Dealing with legal issues can be complicated, and many people who are in this position find that they have a number of different questions about their situation and what options are available to them. At Arenson Law Group, PC, we know how frustrating this can be for anyone in Cedar Rapids and, as a result, have sought to help alleviate this frustration and stress. As such, we have compiled the following frequently asked questions, along with their relevant answers, to help clients get the information they need.
If your question isn’t here, or if you would rather talk to a member of our legal team, please contact us at (319) 363-8199 today.
Auto Dealer Law FAQs
What can I do if my auto manufacturer wants to open a new dealership in my area?
The attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC, have substantial experience in auto dealership franchise law. Iowa Code Chapter 322A says that no vehicle franchiser shall enter into any agreement to establish an additional dealership in any community in which the same line-make is then represented, unless the franchiser has first met the burden of proof that there is good cause for the additional store, or “point”, and that it is in the public interest. “Community” means the franchisee’s area of responsibility (sometimes called APR, AOR, PMA, or PAR) as described in their franchise agreement. Iowa Code Sec. 322A.11 says that “good cause” is NOT (with some finer points and exceptions): (i) the sole fact that the franchiser wants more sales in the market, (ii) there has been a change in ownership of the existing dealer, (iii) the fact the existing store was relocated within its given AOR, so long as the new facility and location is equal or superior to the former place, or (iv) the fact that the existing dealer does not meet an index or standard established by the factory (like CSI, RSI, MSR, etc.), unless the franchiser proves that the dealer’s failure to meet the index will be substantially detrimental to the distribution of the franchiser’s vehicles in the AOR and that good cause for adding the new point otherwise exists.
This is a different legal process than in Iowa’s general franchise law and every situation is unique. Please contact the auto dealer attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC, by calling (319) 363-8199 to discuss the specific details of your situation with an experienced attorney today.
Business Law FAQs
How do I know if an LLC is right for me?
If you are concerned about personal exposure to lawsuits or debts, the limited liability company (LLC) structure can protect you from potential claims against your business. However, not all businesses are allowed to operate as LLCs. Arenson Law Group, PC, can help you decide on the business structure that meets your goals.
How do I name my new business?
The name depends on your business structure. For instance, if you are the sole owner of your business, the legal name of your business is your full name. If you have a partnership, the legal name is either the name designated in your partnership agreement or the last names of the partners. If, your new business is either a corporation or an LLC, your legal name is the name you registered with the state of Iowa. If the name is fictitious—one that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation—as your “doing business as” (DBA) name, you can search to see if the name you want to use is available in the Iowa state database. You can also reserve a business name with the Iowa Secretary of State.
What are the benefits of having an attorney help with my company’s formation?
The business formation process is one of the most important periods for a new company, as the choice of business structure, creation of necessary documents and contracts, and other decisions made during this process can have a profound influence on the future of the business. Therefore, the assistance of an experienced attorney who understands not only the legal requirements that must be fulfilled but also the ways in which these decisions can affect the company’s future can have substantial benefits for business owners.
What is the difference between an LLC and an LLP?
In a limited liability company (LLC), owners, known as members, are not personally liable for your company’s debts and liabilities without a separate agreement. In a partnership, the partners of a business do not receive this kind of protection unless the agreement designates limited liability. Owners of an LLC must file articles of organization with the Iowa Secretary of State and comply with Iowa’s filing requirements before opening the business. A partnership does not require this level of paperwork or payment of fees before operations. Both forms of business structure report business income or losses on their personal tax returns.
What is contract review?
Contracts are critical components of any business as they set the legal terms for the relationships and allowed actions of anyone affiliated with the company. In order to make sure that your company and employees are protected as best as possible when it comes to business transactions, getting these contracts reviewed is critical. By having a contract review, you can make sure you are meeting any and all necessary legalities, protecting your business and intellectual property, and stipulate the expectations of anyone involved in the contract.
What are the drawbacks of a sole proprietorship?
A sole proprietorship is a preferred business formation for many people in the Cedar Rapids area, as owners retain more hands-on control of the company and its day-to-day activities. However, there are some potential drawbacks that should be considered prior to forming such a business, including a potentially smaller profit margin, increased difficulty getting loans, and higher liability.
What if an employee violated his or her contract and my company suffered?
Contracts are established so that, in the event of a legal discrepancy in the future, a party might be found accountable for the issue. You might have recently had an employee violate the terms of his or her contract. In this situation, you may be entitled to take legal action against that employee. However, understanding what steps you can take often requires the help of a legal professional.
Why should I hold shareholder meetings?
Annual shareholder meetings are actually required by law for corporations. They essentially involve the election of a corporation’s Board of Directors for the upcoming fiscal year, though they also involve other important processes and components. Shareholders can gather and review the financial successes and failures of the corporation over the last fiscal year, and discuss possibilities for change for the upcoming year.
If I’m facing business litigation, what questions should I ask a potential attorney?
Facing business litigation can be daunting, and you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced attorney. When seeking this legal help, it’s important to ask good questions in an initial interview to help determine if the attorney is right for you. Consider asking about his or her practice, whether or not cases similar to yours have been won, how he or she will be reached for the duration of the case, etc. Having answers to these simple questions will likely help you determine an attorney’s “fit” with you and may lead to more detailed questions about your specific case.
Trusts and Estates FAQs
Is it necessary for a lawyer to draft my will?
While it may seem straightforward for you to draft your will yourself, personally-drafted wills tend to be incomplete and are, therefore, invalid under Iowa state law. Because Arenson Law Group, PC, is well acquainted with Iowa’s laws, we can legally draft a will that is valid in our state.
What is intestacy?
Intestacy refers to the situation that occurs when a person dies without leaving behind a will or legally valid instructions for how their estate should be distributed. In this type of situation, it is often necessary to pursue legal action in order to properly distribute the estate among the survivors of the deceased. The assistance of qualified legal counsel in these situations is often integral to ensuring that everything is managed appropriately.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of legally legitimizing your will and ensuring its enforcement after you have passed. Even the most diligently prepared will must go through the probate process to ensure fairness and proper distribution of assets. A court approves your will and grants an “executor” the legal power to distribute assets in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. Contesting of the will is done in probate court overseen by a judge. To avoid having your will be deemed invalid, speak with an estate lawyer experienced with the probate process. Probate includes the following:
- Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
- Identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
- Property appraisal
- Paying debts and taxes
- Distributing property as directed by a will
- Transferring title and ownership of assets to the property beneficiaries
What is the estate tax?
The estate tax is a tax paid to the federal and sometimes state government on wealth transferred at the end of a person’s life. Before inheritance is given to the family and loved ones of the deceased, the estate tax must be calculated and paid. To calculate the amount paid, the government totals the fair market value of all property, investments, and other forms of capital. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than five million dollars per person is exempt from the estate tax. This means that, if you are leaving less than several million dollars to your family and loved ones, you do not have to worry about the estate tax at all. Even if you are leaving enough that you do face the estate tax, an experienced lawyer can take advantage of exemptions of deductions to heavily reduce your tax burden.
What are Iowa’s unique estate laws?
Iowa has several important laws you should be aware of when planning your will and estate. For example, Iowa law requires that an estate is closed within three years after the second publication of the notice to creditors unless a court grants an extension. Additionally, in Iowa specifically, there is no probate court. All probate matters are handled by the district court. In the Iowa district court, you will be required to enlist the support of a probate lawyer. This differs from the criminal precedent, where you are allowed to represent yourself.
Family Law FAQs
What Does a Divorce Mediation Lawyer Do?
While mediation is mostly done between the divorcing spouses, there is a necessity for an experienced divorce mediation lawyer. A divorce mediation lawyer can assist you in almost every step of the way:
- Choosing a mediator: When the court does not select a mediator, it’s up to the divorcing couple to select on. A divorce attorney will have the contacts to know what mediators are trustworthy and experienced enough to take on your case.
- Explaining procedures: The procedure of mediation can be confusing. A lawyer can help layout the process and timeline for you.
- Preparation and technique: The goal of every mediation meeting is to get you and your former partner closer to your goal. The language in which you use while negotiation, the expectations you set, and the confidence you have in the process can make a difference; an experienced divorce mediation attorney will be there to prepare you to be the best for every session.
- Evaluation of proposed settlements: When the mediator draws up settlement proposals, you don’t want to sign without having a lawyer look over the proposal with a fine-toothed comb. An attorney will know what to look for and make sure that the proposal will have a good outcome for both parties.
- Final paperwork: Once the divorce settlement papers are finalized, and both parties and their attorneys are satisfied, you will need a legal signature from an attorney. Attorneys can also help to draft the final settlements.
While mediation takes out a lot of the legal complexities of a trial divorce, a knowledgeable divorce mediation attorney is necessary for facilitating a positive outcome for everybody.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work?
Mediation is a voluntary process. This means that both parties have to choose mediation, and no one can force the other to participate.
When a divorcing couple decides on mediation, there will be an initial meeting set up between the spouses and the mediator. In that meeting, the individuals divorcing will express their expectations and desired outcome. This includes alimony, child support, child visitation, and property and assets separation. The mediator can look at the individual’s expectations and see how far apart the desires are and make a plan for compromise.
After the initial meeting, there is no standard timeline that you and your spouse would have to follow. Some couples can successfully mediate their divorce in a handful of sessions. For others, it might take longer. A divorce trial is usually a reasonably drawn-out scenario, so even a more prolonged mediation will often save time and money.
When the mediator and the divorcing couple finally come to a solution, and both parties are happy with the outcome, the mediator will then draw up an official divorce agreement. The individuals and their respective attorneys will then sign that agreement, and finally, give the paperwork to a judge.
Is Divorce Mediation a Good Choice for Me?
Mediation can be an excellent option for couples that want a quicker, less expensive option than a trial. However, it’s not for everyone. Mediation could be successful if you and your spouse have the following situation:
- There has been no domestic abuse: Most mediators will not take cases if there is a history of violence. For mediation to work, the mediator and attorneys involved need to be confident that no decisions have been made from intimidation or fear.
- Custody terms can be agreed upon: Child support and custody terms are usually some of the most contentious aspects of a divorce. If both parties can conclude what parenting setup is best for the kids, mediation can help with small compromises and exact specifications. If the two parties cannot agree, a judge will have to make the ultimate decision, and that decision might not make either party happy.
- Both parties are open about finances and assets: Each spouse must be willing to be transparent with the mediator about all funds, properties, debts, and all other sensitive information.
- Finally, both parties have to want a divorce: Divorce is hard enough. It gets even more convoluted when one party wants the divorce, and the other does not. Mediation only works if both spouses are on the same page with one another on the very idea of a legal separation.
How is a Divorce Mediation Different from a Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is one in which each spouse and their lawyers meet together to draft divorce papers without the help of a neutral third-party. Both parties have to agree not to enter into litigation until the final divorce settlement is agreeable for all involved. If the process fails, the couples then have to start again with different lawyers.
While collaborative divorce can be a good option for couples that know exactly what they want from their divorce settlement, and do not feel that they need a neutral party to meditate, it’s not a viable option for many. Often, a third-party mediator is the better option in ensuring that compromise is met and everybody is content with the outcome.