Common Legal Questions

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Common Legal Questions

As you traverse through life, you can adopt a glass half-full or glass half-empty motto as your view toward the world.

Some people seem to have it all – good health and good fortune. Some people breeze through life with the occasional head cold, or the usual childhood maladies like chicken pox or the measles, while others are besieged by ill health their entire life.

Similarly, many people never need the occasion to secure the services of a lawyer, except in conjunction with a routine engagement like the selling or closing of a home.

But, consider this… just as you really need to have the occasional “tune-up” by your general practitioner to keep your health humming along, so should you have the occasional consult with an attorney to keep your legal affairs humming along and in order. There are many common legal questions that will arise throughout life, the info below talks about some of the most common legal questions but there are many others, and if you have a question the best thing to do is to talk to an attorney.

Things to Ask a Lawyer

Have a Family Attorney

You don’t have to be a member of the Mafia to have a family attorney, if you’re thinking about Tom Hagen, the valued consigliere to the Corleones of “The Godfather” fame. Just keep it simple. If your parents or friends have sought counsel with an attorney in the past for any reason, you might follow suit and consider making this same attorney your counselor.

Otherwise, you can always Google around or use the “Yellow Pages” if it is a simple matter. If you need specific expertise, contact your local bar association and they will be happy to make recommendations based on your needs.

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Reasons to Consult with an Attorney

People generally equate a consultation with an attorney with dire consequences and some examples are pretty obvious, like:

  • Perhaps you wish to sue someone because you have been wronged by their actions, or… turning the tables around, you have “done someone wrong” and their accusations have resulted in a lawsuit against you. Oops! If you ever receive legal paperwork personally by a process server, or in the mail, you need to consult with an attorney pronto! You have a limited number of days to file an “Answer” or otherwise respond to the Summons and Complaint, or, you will be considered in default and in more legal hot water. So, gather your facts and get yourself together, then find an attorney to be your legal representative.
  • Maybe you might have been involved in criminal activity and need a lawyer to defend your interests. That criminal activity could run the gamut from racketeering to reckless driving or for leaving vicious dogs untethered on your premises to larceny and being in someone else’s home unlawfully.
  • You’ve made some poor business or personal financial decisions and you are unable to meet your financial obligations, so your only option is filing for bankruptcy or losing valuable personal property or real estate.
  • Along with the other imminent needs for an attorney, often the reason for seeking counsel with a family attorney is due to a change in family status, with such sad events as a death in the family, separation/divorce, or guardianship issues. But, not all events that are the result of a change in family status have dire consequences… consider the happy addition of a new baby or adoption proceedings which are happy events related to a change in the family.

Perhaps, you will seek counsel for the consequences of that evening of drinking and driving which resulted in a citation for DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) that will cost you in the long run, and not just for that brilliant attorney who will do his mighty best to extricate you from this reckless activity without jail time. You will pay for your attorney’s good work, but, also… you will pay in the long run with points on your license resulting in sky-high insurance premiums, a possible revocation of driving privileges, a stiff fine and the likelihood of community service. If you’re lucky, your attorney didn’t need to represent your interests because you caused an accident where someone was maimed or lost their life.
What is the FMLA

Discrimination at Work

If you find yourself the target of discrimination in the workplace because of your race, gender or because you are older than the rest of your co-workers, you should not suffer in silence. Don’t let your life be unbearable because of your reluctance to pursue a civil action. But, first you will need to be thorough and gather “evidence” and make lists and examples and write it all down, so you can be thorough when you tell your tale to an employment law attorney.

Most importantly, when you consult with an attorney – relax, because he’ll do his best to be the balm to your bad situation.

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Advice of a Lawyer

As mentioned earlier in this post, it is a good idea to establish a relationship with an “all-purpose” attorney, one whom you can turn to with any type of legal questions, no matter how small the matter. Ideally, you should choose an attorney who comes highly recommended by word of mouth – that speaks volumes about his credibility and ability to fulfill your needs by being an advocate, advisor and counselor. Rest assured that if the questions you pose, or dilemma you face, are out of his realm of expertise, he’ll be happy to make a referral to another attorney who can better serve your needs.

Estate Planning

Not every meeting with an attorney needs to be an urgent or life-changing event or even one where you are fraught with worry about the outcome. Your trust attorney is there to give advice and make the process go smoother. For example, the selling or purchasing of a home will go seamlessly if you bring an attorney on board first.

If you were ever a Girl Scout or Boy Scout, the motto forever engrained within your soul is “be prepared” and that’s a good motto to live your life by. Sometimes you need to think ahead to the future. You do financial planning, so why not plan ahead for your eventual demise?

Now, that’s not a topic that anyone is fond of discussing, or even dwelling upon – especially if you’re young and vibrant and have the whole world at your feet. But, an unfortunate incident, or a sudden illness, can take away your freedom and good health in a heartbeat. You probably have a friend or family member who experienced the sudden loss of a loved one, and, found themselves not only coping with the grief, but also scrambling to get details taken care of, and perhaps feeling lost and a little clueless in the process.

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Plan for the Future

If you’ve not done so already, now is the time to take the initiative and have a will and/or living trust prepared, as well as a living will or medical directive and appoint a power of attorney in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. By having these legal documents prepared by an attorney and distributed to your close family members, you have alleviated one of the most-common legal questions – what happens if I suddenly am unable to take care of myself and my legal affairs?

The process to draft these documents may seem overwhelming to you, but, it is a fairly routine and straightforward procedure for your attorney. His job will be made easier and the process will go expediently, if you have the forethought to gather all your pertinent financial information and contact information for each person or entity for which you would like to have funds or assets distributed to upon your death. If you would prepare a list of your valuable assets and possessions, including real estate, which you will leave or bequeath upon your demise, or, in the case of a living trust, any gifts that will be distributed during your lifetime, these lists of information tendered to your attorney become the roadmap for your family’s use in the event of a protracted illness or your sudden, or even eventual, demise.

In conjunction with the preparation of a will and/or trust, you might want to select a trusted family member, or friend, who will act on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make a decision. This person that you appoint would be your power of attorney. A document by the same name will be used for that person to act in your place and stead, or as your proxy.

If you feel strongly about any actions to be taken as regards your health in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make such decisions, an attorney will draft a document known as a living will or an advance healthcare directive. An example of where this document would be used is in a case of resuscitation efforts on your behalf at a hospital – if you don’t want such measures taken, the medical directive will specify “do not resuscitate” or “DNR”. Such a document should be entrusted to a family member or friend and your doctor’s office.

Lastly, your attorney can draft a document which entails your wishes for your “sendoff”… your funeral, memorial service, cremation, etc. It is wise to get this done and distributed to family members long before such details will be needed, thus sparing your family additional stress at an already difficult time.

How Does Divorce Work

Prenuptial Agreement

Just like pre-planning a medical directive, power of attorney, or even a funeral… all those details and documents are good to have in place, but who wants to think of the inevitable? If the truth be told, we’d really like to push those unpleasant thoughts as far away as possible.

Another less-than-romantic, but practical, legal document which sometimes rears its ugly head is the pre-nuptial agreement, or as it sometimes called “the pre-nup”. What do you say if, after the red roses, ring and the big proposal are a done deal and your intended suggests getting a prenuptial agreement in place before the wedding? You might be miffed at first, but, it is a concept that more and more couples embrace, in the event that the happy nuptials don’t last forever.

And, a last note – if you are married and a will is in place – good for you for doing so. But,… if you are currently married, and planning on being divorced in the near term, you might consider seeing an attorney, perhaps the same one who drafted the original will, to have the will amended so that all possessions are not left to your (former) significant other. You might even consider having separate attorneys draft the will as to the present contents of those possessions, in the event of the demise of the other party, before the divorce is finalized,.

You can still be a romantic when it comes to affairs of the heart; when it comes to affairs of the financial or legal variety, it behooves you sometimes to think and act on behalf of yourself.