Who’s On First?

USA Abbott and Costello postage stamp  If you are my age you remember this comedy routine performed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as it made its way to late night television and TBS a number of times during the 1970’s. Additionally, a board game with the same name was also released around this time. First performed in 1938 this routine was based on a fictional baseball team in which the players were named Who, What, I don’t Know, Why, Because, Tomorrow, Today and I don’t Care. If you can and could follow the relationship of the players to one another throughout the skit you are better than me.  The skit brings up a good point though which is the need to be clear about relationships whether in a business or family setting. For example, in business settings it is imperative that each party understand what their relationship is to the others in a deal. If not fully spelled out as to what the duties each party has the misunderstandings can lead to serious disagreement and legal action. For example, I represented a landlord who thought he was renting a space for residential purposes to Party A; in reality Party A was a front for Party B who was running a marijuana grow operation. Some due diligence would have discovered this, but more importantly, a good lease would have better protected the landlord. Another example can be found in a limited liability company setting.

If a party loans a member money is that money owed by the LLC or the individual, and if the company buys an interest in a building with the loan does the member/lender have an interest in the building? Alternatively, if a LLC or company shuts down operation who gets what as the business of the company is wrapped up? Can a member or a partner in a business engage in other business dealings outside the company?

Similarly, in domestic or family relationships boundaries and roles likewise need to be defined. This is particularly true in the non-traditional families or families that have undergone a change because of divorce. What role is a step-parent supposed to play? How are the children going to be disciplined, and are step-parents going to be involved? If it’s a second marriage or same sex relationship outside of marriage how will the parties protect the assets they have accumulated? These questions can be especially vexing as one spouse tries to determine how to plan the division of their estate given the complexities of a blended family.

Each of the aforementioned cases requires legal advice, and not just what you can pull off the internet. For example, I had a couple come to me with a DIY trust pulled from a popular website, and while the trust was adequate, it did not do what the couple thought it did. They had purchased a form, but they had not gotten legal advice, and there is a difference between the two. It’s all a question of knowing who is who, and what role they play.

If we can help you decipher roles and figure things out please contact us; we’ll do what we can to help. Until then Who’s on first, and I don’t Know is doing something…

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