ALERT: Fake Check Scam Reminder

Over the past several months, we have sent out a couple of alerts to remind our friends, family, clients, Realtors, investors and colleagues of the Fake Check Scam.

How the Scam Works:
The perpetrator of the scam sends you a large cashier’s check supposedly for the purchase of real property, escrow money, etc. You deposit the check. A few days later, the perpetrator contacts you to request that you send all or some of the money back because either they have changed their mind or need the money back for an emergency. You wire the funds as requested. Several days or weeks later, you find out that the check was fake and now your bank account is short by the amount you wired to the scammer.

The scammers don’t always use cashier’s checks. The scam has involved fake law firm trust account checks, fake corporate checks, and others. Many times, the fake check is mailed from Canada, and the “client” asks you to return the funds via wire to somewhere in Asia.

How to Avoid Being Scammed:
If you receive a large cashier’s check, verify with your bank and the issuing bank that the check is real before depositing it into your trust account. Contact the issuing bank by email or phone, but do not use contact information from the check. Better yet, refuse to accept large checks and insist that funds be wired to your account. Do not disburse any funds until you are positive that the check is real and that you have collected funds in your account.

How to Report the Scam:
If you would like to report the attempted scam to the authorities you are encouraged to make a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov. Even if you did not fall for the scam, and have not suffered a loss, the FBI is interested in your facts. They may not be able to investigate every case, but they will compile the information and look for trends and common perpetrators.

Source: The Fund- Attorneys Title; helping protect their agents.

What is the Purpose of a Power of Attorney in Estate Planning?

There are many aspects to consider when planning your estate such as living wills, last will and testaments, trusts, beneficiaries, and so on. While all of these moving parts work together to create a successful estate plan, the power of attorney (“POA”) is one of the most significant of them all. This is because without this document, many of your assets may go unprotected in the event that you cannot manage things on your own.

If a POA is not named, and you are in an unstable condition, you will not have access to your assets unless they go through a guardianship proceeding with the courts. These proceedings can be very costly and time consuming, and you do not have the freedom to choose who that guardian may be. Appointing a power of attorney gives you this protection, and also allows you to take advantage of tax reduction.

A Power of attorney is always necessary, even in the case of joint ownership. These laws have changed dramatically within the last ten years, and documentation must be updated and checked on regularly to make sure they are in alignment with the new legislation. Call us at Gulati Law for a free legal checkup to find out the status of your estate plan and what we can do to ensure a smooth process.

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Sale Pending: Can I Still Make An Offer?

In the world of online real estate searches, it can be easy to fall in love with a house before realizing that the property reads “pending sale”. Many homebuyers see a listing and assume that the property is unavailable, when in actuality that may not be the case. “Sale pending” can mean a few different things depending on how the market works for your area.

Understanding the basic real estate transaction process helps to understand what exactly a pending sale means. When someone chooses to buy a home, they make an offer “contingent upon” certain factors. This can be the completion of a property inspection, a bank appraisal, or loan approval. If there is an issue with the inspection or the buyer cannot get financial backing, the buyer has a right to exit the contract. After an offer has been made, the buyer typically has about 3 weeks to get the inspection, appraisal, and the loan approval.

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Although the sale is not a “done deal,” the seller is not able to enter any agreements with another buyer while these processes are being completed. Another buyer, however, is able to submit a “backup offer.” A backup offer functions as a backup plan in case the first offer falls though and the transaction never takes place. Some listings classified as “sale pending” may include transactions where all contingencies have been removed. This means the buyer’s loan has been approved and both the inspection and appraisal have taken place. In this case, the only thing left would be to move toward closing. This may take up to a few weeks, and technically the sale is still pending.

Even though all contingencies have been removed, there is still a slight chance that  the buyer may exit the deal. The buyer will not become the owner until the property is closed and the deed is recorded. Until this happens, a buyer may still need to back out in a case of emergency or if they risk losing the earnest money deposit. Falling in love with a pending property may not mean a dead-end for you. Find out about the status of the property and whether or not it is possible to make an offer at this point. You may also want to find out more information such as if they buyer has had any previous inspections and if there have been any real issues thus far.

The best thing to do when a home you are interested in is pending is to put that property on the back burner and keep up your search. If you truly would like to pursue the home, make your interest known and find out the information you need. The only next step is to wait and see what happens with the current sale.

Source: Zillow Blog

Going Into Business with a Partner – A Must Read!

So you have decided to join forces with someone who shares your vision and passion to start a new venture.  Before coming up with a business plan, marketing strategies, and services offered, it is important to lay some groundwork and draw up a Florida Partnership Agreement, Florida Bylaws, or a Florida Operating Agreement depending on the type of business entity you form.  Although it is not legally necessary to have such a document, the Partnership Agreement along with other preliminary steps discussed in this article will potentially irradiate issues or conflicts arising from poor planning.

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This first thing to discuss with your partner is the tasks and roles that each of you will be responsible for.  How well do your abilities complement each other?  If one is better at keeping track of finances and records, the other may take over sales and marketing.  Get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, past experience, and expertise.  Make sure you both feel comfortable expressing your needs and expectations for your business from the very beginning.  Ask questions about values, goals, and motivations to make sure you are on the same page before moving forward.  You might want to try working together on a smaller project or plan a trip to focus on understanding your chemistry and how you deal with certain situations on a small scale.

Once you feel confident to move forward, the absolute next step is the written agreement.  Your document should include the roles and responsibilities of the partners, exit clauses, compensation, investments, and ownership, among others, depending on the terms.  Use this as an opportunity to outline the business terms and establish weekly, monthly, and yearly routines for partners, managers, and staff.  Defining each detail about your business and the documents, contracts, and licenses will protect you from headaches and other legal issues if any conflicts were to arise. See what Gulati Law can do for you and your business partner today!

Source: Wall Street Journal – Small Business- Starting a Business 

How A Super Lien Can Affect the Sale of Your Home

If you have never heard of a super lien, do not be surprised.  Many home and property owners do not understand the implication of the “super lien” until it comes time to sell their home or property.  Liens usually occur following a violation filed against real property.  This happens when the city believes there is a breach in laws or codes, such as allowing construction without a permit or causing disturbance after hours.

If the violation is not acknowledged or fine is not paid, a lien is placed to secure the debt payment or resolution to the issue at hand.  A super lien is a statutory lien that is superior to all others, in that once it is placed against a property owner, it occurs on all properties within that county the individual owns. Those properties cannot be sold once the lien is in effect, and the price to remove it can be very steep if not handled immediately.  On top of what is already owed, a super lien may also include late charges, interest, and fines. This can be hundreds to thousands of dollars a day.

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Neglecting these fines could result in a foreclosure, except in the case of a homestead.  A homestead is protected against forced sale by law. This does not include implications like title defects associated with a super lien.  If the property owner cannot pay the full amount of the lien, they may be required to hire an attorney to negotiate a release or an affordable amount. This means higher closing costs when selling the house, and a release or “no action” letter from the city attorney must be obtained beforehand, which would indefinitely delay the process.

Many have noted the inconveniences of the super lien, and in 2011, Senator Jack Latvala proposed a Senate bill that would have made code enforcement liens similar to judicial liens in the case of a homestead, where the owner is able to file with the local court and wait for a response from a judicial creditor.  His proposal was replaced with a new bill that did not allow for the expedited release of code enforcement liens.  As of now, there is no easy fix for the resolution of a super lien.  If your property or properties may be affected by a super lien, contact us at Gulati Law to see what your options are and how to keep it from preventing the sale of your home. We have helped many sellers and buyers of residential and commercial property clear these liens to conduct a successful closing.

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