We speak with hundreds of individuals and couples monthly. People are engaging in new business opportunities, buying homes with non-spouses, entering into new romances and contemplating second marriages. They ask, “when do I need a lawyer?”
The answer varies. Sometimes no lawyer is needed. Most of the time, however, legal involvement early on is critical. What all of these Clients have in common is that they are entering into a new interpersonal relationship. Such a relationship will be as strong, or weak, as the character of the persons involved. We strongly recommend that our Clients have a discrete but complete background and asset investigation performed on any proposed new associate–business or personal. The time to do this is before any sizeable investment of time, credit, emotion or money is made. It is crucial to know who you are planning to associate yourself with. The truth is often not disclosed or is actively concealed.
Assuming that the investigation results are positive and the individual is one that is reasonable to associate with, the next important step is to properly document the relationship so all parties have the same reasonable expectations that are communicated in writing and, also, to provide an exit strategy should plans or circumstances change years down the road.
Depending upon the relationship, different legal documents will be needed.
An Ante-nuptial Agreement is appropriate for a second marriage,
A Domestic Partnership Agreement is necessary for unmarried partners.
A Shareholder Agreement is strongly recommended when a new business is incorporated.
An Operating Agreement is crucial for any LLC.
A Partnership Agreement is necessary to define the rights and duties of all partners.
Attention to these details at the inception of any relationship will make its ultimate success more certain. In the event plans change or success is not achieved, good prior planning can minimize the loss and damage suffered.