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Dog and cat: estate planning

Estate Planning for Your Pet

What will happen to your pets if you passed away tomorrow?

In this age of uncertainty and turmoil, one thing you can count on is that your pet is there for you. But what if the unthinkable happens? Who will be there for your pet if you die? If there is nothing in writing, your beloved pet could end up in a rescue, shelter, or homeless on the streets. The thought of that is heartbreaking to most pet owners. That’s why your pets’ future care should be in writing as part of your estate plan.

Whom do you want to care for your fur baby?

  Who in your family or circle of friends would be the ideal person to care for your pet? Is that person comfortable with the arrangement? You should speak with your pet’s potential caretaker about special dietary or medical needs, life span, exercise and space requirements, and other needs your pet has. You will also want to gauge their interest. If they look disturbed, uncomfortable, or disinterested, it may be in your pet’s best interest if you move on to the next person. Your duty is to find the ideal situation so your pet will be able to adjust after the trauma of losing you.

How will your pet’s guardian pay for your pet’s needs for the remainder of their lifetime?

After your choice on who will care for your pet has been made, it’s time to consider how much money you should set aside to pay for their future care. Quality pet food, bedding, vet care, grooming, etc., can add up fast. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a friend or family member to foot your pet’s caretaking bills after you die. To determine approximate costs, calculate the annual costs to care for your pet and then multiply that number by the pet’s remaining life expectancy and add extra for medical emergencies. These funds will be willed TO your pet’s guardian and NOT your pet, as pets are legally personal property and property cannot receive money. 

If you are considering leaving a large amount of money to pay for your pet’s future needs, you may want to consider creating a trust and assigning a trustee to manage the money for your pet.

Pet Trust option

A more secure option would be to set up a trust for your pet. With a pet trust, you can put money in a trust and assign a trustee to oversee funds. The trust will assign a trustee and caretaker who will have a legal obligation to care for your pet. If your chosen and dually agreed upon caretaker fails your pet, they may be sued. Your trust will include:

• The name and description of the pets to be cared for.

• The name of the person (trustee) who may be responsible for overseeing the process.

• The amount of money to be used for pet care.

• The name of the person that agreed with you to care for your pet.

• Detailed instructions on the care of your pet.

• Details on what should be done with any money left over after your pet dies

What happens if I cannot find a suitable caretaker for my pet?

  If you are not able to find the ideal situation for your pet, contacting the SPCA of Florida, your vet, or a sanctuary is an excellent way to help you find a program that can help you make arrangements. A stipend may be required to ensure your pet gets the care they need while living their life out in a sanctuary or are adopted out to the perfect family.

Contact your Winter Park estate planning attorney today to modify your will and ensure that your pet is taken care of

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A., is passionate about helping families prepare for life after a loved one dies. With a secure estate plan, you can feel confident that your pet will be cared for in their next home. We serve clients in Winter Park and Orlando and in communities throughout Orange County, Seminole County, Osceola County, and Volusia County, FL. We are committed to building strong relationships with our clients and the community.

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Construction contract

Should a Dispute Resolution Clause be included in a Construction Contract?

      Construction projects typically include complex, long-term contracts. There are many reasons for disagreements due to perceived or real violations of a contract, whether it involves a single-family home or a multi-million dollar commercial project. Some common causes for breach of contract disputes are breakdowns in communication, changes in economic circumstances, delays, injuries, updates in construction law, defective materials, technical problems, and force majeure events. Alternative dispute resolution is a method that can effectively resolve conflicts between contractual parties in a timely and economical manner.

   Provisions to address disputes are essential when drafting a construction contract. A dispute resolution clause within a contract details the terms of resolving conflicts. There is an increasing trend in the construction industry, especially for commercial projects, to draft contracts with alternative dispute resolution clauses. Courtroom litigation proves to be a costly, public, and lengthy process that is likely to result in irreconcilable differences between those in conflict. Reaching a compromise without court intervention can often preserve the relationship between the parties. Alternative dispute resolution is generally an expeditious way to resolve conflicts and is more informal than a trial.

Popular Methods for Alternative Dispute Resolution include Negotiation, Mediation, and Arbitration.

   Negotiations are the first step when trying to solve construction issues between industry professionals or property owners. If this is unsuccessful, mediation can be initiated. In contrast to negotiations, a neutral third party mediator intervenes to help those in conflict reach a mutually agreed-upon compromise. Arbitration Code chapter 682 in the Florida statutes governs arbitration. This process also uses a neutral third party; however, that person acts as a judge. Their decisions are generally legally binding. There must be clarity in the language of a contract regarding dispute resolution to settle differences effectively. Dispute resolution clauses have profound implications for the contractual rights and obligations that are enforced.

Common Items to Include in a Contract regarding Dispute Resolution are:

  • One or more conflict resolution methods may be written in the contract, such as utilizing a negotiation approach and proceeding to mediation as needed. If a compromise is not reached, the parties can begin the arbitration process and, if necessary, formalized litigation.
  • It should be documented if the dispute resolution method is a final, binding, and confidential agreement.
  • The third-party negotiator, mediator, or arbitrator that is mutually chosen should be written into the contract.
  • There can be a waiver of rights for courtroom litigation.
  • The formal method to communicate the results, such as the findings, conclusion, and awards, is necessary for the contract.
  • Payment arrangements for a third-party negotiator, mediator, or arbitrator are included in the contract.

The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is a Multi-Service Law Firm Dedicated to Central Florida Communities.

   Our law firm is experienced and skilled in alternative dispute resolution techniques to bring parties in conflict to an agreement. As necessary, we provide innovative and aggressive strategies to resolve differences in courtroom litigation. As the law firm’s founder, attorney Shane Boutty has over twenty years of legal knowledge in the construction industry as a contractor, law professor, and owner of several construction companies. With a background in engineering, Attorney Larry Christopher Tabor brings a unique perspective. He is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Court Mediator.

The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is located in Winter Park, Florida. We represent construction industry professionals and property owners in small and large construction projects throughout Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia Counties. Call for an appointment at 407-622-1395 to discuss your concerns. We strive to accomplish your goals with efficient and cost-effective legal solutions.

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liability waiver

Liability Waivers During Covid-19

  Florida’s economy has been slowly rebuilding since Governor DeSantis lifted the State of Florida’s stay-at-home order on 4/30/2020. Non-essential businesses continue to struggle financially from the shutdown and the newly emerged issue of pandemic-related liability risks. Although several states have passed COVID-19 laws to limit businesses’ liability, currently, there is no legal immunity in the Sunshine State for pandemic-related claims. Business owners run the risk of lawsuits from employees and consumers who claim to contract COVID-19 on their premises.

   A liability waiver is an agreement in which one party gives up the right to file a civil lawsuit against another party for damages that have occurred on the premises. Gross negligence, recklessness, and intentionally harmful conduct invalidate a waiver. Liability waivers are becoming commonplace at recreational facilities, schools, salons, summer camps, and construction sites. These waivers gain popularity to shield business owners from claims; however, there are questions regarding their enforceability, as waivers regarding the pandemic are uncharted territory in the legal arena.

Guidelines for Waivers

   Covid-19 Liability waivers should acknowledge the inherent risks that a person assumes from exposure to infectious diseases, including COVID-19. These contracts should be drafted with specific language about the coronavirus’s contagious nature, even with heightened sanitary precautions. Vague or ambiguous wording in a waiver can invalidate its terms. The simple posting of a sign at the place of business is not enforceable. A waiver may not be valid if an individual feels they have signed the document under duress, or if they fear retaliation from their employer. Adverse employer actions can include termination, demotion, suspension, or other negative consequences. An argument can be made to invalidate the waiver if a person signs but does not fully understand the contents’ language.

COVID-19 Liability Waivers at Construction Sites

   The enforceability of liability waivers for COVID-19 at construction sites for contractors and subcontractors is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The risk of coronavirus differs from physical injuries, which are easily identified and investigated. Physical harm is the consequence of an unsafe condition or hazard. It would be difficult to identify and prove the contact that caused an infection and link it to the business owner’s negligence. Workers’ Compensation grants employees the right to file a claim, and that right cannot be waived. OSHA requires employers to keep the workplace free of safety hazards. 

Asking or requiring an employee or other person to sign a liability waiver may imply that a business owner does not provide a safe environment.

   While waivers may limit or prevent liability in some cases, they do not provide immunity from lawsuits. The profound impact of COVID-19 is creating a host of legal issues for the courts to consider. Significant legal and policy concerns have emerged, and these challenges will likely be the focus for many years to come.

    The best defense against a claim is to ensure that construction sites are in full compliance with the Center for Disease Control, OSHA, state, and local government regulations regarding the pandemic. Some of these interventions include actively encouraging sick employees or those exposed to the virus to stay home. Wearing cloth face coverings, providing personal protective equipment, practicing social distancing, taking daily temperature checks, and frequent disinfection of the workplace can mitigate the risk for pandemic-related lawsuits.

The Boutty Law Firm P.A. Offers Effective Legal Services.

  A COVID-19 liability waiver for your business should be tailored specifically to your industry. The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is a knowledgeable multi-service law firm with extensive construction industry experience. We understand the construction industry’s nuances with over twenty years representing contractors, subcontractors, and property owners. We counsel and represent clients in risk management and disputes through contract development, negotiations, and courtroom litigation. Our strategies are designed to meet the objectives of your company goals.

For a free, initial consultation with a business law attorney to discuss risk management concerns during the pandemic, contact The Boutty Law Firm P.A. at 407-622-1395. Our office is in Winter Park, Florida, and we represent clients in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia, Florida.   

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Construction : Cost plus contracts

Cost-Plus Contracts for Construction Projects

There are various types of contracts utilized in the construction industry between the contractor and the property owner to convey the terms and scope of the work. These agreements are mutually binding, allowing both parties to plan for the project and the future. A well-crafted construction contract provides protection for the contractor and the property owner to ensure a smooth transaction.

    A cost-plus contract is frequently used for a proposed project that does not have a detailed estimate of the work. In simplified terms, the contractor is reimbursed for all the construction costs, with an additional amount designated for profit. In a construction project, there are direct costs, indirect costs, and profit. Direct costs include labor, materials, equipment, and professional consultants needed to complete a project. Indirect costs are general overhead for contractors such as insurance, office supplies, miscellaneous expenses, travel expenses, and others. In negotiating a profit margin, some cost-plus contracts are fixed, and others offer incentives for quality technical skills, for finishing a project ahead of schedule or completing a project below budget.

Some Variations in Cost-Plus Agreements are:

  • Fixed-fee contracts include direct and indirect costs with a pre-determined and non-negotiable fixed fee for a contractor’s profit, which is typically a percentage.
  • Incentive fee contracts have provisions to provide profit incentives for meeting or exceeding pre-determined project objectives and the project’s direct and indirect costs.
  • Award fee contracts include direct and indirect costs. The profit margin for the contractor is subject to the property owner’s evaluation of the project. Financial incentives are variable and paid if the work is completed according to the property owner’s satisfaction.

 Liability Risks that occur with Cost-Plus Contracts

   Although cost-plus contracts are generally favorable to contractors, they must recognize there are potential legal risks. Disputes and litigation can arise, such as allegations of breach of contract, fraud, and mechanic’s liens.

    Breach of contract allegations occurs if the contractor or the property owner does not abide by the terms of the contract. Contractors and sub-contractors must keep meticulous records, as supporting documentation for their work. Contractors have a duty to provide detailed records and invoices to justify expenditures to property owners. A lack of organized and itemized records or confusion over records can result in a contractor or sub-contractor not being paid and the subsequent placement of a mechanic’s lien. An example of an allegation of fraud is the contractor’s inability to justify the actual expenditures or intentionally inflating costs. This situation can result in personal liability for the contractor.  

How to Minimize Disputes

   It is critical for a contractor to have a system in place to track expenditures. These include detailed invoices for building materials, supplies, labor hours, payroll, consultant fees, and others. It is necessary to maintain close supervision of a project, transparency, and sharing of audits and records with the property owner. These elements are vital to complete a successful transaction.

The Boutty Law Firm, P.A. offers a Free, Initial Consultation.

   At The Boutty Law firm, P.A., we are dedicated to providing quality legal services for clients throughout Central Florida. We have vast experience in construction and business law, representing our clients’ best interests, with an impressive track record in state and federal courts. A construction project has a high degree of variability. Our law office can advise, negotiate, and draft the most favorable contract for your project. We establish contracts for property owners and construction professionals, with clear language and provisions for contingencies in unforeseeable circumstances. We provide comprehensive advice and support for project management, from the initial drafting of contracts through project completion and post-construction disputes and litigation.

Call The Boutty Law Firm, P.A., to represent all of your legal construction needs. We provide exceptional legal services for clients in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia Counties in Florida. We look forward to discussing your construction projects and can be contacted at our Winter Park office at 407-622-1395 or 407-883-1024.  

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Drone in Construction Site

Drone Technology in the Construction Industry

Drone technology has revolutionized the construction process, effectively cutting costs, risks, and labor. Drones offer distinctive advantages in the monitoring of a project and minimizing safety issues that arise in a complex construction project. Drone photographs and videos are valuable tools to map out the topography of large tracts of land, locate machinery on-site during a project, provide visibility reports for clients, and prevent workers from navigating hazardous conditions. They offer valuable information for a pre-construction site review or gathering data from a construction project that is in progress. They are useful for viewing pipelines, bridges, and inspecting damages of high-rise buildings without putting employees at risk of hazardous conditions, especially for force majeure events. Commercial drones utilize cameras, global positioning systems, and thermal infrared sensors to capture essential data for a site.

Risks Associated with Drone usage at Construction Sites.

   Beyond the apparent benefits of drone usage, construction professionals must understand the legalities and potential risks. Drones are considered unmanned aircraft systems. In 2016, the Federal Aviation Association introduced comprehensive regulations to monitor the usage of commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Association can impose penalties of up to eleven thousand dollars for each violation of their rules. These regulations, along with state laws and local ordinances that regulate drone usage, are ever-evolving. Construction professionals must stay current with these regulations and remain in compliance, or they may face legal consequences.

Some of the regulations for drone usage are:

  • A person that pilots a drone must have a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate through the Federal Aviation Association, which requires the pilot to pass a test on aeronautical knowledge.
  • Flight altitude cannot exceed 400 feet, and drone speed must not be over 100 mph.
  • Drones are prohibited from flying directly over people and are permitted to operate during the day or twilight hours with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • The drone pilot must maintain a visual line of sight with the drone and not operate from a moving vehicle.
  • Drone operators must yield to aircraft. 
  •      They must avoid restricted airspace unless they have applied and received a waiver.
  • A drone’s weight must be less than 55 pounds and be registered with the Federal Aviation Association.

Protection from Liability

   Drone technology is a trend that will continue to grow in the construction industry. As of March 2020, the Federal Aviation Association listed over 443,000 drones for commercial use. Many legal issues encompass commercial drone usage, and a construction professional must have risk management measures in place. It is essential to implement policies and procedures to ensure a safe operation for pre-flight and in-flight performance, and have guidelines for accident reporting and other legal issues.

   There is a potential for drone accidents to cause serious injuries. Cybersecurity and privacy is an issue with the taking of photographs and videos without authorized consent. Written permission should be obtained from employees and visitors to a construction site regarding pictures and videos. Drones are vulnerable to data theft of valuable proprietary information. Many companies outsource drone operations, which require a contract between parties to manage the inherent risks. Insurance policies are available to cover monetary damages for lawsuits. These include liability for property damage, bodily injury, violation of privacy rights, and other scenarios that may arise from drone technology.

The Boutty Law Firm Is Dedicated to the Success of our Clients

   The Boutty Law Firm P.A. is a multi-service firm that provides quality legal representation for the construction community in Central Florida. Our law firm can draft, review, and negotiate contracts designed to protect you from liability. We understand regulatory compliance and can counsel our clients on risk management matters. For disputes that may arise from the usage of drone technology or other business matters, we are your fierce advocates. We find practical solutions to your most challenging legal problems.

 We are located in Winter Park, Florida, and represent clients throughout Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Volusia Counties. Call our office at 407-622-1395 or 407-883-1024, for a free initial consultation

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