How to Get Away With Murder
Or at least avoid a lawsuit
Ah, life...it’s all well and good until somebody gets sued. In today’s litigious society, you’re increasingly a target for doing something you may not be aware is illegal. We gleaned the following tips from On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman’s Life. We’re no attorneys, but this book, written by lawyer and television legal commentator Lisa Green, gave us some sound advice.
Consider signing a No Nup
Moving in with someone without marriage? Green suggests both of you sign a cohabitation agreement, which is basically a contract stating how you will, as a couple, coordinate on expenses, debts, assets, support, estate planning and parenting. As with its married-people analogue, a No Nup needs to have both parties sign--after each person's lawyer reviews the contract.
Keep an Eye on Teens
More than half of U.S. states hold parents/homeowners responsible, sometimes criminally, if an underage drinker imbibes (even secretly) in your home. Green suggests carefully monitoring all teen gatherings in your home.
Carefully review elder care
When an elderly relative goes into an assisted living facility, if you are listed as their "responsible party," that may mean more than you’re the emergency contact--it might put you on the hook for any expenses they can't pay. Have an attorney review your contract before you sign.
Find state expertise
To find a lawyer, Green recommends first asking your friends or therapist for a referral. Make sure to check whether the attorney is experienced in the state the matter occurred in, since both criminal and civil laws vary greatly from state to state.
Pay your housekeeper's Social Security
If you pay someone more than $1,800 a year to clean or babysit, you’re responsible for setting aside Social Security, Medicare and possibly even unemployment insurance--as well as filing a form ensuring they are legal U.S. residents. Green says to start by getting your own employer ID number (EIN) online, then reading IRS publications 926 and 15.