News, Events & Publications

Get your tax affaIRS in order

February 16, 2018 – You have just about 2 months to file your Massachusetts and Federal taxes for 2017!  They’re due by Tuesday, April 17 (don’t forget)!  It’s important to start collecting necessary forms now so that you aren’t scrambling as the deadline fast approaches.

As you start this process, be sure to stay on the lookout for scams.  A lot of scammers try to capitalize on the confusion and stress surrounding tax season in order to steal your identity and money.  As referenced in our News posting from February 2nd, the IRS doesn’t send harassing or threatening emails, or call you before they’ve already mailed a bill.  Many taxpayers have also fallen victim to email scams containing links to seemingly legitimate websites that ask for personally identifying information.  Oftentimes these emails contain links or files which, when opened, will put viruses on your computer and steal your information.  Trust your gut if you get one of these emails.  You can always call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to inquire into the legitimacy of a communication.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has also issued an advisory on instances of identity theft in the Commonwealth, and what to do about it.  Both the Commonwealth and federal governments have reporting services, but you can also choose to speak with a private attorney to explore your options if you think that your identity was stolen or you’ve been the target of fraud.

The government also understands that preparing and submitting your taxes can be very difficult and frustrating.  That’s why they published lists of:

Here’s a checklist of what you should bring with you to these programs

If, despite seeking help from tax specialists, you still find yourself in trouble with the IRS or Massachusetts Department of Revenue, or if you just have some questions, call the Boston Bar Association at 617-742-0625 or fill out our online form here to get connected to a licensed, knowledgeable, and experienced tax attorney today!  Our service is free to use and we can make most referrals in just a few minutes.  Don’t wait until April 17th – call now!

Attorney General Healey’s Guide for Families Affected by Federal Immigration Actions

February 9, 2018 – Massachusetts’s Attorney General Maura Healey released an Emergency Planning Guide for Parents with Uncertain Immigration Status yesterday to help parents figure out what to do with their children if they were to be detained or deported by Federal Immigration Authorities, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The Guide is also available in Español, Português, and Kreyòl Ayisyen.

It provides information on how to appoint care givers and guardians, gives a table summarizing various care and custody options, explains how access to public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and provides other resources to consult.

This guide follows several advisories from Attorney General Healey’s office regarding the obligations of schools, colleges, and other educational institutions, as well as hospitals and healthcare providers in this time of great uncertainty.

Given the constantly changing landscape and misinformation out there about immigration policies and actions, it is understandable that many people are stressed and unsure of where to turn.  If you wish to speak with an immigration or family attorney to make plans, or even just to ask questions, contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online form hereo aquí para español100% of your information is kept private and confidential.  The Boston Bar Association is not run by the government, and we are happy to help you find a qualified and experienced attorney in as little as 5 minutes.

What’s the Difference between a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy?

February 8, 2018 – Planning for the day when you might not be able to make decisions for yourself can be difficult, saddening, and confusing.  There are so many terms and forms that it can be hard to figure out what you might need to fill out.  Below are some common documents to keep in mind.

 

A Power of Attorney (PoA) grants a specific person or persons (maybe a family member or close friend) the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf.  It can allow the trusted and designated “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” access to your bank accounts, the ability to make or settle insurance claims, operate your businesses, make investment choices, pay bills, or really do anything involving your money.  You, the principal, can give your agent(s) as much or as little control as you like.  This should be done if you’ll be out of the country for an extended period of time, such as for a military deployment or long vacation.

A PoA can also be drafted to be durable, meaning that it will still have effect if you become incapacitated in some way, such as recovering from a surgery, suffering from some kind of debilitating disease, or as the result of an accident.  Without the special durable designation, the PoA authority granted to your agent will expire upon your incapacitation or death, potentially leading to confusion and long court proceedings for those who love and wish to care for you.  An attorney can help to guide you through the drafting process if you want to make it durable.

 

A Health Care Proxy is similar to a PoA, except this agent makes decisions about your healthcare if you are unable to do so because of illness or sudden injury.  Your proxy could decide which medical facility treats you, what services or surgeries are administered, and even what potential end of life care looks like.  You can give HIPAA Authorization to your proxy as well.

While the proxy has the authority to make choices, many people find it helpful to write out a living will.  Although not formally recognized in Massachusetts, living wills (aka health care directives) spell out exactly what treatment you do or do not want in a variety of situations (such as your feelings on artificial life support, what medicine you don’t want, and so on).  It is useful to write down your wishes and communicate them with your trusted and appointed proxy in order to advise them on how you want to be cared for if you ever can’t properly communicate.

 

Life can change in an instant.  Car accidents happen, falls occur, and you can be left without proper decision making ability in a matter of seconds.  That’s why it’s so important to have these difficult conversations with family, friends, potential agents, and your attorney before anything bad happens.  Remember that these aren’t just for the elderly: tragedy can strike anyone at any time.

If you’re interested in learning more about establishing Powers of Attorney or Health Care Proxy, or if you just have some questions, contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to access our vast network of experienced attorneys.  Call us at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online form to get a fast, free, and reliable referral today!

How do you stop those annoying robocalls? Don’t be a telemar-quitter!

February 2, 2018 – *ring ring* Your phone starts buzzing at the worst possible time and you look down.  It’s an unfamiliar number, but it appears to be a local area code.  You answer: “Hello?”  There’s an unnatural pause before a voice kicks in.  Sometimes it’s a robot, sometimes a real human, but either way you’re not really sure who it is and why they keep calling you over and over.  What can be done?

Many of us have gotten calls promising luxurious cruise vacations, extravagant gifts, or special treats, but remember: if you didn’t specifically enter a legitimate sweepstakes it’s highly unlikely that someone is giving you a prize worth thousands of dollars.  Be especially wary when they ask for personally identifying information.

Then there are more serious sounding calls, like ones from people claiming to be from the police or IRS demanding payments and threatening jail time.  It’s important to keep in mind that if you were in trouble with the IRS or police, you would probably already know about it.  Also, the IRS will always send you a bill in the mail first, and will never demand immediate payment or ask for credit card information over the phone.  They put out an advisory about common scams and how to identify them.

Most of the 2.4 billion automated calls which Americans receive every month are fraudulent, although sometimes legitimate companies are just making sales calls to consumers.   Real companies as supposed to honor the following 3 conditions, and should provide information when asked:

  • All robocalls which are pre-recorded must first identify the organization, company, or individual making the call;
  • The caller must include contact information where they may be reached;
  • Legal robocallers are required to honor the National Do Not Call Registry. If your number is not on this list, and you are receiving unwanted calls, this should be your first step (companies have 31 days from your date of registry to stop calling you).  A federal report found that 91% of consumers saw a drop in telemarketer calls after registering.

If you are receiving calls from scammers, or from businesses who persist despite you asking them to stop, report them to the Federal Trade Commission.

Try and keep a log of these unwanted calls, and save any voicemails that they leave you.  If a telemarketer calls you before you’ve given your consent, you might actually be entitled to $500 thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  If they knowingly call you after you’ve told them to stop you could get up to $1500 per call.  Consumer rights attorneys can further advise you of your rights as they relate to robocalls, and can sometimes get you money from these companies – companies who don’t expect consumers to know their rights.

If you believe you’ve been receiving illegal or harassing robocalls, contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to be put in contact with a knowledgeable and experienced consumer rights attorney today.  You can call at 617-742-0625, or fill out the online form here to try and stop annoying telemarketers and robocallers!

Wash your hands, get your flu shot, and know your sick time rights

January 29, 2018 – It’s flu season around Massachusetts, and if you’ve got a case of the sniffles then you’re going to want to know your rights when it comes to Earned Sick Time.

If your primary place of work is in Massachusetts then congratulations – you receive Earned Sick Time (EST)!  This includes all full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees.  Minor exceptions include federal government employees and university work-study students.

You start earning EST from your very first day on the job and will earn 1 additional hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.  However you cannot begin using these days until 90 calendar days after you start.  If your company has fewer than 11 employees, EST does not have to be paid, however if there are 11 or more employees then your sick time will be paid at the same or roughly equivalent rate you would normally receive (this includes tipped workers), so long as it is not less than the minimum wage of $11 per hour.

There are several specific reasons why you may take sick time off from work, including:

  • To care for your own physical or mental illness, injury, or other medical condition that requires home, preventative, or professional care;
  • To care for your own child, parent, spouse, or parent of a spouse who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or other medical condition that requires home, preventative, or professional care;
  • To attend routine medical and dental appointments for yourself or for your child, parent, spouse, or parent of a spouse;
  • To address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence; or
  • To travel to and from an appointment, a pharmacy, or other location related to the purpose for which the time was taken.

It is not appropriate for your employer to ask the exact nature of your condition, but if you are out for more than 3 consecutive days they can ask for a doctor’s note to corroborate, and when possible you should always give advanced notice.

Also, something to keep in mind as we enter 2018 is that if you accrue your sick time, rather than have it provided in a lump sum, unused sick time from the previous year will carryover.

It is important to remember that these are just the minimum standards – your employer may have its own sick leave policy such that benefits are equivalent to or more generous than the law.

If you feel that your employer has denied you your EST rights, or that their policy is in violation of state law you can reference this handy guide from The Attorney General’s Office right here.  Don’t worry: there are legal protections in place for anyone who makes inquiries about policies, brings up complaints or even judicial action, or requests to use their EST.

The Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service has a vast network of experienced employment law attorneys who can answer your questions and potentially help your get the sick time that you deserve, as well as hold reckless employers accountable.  Call us at 617-742-0625, or fill out this online form to be connected with a knowledgeable and helpful local attorney today!

What’s happening with TPS for Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador?

January 24, 2018 –  There’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about what’s going on with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a federal program which grants some work and residency privileges to people who cannot safely return to their homes in one of a few specific countries. Recently the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, run by the Department of Homeland Security, announced changes affecting TPS holders from 4 countries:

Honduras: Current holders of TPS may re-register before February 13, 2018, and TPS is extended through July 5, 2018.

Nicaragua: TPS is being terminated, although current holders can re-register until February 13, 2018 in order to get their TPS extended until January 5, 2019.

Haiti: TPS is being terminated, but current holders can extend through July 22, 2019 by re-registering.  There’s currently no published date by which you must re-register.

El Salvador: TPS is being terminated, but current holders can extend through September 9, 2019 by re-registering.  There’s currently no published date by which you must re-register.

Check here regularly for official updates as more information is released.

Even if your TPS is being terminated, you can still re-register by the published dates.  If you think that the re-registration fee might present too much of a hardship, check here to see if you qualify for a fee waiver.

 

BEWARE of anyone calling themselves a notarios, escribanos, or notarios publicos who will claim to do work on your behalf.  These are different than notary publics in the US, and this is an illegal practice since ONLY licensed attorneys or accredited representatives are allowed to give legal help.  Here is a list of legitimate immigration experts.  Additionally, you can search www.massbbo.org to see if someone claiming to be an attorney is actually licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.

If you would like to be put in contact with a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney, call the Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online form here.  All of your information will be kept completely confidential.

Filing for Divorce in Massachusetts: Terms to Know

January 17, 2018 –  Divorce can be one of the most difficult times in someone’s life.  Any matter involving relationships, family, children, money, or living situation can be extremely stressful and trying, so it is important to understand some of the terminology which can arise.

All divorces in Massachusetts can be filed into one of two categories:

  • No-fault divorces mean that both people agree that unfortunately there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”, in other words that it is beyond repair, but neither person blames the other
  • A Fault divorce, on the other hand, would occur when one person specifically blames the other based on adultery, desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, non-support, a prison sentence of 5 or more years, or one of a few more factors

Divorces are then either contested or uncontested:

  • Contested divorces are ones in which at least one person disagrees with the terms of the divorce, or the divorce as a whole
  • Uncontested divorces are ones in which both people agree to the prescribed terms

The Attorney General’s Office has more information on how to choose which type of divorce to file here.  The classification can affect the time it takes to get fully divorced, and potentially the cost to each party.

You must go through the State to file for divorce, so many people will find it necessary to get an attorney.  This is especially true when there are children involved in the divorce, assets to be split, or other matters to be resolved.  Attorneys can assist in figuring out the terms of the divorce, as well as advocate for you throughout the process.

Some attorneys offer Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) whereby they will just assist you for a small portion of the proceedings if you only need help with some paperwork or another relatively quick part of the divorce.  LAR can be a money saving option, although every attorney will have their own policies which should be discussed with them more personally.  The Boston Bar Association can help find you an attorney with extensive LAR experience.

If you or someone you know is in need of an attorney to help with a divorce, or with any other legal matter, please contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625, or submit an online request form here to be connected with an experienced, trustworthy, and helpful Boston-area lawyer today!

Free Wage Theft Legal Clinics

January 5, 2018 – The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is hosting free wage theft clinics in January and February. These clinics will help workers in Massachusetts get the wages and benefits they have earned. Lawyers, law students, and advocates will help workers learn their rights, draft demand letters, and prepare small claims court complaints.

More details about the upcoming clinics are below, and can also be found online here.

Where:

Suffolk Law School, First Floor Function Room
120 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108 (near the Park Street MBTA station)

When:

  • Monday, January 22nd from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Monday, February 26th from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

In addition, if you wish to hire an experienced, qualified attorney for assistance with any workplace problem, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling (617) 742-0625 or filling out an online request form here. All of our attorneys are licensed, vetted, and have malpractice insurance.

 

Regulation Update: State Building Code

December 21, 2017 – The 9th Edition of the State Building Code was put into effect recently by the Massachusetts Board of Regulations and Standards. Permit applications for construction projects submitted before the end of this year can still follow the previous edition of the building code’s provisions, but any applications submitted after January 1st, 2018 will need to comply with the 9th edition.

To learn more information regarding the amended State Building Code click here. If you work in construction or real estate development, and would like to speak to a lawyer about these new regulations, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or fill out an online request for an attorney by clicking here.

OUI/DUI Charges in Massachusetts

December 15, 2017 – OUI (Operating Under the Influence) laws in Massachusetts can be among the most strict in the nation. A first time offender may get the minimum penalties, which include one-year probation, license suspension up to 90 days, and a mandatory 16-week drug/alcohol education program, but the consequences increase with additional factors, such as if there is child in the vehicle. Second offenses can be more severe and are more likely to carry a jail sentence.  It’s important to know what rights and options that you may have if you face a criminal charge.

Let the Boston Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service connect you to a quality attorney with past experience representing people in these specific types of cases. To be referred to a lawyer right away, please contact us at (617) 742-0625 or Toll Free: (800) 552-7046. You can also request a referral by filling out our online form.