Five everyday legal tips to make life easier

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Life can be messy. Thankfully, with a little legal planning, some of the messiest aspects of life can be minimized or prevented altogether. These five legal tips can help you preemptively smooth out some of the transitions and trials of life.

#1 Get your affairs in order. Have you drawn up a will or living trust? Do you have advance directives for your health care and your property? Having these items in place, at a minimum, can eliminate a lot of pain, stress and suffering among your loved ones. Your will or trust can determine who will inherit your assets, who will serve as guardian of your children and so much more. A health care advance directive typically specifies who may voice your wishes for health decisions if you are no longer able to communicate. In a time which is often difficult for loved ones, an advance directive can take the pressure off of them to make difficult and sometimes contentious decisions. Another form of advance directive, financial powers of attorney, allow you to appoint a proxy to make financial decisions and manage your property for you when you are unable to do so.

#2 Create relationship agreements. Drawing up legal agreements related to your relationships protects you, your children and your assets when life situations change. Cohabitation agreements help couples who are living together safeguard their individual assets and interests, while defining rights and responsibilities. Similarly, a prenuptial agreement can determine what happens in the event of death or divorce. And parenting agreements help separated or divorced couples define how they will share time and decision-making related to their children, including custody, financial issues, health care issues and religious education. No matter how much, or how little you have, relationship agreements can protect what really matters to you and help avoid future conflicts.

#3 Don't steal the work of others. In our digital, social age, it's easier than ever to find and co-opt someone else's material and share it with the masses, without considering the consequences for even a second. But copyright infringement on the web is a very real problem with enormous implications. Keep in mind, even a single tweet can be copyrighted. More, website terms of use often require you hold the rights to the content you share or repost, and even giving credit to the owner of an original photo or other work may not be enough. It's complicated. So, share what you own the rights to, and take great care with everything else.

#4 Don't drink and drive. It can be too easy to justify getting behind the wheel, especially when your judgement is chemically impaired. But driving under the influence is a serious criminal offense that can have short-term, long-term and lifelong implications: jail time, license revocation, substance abuse classes, expensive fines and even a felony offense if someone is injured or killed. Simply put, it's not worth the risk. So if you've been drinking, get a ride with someone who is sober, take public transport or call a cab.

#5 Follow the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. So much of the friction we encounter in our lives boils down to this simple principle, which can sometimes be hard to follow. But extending this kindness to those you encounter helps all of us navigate the challenges we inevitably face as we move through life. Not to mention, this simple maxim can help keep you out of a heap of legal trouble.

When facing decisions about legal issues such as these, consider reaching out to a professional to ensure you take the right steps. An attorney can take the guesswork out of these complex matters and make sure your wishes for yourself, your assets and your loved ones are carried out, no matter where life takes you. 

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