Here in North Carolina it has now been over 30 days since we have been under a statewide stay-at-home order. Various other closures and limitations on our regular activities have followed. Consequently, many of us have a bit more free time than usual which provides the opportunity to consider and handle some unresolved and important matters in our lives. Here are some ideas of legal and business matters that you should attend to during this time:
Unresolved traffic tickets. For people whose drivers licenses have been suspended due to unresolved tickets this is a good time to consult a lawyer to find out what needs to be done to get on the road to regaining your license. This also applies to people with unresolved tickets who have never had a license. For starters, you or an attorney will need to get a copy of your drivers license history. Note that traffic court across North Carolina is closed until after June 1st so any cases requiring a court appearance or the involvement of a judge for disposition will not be heard until after that date.
Criminal defense. Court appearances for most misdemeanor and felony offenses in North Carolina will be continued to court dates after June 1st so if you do not already have counsel representing you now would be a good time to reach out to someone to discuss your situation. The consequences of a criminal conviction or a guilty plea are many and it makes very little sense to be your own lawyer.
Civil matters. Does somebody owe you money? Did somebody fail to provide services and it cost you time and money or more? Where you hurt in an accident? Did you buy a vehicle and have a nightmarish experience either with the vehicle or with the financing? Have you been harassed by debt collectors? If you have any legal matter for which you are due money or some compensation, there is a statute of limitations associated with your potential claim(s). For you typical do-it-yourselfers click here for a checklist of questions to answer before deciding to handle your situation yourself (do I need a lawyer page). You should consult an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you file any claims before the statute of limitations expires.
Estate planning and end-of-life matters. This is definitely not the most riveting subject to discuss but it is one that requires at least some consideration. For people who have families or others depending on them for income and support you should consult an estate planning attorney about how best to prepare your affairs. If you have any money or property that you wish to leave to a person or an organization you should consult an attorney for the drafting of either a will or a trust or some similar document. If you already have a will or a estates-related documents is it time for you to make any changes to these documents? On a related note you may need a healthcare power of attorney, an advanced directive, a living will or some combination or equivalent of these items. These are indeed weighty issues but take satisfaction in knowing that you are making things easier for your loved ones and those you leave behind.
Review your insurance coverages. Check your policies to see what types of coverage you have. Are you needing coverage? Do you need to increase or decrease your coverage? Do you have underinsured motorist coverage or do you even know what it is and why you may need it? If you are a renter do you have renter’s insurance? Do you have sufficient life insurance? I am not an insurance agent but you should consult one to discuss what types of insurance policies and coverages you may need to protect you and your family.
Tax issues. As you likely already know the Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for filing federal tax returns to July 15th. This gives people more time to either consult with a tax professional or review and prepare their own return. If you owe back taxes, may face tax penalties or other potential tax liability, or want to do some tax planning now would be the time to get with a reputable CPA or tax professional.
Credit Report. if you have not seen a copy of your credit report in the last 12 months you should take the time to do so now. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for a free copy of your report. Under federal law you are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. If you find incorrect information on your credit report follow the process provided to dispute the erroneous items and hopefully have them removed. Contrary to what you may hear you do NOT need anybody to have incorrect items removed from your credit report although in some cases it may be helpful to do so. If an item on your report is correct, it can only be deleted after a specific period of time expires.
If you decide to hire someone to assist you in this process you should do some research and go with a reputable professional. Beware of credit repair and credit removal services that make (1) big promises about being able to delete items from your credit report and (2) ask for payment of an up front fee before obtaining results. Your best move maybe to speak with an attorney who does Fair Credit Reporting Act cases to see if you need legal assistance.
Know that legal services have been deemed essential business operations in North Carolina so many lawyers remain open for new clients even if not for in-person consultations. I am talking to potential new clients each day and interacting with them by phone and email and fax and some by mail. You should check with each lawyer and law firm to see how they are handling your client intake and meetings.
But now is the time to jump on these and other matters that are pending in your life. It could save you some money and time and headache in the future. Best wishes to you and remain healthy and safe.