PET TRUSTS: HOW YOU CAN PROTECT
THE FOUR-LEGGED, FURRY & FEATHERED MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY
Ask around and you will frequently find pet owners who will shamelessly admit that they enjoy
their pets more than other people. As pet owners we recognize that the comfort and care need of
our pets may one day extend beyond that which we are able to provide ourselves. Of course, pet
owners only want the best for their dogs, cats, horses, snakes, birds, etc. What happens when we
pass away, become incapacitated or can otherwise no longer care for our pets in the way that
Prior to 2012, the Massachusetts legislature had not provided an answer to this question, thus
leaving pet owners with no legally enforceable way to ensure that their pets are properly cared
for and maintained after a pet owner passes away or becomes incapacitated. Today,
Massachusetts courts recognize the creation of a trust—a pet trust—for the care and maintenance
of one or more pets for the duration of their lifetime(s). 1
One of the many benefits to establishing a pet trust is to provide pet owners with the peace of
mind that comes with knowing that their pets will be cared for according to their instruction. For
example, the fact that one’s dog only eats a certain type of dog food, or that one’s parrot requires
certain medications or treatment, are important details to incorporate into the trust to ensure that
your animals are cared for properly and in accordance with your wishes and their needs.
Another benefit to the establishment of a pet trust is that you are able to designate funds that will
be for the sole benefit of your animal. You can leave enough money to provide food, shelter, and
other necessities for your pet for the remainder of […]
PET TRUSTS: HOW YOU CAN PROTECT
ESTATE PLANNING DURING COVID-19
COVID-19 has had an impact on the way we go about our daily lives and has forced us to consider all of the “what if” scenarios we often do not want to think about. COVID-19 has shown us that it is important to be prepared for all scenarios—including the necessity of having a proper estate plan in place, including, but not limited to, a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney. Other documents you may wish to have included in your estate plan includes a MOLST form, HIPAA Release, and a Declaration of Homestead, if applicable. Depending on one’s assets and goals, establishing a Trust may also be ideal as part of an estate plan.
Developing an Estate Plan is important as it identifies what you would like to have happen in the event that you should become incapacitated, unable to make your own decisions, or pass away. It is more important than ever to develop an Estate Plan. The United States has had approximately 150,000 confirmed deaths of COVID-19 and over 4.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. If, for whatever reason, you were suddenly hospitalized and unable to make decisions regarding your health and finances, you have no control over who would be making those decisions (some examples: there could be a conflict between your spouse and your parents, or if single, your parents could disagree, your spouse could not be available/able or a person could be appointed that you would not wanting making decisions for you). Furthermore, any delay in determining who should be making those important decisions could negatively impact your health and finances.
Estate plan documents are especially important during this pandemic as a physician’s […]
Supreme Court Protects LGBTQ+ Employees From Discrimination
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision on Monday, June 15, 2020 making it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The case expands workplace rights for employees who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. The case, which consisted of three separate cases consolidated into one, reached the Supreme Court after frustrations over the lack of workplace protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. In one case, an employee of Clayton County, Georgia was fired from his job after his employer found out that he played in a gay recreational softball league. In another case, a skydiving instructor was fired after telling a client of his that he was gay. In the third case, a funeral director was fired after disclosing to her employer that she was transgender and was intent on living her life as a woman.
The decision expands on the language in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making it illegal under federal law for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ+ persons are now included in the “sex” category of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the opinion that inherent discrimination exists when firing an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity because, in that circumstance, the employer is discriminating on the bases of actions and traits that wouldn’t typically be questioned in someone of another gender or sexuality. Justice Gorsuch expanded further, writing: “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision [to fire an employee], exactly what Title VII forbids.” The court left unclear […]
Legal Obligations of Businesses Relative to the COVID-19 Pandemic
As of March 16, 2020 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has cancelled public and private schools for three (3) weeks, various colleges and universities have moved entirely online and required students to move out, and gatherings of 25 or more individuals have been prohibited. There is a civic responsibility for business to take action to help ensure the safety of its employees. While employee safety is paramount, businesses face several additional business and legal challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the challenges that may be faced by businesses are outlined below, as well as measures that may be taken to address these challenges.
Gather Information and Stay Informed
Businesses should identify and follow authoritative sources of public health guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to officially recommended and mandated actions in their relevant jurisdictions. Helpful resources include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The World Health Organization, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Businesses should utilize the above-named sources to serve as the basis for all organizational decisions relative to both health and legal-risk mitigation. A decision made by a business relative to COVID-19 response that is in alignment with official recommendations from any of the above-named resources would be an important legal safeguard should a business’s infection-control methods be challenged.
Communicate with Employees
Businesses should be able to demonstrate that they have provided employees with accurate information on how to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for both legal and practical reasons. Businesses may accomplish this by educating employees regarding COVID-19 symptoms, precautionary measures, and official sources of information that employees may rely on for current COVID-19 information.
Maintain a Sanitary and Disinfected Work Environment
Businesses should take reasonable precautions […]
Who Let the Dogs Out: Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability and Dog Bite Injury Laws
Injuries from Dog Bites are Common and Often Serious
Every year, approximately 4.7 million Americans are victims of a dog bite attack. About 60% of all dog bite victims are children and 77% of all dog bite injuries to children under 10 tend to be facial. Around 12 individuals die from dog bite incidents annually. In 2019, 14 year old Ryan Hazel from Dighton, Massachusetts, was tragically killed on May 9, 2019 after being attacked by a number of dogs, and in April 2019, a Taunton woman and her dog were attacked by six pitbulls—resulting in severe injuries to the woman and the death of the woman’s dog. In 2012, dog bites accounted for about one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims with a total cost of $489 million. So what should the public be aware of—both as dog owners and as individuals who may simply come into contact with a dog—regarding Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability and Dog Bite Injury Laws? We have outlined below a brief synopsis of what you should be informed and provide answers to some frequently asked questions:
Massachusetts Law on Dog Bites
Massachusetts has its own statute covering dog bites, M.G.L. c. 140, Section 155. This statute states “If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or […]
Major Changes to Massachusetts Law on Non-Compete Agreements
Non-Compete Agreements are contracts entered into by both employer and employee regarding post-employment activities. The Agreement is used to limit an employee in their future employment options. These limitations may include whether you can leave your current position and immediately work in a competing field or by prohibiting you from taking other employees/customers with you when you leave, all for an agreed upon amount of time.
In October 2018, the newly enacted reform to the Massachusetts Non—Compete law took effect, extending wide benefits to those employees subject to a non-compete, while eliminating non-competes for certain types of employees. First, the law only affects those contracts that were entered into AFTER October 1, 2018 and only affects non-competition agreements and not other forms of restrictive covenants. Additionally, a non-compete that is in effect DURING employment is likewise not affected.
There were several major changes to the law which will affect both business and employees equally. The new law includes the elimination of non-competes for non-exempt hourly employees, thus establishing that qualified salaried employees are the only employees that may be subject to a non-compete. Additionally, a non-compete for a salaried employee cannot extend longer than one year (with a few exceptions) and will not be enforceable if the employee is terminated without cause or is laid off. A new employee must be presented with a non-compete agreement at least ten (10) days prior to their start date or when a formal offer is presented and must be signed by both the employer and employee and contain a clause providing the employee with the right to have counsel review. The last major change and perhaps the most substantial is the inclusion of a “garden leave” provision in […]
There has been a growing trend in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts in the philosophy that parents should, barring certain circumstances, have shared physical custody of their minor children. In this firm, we have seen a trend of parents who ask for what’s “fair” or “half of the time”. However, a parenting plan is dynamic and may not always appear to be equal. Custody is possible to share but whether it’s in the best interest of the child(ren) is determined by the parties or ultimately the Court.
Physical custody is defined by where the children reside and who is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the children. Traditionally in a divorce, it was automatically presumed the mother was the primary caretaker of the children during the relationship/marriage and therefore, she was awarded primary physical custody of the children. In Paternity cases, (where the parties are unmarried) under the law, it still is presumed to be the Mother.
With that said, times are changing. Women are working and becoming more and more financially independent. With that, father’s rights have come to the forefront and courts have started to analyze the question, “why not?”. If we have two working, capable, and loving parents – who both work, rely on others for various caretaking tasks and chores, what’s the tie breaker? We see that there are more dual-income families, there has been a real shift in a shared parenting plans. Children perform better when parents can continue their relationship post-divorce. Clearly, this is not the same husband/wife relationship but the relationship should evolve to a co-parenting relationship. This is what is required to have a successful shared physical custody plan. The Courts have seen an increase in shared […]
In addition to Paid Family and Medical Leave, the act signed by Governor Baker on June 28, 2018, the act also increases the minimum wage in Massachusetts and eliminates the Premium Pay for retail establishments on Sundays.
By the year 2023 the basic Massachusetts minimum wage will be $15.00 an hour and the tipped minimum wage will be $6.75 per hour, a dramatic increase from the current amounts of $11.00 an hour and $4.35 per hours. These amounts will not increase over night but will rather gradually increase beginning in January 2020.
January 1, 2020 = $12.75 per hour; $4.95 per hour (tipped);
January 1, 2021 = $13.50 per hour; $5.55 per hour (tipped);
January 1, 2022 = $14.25 per hour; $6.15 per hour (tipped); and
January 1, 2023 = $15.00 per hours; $6.75 per hour (tipped)
As a form of compromise for the increase in minimum wage and paid family medical leave, the act also will affect employees of retail establishments by gradually eliminating the “time and half” payment of wages on Sundays.
January 1, 2019 = 1.4 x the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2020 = 1.3 times the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2021 = 1.2 times the employee’s regular rate of pay;
January 1, 2022 = 1.1 times the employee’s regular rate of pay; and
January 1, 2023 = Employees regular rate of pay
The new changes to law will not affect an employee’s ability to refuse to work on Sundays as previously allowed. The prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation regarding an employee’s right to refuse to work on Sundays will remain in full force and effect.
Authored by Eric B. Langfield, Esq.
On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a new comprehensive law that will require that employees in Massachusetts receive paid family and medical leave. Previously, Massachusetts employees were only afforded unpaid leave for family and medical issues, usually stemming from either the MPLA, the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (formerly the MMLA, Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) or from the Federal FMLA, Family Medical Leave Act.
The new act will allow for employees to receive a portion of their pay for up to twelve (12) weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member or for the birth (or adoption) of a child. The act will also allow for up to twenty (20) weeks of paid leave to care for their own serious medical issues. The benefit amount will be determined based upon a percentage of the employee’s weekly income, but will not exceed $850.00 per week.
While the law has been signed into law the formalities of the new act have yet to implemented. On March 31, 2019 the first set of proposed regulations will be published which will allow for more guidance on how the new law will affect employers. On or about July 1, 2019, the Commonwealth will begin collecting a new payroll tax of 0.63% to help pay for this very generous benefit. Employees will be able to utilize this new benefit beginning January 1, 2021.
In addition to creating paid family and medical leave, the act also places a strong retaliation provision for employers who unfairly retaliate against an employee for engaging in this new program.