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“Can I Ask You A Question?”

Have you ever noticed that when a doctor walks into a room, everyone suddenly has medical ailments? The question usually starts with, “I hate to ask you this when you’re not at work, BUT….”

We have a sweet as pie cousin who happens to be a pediatrician. We try not to ask her questions, but, inevitably, small talk among parents often leads into something medical. As we kick ourselves for letting the words escape our lips, she is very always gracious to share her opinion and experience as a parent, family member, and (yes) pediatrician.

The same thing happens regardless of what you do for work. Everyone has a situation that they want to discuss or question that they want to ask. Like our cousin, we are always happy to help and share our knowledge and experience. So, before you ask, we will share the answers to our most often asked real estate questions:

“I heard that mortgage rates have gone up lately. Should I wait to buy or refinance a house until the interest rates drop?”

It is still a great time to buy a new home or refinance your current home. Yes, rates have increased very slightly over the last few months, but they are still really low at this point. We have all been really spoiled with the ridiculously low mortgage rates for the last few years. Have you ever asked your parents or grandparents about when they purchased their home?  They probably told you that their house cost $26,000.00, but also that their interest rate was 17-20%. With mortgage rates still so slow and such a variety of lending programs available, it is definitely worth exploring whether it makes financial sense to buy or refinance now, before the rates rise.

“Should I have an attorney review my Purchase and Sales (“P&S”)?

In a profession where our answer is frequently “it depends,” our answer to this question is it is very wise to do so. The most important reason is that, once it is signed, you have committed to the terms and cannot change them.

Most real estate agents use a standard form created by REBA, the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts. Are the forms any good? Yes, but our experience guides anticipation all of the legal problems that might arise during your transaction and which cannot be added to the document by an agent. We attach addendum which offer important, additional protections, related to condition of the premises, delivery of Deed, survey review, potential defects to title, ability to obtain property and Title Insurance, damage to the property, deposits, contingencies for mortgage or sale of other property, and other important aspects of the home.

“Do I need Title Insurance?”
We often get this question at the closing table. Lenders typically require a policy for the loan and which is paid by the buyer.  An Owner’s title policy is optional; however, it’s one of the smartest investments that you can make in your home and it is reasonably priced, especially when compared to the cost of fixing issues that might arise later.

For purchases, we look at a 50 year history of the premises. Even the most meticulous search may not unveil hidden risks with your “title (aka ownership),” because those risks have not yet become evident by the time of closing. Some specific hidden risks that can be protected by Title Insurance are:

* forgery;
* fraud or mis-representation in connection to the execution of the documents;
* undue pressure on the seller or personal representative of an estate;
* false impersonation by people claiming to own the property;
* incorrect statement about the marital status of a Seller (which is more likely if the premises is being sold during a divorce);
* issues related to a seller who has passed away, including disclosed or missing heirs, birth of additional potential heirs after the creation of the will, misinterpretation of a will or trust, and estates which were not properly probated;
* inadequate survey;
* incorrect legal description;
* non-delivery of deeds;
* claims or liens not yet on record;
* confusion regarding similar or incorrect names;
* delivery of deeds after the death of a grantor;
* incorrect indexing at the Registry of Deeds;
* unrecorded easements; and
* zoning violations.

As always, please call or email us if you have any questions regarding this or anything else.

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Parenting on Pot: Custody under the Massachusetts Marijuana Tax Act

The perspectives of judges regarding marijuana use by a parent has been easing over the last 10 years as decriminalization and medical use have become our norm. With recent changes, some have asked us how it will effect custody and visitation. From a recent news blast from the Bristol Probate and Family Court:

Section 7 (d) of the Marijuana Tax Act addresses personal use of marijuana and its effect on child custody proceedings and provides:
Absent clear, convincing and articulable evidence that the person’s actions related to marijuana have created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child, neither the presence of cannabinoid components or metabolites in a person’s bodily fluids nor conduct permitted under this chapter related to the possession, consumption, transfer, cultivation, manufacture or sale of marijuana, marijuana products or marijuana accessories by a person charged with the well-being of a child shall form the sole or primary basis for substantiation, service plans, removal or termination or for denial of custody, visitation or any other parental right or responsibility.
Section 7 (d) of Chapter 94G follows established case law regarding the use of marijuana and child custody proceedings. There needs to be clear and convincing evidence of a nexus between a parent’s drug use and the parent’s ability to parent a child in order for the parent to be found unfit and parental rights terminated.

For more information, please check out our website www.wjslegal.com or call us at (508)319-1529.

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Holy Smokes: Marijuana in Massachusetts

Congratulations, Massachusetts! We have survived our first full day of legal recreational marijuana.

Realistically, not much has changed. Massachusetts has been pro- marijuana for almost ten years. We first decriminalized (meaning you won’t get arrested for possession) it in 2008 and approved it for medical use in 2012. The first “local” medical dispensary was recently approved in Mansfield, in the town next to our office.

Effective yesterday, anyone age 21 or old can possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their primary residence; however, there are still rules that must be followed, some of which are:
·         You can also possess up to 6 plants if you live alone and 12 plants if you live with another adult;
·         If you want to give someone else an ounce of marijuana as a gift, you can do it;
·         If you want to sell it, you still cannot; and
·         Your plants cannot be displayed in plain sight (aka in a window facing the street).

One of the key provisions of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act is that it is “illegal to prevent a person from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the consumption, display, production, processing, manufacturing, or sale of marijuana and marijuana accessories on or in a property the person owns, occupies, or manages except that a lease agreement shall not prohibit a tenant consuming marijuana by means other than smoking on or in property in which tenant resides unless failing to do so would cause the landlord to violate Federal law.”

This language creates an immediate concern for many landlords. If a landlord already has a “no smoking” regulation on their premises, there should already been an understanding that smoking marijuana in that unit would not be permitted; however, whether or not the tenant would be able to possess or grow marijuana on the premises is probably unclear in the existing lease. For this reason, we recommend that all landlords immediately create an addendum to their existing lease agreement to regulate the growing and smoking of marijuana.

Please see our website www.wjslegal.com for more information. As always, please feel free to contact us about this or any other legal questions that you may have.
rday, anyone age 21 or old can possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their primary residence; however, there are still rules that must be followed, some of which are:
·         You can also possess up to 6 plants if you live alone and 12 plants if you live with another adult;
·         If you want to give someone else an ounce of marijuana as a gift, you can do it;
·         If you want to sell it, you still cannot; and
·         Your plants cannot be displayed in plain sight (aka in a window facing the street).

One of the key provisions of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act is that it is “illegal to prevent a person from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the consumption, display, production, processing, manufacturing, or sale of marijuana and marijuana accessories on or in a property the person owns, occupies, or manages except that a lease agreement shall not prohibit a tenant consuming marijuana by means other than smoking on or in property in which tenant resides unless failing to do so would cause the landlord to violate Federal law.”

This language creates an immediate concern for many landlords. If a landlord already has a “no smoking” regulation on their premises, there should already been an understanding that smoking marijuana in that unit would not be permitted; however, whether or not the tenant would be able to possess or grow marijuana on the premises is probably unclear in the existing lease. For this reason, we recommend that all landlords immediately create an addendum to their existing lease agreement to regulate the growing and smoking of marijuana.

Please see our website www.wjslegal.com for more information. As always, please feel free to contact us about this or any other legal questions that you may have.

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National Holidays

 

 

 

 

There are some days on the calendar that we all recognize as holidays (even if we don’t celebrate them): December 25th,  October 31st and July 4th; however, there many obscure “National Days” of which you are probably not aware. For instance, did you know that May 19th in National Devil’s Food Cake Day or that August 5th is National Underwear day? Chances are good that you have no idea that the first Monday after New Year’s, when everyone returns to work, is considered by many people to be National Divorce Day.

Divorce Day has become a “thing” over the last couple of decades. Nobody is truly sure what it is about that date that makes it such an attractive time to call an attorney to start the divorce process.  It could be seasonal depression, conflict over the holidays, or just wanting to follow a different path in the new year. While nobody gets married hoping that their marriage ends in divorce, it is, unfortunately, a reality for approximately half of the population in any given year.

Divorce is not always terrible ending. We always tell people that divorce is a legal transaction that involves a “math problem, (aka figuring out who gets what)” and making sure that the children are in the best environment possible; when parties can focus on those two things, not the emotion and drama, everyone is happier.

Some of our favorite cases are divorces because it can bring out the best in people. We see people work together, focus on their children, and follow the path towards an alternative happy ending.  One of our favorite moments ever occurred right after one couple had their Separation Agreement approved by the judge as they hugged and walked out arm in arm. We often see parents make plans to take their children out for dinner together the night that they are divorced to remind their children that they are still a family. While this is not necessarily the norm, it is certainly the ideal.

What else is ideal? Celebrating April 14th as National Ex-Spouse Day.

Whatever winter holidays you chose to celebrate, we wish you a very happy holiday season. As always, please visit our website www.wjslegal.com or call us at (508)319-1529 for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Room Where it Happened

“No one really knows how the
Parties get to yessssss
The pieces that are sacrificed in
Ev’ry game of chessssss
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens.”

-Lin Manuel Miranda

I have a friend who lives in a charming town located a couple of hours outside of London, England.  She lived in the United States for some time and still has an acute interest in what happens here. I recently asked her about how her local friends, family and colleagues perceived our President- Elect, Donald Trump.  Part of her response included this inquiry, “Giving some states more votes doesn’t seem fair. Surely one person, one vote works best?”

Electoral and popular votes usually point in the same direction, but not always.   Regardless of whether you favor it, the process was established by the Founding Fathers many, many years ago. We have journals and drafts which documented their process, but nobody knows for sure what fully happened in the negotiating sessions. There are two primary theories to why the Electoral College was created:

The most known theory is that it was developed to balance the influence of the small states with the larger ones.  Current sub-beliefs are that that the process was developed to account for the slave population in the South. Although slaves were unable to vote, inclusion of them greatly increased a state’s population (even though they were only counted as 3/5 of a person), the state’s representation in Congress and their number of electoral votes.

An alternative theory, and the one recognized by the National Achieves and Records Administration, is that the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College as part of the Constitution as a compromise. Many historians believe that there were heated arguments about how a President should be selected. The exclusive group, which included Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, argued whether Congress should appoint a President or qualified citizens should be allowed to vote.

More likely than not, the reasoning of the Founding Fathers was a combination of both reasons. We will probably never know the full story, because none of us were in the room where it happened.
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