This is a Presidential election year, and this month I listened to many fine speeches given by and on behalf of both the Democratic and Republican candidates. Even their children were drafted into extolling the virtues of their respective parents. All of the speeches outlined the virtues of each of the candidates and painted the other as the devil incarnate. But, if the truth be told, each of the candidates carry considerable baggage. Each of the candidates was most likely an absentee parent, despite their children alleging otherwise. Each of the candidates either had, or were rumored to have, extramarital affairs. Neither candidate has stellar reputations for honesty and fair dealing. Each of the candidates have had their character questioned.
Does the above mean that the candidates should not be elected as President? No, it just means that they are human, and that they are subject to the same human frailties as every other human. It does mean that they have had the good fortune, the tenacity, the financial resources, the human network, or most likely a combination of all of them, to rise above and/or overcome their issues to the level where they are considered Presidential candidate material.
However, for most of the rest of us, we are not as fortunate. Both of the candidates’ daughters are married to men whose family members have served time in prison for some type of financial fraud. Both of the candidates have suffered severe financial losses and incurred large debt. Both of the candidates have made statements or signed documents and later disputed that they made the statements, or that the documents they signed are valid. Yet, how many of us can so easily walk away from our problems in life and run for office.
The reason I titled this blog Fantasyland is because I encounter many people who appear to be in fantasyland with regard to the law and their legal issues. I will give you some examples.
Lady A called me because she was uncertain if her brother was operating under a valid power of attorney allegedly signed by her mother, and if the power of attorney was valid, whether he was exceeding his authority under the power of attorney. After patiently explaining to her the many factors that have to be considered in such an analysis, and that the law recently changed in Pennsylvania regarding powers of attorney, she appeared frustrated that I did not have a quick answer for her, and then asked me to explain all aspects of the new law to her. She, as well as others who call me, do not seem to respect that the law is complex, is ever changing, is often formatted depending on a particular set of facts, that just because laws exist, often they are not enforced, and that lawyers have a purpose, training and knowledge which laypeople usually do not possess.
Lady B, a doctor employed by a hospital, who earns a high salary, called me because she signed a non-compete agreement which requires her to notify her employer a certain number of months in advance if she wishes to not renew her contract. The penalty for not providing this notice is that she will owe her employer one (1) year’s salary. Yet she appeared to believe that because she did not think her employer had treated her fairly, she could just walk away from this penalty, and her employer would not pursue her. She also was reluctant to spend a small amount for a lawyer to determine if her employer would agree not to enforce the contract. These types of problems usually do not resolve themselves, so the decision to save a small amount in hiring a lawyer could have major repercussions for her and result in large legal fees if her employer sues her for violating the terms of the agreement.
Gentleman C contacted me because his bank account has been attached. The only way this could happen aside from a family law court action is if the person had a court judgment entered against him. This type of call is becoming more common in our office. Many people are aware that they have been sued, and either did not respond or did not appeal from said suit. They apparently feel that no one can do anything against them to collect the funds owed, and then they are shocked when their bank account is frozen and the funds attached. These judgments remain valid for many years (21 years in Pennsylvania) for money judgments. Other persons may not have known about the existence of said lawsuits because they had moved or had otherwise not been served with the legal papers. Yet, they have not been vigilant about monitoring their credit reports.
I also hear from intelligent individuals who own and operate their own businesses, who encounter problems because they do not realize that their business skills do not mean they have the knowledge and experience equivalent to lawyers. Unfortunately, they usually ask us to represent them after they have done things, made statements, or taken actions which have seriously disadvantaged them.
So, the lesson I hope to impart in this blog is although there are many things in life we cannot control, there are many things we can. It is important to contact a lawyer and seek a perspective that may be different than the perspective you currently have, as the legal process is complex and often fraught with many treacherous trenches. Although there may be a fee involved, often the cost savings is enormous. So, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish in consulting with and hiring a lawyer.