Business legal services in Silicon Valley

Why Use a Fictitious Business Name?

business formation

Choosing a unique business name is one of the most important decisions a business owner makes when establishing a new enterprise. Your business name is the foundation of your brand. It provides an identifying mark that tells your customers who you are and what type of product or service you offer. A poorly chosen business name may bring negative attention from the marketplace and has the power to kill your venture before it properly takes off.

When a business would like to operate with a name that is different than the name used to form the business, then a fictitious name is required.

A fictitious name is an excellent way of setting up a boundary between you and your business venture. Fictitious business or trade names are known as a “DBA,” which means “doing business as”.  In addition, you may manage many “DBA’s” under the same original legal entity for different businesses you may manage.

Details about Setting up a California DBA

  • A DBA must be filed under a unique name and your selection should be researched in the local county clerk’s office or recorder’s office
  • Certain words cannot be part of your DBA, such as “incorporated”, “LLC”, “corporation” and others
  • A sole proprietor may not need a DBA if they intend to use their surname in the business name
  • DBA statements must be published in a local newspaper within 30 days of filing for your DBA

Advantages of Operating Under a DBA

  • Low up-front costs. A DBA requires low upfront costs.  You can register a trade name with the Division of Corporations and your business can open its doors for a nominal fee with few compliance requirements (besides business entity and state registration, as required).
  • Quick market entry. A DBA allows companies to rapidly maximize business potential by locking down a name and branding without the fear of another market entrant claiming it.

Where to Get Help

If you want to operate your company under a fictitious business name you must register with the appropriate county and state authorities. A California business lawyer can help you file and register a DBA or trade name. It is important that you understand what liability protection is available to you when establishing a DBA.  To receive personal protection of your assets, your company will need to file and register a corporation.

If you are a business owner in the East Bay Area including Fremont, CA near Newark, Hayward, East Bay Milpitas, Union City, San Leandro, Gilroy, San Jose or Santa Clara, seeking legal guidance on how to establish a trade or fictitious names, look no further than a California business lawyer who can provide legal advice and counsel.

business attorney, california dba, dba, fictitious business name


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Business Websites Need to be ADA Accessible

Websites Need to be ADA Accessible

A web presence is necessary in today’s business world for companies large and small. In this article, we not a recent federal decision in the Second Circuit is a reminder that restaurants, and other businesses that may interface with the public, have additional responsibilities under the places of public accommodation provisions of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In this New York case, a blind woman, Cheryl Thurston, who relies on a screen reader to interact with websites was unable to read the menu on a restaurant’s website using her screen reader. She was unable to do so because the restaurant’s website was not designed to permit access using a screen reader. Ms. Thurston sued the restaurant for violations of Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title III) and the ADA.

United States federal law requires public accommodations to be accessible to all people, including the blind, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” The definition of public accommodation within the Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes “any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests.” The other establishment provision referenced here includes restaurants.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the woman, finding that the restaurant’s website fell within the category of “services …privileges, advantages, or accommodations of” a restaurant, which is a place of public accommodation under the ADA. In short Ms. Thurston proved that the restaurant’s website was inaccessible to blind users. The court issued an injunction mandating the restaurant complies with the current version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium, a non-governmental international agency that sets the standards for the worldwide web.

The restaurant appealed the decision. The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision holding that the trial court properly found that Title III of the ADA applied to the restaurant’s website. However, like the trial court, the court of appeals declined to declare that the restaurant was in violation of the ADA for not previously having implemented the standard. The restaurant is required to comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines to make its website accessible to disabled people.

Why the Thurston Decision Matters

The decision in the Thurston case will have far reaching effects on many businesses, not just restaurants. In the past, to maintain a lawsuit alleging a violation of the ADA, a business patron would have needed to physically go to the business and be able to describe in the complaint what he or she “saw” that made the business non-compliant with the ADA. Now, all a business patron needs to do is try to engage with your business’ website.

Key Takeaways for Your Business’ Website Regarding ADA Accessibility

Businesses with websites should immediately investigate whether their websites are ADA compliant. Check with your website designer, webmaster, or advertising agency for guidance on how to comply with the WCAG guidelines to make your website ADA compliant.

Unfortunately, prior to implementing this change to your website, your business may get hit with a lawsuit or receive a threatening letter from an attorney about a lawsuit. Small businesses often wind up paying $5,000 or more to make the claim go away, which could increase your compliance costs substantially.

If you own a business in the East Bay Area including Fremont, CA near Newark, Hayward, Milpitas, Union City, San Leandro, Gilroy, San Jose or Santa Clara and you are seeking legal guidance on how to make your website ADA compliant or need counsel to represent your business threatened with a lawsuit for ADA non-compliance, get legal advice from a California business lawyer today.

ada accessible, California business attorney, web content accessibility guidelines, website design


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Why Might a Business Incorporate in Delaware Instead of California?

Classified Board of Directors

business formation

Many of the largest public companies in the world are incorporated in Delaware. California business owners ask me whether they should incorporate in Delaware when choosing a state of incorporation for a business about to go public. This post will examine some of the key differences between incorporation and corporate governance laws in California and Delaware.

Under Delaware law, corporations are permitted to have a classified board of directors, with each class having a term of longer than one year. Whereas, a non-public California corporation requires annual election of its board of directors.

Cumulative Voting for Directors

Delaware law permits cumulative voting for directors, so long as this provision is included in the company’s certificate of incorporation and/or its bylaws. California law is more expansive with respect to cumulative voting. By default, cumulative voting is available to shareholder elections of directors and it need not be specified in the articles of incorporation or bylaws. Cumulative voting is considered a statutory right for shareholders of non-publicly traded corporations, unless specifically excluded in the company’s articles of incorporation and/or its bylaws.

The Right of Stockholders to Call Special Meetings of Stockholders

Stockholders are only permitted to call special meetings if the company’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws authorizes it under Delaware law. In California, on the other hand, not only may a special meeting of shareholders be called by the holders of 10% or more of the voting stock of the corporation, but this right may not be waived by the shareholders in the company’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws.

Insulation of Directors

California permits unlimited monetary liability for directors upon a finding of breach of fiduciary duty. Delaware law provides a complete shield to directors from monetary liability for breach of fiduciary duty except in circumstances in which a stockholder can demonstrate a breach of the duty of loyalty, a failure to act in good faith, intentional misconduct, or a knowing violation of law, among other violations.

Predictability Surrounding Corporate Outcomes

In Delaware, both the legislature and the courts work in concert to act quickly and effectively to meet changing business needs. Corporation law in Delaware is one of the most extensive and well-defined bodies of corporate law in the United States. The Delaware Court of Chancery is renowned for its sole focus on business and corporate law, no backlog, and a knowledgeable bench in resolving complex corporate issues. 

If you are starting a business in California, or own an existing business in the East Bay Area including Fremont, Newark, Hayward, East Bay Milpitas, Union City, San Leandro, Gilroy, San Jose, or Santa Clara and you are seeking to explore incorporating in California or Delaware, you will need to ensure that the right steps are taken for incorporation. Seek legal advice and counsel from a knowledgeable California business lawyer today, call us at 510-794-9290.

board of directors, business entity, business incorporation, startups, stockholders


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Three Things You Must Know When Starting a Home Health Agency

business lawyer

Home health agencies have revolutionized elder care options, permitting many older adults to live in their own homes longer than before. These agencies are responsible for placing health care professionals – registered nurses, nursing assistants, physical therapists, or home care aides – in the patient’s home to provide primary care, medical treatment, and assist with day-to-day living activities so that the patient may remain in his or her home.

If you are interested in starting your own health care agency, you will need to master the following three topics to successfully grow your business and meet market demands:

  1. Regulations that apply to home health agencies
  2. The importance of providing employee training, and
  3. The labor laws that apply to the home health care industry.

Know the Regulations That Apply to Home Health Agencies

The federal government and the state of California heavily regulate the home health agency field. There are different laws that apply when hiring a home health care worker directly than when hiring a health care worker through an agency. Additionally, you must have a license to operate a home health agency before you start operating your business.

Copying information from another home health agency to create your compliance documents may not be sufficient. The information may not apply in California, may be outdated, or may never have been correct. It is important to consult with a business lawyer who is knowledgeable about the legal needs of a home health agency and can help you comply with all legal requirements, including record keeping, on-going legal requirements, and compliance with HIPAA.

One of the costliest problems is that if the home health agency collects Medicare, their rules regarding what protocol must be followed and required documentation must be kept in compliance.  Medicare performs audits routinely and then charges back the agency many thousands of dollars if records are not in compliance.

Develop and Train Your Team of Employees

It is important for your employees to be fully trained to perform their tasks and to understand what documents need completing and maintaining when providing care for an individual in his or her home. You must provide training that demonstrates how to properly complete these documents and why their inclusion in the patient’s care plan is necessary. Other topics that you should cover in training include HIPAA compliance and labor law compliance.

Know Applicable Labor Laws

Owners of home health agencies must know the labor laws that apply to their workforce. Your payroll department must understand when to pay overtime, the rest and meal break laws, the difference between independent contractors and employees, and what labor records to keep.

If you are an entrepreneur planning to start a home health agency or already running one in the East Bay Area including the communities of Fremont, Hayward, Union City, Milpitas, or Newark, California, seek legal advice and counsel of a business lawyer today.

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The Business Activities Without Corporate Protection

Back to the Basics: Understanding Limits on Corporate Protection

corporate protection

Protecting personal assets from liability for business activities that produce a loss, debt, or liability is one of the chief drivers motivating business owners to establish a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership when they set-up their new business. For the most part, in California, once you form one of these entities, your personal assets (such as your home, automobile, and savings) are protected from the reach of creditors of losses, debts, or liabilities, incurred by the business.

There is no corporate protection, however, for debts and liabilities of a business if:

  • The corporation was not formed correctly; and/or
  • The corporation does not operate as a corporation.

Even if your corporation was formed correctly and operates as a California corporation, personal liability for the corporation’s debts and liabilities may flow to you personally if you are an officer, director, and sometimes shareholder of the corporation.

California does not provide corporate protection to directors, officers, and shareholders when:

  • Wages owed to employees: If the corporation is unable to pay employee wages, the officers and directors of the corporation are personally liable during the time that they are directors and officers for those unpaid wages. California holds officers and directors to a higher standard as fiduciaries of the corporation. A fiduciary in these cases is one who is legally obligated to act in the best interest of the corporation (as opposed to themselves). As fiduciaries, the officers and directors should have made provisions to pay employee wages first. If they failed to do so, they can be held personally liable for the employee wages. This also includes the wages of independent contractors, who are wrongly classified as independent contractors, when they are actually employees.
  • When officers and directors have extended personal credit: Officers and directors of corporations will remain personally liable on corporate debts and liabilities if they extend their personal credit in two types of situations:  
    • First, granting a personal guaranty on a corporate debt, usually done for commercial leases and bank loans, makes one personally liable for the corporate debt in the event the corporation cannot meet the repayment terms.
    • Second, when the corporation operates initially as a partnership or sole proprietorship, and it is then incorporated.  If  personal credit was utilized to obtain credit for the business in the past, it will remain after a change in status. Even though vendors are informed of the new corporate structure, and they change the name on the account to the corporation, personal liability holds.

Seek Legal Advice From a California Business Lawyer

There are ways to minimize your personal liability when forming a California corporation. Limited liability company, or limited partnership. A California attorney can assist you in reducing your personal liability by forming a corporation correctly and advising you on the proper way to operate the corporation. A California lawyer can also assist you in minimizing or eliminating your personal liability on vendor accounts once incorporated, and not incurring personal liability for future corporate debts.

If you are interested in forming a corporation or converting an existing partnership, sole proprietorship into a corporation, in the East Bay Area including the communities of Fremont, Hayward, Union City, Milpitas, or Newark, California, seek legal advice and counsel of a California business lawyer today.

california corporation, corporate protection, liabilities, officer, shareholder


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Buying a California Business

Get Advice from an Experienced Business Lawyer

buy a business in california

Buying an existing company is a great way to enter the market with an established customer base. You can obtain financing more easily, benefit operationally from existing systems and processes, and rely on the deep knowledge base of established employees. It may also be less risky than starting a business from scratch.

However, the risks of liability in purchasing a business are great. When you purchase all or substantially all the assets of a business OR you purchase the business as a whole, the liability of the business flows through to you. Some risks can be mitigated by a corporate shield, but some cannot, and you will find that you are personally liable for any wages and taxes that were not paid by the prior business (even if you did not know about them).

If you are looking at buying a business, the first thing you need to do is evaluate the business as a whole and make a list of pros and cons. This also means digging deep into the company’s financials.

Regardless of the price you are paying for a business, there are three things you should do when evaluating a business for purchase:

  • Hire an attorney. A California business lawyer can help you draft the purchase agreement to expand your rights during the due diligence process. A good purchase agreement incorporates the right to walk away if you don’t like what you find during the due diligence period and get your money back if you discover that the company’s financials or business operations are problematic.
  •  Always have a business escrow. Including a business escrow in a purchase agreement, where the contract is provided to the escrow company, will help you minimize unknown risks when purchasing an established business. It means that all money is deposited into the escrow company and all debts of the business are paid through the escrow company so that when you close the business purchase, you will receive the business and its assets free of unknown liabilities.
  • Never waive the bulk sale requirement. Sending bulk sale notices to all creditors including the taxing authorities, that the business assets are transferring, limits the time for creditors to put forth a claim. In an Asset Purchase Agreement, known and unknown liabilities do not transfer to the buyer, if noticed through a bulk sales notice. However, in a business purchase, the business would remain liable for any debts owed by the business post sale.

If you are buying a business in the East Bay Area including Fremont, Hayward, Union City, Milpitas, or Newark, California, protect yourself. Seek legal advice from an experienced business lawyer today.

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Incorporating in Another State Might Be Good Business Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai, A Professional Corporation posted in Business Formation & Planning on Friday, April 28, 2017.

Many California residents are currently developing goals for various types of business endeavors. This type of business planning typically involves many challenges and important decisions, such as whether to incorporate a company. Recent news suggests one state may be better than others when incorporating a business.

When business planning, it’s crucial to remember that it’s not necessary to incorporate a business in one’s home state. Incorporation can take place in another state where a business does not have an actual physical location. It is often necessary, however, to choose a Registered Agent in the incorporating state to receive notices from that jurisdiction’s Secretary of State regarding one’s business.

At the top of the list for best states in which to incorporate a business is Delaware. Obviously far from California’s west coast, many successful businesses choose Delaware as their corporate home. Delaware business owners are shielded from personal liability in certain business situations, which may have something to do with it ranking number one in at least eight different studies regarding best legal systems in the nation conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Many affluent business owners say another main benefit of incorporating in the small state of Delaware is that the process of incorporation there is highly affordable. An annual LLC fee is only $300 regardless of company size or capital. An experienced business planning attorney can provide sound counsel and clarification of all laws pertaining to incorporating in a state, whether in California or a jurisdiction outside a business owner’s home residence.

Business Formation & Planning, incorporation


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Business Planning Tips for California Entrepreneurs

On behalf of The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai, A Professional Corporationposted in Business Formation & Planning on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Plunging ahead to launch a new business in California may be a great lifetime adventure. Prospective entrepreneurs often face many challenges during business planning stages, however. In such circumstances, it is advisable to seek immediate and experienced guidance to increase one’s chances of achieving business success.

New business owners must make all types of decisions, ranging from whether they will create and sell hard-copy products or provide a service to the public. Once a business type is chosen, it is common for budding entrepreneurs to choose names for their new companies. Those pursuing business planning options are advised to seek clarification on trademark and copyright laws before staking claim to a specific title or name.

Whether one will function as a sole proprietor or enter a partnership is another crucial choice that may affect one’s business future. There are many valid reasons for choosing either style. An experienced attorney would be able to offer counsel as to the benefits and potential downfalls of each, then help determine what may be best suited to one’s particular interests.

Many California business owners choose to register trademarks. Also, some states require a new business owner to file a DBA (Doing Business As) to conduct business under a certain name or brand, especially if business and company names differ. Obstacles and challenges may arise when making decisions about company basics and preparing to launch start-ups. By asking a business and commercial law attorney for help, entrepreneurs may avoid delays, and move forward toward accomplishing their bottom line goals.

Source: rocketlawyer.com, “How to Start a Business“, Accessed on July 13, 2016

Business Formation & Planning, business tips, entrepreneurs, starting a business in california


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Getting Off to the Right Start Involves Good Business Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai, A Professional Corporationposted in Business Formation & Planning on Tuesday, May 17, 2016.

Throughout California, there are currently many prospective business owners who may be wondering what the best course of action might be to get their companies off to the right start. Future business success often hinges on good business planning. Regardless of the type of business being launched, an ability to flourish often depends on a plan that was well laid out in the first place.

The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai, A Professional Corporation, provides sound legal counsel in all stages of business formation and start-up. Our experienced legal team is prepared to guide you through any potential legal challenges that may arise during the process. By acting alongside effective representation from the beginning, your chances for future business success may be increased.

Every company owner’s business vision is different. Depending on your particular plan, there may be personal liability factors, tax issues and a number of other important matters that may significantly impact your immediate and long-term goals. Our attorneys can offer clarification of the laws that govern California business and provide valuable insight as to what options may be available to help you maximize your chances for success.

Whether you are entering a sole proprietorship or partnership, we can explain the potential advantages and disadvantages of each from a legal perspective. By helping to protect your business interests now and in the future, The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai, A Professional Corporation, can help you reach your full potential as a California business owner.

If you have questions regarding good business planning, or are facing legal challenges during any phase of your business venture, you may call our office to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation with an experienced business and commercial law attorney. We work with businesses throughout the Fremont / East Bay area including Hayward, Union City, Castro Valley, Milpitas and Newark, CA.

Business Formation & Planning, business plans, starting a business in california


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