Harris & Engler Firm News and Ohio Law Updates
Stay up to date with the latest news and events going on at Harris & Engler or keep up to date with the latest and most relevant law in Ohio and in the Federal Courts for Harris & Engler law firm's main areas of practice, including Family Law, Business Law, ERISA, and Litigation.
COVID-19 Update on Civil Litigation In The Columbus, Ohio AreaWith the COVID-19 numbers far surpassing what they once were during the March through June court shutdowns, you may be wondering what the courts in Columbus and greater Central Ohio are doing now. The good news is that by now all the courts across Central Ohio have developed COVID-19 protections and protocols. In Columbus, Ohio, the Franklin County courts are operating relatively smoothly but with social distancing measures in place. The Franklin County Municipal Court has some different rules in place than the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and generally every single court in Central Ohio has unique rules specifically tailored to that Court's needs. What does all of this mean? The law hasn't stopped and the courts haven't stopped, but they are operating much differently now than before COVID-19.
It is more important and more helpful now than ever before to have an experienced civil litigator handle the prosecution or defense of your civil case. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas has been e-filing for years, but now e-filing may be the only option for the near term while COVID-19 is still a pandemic. This is no big deal for local civil attorneys, but it makes it very difficult for people trying to do things without a lawyer. In the Franklin County Municipal Court, no in-person court filings are allowed for the time being. Again, this is a non-issue for an experienced local attorney, but a game changer for the do-it-yourselfer.
Lawsuits Are Still Being Filed and Still Have To Be DefendedThe COVID-19 pandemic initially saw a brief pause in new lawsuits being filed in Columbus from around March through May. After that, things picked up, or even intensified compared to prior years. Legal problems did not just go away with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has certainly changed how those claims are being litigated.
In many cases, the economic fallout from COVID-19 caused many people to seek money damages on claims that they may have otherwise sat on for a while. This means that there are a lot of lawsuits to defend against and a lot of lawsuit where the stakes are high in getting a money judgment against wrongdoers and tortfeasors. The social distancing philosophy of fighting COVID-19 does not work well in fighting legal claims. You need a good lawyer to fight your legal battles for you. The law firm of Harris & Engler has experienced, battle hardened, civil litigation attorneys ready to help you win your case. If you believe the time has come to get a lawyer, then it is time to get the right lawyer. You can call an attorney at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988. Leave a message with a description of your legal issue and an attorney will call you back as soon as they are available.
Harris & Engler Resumes Business As Usual During COVID-19 Pandemic with Social Distancing Measures In PlaceThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all here in Central Ohio. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work and to those directly affected by this terrible virus.
Fortunately, the attorneys at Harris & Engler are set up to work at home or in the office. While there remains a "stay at home" order from Gov. DeWine, the law firm of Harris & Engler is postponing in person meetings and consultations. Currently the stay at home order is set to expire at midnight on Monday April 6. In the meantime, the attorneys at Harris & Engler are happy to consult with you over the phone and can carry on all business and legal activities electronically.
How Will the Court Shutdowns Affect My Case?Currently across Ohio each county and each court within that county have their own individual safety measures in place due to COVID-19. In general all the courts have for the most part continued all civil, all domestic relations hearings, and all non-essential criminal hearings for a couple months. Specifically, the courts in central Ohio, as of the date of this article, have ordered as follows:
Franklin County Municipal Court -
- All criminal, traffic, eviction, and small claims cases are continued until at least May 11, 2020.
- Cases involving prisoners, objections to garnishment, and BMV hearings are still going to be heard as scheduled.
- Domestic Relations cases continued until at least April 13
- Probate Court - filings are to be done via physical dropbox or electronically
- General Division - cases are mostly continued through April 10, 2020.
- Jury Trials are suspended until after April 20
- All cases are continued until past April 20 for the most part unless the case involves an incarcerated individual or protection order
- The Courthouse has limited public access, but case schedules are assessed and continued on a case-by-case basis.
Legal Questions for Central Ohio AttorneysIf you have a legal question, a question about how COVID-19 has affected the court system of your case, then please feel free to give an attorney at Harris & Engler a call. The offices of Harris & Engler are located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients with cases across Central Ohio.
Harris & Engler is a Columbus Based Law Firm Serving the Central Ohio CommunityIf you need an attorney in the Columbus or greater Central Ohio area then you should give the attorneys at the Columbus, Ohio based law firm of Harris & Engler a call. The attorneys at Harris & Engler help individuals and businesses in Columbus with a wide range of legal services, such as civil lawsuit representation, business and corporate formation and governance needs, estate planning, commercial real estate transactions, divorce and family law issues.
Many individuals in Columbus and greater Central Ohio hope that they never need an attorney, but when they do, they don't know who to call. The attorneys at Harris & Engler are dedicated to serving the many needs of the individuals and businesses in the Columbus Ohio community. For the attorneys at Harris & Engler that means that they want to be the attorney you have stored in your phone that you can just call whenever you have a legal question. Life sometimes throws you curveballs. With a trusted lawyer in your corner ready to give you straightforward legal advice, you will have more and better tools in your arsenal to deal with and plan ahead for life's legal hurdles.
It's not always bad news when you need an attorney. The attorneys at Harris & Engler are always happy to help individuals in the Columbus area start their businesses and help their businesses grow. The estate planning attorneys at Harris & Engler help individuals plan for taking care of their family and loved ones on into the future by creating estate planning documents. The lawyers at Harris & Engler also help individuals and businesses with their investment properties and commercial real estate transactions.
Columbus Ohio AttorneysIf you need an attorney in the Columbus Ohio area, then give the law firm of Harris & Engler a call at (614) 610-9988.
What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need and When Do You Need Them?If you've heard about a Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney for Health Care, or Living Will, you may not know what they are, whether you need them, or how to use them. This article intends to explain what these important estate planning documents are, when you should consider getting them, and how to use them. If you are an Ohio resident and would like to talk about your estate planning needs further or have general estate planning questions, then you can call an attorney at Harris & Engler at (614) 610-9988. The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys can help you to make sure that you've got a good estate plan in place.
Do I Need a Will?Most everyone knows about a will, but most people do not have one. A will disposes of all of your assets after your death. If you die without a will, then after your death your assets will go through what is called "intestate succession" which is just the default rule in Ohio for how your assets pass to your heirs. If you are married or have children, then you will certainly want to execute a will and meet with an attorney to streamline and make things as easy as possible on your spouse in the event of your death.
If you are not married and/or do not have children, then it is still very important to have a will in place to decide what will happen to your assets after your death. If you die unmarried and without children, then the default intestate laws in Ohio very well might not have your assets going where you would want them to go after your death.
Meeting with an attorney to go over and create your estate plan is not as expensive as many people think and it saves monumental amounts of time and frustration on the back end of managing your affairs after you pass away.
What is a Living Will?A Living Will is an estate planning document where you basically say that if you are incapacitated and in a vegetative state that you are directing your treating physicians to "pull the plug" and allow you to die. This is where you decide, while you are "living", how you want to die in the unfortunate circumstance where you end up in a coma or have a terminal condition. A Living Will is usually in addition to, but can also be incorporated into a Health Care Power of Attorney.
What Is A Health Care Power of Attorney?A Power of Attorney is a document that you sign that gives someone that power to act on your behalf in the same way that you could act for yourself. The power holder, or the person who you elect to act on your behalf if you become unable is called an "attorney-in-fact." Powers of Attorney are further described below, but in general they can grant as limited authority or as broad authority to the attorney-in-fact as you want.
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a limited power of attorney for only health care decisions. This is usually called a "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care." The "durable" part means that the Power of Attorney lasts through the incapacity of the Principal, or the person signing the document giving away the power. As a practical matter, the person creating the Power of Attorney only wants it to be used if they have been in some way incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves. The principal person signing the Power of Attorney has to be of sound mind and body when they sign the Power of Attorney, so the Power of Attorney has to survive and be "durable" through their incapacity. However, Ohio has somewhat recently changed the law so that all powers of attorney are "durable" unless they say otherwise.
A Health Care Power of Attorney basically gives whoever you select to be your attorney-in-fact the power to make all of your health care decisions for you while you are incapacitated, including giving informed consent to surgeries and other life saving measures. You can also give your attorney-in-fact the power to have your doctors stop life saving measures and allow you to die. You can be as specific as you want in deciding exactly what decisions you want your attorney-in-fact to be able to make. It is important to meet with an estate planning attorney so that you can make sure that your Power of Attorney accurately reflects your wishes and that you truly understand it.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?While a Health Care Power of Attorney is just for health care decisions, a Durable Power of Attorney is for everything else. In general, with a Durable Power of Attorney, you are giving someone the power to act on your behalf and manage your financial affairs if you are unable. Naturally, you only want to give a Power of Attorney to someone that you truly trust. A Durable Power of Attorney is something that you have to sign while you are still of sound mind and body, and the purpose is to allow someone else to step into your shoes and do whatever you could do. A Power of Attorney can be as limited or as broad as you want. On the broad end, you would give someone the power to do absolutely anything you could do, including sell your house, manage all bank accounts, pay your bills, file lawsuits on your behalf, anything. On the other end, you can make a Power of Attorney as limited as you want. For example, you could give someone a limited Power of Attorney to use your credit card to buy you groceries every week and that's it. It is truly up to the imagination as to what a Power of Attorney can be used for.
Downsides to a Power of AttorneyOne of the downsides to signing a financial Power of Attorney is that it is effective immediately after you sign it. This is why it should only be signed in favor of someone you truly trust because there is a very real opportunity for the attorney-in-fact to abuse their power and drain all of the resources of the principal. There are a few potential ways to mitigate these potential risks.
One way to try to minimize the risk that comes with signing a Power of Attorney is to create a "Springing Power of Attorney." You really only want the Power of Attorney be to used if you become incapacitated. Well, the Springing Power of Attorney only goes into effect once you've become incapacitated. This way it can't be used while you can manage your own affairs. However, one potential drawback to this is that the attorney-in-fact might have to prove that you are incapacitated, which can be a challenge sometimes.
There are additional ways to protect against the potential downsides and risks associated with giving someone a Power of Attorney over all of your financial affairs. You should talk to an estate planning attorney about these additional protective measures. Otherwise, a Durable Power of Attorney is a very useful tool that should absolutely be part of your estate plan.
Should I Purchase My Will or Power of Attorney Online Or Should I Go To An Attorney?There are plenty of online resources and online companies that sell estate planning documents, but should you purchase them? Strangely enough, it is not actually that much more expensive to have an actual attorney prepare all of your estate planning documents than what you would pay to purchase them from an online company. Importantly, in Ohio there are very strict requirements about how a Will and Power of Attorney must be signed in order for them to be valid. This is not something that you want to do yourself, because if done incorrectly, then the Will or Power of Attorney is null and void.
Lastly, whatever increase in cost to go from a do-it-yourself online Will or Power of Attorney to have an attorney prepare it is invaluable because an attorney will sit down with you to see what your actual goals are and will draft your estate planning documents to meet your exact specific goals. An estate planning attorney will also make sure that you understand the documents that you are signing and that you know how to properly use them. Also, an estate planning attorney or law firm will be there for your beneficiaries after you pass away to make sure that your wishes go into effect and that your beneficiaries get what you gave them.
Columbus Ohio Estate Planning AttorneysThe law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients in the Columbus and greater central Ohio area with their estate planning and estate administration needs. You can call an attorney to discuss setting up your Will and Power of Attorney or any of your estate planning questions by calling (614) 610-9988.
Now Virtually All Non-Violent Offenders Are Eligible to Have Their Criminal Records Sealed in OhioNovember, 2018, is the first month that Ohio's new expungement statute goes into effect. The new law allows individuals in Ohio to seal an unlimited number of misdemeanor convictions and up to 5 felony convictions for all non-violent, non-sex crime, lower tiered felonies (subject to certain other limitations).
Ohio has amended the expungement statutes several times over the past 5 years. The original law was somewhat of a 'one strike and you're out...' law allowing you to expunge one and only one conviction. Then in 2014, Ohio amended the expungement statues to allow individuals with up to 1 felony and 1 misdemeanor or no felonies and 2 misdemeanors to expunge their records.
Now, with the new law made effective 10/31/2018 and after, anyone with old drug and theft offenses is likely now eligible to have those expunged. You can read more about the new expungement law here and exactly who is eligible to seal their records in Ohio. Or if you are interested in sealing your criminal records in Columbus or the greater Central Ohio area, you can call attorney Evan T. Engler at (614) 610-9988 to talk about the next steps.