By: Mike Schmidt
Question: What is a "short sale" and how can I avoid common pitfalls in a short sale transaction?
Answer:The rise in home foreclosures over the past few years has been accompanied by a rise in "short sales" (sales in which the proceeds fall short of the balance owed to the lender). Short sales not only help homeowners avoid foreclosure, but in appropriate circumstances, they may also help mortgage lenders avoid the costs of foreclosure and property ownership. However, there are also pitfalls involved in short sales. Lenders and others considering short sales should be aware of a number of schemes that can disadvantage, or even defraud, a mortgage lender in a short sale transaction. These schemes include:
Lenders and others considering short sales can protect themselves from these schemes by knowing what to look for, requiring full disclosure from the homeowner/seller before approving a short sale, and possibly pursuing fraud claims when appropriate.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in November 2010.
By: Laura Black
Question: Should I screen potential employees through social media and blogging sites?
Answer: A recent poll from a popular online job site indicates that up to 50 percent of employees now review a prospective employee's social media website - such as Facebook - as part of the employment screening process. For any job seeker who haven't yet made their information private, such sites can provide a wealth of information. For example, an employer might learn that a potential employee has exaggerated their qualifications, exhibits poor communication skills, or exercises questionable judgment.
However, employers also need to be mindful of the possible legal implications of such online "eavesdropping" before using the information in hiring decisions. Along with relevant information, such sites may also reveal a candidate's marital status, religion, disability, or other protected trait that cannot legally factor into an employment decision. A hiring decision based on this information may subject an employer to potential discrimination claims. Employers who use such screening processes may be able to protect themselves against discrimination claims by insulating decision-makers from protected information and by implementing effective hiring policies.
The attorneys at Lukins & Annis, P.S. can assist you through the hiring process and beyond.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in September 2010.
By: Jed W. Morris
Question: How do I respond to identity theft?
Answer: Identity theft is a very real threat to both businesses and individuals. As we develop more sophisticated ways to protect our personal information, the "bad guys" develop more sophisticated ways to access it.
If you are a business and have access to individual confidential information, you should have developed appropriate security safeguards and procedures. These are required for most financial and healthcare-related businesses and soon may be required for any business which extends credit to its customers. In the event of a breach of security, your first steps will probably be to notify the affected parties, make sure the means of accessing the confidential information has been eliminated and offer credit monitoring to the affected parties.
If you are an individual and personal confidential information has been compromised, you should report the situation to your bank, and, if appropriate, credit reporting agencies and law enforcement authorities. Many companies require a police report as a condition to relief from the adverse consequences of identity theft.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in June 2009.
By: Tyler Black
Question: As part of my estate plan, how do I ensure that my lake cabin stays in the family upon my death?
Answer: For those fortunate enough to have purchased a recreational property at one of our region's pristine lakes, inevitably the question becomes, "how do I keep this property in the family for my kids?"
Everyone seems to have their own horror story that relates to joint ownership of recreational properties. Perhaps the most effective way to ensure your property stays in the family for the next generation is to place it in a family limited partnership, a limited liability company, trust or similar entity to provide your heirs with the needed flexibility joint ownership requires.
Our team can assist you in recognizing some of the unique opportunities and limitations of each holding vehicle, and the issues affiliated with joint ownership of family properties. We can meet with you to discuss your available options and establish a plan to allow the next generation to spend their time enjoyin the lake property.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in April 2010.
Question: Can employers refuse to hire applicants or discipline current employees for reasons directly arising from approved medical marijuana use?
Answer: The answer to this question may be a moving target, but currently appears to be "yes". Consistent with most states, Washington state law does not prohibit employers from refusing to hire or taking disciplinary action against an employee for marijuana use regardless of whether the individual holds a valid physician's recommendation for using marijuana as part of a treatment regime.
The Washington state legislature is considering a bill that included in its original version a provision protecting job applicants and employees who use approved medical marijuana from discrimination; however, that provision was removed following public comment. The Washington State Human Rights Commission has even stated it will decline to investigate any claims of discrimination involving the use of medical marijuana.
Notwithstanding the current state of the law, an employee could still bring legal action in state and federal court, and there is growing momentum to gain some protections for employees (Arizona now has a non-discrimination law in effect). Employers should continually monitor the medical marijuana use laws and the effect on their policies, employment applications and handbooks, and make adjustments as appropriate to ensure compliance with changes in the law. The attorneys at Lukins and Annis, P.S. can assist you in working through the process.As originally printed in the Journal of Business - Spokane, in February 2011.
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