Q. Do I need a Will?
A. We have told people in the past that they do not need a Will, but it is rare. If you are single or widowed, and have all your assets in joint names with someone else, then you may not need a Will. But if you are married, or single with assets in your own name alone, then we suggest you need a Will.
Q. What is a Trust?
A. A trust is a contract with someone else, called a trustee, who you ask to manage your assets. The trust management of your assets could be during your lifetime or after you die. The most common is called a "Living Trust", which simply is a written trust contract that you sign during your lifetime, which takes effect immediately. Your assets may be transferred to the Trust either during your lifetime or after you die, depending on your choice.
Q. What is a Power of Attorney?
A. A Power of Attorney is a written document that appoints someone to take care of your assets and/or health care decisions if you become disabled and can't do it for yourself. It could include the power to sell real estate, pay bills, and make decisions about medical treatment. It is a very important document if you become disabled. If you don't have a power of attorney and become disabled, your family must have you declared "incapacitated" by the Court in a "Guardianship" proceeding to be able to help you.
Q. What if I die without a Will?
A. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a Statute that tells us exactly what to do with your assets if you die without a Will.
Q. Our parent needs nursing care. Do you help with that?
A. Yes, the area of law practice known as "ELDER LAW" includes the process of nursing home care payments. We are trained to help you protect your assets, and qualify your loved one for Medicaid to help pay the extremely high costs of nursing home care.
Q. What is involved in a divorce and the related matters such as custody, property division, and support?
A. Each Family Law case is unique....no two are ever alike. In each case, there are usually many "sub-cases" to deal with, such as the custody and support of the children, and property division. Your Attorney will handle each and every one of those sub-cases to conclusion. The more issues, the more time will be involved in finalizing the case. For instance, if a couple has no children and can pre-agree on most of the property division, the case can be concluded in a few short months. However, if a couple has children, and substantial marital assets, and are unable to agree on much of anything, then the case will naturally be longer to complete.
Q. What are the fees and costs of a divorce?
A. As in most legal matters, the more complex a case is the more time it will take to conclude. The more time it takes, the more costs and fees will be paid. At the initial consultation with the Attorney, the fees and costs will be openly discussed and a fee agreement will be entered. This way, there are no surprises about fees and costs.
Social Security Disability and SSI:
Q. How do I qualify for Disability?
A. To qualify for Social Security Disability, you must have a disabling medical or emotional condition that prevents you from full-time work. For Disability Insurance benefits, you must have worked enough to qualify as an "insured worker" (which Social Security will determine from your reported earnings record) and you must become disabled during the period that you are still covered by the program (usually 7 years from last work).
Q. What is SSI and how do I qualify?
A. SSI is "Supplemental Security Income". It is a federally funded program that provides income benefits to indigent (poor) persons who are unable to work. It is the federal version of the state public assistance program. You may receive this federal benefit whether you had reported earnings or not.
Q. What records do I need to show to get Disability or SSI?
A. If you have a disability that prevents you from working, you must have your medical treatment providers send all of their records to Social Security for review. If you have insufficient records, or if your medical providers are not supporting your effort to get disability or SSI, you have little chance of obtaining the benefits.
Q. What is your fee for helping me get Disability or SSI?
A. We are paid 25% of your past due benefits. This is paid as a lump sum from the date you first qualified for the benefit. We receive no fee for the on-going benefits after the past due lump sum is paid. If we don't win, we don't get paid a fee.
Q. How do we start the adoption process?
A. Obviously, there is little we can do until there is a child for you to adopt. We suggest that Clients contact the Children and Youth Service of your county. There is a real need for loving and caring parents for children who are involved with that agency. Also look in your Yellow Pages, under the category "Adoption Services". There are plenty of adoption agencies to contact, although you must be sure it is reputable before you contract for services. Some successful adoption parents send mailings to law firms which handle adoptions, or OB/GYN practitioners, or foster parent organizations to be placed on lists of potential adopting parents. Above all else, BE DILIGENT, and don't give up.
Q. If I am unmarried, can I adopt?
A. While this is still rather unique, most Courts today will permit a single parent adoption if the Court believes it to be in the best interest of the child to be adopted, and the Home Study of the adopting parent is positive. We have completed them without any problems locally.
Q. My spouse recently died. Do I need to change my deed if he/she was on it with me?
A. No. There is no reason to do a new deed if your spouse died, unless you wish to add someone else's name to your title, such as a child.
Q. When I buy real estate, should I have the title examined?
A. Yes, unless you are really certain that there are no liens or title defects in the title history, you should have the title examined. An example would be if you take the title from a close relative who you trust. Even then, possibly the relative doesn't know of the title problem. If you invest in real estate, invest the extra money and have the title checked by a real estate attorney.
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