What’s the Deal with the European Union?

Jun 12

Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you have heard about the latest issues with the European Union. The shortest way to describe the current political situation is: the European Union — and Britain’s relation to the European Union — is a mess.

There is an international populist movement gaining steam across the globe. Oftentimes, the populist uprising is in reaction to globalization, multilateral agreements, changing cultural norms, and a whole host of other reasons. Most of the candidates and parties have been associated with the political right, no matter the country’s particular political context.

One of the manifestations of this populism in Britain was the Brexit campaign. Former Prime Minister David Cameron promised a nationwide referendum before leaving office, concerning the exit of Britain from the European Union.

The prime minister promised this referendum (or vote) because of intense public pressure. Many populists and conservatives (and to be fair, some left-leaning officials, too) in Britain are skeptical of the benefits that membership in the European Union offers to Britain.

As a multinational political and legal coalition, the European Union acts almost similar to the United Nations. However, membership is (obviously) limited to European countries. And while the coalition has obvious benefits such as a shared marketplace in which tariffs or trading taxes are limited or non-existent, there are also obvious downsides.

The most commonly cited negative effects of being a European Union member state is mandatory regulations on goods and services that must be complied with, lest a member state receives fines or in severe cases, be threatened with removal from the European Union.

These regulations, in addition to immigration requirements, were the primary reason that Brexit campaigners persuaded the British people, by a slim margin, to vote to leave the European Union.

As the team at THEVOZ Attorneys, LLC describes on their website, there is a compelling case to be made that the European Union’s tax structures are pretty difficult to navigate. As they point out, even basic business transactions involving the European Union’s member states could require an international tax lawyer that is experienced with navigating the bureaucracy.

While I am not in any position to offer an opinion on the broader Brexit campaign or the issues discussed by the Brexit campaigners and those opposed to the exit, the “Remainers”, I do feel entitled to an opinion on the complexity of the tax system.

From what I can gather, it seems that if you are doing business in one European Union member state, you might be obligated to:

  • Comply with local tax regulations in one instance
  • And the very next day, you might be obligated to instead comply with the international financial rules.

This system is definitely not enjoyable to navigate over any lengthy period of time.

Until the system is reformed or there is an easier way to understand which laws you must follow, I would sincerely recommend that you speak with an international tax lawyer who is experienced with doing business in the European Union. Receiving their legal counsel might be the thing that prevents a serious mistake or miscalculation on your part!

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Three Common Wooden Fence Issues

May 21

In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much privacy. Sure, some people can take it perhaps a little too far by installing privacy features that are more advanced or extensive than necessary. There are definitely instances of people installing blinds or putting up fences that unnecessarily hide homes.

However, these people have the right to increase their privacy to their hearts’ content. No government or entity ought to have the right to curb their seclusion!

One of the more common ways that people ensure their privacy is through the aforementioned fence. Wooden fences are especially popular in dense neighborhoods in which without a fence, neighbors could intrude on the activities taking place in a person’s backyard or even worse, could see straight into your home.

But wooden fences are not without their own problems. In this article, I will describe the three most common issues experienced by homeowners with wooden fences:

Stains or Splotches

Like anything kept outdoors for an extended period of time, wooden fences are going to get pelted with rain, snow, dirt, mud, and everything in-between. The simple act of cutting the grass can quickly turn into an act of slowly destroying your fence with stains and splotches.

Your fence becoming dirtier and dirtier can be frustrating, especially if you are the one responsible for installing the fence or upgrading it. It is completely understandable to want a clean fence that matches the same quality as the rest of your house’s interior and exterior design.

Your fence will never be immaculate, but with the occasional power washing most disgusting splotches or accumulated dirtiness can be removed. In addition, fence installation experts can paint over your fence with a thin layer of wood stain. The veneer-like protection can make ugly stains harder to form on your wood fence.

Wood Rot

Another huge problem with wood fences is the material rotting after long-term exposure to snow or ice. Collecting at the bottom of fences, rainwater or snowmelt can rot holes into your wooden fence. As you can guess, a fence with many holes in it is essentially useless as a privacy tool.

Additionally, rotten fences are inextricably linked with termite damage and insect infiltration. Something about the mildewy mess of rotten fences attracts lots of other unsavory characters to your home’s fences.

What is the cause of fences rotting? As previously mentioned, heavy snowfall can lead to snow collecting alongside cracks or overhangs on your fence. But more commonly, as Daybreaker Landscapes reports, poor drainage systems are really common progenitors of water collecting in your yard and slowly rotting out wooden fences.

Some solutions to drainage issues include increasing drainage system types, clearing out debris in existing drainage systems, and more. In difficult cases, regrading a yard (which involves sloping away lawns and grass from homes) can be done by professionals to clear away standing water and prevent rainwater retention issues in the future.

Wooden fences can be an effective way to increase privacy in your home, but they are not without their flaws. Reach out to professionals to see if your wooden fence issues can be taken care of quickly at the right price.

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The Sticky Situation When a Step-Parent Adopts

Aug 10

Our country, thankfully, is becoming far more open to some non-traditional family ideas. I don’t think that has anything to do with politics, per se. It’s much more about the fact that families, by and large, just aren’t quite looking as traditional as before. There are so many divorces, remarriages, step-families, adoptions, etc., it’s impossible to hold the old traditional family as the only way to see a family.

That is, like I implied above, a good thing, and yet, despite how most people support this idea, it is still very difficult to keep some non-traditional families together. Take, for instance, step-parent adoption. This is far more common than you may realize. There are plenty of instances where a step-parent is called upon to become the main custodian for a child. The most obvious would be when the biological parent is deceased, but there are also sad instances when the biological parent is unable or unwilling to take care of their child or children.

At that point, you would think it would be as simple to adopt the child for the step-parent as just signing a piece of paper, but as Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. points out, it is actually an incredibly complicated process.

Some of the rules Mr. Bestafka lays out are obvious. For instance, the step-parent has to already be 18 years old to become a guardian. Both biological parents (if they are both alive and able to do so) also have to give consent to the adoption, and the parent removing themselves from custody of the child must also formally forfeit their own rights.

That is really only the beginning of the process, though. Extensive background checks are run on the step-parent, and children over ten must go to a hearing to give their opinion on the process.

All of this seems reasonable, and yet, it is an extremely complicated and drawn-out process. This is especially true, according to Mr. Bestafka, when the non-custodial parent refuses to comply and give up their rights. While this is an obviously difficult situation for the parent, if they are unsafe or unable to provide for the child, it is surely in the best interest to make this process easier, and yet, it appears that is often the opposite of what happens.

I hope that as this continues to inevitably become a more common family type, the process can be streamlined to make it easier to keep children with those they consider they parents.

For now, it seems like the only way to navigate such a system is with the help of lawyers like Mr. Bestafka. However, while we can hope the system gets better and be sure to recommend lawyers to help step-parents going through such a situation, we must also as a community make an effort to embrace publicly such non-traditional family types, to remove any stigma and to make it easier for the family to find support in a community during a very difficult time.

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Legal term guide: wrongful death

Oct 04

The legal world is intimidating precisely because of how it speaks. What I mean is that lawyers speak in their own language, with their own terms, and our inability to understand intimidates us. Just as you might feel intimidated walking in a big city in some foreign country where the language isn’t English, so you feel intimidated talking to a lawyer who isn’t speaking to you in words you understand.

In some ways, the lawyer situation is worse. If you are in another town, you are probably there by choice: you’re on vacation, or you’re there on business. You can get over being intimidated and just enjoy yourself or get your work done. With a lawyer, though, you are probably only talking to him or her because you need a lawyer. Something has happened in your life that requires legal advice, and if that lawyer can’t explain himself or herself to you clearly, you are in for some real stress and potentially life-changing mistakes.

In an effort to ease these concerns, I’m going to start a series that covers some basic legal language. That way, you can speak to your lawyer and understand what he or she has to say.

The first time I’d like to cover is “wrongful death.”

You’ve probably heard of wrongful death suits; these occur after someone has died either by a mistake or willful violence of another. The surviving members of the family can then sue for the “pecuniary,” or financial, damages that the family incurs after the death of their relative.

Wrongful death can occur through several avenues: medical malpractice, automotive accidents, work-related incidents, and especially criminal behavior.

Most famously, OJ Simpson was sued for the wrongful death of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. He lost the case and was required to pay out millions to the grieving families.

In order to win a wrongful death case, a few things must be proved: negligence or intent to harm was present, and the loss of this individual will have an adverse effect upon the family finances.

This second point is important. Though the wrongful death of a grandparent is tragic, it may not fall into this category of a lawsuit and may instead have to be filed more directly under a different category, such as, say, medical malpractice.

Though pecuniary damages are the main thrust of such lawsuits, there is also such a thing as punitive damages, which is money extracted from the guilty party simply as punishment. It is then awarded to the victims.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of considering a wrongful death suit, be sure to find a lawyer who can appreciate the state of your emotions at the time. This lawyer’s site is a good example of people who seem to understand how difficult such cases are for the people involved.

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How You Can Sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries

Jun 08

Traumatic brain injuries are arguably some of the most devastating injuries you can sustain. This is because these injuries can affect you both physically and mentally, and depending on the severity of your case, these effects may even be so life-altering that they will limit your opportunities to be productive in school and work, or to be able to enjoy life to the fullest through recreation.

The website of Mazin & Associates, PC has even enumerated the possible consequences of mild and severe traumatic brain injuries, such as the following:

Mild to Moderate TBI

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Sensory problems, like blurred vision and ringing in the ears

Severe TBI

  • Coma
  • Loss of motor functions
  • Persistent headaches
  • Poor coordination
  • Vomiting

But how can you sustain traumatic brain injuries exactly? You can generally get it two ways. One, you can hit your head in a surface with enough force. Two, you can get hit in the head by an object with enough force. The following are the most common scenarios that may result into brain trauma:

  • Falling accidents
    • Falling from an elevated place and hitting the head upon reaching the ground
    • Slipping on a slippery substance on the floor and hitting the head on a hard surface
    • Tripping on an obstruction and crashing into the floor
  • Sports and recreation accidents
    • Crashing and hitting the head on a hard surface, such as in diving
    • Getting hit in the head by hard objects, such as balls and other player’s helmets
  • Traffic accidents
    • Getting hit in the head by a projectile, such as broken glass and other debris
    • Hitting the head into a hard surface inside the vehicle, such as steering wheels and dashboards
    • Hitting the head into a hard surface outside the vehicle, such as pavements and rocks
  • Violent acts
    • Being jammed into a hard surface, like a wall
    • Getting attacked by a hard object, like a baseball bat

According to the website of the Amerio Law Firm, those who have sustained brain injuries may take legal action, such as getting compensation from the responsible party. This is especially effective on instances where the responsible party has been negligent or reckless.

It is good to know that the law is on the side of those who have undeservedly sustained traumatic brain injuries. After all, this is the brain we are talking about, and damaging it can have serious consequences.

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