Dealing with the death of a loved one can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are responsible for handling his or her estate. You may have questions about what is involved, whether the estate will go through probate and a multitude of other issues.
Most estates in Pennsylvania must go through probate, the legal process that determines the value of the estate, transfers assets to beneficiaries, and ensures that the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid.
Educating yourself about how the probate process works can help to ease burden of conflict within your family and the financial issues you may be facing after a loved one has passed away. Experienced probate attorneys can help you sort out the details of the estate and make the probate process easier and less stressful for you and your family.
Questions to Ask a Probate Lawyer
Before hiring a probate attorney, it is vital to ask these important questions:
1. Is probate an area of practice for you?
Many estate planning and wills and trusts lawyers are experienced in handling probate cases. When seeking an attorney, it’s advisable to ask the following questions to get a feel for how experienced he or she is.
2. Are you familiar with the court to which my case will be assigned?
Hiring an attorney who has experience in the court where your probate case will be heard can speed up the process and make it run more smoothly. Our attorneys in Chester and Delaware County, PA have years of experience in local probate court, can help you avoid delays and ensure all paperwork is correctly completed and filed.
3. What is your strategy for my case? Are there any potential issues such as tax implications that could arise in my case?
A skilled probate attorney will assess your situation and share a strategy that helps you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
4. How long do you think it will take to complete?
Probate can take anywhere from nine months to two years. Although there are no guarantees on how long probate proceedings will take, your lawyer should be able give you an estimate based on the facts of your case.
5. Will you handle my case personally?
It is common for lawyers to pass some work on to associates, paralegals and other law firm staff. It’s very important to feel comfortable about who you will be working with—ask if you can meet others who may be working on your case. It’s also a good idea to find out their availability and response time if you need to discuss important developments or get a status update.
5. What is your fee structure?
Ask the attorney about how they charge and approximately how much you should expect to pay for services. Attorneys may charge a flat fee or hourly rate. It’s also important to find out if there are fees for phone calls and other legal professionals who may spend time speaking with you and working on your case. If the attorney charges a flat fee, ask how you will be charged if the matter turns out to be more complicated than anticipated. Getting an estimate of court costs can also be helpful.
Filing bankruptcy can help you reduce or eliminate debt, halt actions that creditors have taken against you and allow you to get your finances back on track. There are several different types of bankruptcy, and a skilled attorney can guide you on the most effective path to achieving a beneficial outcome for your financial situation.
The two most popular types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 7-10 years, but your credit can be repaired by making responsible choices and remaining vigilant about properly managing your finances going forward.
Filing bankruptcy can put a halt to:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for consumers who are having financial difficulties but do not have the resources to pay their existing debts. Chapter 7 is best for lower-income debtors who have unsecured debt such as credit cards or medical bills.
When you file for Chapter 7, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee will determine if you have any non-exempt property that can be sold to pay your creditors. He or she will also check to see if any recent financial transactions can be undone to repay your creditors as much as possible of what you owe them. If you do not possess any non-exempt assets such as cash or other valuable items, your creditors will not receive compensation for your debts.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a total restructuring of debt for consumers who are behind on secured debts such as home mortgages and car loans. Debtors typically have enough income to pay back at least a portion of their debts through a repayment plan. The goal of Chapter 13 is to resume regular monthly payments and pay arrears over time.
Chapter 13 allows you to catch up on missed mortgage or car payments and possibly reduce payment amounts without forfeiting these assets. Creditors must be repaid within a period of five years. Once a repayment plan is successfully completed under Chapter 13, creditors cannot require you to pay them in full.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is typically filed by businesses, but individuals can file under Chapter 11 if they exceed the debt or income limits under Chapters 7 and 13.
Filing for Bankruptcy
Before you file for bankruptcy, it is essential to sit down and itemize your sources of income, major financial transactions, monthly living expenses, and all debts, assets and property. Gather all loan or mortgage documents, recent tax returns and deeds and titles to any real estate or vehicles you own.
Once you have collected this information, local bankruptcy lawyers can help you determine which assets are exempt from seizure. The attorney will file a petition and several other required forms at your Pennsylvania district bankruptcy court.
There are many different factors that must be taken into account when you consider filing for bankruptcy. Carosella & Associates’ seasoned legal team includes some very experienced bankruptcy lawyers in Pennsylvania. Our experienced lawyers will assess your case and guide you through the process every step of the way. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.