of Representative https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-1696.pdf form.There are multiple levels of the appeals process. Appeals are often denied at the reconsideration level. At the second appeals level, you will get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. A lawyer or non-legal representative will help you prepare your answers for the hearing. They will also help you best represent your condition and with cross-examination by the vocational expert during your hearing.

Do I Need to Hire a Disability Attorney?

While it’s possible to get your case approved by the Social Security Administration without legal representation, everything else being equal, Social Security is more likely to approve applicants who are represented by legal counsel. Disability attorneys are the experts on how to apply for disability. If your initial application was denied, in that case you may hire either a disability attorney or a non-legal representative.

Non-Lawyer Representatives

Non-lawyer representatives are also experts on how to apply for disability. A non-lawyer representative is paid the same as a lawyer – both are paid an established sum percentage out of your Social Security benefits and only get paid if you win – but a non-lawyer representative often only handles disability cases and may have more time for your case, while a lawyer could have multiple specialties and less time for your case. Non-lawyer representatives are also more willing to take on long-shot cases while lawyers are more interested in taking cases that will probably win.

Conclusion

Filing for disability does not have to be complicated with the wealth of resources and help at your disposal who can help you on how to apply for disability. Remember that you may not need legal representation for your initial application but as you enter the appeals process, enlisting the help of either a disability attorney, non-legal representative, or social worker or case manager may be beneficial. They can best understand how to portray your application in the best light to the Social Security Administration. With the help of these representatives, your chance of a successful SSI or SSDI application is greatly increased.

How To Sue Someone: 5 Ways To Determine If You Have A Case

Arbitration, the use of law to resolve conflicts between two or more parties, has existed for centuries. Many jurisdictions, including the US, have embraced courtrooms with outstanding enthusiasm. This is why you should know how to sue someone when you are in a dispute or conflict instead of taking matters into your own hands. If you try to resolve matters on your own, you could get sued instead, especially if you injure the person or damage their property.

Civil litigation is common these days. In fact, a lawsuit is filed every two seconds in the US, with millions of others waiting to be resolved. Suing has become a growth industry. According to the American Bar Association, there were over one million attorneys practicing today, and law schools continue churning out new lawyers each year. If there is someone you have an unresolved dispute with, this content is for you. The article highlights how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations for filing a suit, and how to determine whether you have a good case.

Reasons You Might Need to Learn How to Sue Someone

There is a myriad of reasons should learn how to sue someone. The following are a few of them:

Recovering Damages

Another person’s actions may cause you harm or injury. This may happen, for example, after you’re hit by a baseball at a major league ballpark or getting food poisoning after eating food at your local pizza joint. You might want to know how to sue someone so you don’t drown under expensive hospital bills. Suits to recover damages can also cover wages lost during your recuperation since such instances will probably ground you for some time preventing you from attending to daily duties and tasks.Your success depends on a legal finding that the other party was negligent, in which the party should have known their action or inaction could cause harm financially, physically, or emotionally.

Enforcing a Contract

You might need to know how to sue someone in order to protect your interests in enforcing a contract between you and another party. This is especially relevant when you want to collect a debt. This is also an appropriate suit to bring when you need to force another person to complete a previously promised action, such as transferring the title of a purchased house or car.In most instances, disagreements arise over the interpretation of a contract, whether the contract is in place, or how to enforce the terms and clauses in the agreement. You need to resolve the conflict by seeking legal action against the party who has not kept his or her part of the agreement.

Protecting Your Property

Sometimes you may have disputes pertaining to your property. The disputes over ownership of property, whether it is your home or car, are common in today’s social and business environment. For example, if your neighbor builds structures such as a fence that extends over your property, you may have to sue them so they remove the structure and recover your property.

Dissolving a Marriage or a Partnership

Many marriages usually end in divorce. Even though some marriages are resolved amicably, most of them involve different levels of anger, stress, and efforts intended to financially punish the opposite side. This is why you need to know when and how to sue someone since family laws protect a person in these instances.Essentially, family law is very important in these scenarios and is a separate system of courts, specialized attorneys, justices, and unique conflict resolution procedures. Family law focuses on the equitable and reasonable end of partnerships as fairly as possible to all the conflicting parties, including the children who are affected in such a scenario.

Replacing a Fiduciary

It is common for individuals to use others as trustees to act on their behalf for a myriad of reasons. For instance, you may decide on setting up a financial trust with a bank so you secure your children’s future, such as in property, in the event that you unexpectedly pass on. The trustees are often sued by the grantors of the trusts or beneficiaries for a perceived or actual failure in managing the trust property.

5 Ways to Determine if You Have a Good Case

Any lawsuit can be broken down into specific components that are legally required for the case to be a “good” case. As the plaintiff, a lawyer provides a checklist of elements and makes sure you can satisfy each with evidence. The cause of action depends on your lawsuit, but you need to consider whether your case meets the required elements.

If it is a breach of contract, such as when you have hired a contractor for home renovations and doesn’t meet their end of the deal as established in the contract, you must prove the following elements:

  1. Whether there was a valid contract in place. As the plaintiff, you need to show that a valid contract existed between you and the second party. If it is a written contract, it should be signed by both parties.
  2. Evidence of breach of contract. Here, you prove that the other party breached the contract by not doing what you had agreed on or had promised to do. For example, in our home renovation example, you must show that the contractor did not make the renovations you had agreed on.
  3. Performance. For a successful breach of contract action, show that you held up your end of the contract terms, such as the provision of capital for the contractor to fulfill the obligation.
  4. Damages. You must prove that the breach of the contract led to economic damages. For example, if the home renovations were meant to facilitate a certain business, you should include the profits you would have otherwise made.

For negligence, you must prove the following 5 elements:

  1. Duty. The defendant should have owed a duty to the plaintiff. The duty arises in several forms.  For example, drivers have a duty to all other drivers on the road by driving safely.
  2. Breach of duty. Here, it should be established that the defendant breached the duty with respect to the plaintiff. Here, it should be established that the defendant failed to act reasonably to fulfill his or her duty to the plaintiff.
  3. Cause in fact. Here, it should be established that if not for the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff would have suffered no injuries.
  4. Proximate cause. This is related to the proximity of the actions of the defendant to the harms that were caused. For instance, if a pedestrian is hit by a motorist they might call their mother from the hospital. The mother might then suffer a heart attack instantly. It should be established whether it is fair to attribute the heart attack to the actions of the defender.
  5. Damages. You must prove damages were incurred, such as medical bills, or pain and suffering caused by the injury.

Considerations before Filing Suit

The following are the considerations before suing someone:

  1. Whether you have a good case. The elements of a good case must be met.
  2. Whether you have tried settling the dispute by compromise. The other party may have a valid argument or a potential claim against you. In that case, adjust your position accordingly. The court may look unfavorably on your suit if you did not seek to resolve the dispute outside of court despite the other party’s willingness to do so.
  3. Whether you have made a final demand in connection with the dispute. The defendant will want to settle the dispute and resolve it instead of sorting it out in a court of law.
  4. Whether you’ll win the dispute. You need to be reasonably certain that the judgment will be in your favor before spending a lot of money on the case.
  5. Whether you have the time and resources to devote to the lawsuit. Lawsuits drain a lot of energy and time. If you don’t have enough time for it due to work, social life, or family, it may not be worth it.
  6. Whether you can pay your lawyer. Lawsuits are typically expensive and you should have the money to cover the legal fees. A few lawyers will agree to only charge fees from the defendant after winning the case in your favor. You will want to check beforehand if your lawyer is willing to agree to this arrangement.
  7. Where you’ll be able to sue. If a person is from another jurisdiction or state, you may not have the power or jurisdiction to bring a suit against the person. Therefore, seek services in his or her location.
  8. Whether you’re within the applicable “statute of limitations.” Here, check with your lawyer to ensure that the time limits of the lawsuit have not run out.
  9. Is it a small claim and can you represent yourself? If it is a small claim, use a “conciliation” or “small claims” court. Here, you might want to represent yourself as you’ll save attorney’s fees.

Conclusion

Civil suit court cases are fairly common these days. For you to protect your rights and interests you should know how to sue someone. This helps you get compensated for injuries and also ensure that you protect your property. In most instances, you’ll sue someone to enforce a contract, recover damages, dissolve a marriage or a partnership, protect your property, or replace a fiduciary.

For the lawsuit to be a good case, it must meet the elements discussed in the article. Look into the considerations highlighted for you to sue. We hope this article has adequately addressed how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations of filing a suit, and ways of determining whether you have a good case.

Tips On How To Choose A Good Immigration Lawyer

Are you hunting for the right immigration lawyer to help you with your case? Have you been surveying your options, but are not sure where to even start?

Finding the right immigration lawyer for your particular legal situation is crucial to ensuring that your case receives the attention it deserves. If you are filing a petition for a green card or visa, working to stop your deportation, or are dealing with a similar immigration matter, you need to know what to look for in an immigration lawyer so you can choose one with your best interests in mind.

What Is Immigration Law?

In laymen’s terms, immigration law is the body of laws, statutes, and other regulatory measures determining who can and cannot enter and reside in the country. Immigration is not to be confused with naturalization. Immigration determines who can enter and leave a country while naturalization governs who can become a citizen. The two areas are connected to be sure, with most attorneys specializing in immigration law also handling cases related to naturalization.

Origin of Immigration Law

In the U.S., for instance, immigration policies and laws are governed by the President and interpreted by the Federal Court System. International treatises also govern immigration procedures, such as those put forth by the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This body of laws has existed since 1976, allowing individuals who are citizens and live legally in a country to travel abroad without incident. This means they can travel and live outside of their home country if desired, and their country of origination must take these citizens back upon their return.

What Immigration Law Encompasses

Court gavel use in a judicial court

Lawyers practicing immigration law are experts on which rules individuals are required to follow if they want to enter and exit the U.S. legally. Immigration law covers customs inspections at points of entry like border security and airports. Immigration laws also dictate what documentation is needed to enter and exit the country, such as visas and passports.

This body of laws gives customs officials the authority to check any possessions you bring into the country. Customs officials even retain the right to hold you for questioning if they deem it necessary upon your arrival into the U.S. Choosing an immigration lawyer is of the utmost importance if you are trying to navigate these laws for your green card, visa, or any other immigration matter.

In fact, around 19 percent of immigrants in the entire world reside in the U.S. That is a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that the nearly 50 million immigrants who live in the country make up about 14 percent of the entire population of the U.S. in total. The country’s immigration laws are constantly developing and changing, so hiring a lawyer who is an expert in these areas is key to ensuring your case is handled appropriately.

Immigration Options

If you are looking to immigrate to the U.S., there are a few different routes available to you. To be in the country legally, you need to receive official sanction to enter the U.S. The document that provides you official sanction is known as a visa. There are different visas based on the duration and purpose of your stay. Depending on your country of origin, if you are coming for a short visit unrelated to business, you may not require a visa at all. If you need a visa, the most common options to choose from are family and employment visas.

With a family visa, a U.S. citizen may submit a petition to allow other family members to immigrate to the country. There are some strict parameters, but a citizen can usually request to bring in their parents, siblings, spouse, and children. A permanent resident living in the U.S. legally may also petition for their spouse and children to come into the country.

There are many forms required to submit a petition for a family visa, which is why it is so important to make sure you receive guidance from a licensed immigration attorney. Employment visas can be divided into different subcategories, including those for skilled workers, priority workers, and investors. Again, navigating this complex maze of documentation and requirements is best done with legal counsel.

The Role of an Immigration Lawyer

woman is having a meeting with her immigration officers

An immigration lawyer aids clients in pinpointing the right visa for their situation that will allow them to enter the U.S. legally. Lawyers practicing in this area of law may also aid and advise regarding deportation proceedings, helping to make or break the client's case.

An immigration lawyer may work for private firms, in public interest settings, or on behalf of the government. For attorneys who work for private law firms, you must pay a fee for representation. There are non-profit organizations that assist individuals with immigration matters. Non-profits typically hire lawyers to assist clients with navigating the complex paperwork and process of immigration. Lawyers who practice immigration law for the government enforce these laws, such as analyzing applications, litigating in court, or helping to create new immigration statutes and procedures.

Role Analysis

woman shaking hands for a successful meeting

If a client can potentially apply for different visas, it is the job of the immigration lawyer to help them select the best option. Some immigration attorneys work with employers who are trying to bring one of their foreign employees into the U.S.

After aiding their client in choosing the right visa, the lawyer will help the individual to process their visa application and give them insight into any factors that could cause their denial. If you are applying for a visa, the attorney may work with you to make sure you are adequately prepared for your visa interview and help you gather the documentation required to attest to your character and fitness recommendations.

If you are facing deportation, an immigration lawyer can serve as your defense and speak on your behalf in court to the immigration law judge presiding over the proceeding. Your entire case can depend upon you having a skilled, knowledgeable lawyer at your side adept at offering sound advice and engaging in litigation.

5 Tips to Hire a Good Immigration Lawyer

1.  Consider the Costs

Our first tip for you to consider when hiring a good immigration lawyer is the costs involved. You should be ready to pay a considerable fee for quality legal services, but they should still come within the realm of reason. Attorneys spend a long time in school and training for the profession, so their knowledge and expertise comes at a cost. They will work very hard on your behalf and have every right to charge associated fees.

In fact, if their fees are too low you should question the credentials of the immigration lawyer you are considering. Lower than average attorney’s fees could be a sign of inexperience or under-qualification. Alternatively, if the attorney’s fees are above the realm of normal fees, you might need to examine what the lawyer’s motives are.

You should plan on paying around $100 to $350 per hour for the services of an immigration attorney. Sometimes, you might get your first consultation free or have it discounted on your bill down the line. If you seek free legal representation through a non-profit organization, you will get qualified representation but the wait might be too long for your case.

2. Be Sure to Ask Questions

It is perfectly acceptable to ask plenty of questions when hiring an immigration lawyer. There are key questions you should always get answered before making your final decision. Ask how long they have been a licensed attorney practicing law, what their experience is with immigration law, and if they are licensed to practice in your particular state.

You should also inquire whether they are members and associated with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, what the case will involve, and the potential outcomes expected. Find out what will be required on your end throughout the duration of the case, who will handle your case, and the means of communication that will be used. Definitely ask about the projected total costs and how much you will need to pay throughout the case. Prior to signing an attorney-client agreement, see if you can get references from past clients. This should never be an issue as a lawyer with a successful case history will have plenty of pleased clients.

3. Verify Credentials

Just to be safe, always take the time to verify the credentials of any immigration lawyer before you hire them. Once they give you the information requested, go on the bar website for their state or region and make sure everything is in order.

Call the references the immigration lawyer provided you with so you can get a clear idea of the process their cases followed, how their cases were managed, and if they were pleased with the outcome.

4. Avoid Unsavory Characters

While this may seem like an obvious tip for choosing an immigration lawyer, avoid unsavory characters. There are many qualified and reputable legal professionals in the field, but some unethical types worm their way in.

For instance, if you speak with an immigration lawyer who advises you to do something wrong or illegal like put inaccurate information on an application, bend the truth with an immigration official, pay money for a bribe, or anything else ethically questionable, run far and fast. If you want your case to go smoothly, the last thing you need is to get in trouble with the law.

Make sure you only hire a licensed, practicing immigration lawyer. No matter what you hear, a notary or other legal professional cannot handle the case for you. There are plenty of legal professionals who are not actual practicing lawyers, purporting to have the prowess to navigate and advise on immigration matters. Not only is this not the case, but you could end up losing money, having your forms filled out incorrectly, or running into legal trouble down the line.

5. Weigh Your Options

Our final tip for choosing a top-notch immigration lawyer is to weigh your options. After doing a careful review with the tips noted above, look over your shortlist of attorneys to see which one fits best with your situation.

By talking with different attorneys and getting an idea of how they approach and handle cases, you can see whether you will work well together. You can also determine which are more qualified to handle your case than others.

Conclusion

Choosing an immigration lawyer who is qualified and knowledge to help you reach a successful conclusion to your case is a process. It takes time and careful consideration regarding your options.

Make sure you consider the costs involved, pose plenty of questions to any lawyers you meet with, verify their credentials, and stay away from anyone that shows a hint of unethical behavior. Finally, weigh your options and decide which immigration lawyer is the right fit for your case.

Useful Tips On Why And How To Patent An Idea

Have an innovative mind that has come up with some decent business ideas? Perhaps you have already even developed a useful product that shows great potential for success. Whatever the reason you are here now reading this article, know that we have some useful knowledge on why and how to patent an idea that will hopefully get you closer to knowing if this is the right choice for you.

The Purpose of a Patent

The patent system was designed to promote the creation and innovation of ideas by allowing inventors ownership for their work and granting them an “exclusionary right.” The exact basis for the patent system can be found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution. It is stated that this article grants Congress the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

This gives inventors the legal right to prevent any other from using, making, selling or importing their invention. By definition, this specification is what determines the patent as a “negative right” as opposed to a “positive right”. A positive right would allow one to make, use, sell or offer something for sale This is also known as monopolistic right. A negative right, on the other hand, is a right that puts restrictions on using something in a type of way. Technical terminology aside, a patent protects future revenue stream, but this is only for a limited time.

Patent Expiration

You might be curious as to why a grant is only protected for a limited time. Due to the patent expiration process, this process was designed to allow the public access and information for using the once-patented product. After the time of patent expiration, the public will then be able to take advantage of this opportunity, essentially allowing them the potential to innovate a once-patented invention further.  By having the system setup this way, it sets the stage and encourages progress towards technological advances. This makes sense to do for positive intentions; many minds are greater than one, typically.

Patent Types

So, you're wondering how to patent an idea? Let's find out about the kinds of patents. There are 3 different types of patents that exist, as of now:  utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents give any individual the right to a patent that invents or discovers any useful, new process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter. Utility patents can also be given to those that discover any new or useful improvement to those categories of creations just mentioned. Design patents have the ability to grant anyone who specifically invents an original ornamental design for an article of manufacture. And lastly, plant patents are allowed to those who discover or invent a plant that asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of species.

Should You Patent Your Idea?

If you are undecided about getting a patent for your idea, here are some things to consider before committing. Understand that while there are many benefits to having a patent for a product, it isn’t the only way to find success in using your creation. Patents aren’t the cheapest of things to apply for especially if you are filing for a patent that is for a mechanical or electrical device. This could cost up to $2,500 to $3,000.

Also, not to bring down your hopes or discourage you in any way---only two to three percent of all patented products get approved for the market. Once again, we're not telling you that you should not try to patent your product. We’re just suggesting it doesn't have to be your first step or even a required one.

First Step

You may also be asking yourself in regards to how to patent an idea, what is the first step in obtaining a patent? We suggest an overall assessment and evaluation of your product. That includes understanding how viable your business opportunity is. To do so, really try to understand your product. Determine what its potential target market would be, and get a good idea for your competition. The last thing you would want to do is spend all of that time, energy and money on a product that doesn't have a strong potential foothold in today's marketplace. We will discuss in greater detail what we think you should research further to avoid situations like this.

Patent Research

man doing his research in the library

How to patent an idea? The process involves research. As we mentioned previously, it's a really good idea to know your product before applying for a patent. This includes also knowing if your product may be infringing on someone else's product that is already patented. You can go about this in different ways. But to know for sure, you'll need to conduct a "preliminary patent search." To do so, you can either hire an expert to help you or do it yourself.

Product Prototype

Before filing for a patent, it's important to have your product's materials or mechanics in official order should you happen to develop a product that you would consider to be anywhere shy of your ideal final product. It may prove to be a difficult process in dealing with the patent modification system. It is best to build your prototype first. That way you know if you like it, you know it's ready to be patented.

Manufacturing Cost

Not to assume you don't understand your product or product-to-be, but it's also important to determine how much it's going to cost you to make your creation. Say it costs more to make than the market is willing to give for it. (We figured we'd mention a quick product cost tip, just in case.)

Benefits of a Patent

chart showing the benefits of patent

After taking all of the above mentioned information into consideration when assessing how to patent an idea, you can now decide whether you need the patent. For those who will later learn that their product is not able to be patented, don't panic. Thousands of products that exist on today's market are not patented. And it's not just because they aren't able to be patented. Like we said, you can find success without a patent.

LICENSING RIGHTS

sample patent license agreement

In discovering how to patent an idea, you must know about licensing rights. In gaining a patent for your product, you also gain the right to license your product to a company or multiple companies, depending on the terms of your licensing agreement. And not only that, patented products are a lot more desirable for companies as well. This gives them the confidence that they won't be infringing on the rights of another patent. And actually, some companies may only agree to product licensing if a product is patented or patent-pending.

How to Patent an Idea

At this point in finding out how to patent an idea, you may still see value in getting a patent for your product. If this is the case, then we are going to provide you with some steps which hopefully make this a smoother process for you.

Proof of Invention

First, understand that it is not completely necessary to hire a lawyer for this process. Just to be clear. There will be no court, judge or  legal "research phase in this process. In fact, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), which is the department in charge of approving and issuing patents, has rules anyone can follow just fine without a lawyer.

With that in mind, you may still want to take legal precautions while filing for your patent. If you haven't already, a good start would be to develop some sort of record for your invention. This could be a developmental, step-by-step process giving insight on the evolution of your product or even just having descriptions or diagrams that denotes key aspects of your invention. As long as there is some sort of documentation of your invention, you should have what you need. Also, we suggest signing and dating each entry and have two reliable witnesses sign off on this as well. (It is better to be safe than sorry.)

Prepare Then File with the USPTO

In the patent filing process, these are the steps:

  • Making sure your invention qualifies for patent protection
  • Assessing the costs and having the funds
  • Doing a thorough patent search

After checking these steps off of the list, you can then begin the next step which is filling out a Provisional patent application (PPA). This isn't an actual application for the patent itself. Filing a PPA only allows you to claim a patent-pending status. It is a sort of pre-phase process, if you will. It can cost anywhere from $65-$250, depending on the company. And it requires a detailed description of the product, including an informal drawing.

If you decide to file electronically instead, understand that it might be faster to do so by mail, especially if you are only filing one application. But filing online has its advantages too. You get to avoid the mailing system, and you also have the advantage of obtaining instant confirmation of the PTO's receipt of documents.

Conclusion

All in all, there's much to consider when deciding whether o file a patent for your product. Realistically, it depends on exactly what type of product you have created and whether you think a patent is worth it. If money isn't an issue and you don't mind putting in the time and effort, file away; apply for a patent.

Best Law Schools | Top 10 In The U.S.

So you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, or are in the midst of it at a 3/3 program, and law school is on your horizon. A 3/3 program is one offered by some schools which allows students to overlap their first year of law school with their senior year of undergrad, finished undergrad and being awarded their degree at the same time as finishing their first year in law school. Whether you are entering as a 3/3 or a first-year applicant, the best law schools are good to keep your sights on. In this article, we’ll explore a list of 10 of the best law schools in the United States.

 Law School FAQ

Stack of law books

Following is a presentation of commonly asked questions pertaining to law school. We’ll explore what law school it, what opportunities it brings, and also the importance of keeping in mind the cost of law school and the prospect of making money upon finishing it. As we’ll see, the best law schools and the worst law schools alike can cost quite a bit of money–generally over $50,000 annually for three years–so choosing the right institution for you is essential to support your successful law school career.

What Is Law School?

In law school, the student pursues the achievement of a juris doctorate, a JD, meaning they will become a doctor of the law. Law schools come in all shapes and sizes, although generally law schools are broken into two primary categories: ABA-accredited law school, and non-accredited law schools.

It is of course preferable to attend an ABA-accredited law school, as many states require a degree from an ABA-accredited law school for the person to sit for the bar exam: an essential prerequisite to legal practice. Law school is the institution in which all the essential classes are taken to understand how to practice the law.

What Is Studied in Law School?

The law is complex both in the United States and abroad, and in law school the intricacies of the law, whether national, regional, metropolitan, or otherwise, are quite expansive. In the United States, law students focus upon core classes in addition to electives. To quality for ABA-accreditation, schools must require that particular classes be taken by all law students. These include two levels of constitutional law, contracts, torts, and civil procedure, in addition to courses in criminal procedure, legal writing and theory, and legal ethics.

Ethics are particularly important to the legal profession given the power that can be exercised by lawyers. Alongside the ethics course, most states require the prospective lawyer to pass the MPRE, or Multi-state Professional Responsibility Examination. Passage of the exam is generally a pre-requisite to practice in a state, as it shows that the hopeful attorney knows and understands the ethical guidelines that govern the profession.

What Can You Do with a Law Degree?

A JD degree gives you the potential to practice as a lawyer, depending upon the licensing requirements of the state where you wish to work. Some states require you to pass a localized bar exam, while many states require you to pass the UBE, the Uniform Bar Exam, which has been adopted by many states across the nation.

Upon achieving the JD, you can also begin teaching law at certain institutions of higher learning. Undergraduate pre-law classes are often taught by persons with JDs, and sometimes by working lawyers. Having a JD does not by default make one able to practice the law and be a lawyer.

If an individual possesses a JD but has not passed a state bar exam or been licensed to practice law, they can teach law or can practice as in-house counsel. This means that persons with JDs may be hired into corporations to provide advice on legal issues, and since they are working within a company doing this, a license to practice law is not required. A law degree, whether from the best law schools, the mid-tier, or the low-tier law schools, gives one the essential knowledge to pass the bar exam, which is what one must do if they really want to practice law in the courts.

How Do I Become a Lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer is not as simple as achieving a JD from one of the best law schools. The JD must be passed with a sufficiently high grade to sit for the bar exam. The bar exam may be the UBE mentioned above, a state bar exam, or some combination of the two. For example, in Massachusetts a hopeful lawyer must have a JD from an ABA-accredited law school, have taken and passed the MPRE, have letters of recommendation, and also take a Massachusetts bar component exam which consists of 50 state-specific questions.

How Important Is Going to the Best Law Schools?

The importance of attending one of the best law schools depends entirely upon your goals. If you would like to work in a major city with a large corporate law firm, going to a prestigious law school with a strong name will help you gain the position you desire. At a top corporate law firm in Boston, a graduate of Harvard University is more likely to gain access to an entry-level position than would someone who attended a state university’s law school anywhere in the United States. Consider what kinds of clients you’d prefer to serve, and if the answer is global corporations, then choosing the best law schools will help.

Going to the best law schools for the self-employed is far less important. To open a law firm, one need only have a license to practice law in the state they intend upon opening a firm. Given that bar exams all test the same content, passing the bar exam is the same achievement regardless of what law school the student attended. If smaller legal practice outside the corporate world is your desired area of practice, the best law schools will add to the prestige of the degree on your wall but won’t necessarily add more to your wallet.

How We Reviewed

people studying in the library

In the review of the best law schools in the United States, we have focused upon the curriculum and quality, the pros and cons of each university, and the cost of a law degree. As noted below, the cost of a law degree from the best law schools can vary widely. It is important to remember that our review of a law school will be objective, but your decision is entirely subjective. Choosing the best law school for you will be a decision made through a combination of considering the school’s curriculum, as well as the culture, location, and staff; so make sure to take your time and check out schools before deciding.

Overall Price Range of the Best Law Schools

open doors along the corridor of a school

The overall price range of a law degree from the best law schools will generally be somewhere around $50,000 annually for academics, in addition to the cost of living. This is given that no scholarships or grants are received. Scholarships may be awarded to persons based upon membership or demographics, application to particular programs, or achieving victory in particular competitions.

What We Reviewed

School

University of California — Berkeley
University of Virginia
University of Michigan — Ann Arbor
University of Pennsylvania
New York University
Columbia University (NY)
University of Chicago (IL)
Harvard University (MA)
Stanford University (CA)
Yale University (CT)

University of California — Berkeley

Curriculum

A pristine Northern California campus with the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros 

 Cons

  • Very low acceptance rate of 23%
  • Bar passage rate of 83.1%
Tuition

Just over $19,000 for in-state residents, and a little over $32,000 for non-residents. Note that here and for all other schools explored, the cost of living is not included, and this can be substantial depending upon the locale.

University of Virginia

Curriculum

A traditional curriculum that achieves an 87.9 percent employment rate at graduation, with a professional assessment of 4.4.

Pros

  • Excellent employment rate at graduation
  • 90.3% employed 10 months after graduation
  • 93.2% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Virginia is not California
Tuition

About $47,900 for in-state and $52,900 for out-of-state students.

University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

Curriculum

In the aquatic Ann Arbor region, this school has a 7.3/1 student-to-faculty ration for the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros

  • 97.9% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Somewhat high student-to-faculty ratio compared to the competition
Tuition

Around $57,000 for in-state and $60,500 for out-of-state students.

University of Pennsylvania

Curriculum

The traditional law school curriculum with an overall score of 89/100 by CNBC.

Pros

  • 97.6% bar passage rate
  • 94.5% employed at graduation rate

 Cons

  • Low acceptance rate of 18%
Tuition

The tuition here is around $47,600 for everyone.

New York University

Curriculum

A strong traditional legal curriculum with an entering undergraduate body with average 3.66+ GPAs.

Pros 

  • 97.3% bar passage rate
  • 27% acceptance rate

 Cons

  • Lower employment rates at graduation than some competitors
Tuition

Tuition at this institution is about $64,000, making it one of the most expensive we’ve explored.

Columbia University (NY)

Curriculum

Columbia offers a classic legal curriculum in a historic setting that supports learning.

Pros 

  • A bargain for the level of prestige
  • 96.1% bar passage rate

 Cons

  • No in-state discount
Tuition

The tuition at Columbia is about $56,000.

University​ of Chicago (IL)

Curriculum

The windy city’s premiere legal curriculum with strong corporate opportunities.

Pros 

  • 97.7% bar passage rate
  • 95.3% employed at graduation

 Cons

  • Very high average entering GPA of 3.73-3.95
Tuition

In Chicago at this institution you’ll pay around $62,000 each year.

Harvard University (MA)

Curriculum

Harvard is the most classic of legal curriculums available in the United States at the historic campus in Cambridge.

Pros 

  • Beautiful campus and surrounding environment
  • The nation’s most prestigious law school

 Cons

  • 91.6% employed at graduation
Tuition

The cost at Harvard is about $64,000 for each of the three years of law school.

Stanford University (CA)

Curriculum

Stanford provides a nationally respected traditional legal curriculum sufficient to sit for the UBE.

Pros 

  • 4/1 student-to-faculty ratio
  • 91.3% employed at graduation
  • Low cost of tuition

 Cons

  • Lower bar passage rate than the competition at 91%
Tuition

At just about $47,500, Stanford is one of the cheapest private best law schools.

Yale University (CT)

Curriculum

Of the best law schools, Yale’s traditional curriculum is ranked at the top of the nation.

Pros 

  • 99% bar passage rate
  • 4.2/1 student-to-faculty ratio

 Cons

  • Low employment at graduation rate of 83.3%
  • Low employment at 10 months after graduation rate of 83.3%
Tuition

Students pay around $62,000 a year for law school at Yale.

The Verdict

Of the law schools reviewed, the costs vary substantially, while the curriculums are largely the same. The decision to attend one of the best law schools is something that is entirely personal and something you decide upon after considering your goals with your law degree. Stanford was the best combination of pricing, prestige, and ranking, at around $47,000 and ranked at number 2 in our list of the top 10 best law schools. Harvard may have the highest prestige, yet is ranked in at #3, and while Yale is ranked at #1, it has one of the worst employment at graduation rates of the schools reviewed.

Spending over $250,000 to acquire a JD if you intend upon practicing in a small town with a limited number of clients can be a financially ruinous decision. Spending $250,000 to acquire a JD if you will work for a corporation earning $300,000 annually is an investment that is entirely worthwhile. Consider what works for you, and be prepared to study.

For more information on lawyers, law school, and other related matters, check back to Lawyer Search for ongoing updates and articles.

Things To Know Before Signing A Non Compete Agreement

When you find a new job, you must sign a contract before you officially start working. The contract covers the terms of the employment, including issues like salary along with the duties and responsibilities. However, the employer may also need you to sign a non compete agreement. If you didn't sign such an agreement when you started working, you might notice that your employer pressures you to sign the agreement when you are being promoted or getting a pay raise.

Signing the non compete agreement is beneficial for employers as it helps them protect their businesses as it bars employees from starting a similar business. All types of businesses can benefit. So what is a non compete agreement? This content highlights what this agreement is, whether there is a need for signing it and things you should know before signing it.

What Is a Non Compete Agreement?

A non compete agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee that prohibits the employee from engaging in a business that competes with the employer's business for a certain time period and within a certain locality, which is specified in the agreement. Even though the employer cannot force you to sign it, they may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign the contract. Note:  courts are not usually supportive of non compete agreements; they will consider factors pertinent to the case to determine whether this kind of an agreement is reasonable.

Therefore, if you are negotiating a non compete agreement with your employer, we recommend you to ensure that it is limited only to aspects necessary for the employer’s protection. You should also ask for severance payment when terminated under such circumstances. The non compete agreement, which is a protective mechanism for the employer from the undue competition by an employee, can also be referred to as a "restrictive covenant" or a "covenant not to compete." The contract is common these days when applying for jobs and in contracts involving the sale of businesses.

The main purpose of the contract is to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain time period. If you sign it, you agree that you won’t compete with your employer by engaging in any business similar to that of your employer, as an independent contractor, employee, significant investor, part owner or whatever other forms of competition your employer identifies and includes in the contract.

Non Compete Agreement Elements

Non Compete Agreement Elements

The contract is typically state-governed and does not fall in the federal law jurisdiction. The non compete agreement covers these elements:

  • The traditional "covenant not to compete" prohibits the employee from joining a competing businesses during a certain period and within a specific geographical location.
  • Non-solicitation agreements bar approaching clients, poaching employees or wooing former employer’s supplies.
  • A confidentiality agreement, also known as a nondisclosure, bars the use or revelation of information of former employers to new employers. The information could include client lists, marketing plans and product formulations.

Is There a Need for Non Compete Agreements?

BUSINESS MEETING

The non compete agreement will legally bind employers and employees. It is important as it prevents the employee from competing with his or her employer after he or she is terminated, for a specified period in a certain locality. Employers benefit from the contract since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position held in the company or business and taking a new position, which presumably pays better, in a competitor's firm. Once the employee joins the competitor firm, he or she can pass on valuable information gained while working for the previous employer. This information can be used to gain a competitive advantage, which is deemed unfair.

As such, by making sure that the employee signs the agreement, an employer protects the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. It is also a viable strategy to retain talented and experienced employees from making a move to competitor firms. This allows the employer to benefit longer from its investment in providing a valuable training to staff. However, the agreement cannot include limitations on the employee’s right to earn a living and move on when he or she leaves the current employer.

Employers not using the non compete agreements should consider doing so. There are many benefits of ensuring that the employees sign the agreement. It is free and easily available to download off the internet. However, there are some demerits associated with the agreement since research has established that the non compete agreement can limit job mobility, discourage venture-capital investments and accelerate talent flight.

Provide Information on Non Compete Agreements

contract SIGNING

What Should Be Included

For the agreement to be legally valid, it should:

  • Have an intention to protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets or retaining valuable customers
  • Be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction
  • Be supported by consideration, such as money

5 Things Courts Look For To Establish The Reasonability Of The Agreement

courtroom

The court establishes the reasonability of the contract based on the following points:

  1. The potential harm to the employers. The agreement should establish the potential harm to the employer's business. 
  2. The specified time period. The reasonability depends on the nature of the job. For instance, a manufacturing business can have a period of about a year. For yoga instructors, it can be three to six months.
  3. The banned territory. This may be as far as ten miles away from the previous employer for a hair salon but a three-state area could be reasonable for a business or sales manager.
  4. Impact on the employee. Signing the agreement doesn’t mean that the employer will not work for the remainder of his or her life. It is not reasonable for the employer to deprive the employee of making a living or forcing a relocation. Courts typically consider this point more than the others.
  5. Interests of the general public. The contracts should not stifle competition to the point of creating a monopoly.

Courts do not honor provisions that are deemed as unreasonable, a point that is established when negotiating for such contracts. This again depends on the state in question and the court used for such proceedings.

Contract Negotiation

Signature

Employers should first focus on what they need to accomplish. If the employer is the owner of a local small business, you might ask where the contract came from. If it was downloaded from the internet, it is likely to include inapplicable clauses so it is best that you discuss point by point in the spirit that the resulting clauses will benefit you and doesn’t comprise excess baggage. This means that the parties involved should know the benefits and demerits.

The agreement binds both parties. As an employee, you need to ask for assurance in the contract that as you gain experience, you will receive promotions and pay raises so you are not stuck at your entry-level salary as the contract can trap you. Even if your employer is a large corporation, you’re entitled to negotiation. If the employer is not willing to negotiate, you’re free to walk away.

Always consult a lawyer to look into the contract document so that if there are any issues that are not in your favor, he or she can explain them to you and offer advice. You might also want to consult a lawyer if the employer wants you to sign the agreement as a condition for getting severance when being terminated. The situation is even more delicate when being offered a promotion or pay raise. Some states may require an add-on, such as more vacation when signing the contract if you're getting this raise or promotion.

You need to watch out for lawyer fees since some contracts stipulate that the employees pay for the legal fees of the company. Note that how the employer negotiates with you before signing the agreement can be an indicator of how you’ll be treated when employed. Therefore, you might be wary of employers who include too many clauses in the agreement that don't favor you as an employee.

Conclusion

A non compete agreement prohibits employees from engaging in a business that competes with his or her current or former boss’s business. For the contract to be valid, it must protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets. It should also be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction and must be supported by consideration, such as money. Again, both parties have to sign it for a court to recognize it. The non compete agreement falls under state jurisdiction.

You should note that the employer cannot force you to sign the non compete agreement but may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign it. It's mainly intended to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain period.
 
It is vital for employers since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position and helps protect the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. Some employers may use it as a strategy to keep talented and experienced employees from making a move to the competitor firm.

For employees:  before signing the contract, always consult a lawyer to look into the contract and provide advice. We hope this article has adequately addressed what a non compete agreement is and whether there is a need for signing it.

Guide To Residential Lease Agreements

The time has finally arrived; you are moving out of your parents' home and into your first apartment. Or maybe this isn't your first move to a new rental home. Either way, you are over-the-top excited. You are packed, pretty much, and ready to go. There's just one more thing you have to take care of. You have to go and sign your residential lease agreement.

What, you are asking yourself, exactly is a residential lease agreement? Sure, you know it's your lease, but do you really need to sign one? Just how important is a residential lease agreement, anyway? How will you ever understand all that legalese? Let's see if we can help.

What Is a Residential Lease Agreement?

A residential lease agreement is the commonly used legal document between landlords and tenants. While they can adapt this lease agreement to meet the specific needs of landlords, it still must follow all applicable state regulations and contain all the required legal disclosures. The lease agreement establishes the rules that will be followed by both the tenant and the landlord.

You may also see a residential lease agreement written under one of these other names:

  • Renters Agreement
  • Apartment Lease Agreement
  • Basic Rental Agreement
  • House Lease Agreement

When to Sign a Residential Lease Agreement

residential house

You should sign a lease agreement if you will be renting any property that is considered livable. A livable property could include an apartment, a townhouse, a house, a mobile home, a condo, or even a single room. The lease will set the term, or the length of time you will live at the property, which is usually one year.

Who Should Sign a Residential Lease Agreement

signing an agreement

A lease agreement should be signed by every adult who will living at the rental property. Each adult should be considered a tenant and be held responsible for an equal share of the rent, deposit, and any related fees. Each person is also equally responsible for the care and maintenance of the rental property.

Is There a Need for a Residential Lease Agreement?

document needs signature

The residential lease agreement puts the responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant in writing. This helps to keep confrontations to a minimum and, hopefully, helps to avoid any legal headaches. Both parties are protected by this legal document should a dispute arise. Below are some commonly disputed areas between landlords and tenants.

Repairs and Maintenance

man cleaning the yard

Perhaps one of the biggest areas of misunderstanding between landlords and tenants is who is responsible for certain repairs and maintenance. This will be clearly defined in the lease agreement, and should be followed by both parties to limit confusion. If you are unsure if you are permitted to make a repair, contact your landlord first. Repairs and permanent changes, such as installing new cabinets or painting walls, should never be done by tenants without their landlord's approval.

Generally speaking, the tenant is responsible for keeping the property neat, clean and presentable. Also, he or she is responsible for repairing or paying for the repair of any damage caused by his or her own neglect. The tenant must notify the landlord if a major repair is needed.

The landlord is responsible for maintaining the safety and integrity of the property. He or she must repair any dangerous living condition and fix defective areas such as plumbing, major appliances (if included with the property) and heating and air conditioning. The landlord must inform the tenant of how to request a repair and how the repair will be handled.

Deposits and Fees

safe

The end of the term has arrived, and that means that the question of what is to be done with the security deposit has come up. The standard security deposit on residential lease agreements is equal to one month's rent and is paid and the beginning of the lease. The lease agreement will state any reasons why the security deposit will not be refunded, for example, to pay for damage done to the property. It will state how long after the lease is ended, the landlord may hold the deposit before refunding it to allow for inspection of the property. The lease will also state whether or not the security deposit can be applied towards the last month's rent, which is not usually the case.

Fees can include a charge for a returned check, along with late payment fees. Cleaning fees may be applied at the end of the lease to pay for professional cleaning, and this will be clearly written in the lease agreement. Many landlords also charge a pet fee for those tenants who wish to bring their pet with them. This fee is to cover any potential, additional cleaning that may be required due to the presence of the pet. It will detail the amounts of the various fees in the lease agreement at the time it is signed.

Rent

real estate

The amount of rent for the term of the lease agreement will be agreed upon at the time the lease is signed. This amount cannot be arbitrarily changed by the landlord during the lease. The lease agreement will state the due date, acceptable forms of payment, and if there is a grace period. It will also specify if payment is to be made by mail, in person, or if either way is acceptable.

Landlord Entry

person signing a document

The residential lease agreement will specify the landlord's right to enter to property. The lease agreement will indicate whether the tenant needs to be present when the landlord enters. In most cases, the landlord has the right to enter the property in the absence of the tenant. It will state the amount of notice the landlord is required to give the tenant prior to entering the property.

FAQ'S on Residential Lease Agreements

document and a pen

What is the Difference Between a Month-to-Month and a Fixed-Term Lease?

Will I Have to Pay My Utilities?

Can I Move Someone in With Me?

Can I Have a Pet?

What if I Get a New Job During the Lease?

What if I Get an Eviction Notice?

Conclusion

Residential lease agreements are important for the landlord and for the tenant. They provide the guidelines for both parties to follow to ensure a positive landlord/tenant relationship. They also provide legal protection to both parties should an irreconcilable dispute arise.  So, now that you know more about residential lease agreements, you should have an easier time understanding yours when you go to sign it.  Still, be sure to ask questions about anything and everything that you want clarified. Residential lease agreements can vary slightly from landlord to landlord, read carefully, make yourself informed, and be sure to understand the fine print before you sign.

Then, enjoy your new apartment. There's nothing quite like having a place you can call your own. Even if it is stacked high with boxes and kind of cluttered right now.

How To Change Your Name After Marriage: The Legal Process

Did you recently get married? If so, congratulations! Before you put that pen away after writing all those thank-you notes, there is one more thing to make your union official. It is important to know how to change your name after marriage.

If you're interested in changing your last name to reflect your spouse's, then this is the guide for you.  There is not a lot to remember on how to change your name after marriage, but there are some documents that you will need to bring with you. Some of these steps you can do ahead of time to make sure it goes smoothly, and whatever you do, don't panic because you do have some grace time to make the transition, but it's best to start as soon as you can.

3 Ways to Change Your Name

Each state has different processes when it comes to changing one's name. You won't need to know all of these, but as a reference, they are included here. While none of these are complicated, there are certain documents that are needed to verify your identity. You will only need to focus on the marriage license section, for it is the one that will show you how to change your name after marriage.

Utilizing the Court System

pointing out on document for signature

The first and most popular option is to go through the courts and get your married name approved by a judge. This is for anyone that wants to change their own name. It is not just for those that wish to only change it due to marriage.

Using It Repeatedly

man pointing to himself infront of a woman

Another form of changing one's name is constantly using the name you wish and being recognized by it. It is not approved in some states, so you should check first in your own before doing so.

Marriage License

man signing papers

This is the one that will be what you will use to help get your name changed. It is a certificate that you signed at your marriage. It required both of your signatures and also those that witnessed as well as the marriage officiant.

Why You Should Learn How to Change Your Name After Marriage

It is important that you follow these procedures for they will prevent any legal ramifications in your future. We all have busy lives, and a newly married couple is the busiest of all. They are learning how to function as a married couple and do not need any additional interference while doing so. By learning how to change your name after marriage, it will keep undue stress off your new marriage.

Especially in this time of identity fraud, it is important not to have alternative identities causing confusion. In America, it is very important that you can prove who you are and keep your affairs registered under a legal name to avoid being questioned or accused of wrongdoing. Someone could use your maiden name and build up debt obligations while you are living your life under your married name. When people steal another's identity, it can cause a number of problems, and the credit bureau will have a hard time sorting things out if you don't have legal documents to back you up. That's bad enough, but also at risk is your credit score and long-term financial health.

In other instances, you can consider the woman who didn't change her identity properly after she was married and was regularly stopped at airline security when she traveled. Usually, it worked out, but think of the relief knowing you are traveling with the correct legal ID and are able to present it without any hesitation. Also, you'll find it difficult to complete simple transactions like when moving into a new home and having to transfer the utility or water accounts. Again, here we find that handling this matter properly and promptly makes for a much more pleasant and successful transition.

Legal Requirements on How to Change Your Name After Marriage

You must make sure that you meet all legal requirements before submitting a name change. This will ensure that you have all the legal points in and not create any problems later.

Permanent Address

Fraudulent Name Change

Proper Court

Who to Notify After Your Name Change

couple holding hand while walking

There are several other places that you will need to contact once you have your marriage certificate. Remember, that you will need the original marriage certificate and no copies. The original one has the raised seal. This is a vital step on how to change your name after marriage; not having it will hold up the entire process.

Social Security Department

DMV

Local Post Office

Internal Revenue Service

Correct Your Voter Information

Banks and Other Debtors

Passport and Other Legal Papers

Utility and Electric Bills

Update Your Airline

Conclusion

woman laying on autumn leaves

Not having a lot of stress is the key after one gets married. We want to keep living our happily ever after for as long as we can. By learning how to change your name after marriage, we are ensuring that no unwanted surprises will come your way. It is best to take care of the legal requirements right away and get your marriage license so that you can apply for the changes to your accounts, credit cards, and all other necessary documents. Once this is all done, you can breathe easier and enjoy your new life with a new name.  

How to Become A US Citizen: Understanding The Legal Process

U.S. Citizenship has become a hot topic in the media, especially with the controversy over immigration and the refugee crisis. Millions of people worldwide dream of becoming a citizen of the United States, lured by the ideals of the American dream and full of hope for expanded possibilities. However, the actual process involved for how to become a US citizen is complicated and extensive, with numerous requirements to fulfill. There are a few different paths that an immigrant can take depending on his or her life circumstances.

Becoming a citizen of the United States gives immigrants many new opportunities, but there is great difficulty and complexity in learning how to become a US citizen and all the legalities involved. While the smartest move is probably to get an immigration lawyer to help you navigate the laws, here is some general information to give you an idea of what's involved, as you seek to learn how to become a US citizen.

4 Ways to Become a US Citizen

If you have been following recent politics or come into contact with immigrants, you may have wondered how to become a US citizen. There are four main paths to citizenship, each of which has different rules and requirements. There are typically many steps along the journey, and it can take many years: a fact that can be discouraging for those striving to become a citizen. It is also necessary to prove that the incoming immigrant is a moral person who plans on being a contributor to, rather than a leech upon, society.

How to Become a US Citizen: Naturalization

USA flag

One way to obtain citizenship is through naturalization, the legal process that an immigrant or foreign citizen must go through to become a U.S. citizen. There are certain requirements that an applicant must complete, including the completion of an application, attending an interview, and passing English and civics test. Once these steps have been completed, the applicant takes an oath of allegiance and is accepted as a U.S. citizen. These criteria help to ensure that only genuinely committed immigrants become citizens of the United States.

The first step in becoming a naturalized citizen through naturalization is obtaining a green card, which means that you are a legal permanent resident of the United States. This allows you to work and live in the United States freely. You may obtain a green card if you:

  • have a relative living legally in the United States
  • receive a job offer in the United States
  • have lived legally in the United States as a refugee or asylum seeker for a year
statue of liberty

Relatives living legally in the States can immediately sponsor a spouse, child under 21 years of age, or parent. If the U.S. citizen wants to sponsor a sibling or child over 21 years of age, the wait time is much longer: typically a few years. Those with a job offer can petition themselves for a green card or ask their employer to do so. This strategy of obtaining U.S. citizenship is a popular route, but it can take a long time.

How to Become a US Citizen: Marriage

wedding rings

Another viable option for receiving U.S. citizenship is through marriage. To use this route, you must apply for a green card by submitting the Form I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative, which establishes the relationship between the immigrant and the resident. You must show evidence of the marriage with official documents such as a marriage certificate.

If the immigrant spouse lives with the U.S. citizen already, they can adjust their status as the Form I-130 is being completed. The other form to submit is the Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status, which can be turned in with the Form I-130. If the immigrant spouse lives outside of the United States, they must wait to acquire a visa and then have an interview at a consulate or embassy. Once the spouse is accepted as a citizen of the U.S., they can file to adjust status with Form I-485.

How to Become a US Citizen: Parents

mother and daughter

Some immigrants achieve U.S. citizenship through having parents who legally live in the U.S. The parents must be married to each other and have physically lived in a state or territory of the U.S. for at least five years before the child in question is born. Two of those five years must have been after the parent was 14 years old, and the child's birthdate needs to be on or after November 14, 1986. One exception to the five year rule is if the U.S. citizen parent spent time serving in the American armed forces or worked for the U.S. government.

Another way to gain citizenship through parents is through adoption. Parents must have legal custody of the child in question, and they must have lived with the child in the United States for at least two years. It is necessary for the child to be accepted into the United States as an orphan or conventional adoptee. The child must be adopted outside of the United States before turning 18 years old.

How to Become a US Citizen: Military Service

soldier lending his hand to two young boys

If you serve in the United States military and are wondering how to become a US citizen, you can be eligible to apply for naturalization if you complete some of the requirements that apply to the five-year green card holders. Along with serving in the military, applicants must prove certain aspects about themselves to show that they will be a benefit to American society.

They must show that they are a person of good moral standing, have not been convicted of any serious crimes, pay taxes, pay any child support they might owe, and are overall viewed as a positive community member. In addition, they must be literate in English and understand the basics of U.S. history and government.

The requirements for applicants to achieve citizenship through the military vary depending on if the country is at war or at peace. A person serving during a period of hostility may apply for naturalization immediately as long as they complete their military service honorably. For applicants who serve in the military during peacetime, the applicant must serve for at least one year and get a green card. Those serving during peacetime must apply while still in military service or within six months of ending that service.

Do You Need an Immigration Attorney?

hammer and book of justice

If you are unsure of the next steps or qualifications after researching how to become us citizen, it is a good idea to find an immigration attorney. If you have already attempted to become a citizen and discovered that you were ineligible, it's time to ask an attorney to determine how to fix your situation. If you have issues with your record regarding a criminal past or difficulty paying taxes or child support, discuss with your immigration attorney how to solve this problem.

If you are unsure if you meet the requirements for naturalization, or you believe that you should receive an exception, you may be able to fix your situation with the help of an attorney.

Personal & Residential Requirements & Other Helpful Information

business man speaking on the phone while dotting on some notes

Another requirement for naturalization is being fingerprinted, which involves making an appointment with the USCIS, getting your fingerprints taken, and mailing additional documents if necessary. The next step involves being interviewed and tested, a part of the process that can be time consuming and stress inducing for immigrants.

You must make an appointment, bring your identification, answer questions about your background, and take your English and civic tests. After passing all of your tests and interviews, you are expected to take the last step: the oath of allegiance. To complete this phase, applicants must check in to a ceremony, return the Permanent Resident Card, answer questions about your whereabouts since you completed your interview, and take the oath.

Conclusion

The process of is long and complicated, full of steps that require planning and persistence. The United States takes citizenship very seriously, since being a citizen of our country is seen as a great privilege and a way to gain access to many opportunities. To become a part of our country, you must demonstrate that you have earned this right through your upstanding moral character and willingness to persist through the many steps of the citizenship process.  The United States is full of diverse and talented people, many of whom have come from afar to find a better life or to escape struggles back home. Part of the beauty of this country is its blend of different experiences and cultures. The phrase "melting pot" was aptly chosen as a description of American society.  The keys to becoming a US citizen are to be determined to contribute meaningfully to society, to have the diligence to follow through on all the application process requirements, and possibly to get an attorney to help you. Most immigrants who have attained their citizenship through this kind of hard work and determination will tell you that the process is well worth it.

How To Get Power Of Attorney: Everything You Need To Know

The question of how to get power of attorney is an important one, and it’s one you should ask yourself. Do you need a power of attorney for any reason? Do you need to issue a power of attorney for anything? There might not seem to be much reason right now for you to give power to someone else in a legal capacity, but you may not be aware of the many reasons a power of attorney is necessary for your everyday life. It’s time to learn what it is, what it means, and how it can protect you in the rare instance you are unable to make a decision on your own.

How to get power of attorney is simple. Contact an attorney, create a power of attorney for any necessary reason, and allow someone else to make legal, medical, or financial decisions on your part at any time you are unable to do so for yourself. Before you sign a power of attorney allowing someone else to do anything for you, however, understand what you are signing and what it means. It’s a binding legal document, and you must be aware of what it means to you and your family before you sign the dotted line.

What Is Power of Attorney and What Does It Do?

Before you learn how to get power of attorney, let's understand what it is. It’s a legal document that provides power to you or to someone of your choice to make legal, financial, or medical decisions in the instance you or someone else is unable to do so. If you become incapacitated and cannot make legal, financial, or medical decisions, the person you hand over power of attorney to has the right to make those decisions on your behalf. This form is very specific, and it does not simply provide someone with the power to make all your legal, financial, or medical decisions if not specifically stated on the power of attorney legal document.

Choosing A Power of Attorney

Before you learn how to get power of attorney, you must learn how to choose your power of attorney. This person is making major life decisionsin your absence, either physically or mentally, and you must be able to trust this person. It’s best to provide a power of attorney to multiple people, in multiple instances, to ensure the best decisions are being made.

You should choose someone who meets the following requirements.

  • Trustworthy
  • Responsible
  • Wise
  • Careful
  • Considerate
  • Intelligent
  • Has your best interests at heart

Choosing someone to hand over power attorney to is a careful decision. This person is capable of making decisions on your behalf when you cannot. If they make the wrong decision, will you be able to survive that decision? Most people choose a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or even their personal attorney to stand as their power of attorney.

Reasons You May Need Power of Attorney

agreement of 2 people

Before you learn how to get power of attorney, you should know why you might need one.

  • To make medical decisions
  • You are going on a trip
  • You are leaving your kids with a loved one while traveling
  • You are being deployed
  • You are planning for a specific event

There is no limit to the number of reasons you might need a power of attorney.

Medical Reasons

If you ask someone to become a power of attorney for medical reasons, it might be for more than one reason. For example, you might ask them to make medical decisions because you are going under the knife, and you want someone to be there to make medical decisions in case you cannot.

On another note, you might have a medical power of attorney in case something happens. Having someone around to make your legal medical decisions in case something unexpected happens to you in the future and you become incapacitated is not a bad idea. For example, if you are injured in a car accident you didn’t see coming, having a medical power of attorney helps you when you are unable to make your own medical decisions.

You Are Active Military

Not only do you need a power of attorney when you are in the military for medical reasons, but you also need it for financial reasons. For example, let’s say you are deployed, but you and your spouse are also selling your home. If that sale goes through, you cannot be home to sign the paperwork at closing. You need to have a power of attorney present to sign on your behalf. Your attorney or your spouse make a good power of attorney choice for a situation like this one.

You Are Traveling

Whether you’re just on a trip around the world or you’re in the Caribbean for a long weekend, you need a power of attorney for several reasons. The first is in case something happens, and you need someone to have access to your financial records when you are away. You never know what might happen while traveling, and you never know when you need access to more funds you can only get in person.

The other reason this is a good idea is that you have children, and they’re home with a grandparent or relative. If something happens to your child while you are away, you need to provide the power of attorney to the person who is keeping them to make quick medical decisions. The last thing you want is to be out of the country or too far away to get to the hospital in a timely manner when your child needs medical attention, and there is no one there with the power to provide permission.

Types of Power of Attorney

man signing in a document

Now that you know why you might need a power of attorney, you must know what kind you need. There are four major types of power of attorney. Getting to know each one is important. It’s also imperative you learn that you might need more than just one for various reasons.

Springing Power of Attorney

When decided how to get power of attorney in your life, you should know about this one. It’s designed to give power to someone else only when a specific instance occurs. For example, you are incapacitated and unable to make a decision on your own.

Durable Power of Attorney

This is a power of attorney used for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter what it is for, only that you must sign documents when you want to revoke this power of attorney. It is a long-term legal matter.

Medical Power of Attorney

This type of power of attorney is used when you are unable to make sound decisions. It’s not necessarily a document that allows someone to make medical decisions. It’s used when you are no longer of sound mind and body, which renders you incapable of making decisions on your own.

Conventional Power of Attorney

This is called a limited power of attorney because it’s specific. You only give the power to make a very specific decision in a very specific situation. For example, you sign this stating the power of attorney can sign on the sale of your home only if you are on a plane without cellular service at the time of closing. If every detail is not accounted for, the power of attorney is not valid.

How to Get Power of Attorney

power attorney

How to get a power of attorney is simple, but you must follow a certain number of steps. It’s important you don’t miss any steps because you can hinder your ability to get the power of attorney. First, you must talk to the person you want to become your power of attorney. They are okay with must agree to be the responsible party in your specific situation. They will be required to sign the legal document as well.

The next step is to determine the type of power of attorney you need. You can print a form from the Internet, or you can speak to your attorney about this. Now, check with the state in which you live to find out what the requirements are when learning how to get power of attorney for your specific situation. If you want to be sure your document is as legal and binding as possible, simply call your attorney. Once you have the form, you and the person you choose to be your agent must sign it. Notarizing the form is helpful, too. Now, make copies and provide it to the person you chose, keep one for yourself, and give one to your attorney or put it in a safe deposit box or safe.

Conclusion

the power attorney

How to get a power of attorney is easy, but it’s figuring out what kind you need, how to word it, and how to ensure it’s legally binding without any question that’s the difficult part. You must know what you need, and you must ensure that your document is carefully worded to ensure that it conveys the message you are trying to send. Call an attorney to help you with your power of attorney if you’re unsure what you’re doing. Legal matters are always best handled when you know you’re making the correct decisions that will be legal and binding.