58% of people age 53 to 71 have estate planning documents that will help manage their estate in the event of their death.
When that happens, an estate executor is named that will take over the legal and financial obligations of the deceased. But if that person has a power of attorney, then what happens with power of attorney after death?
Figuring out the legal terms following a death is a difficult but necessary task. In this guide, we’ll tell you where one role starts and the other ends. Keep reading to learn more about the legal power of attorney and their role after death.
What Is Legal Power of Attorney?
A person who requires someone to make decisions and sign documents on their behalf can assign a Power of Attorney to another individual. They can choose a trusted individual from among their friends and family, or they might choose their attorney.
The person who designates the power of attorney is known as the principal. The individual who is given legal power of attorney is called the agent. They can be given broad or limited powers.
With broad powers, the power of attorney has unlimited authority over legal and financial transactions, as allowed by state law. Limited powers are restricted to a single matter or field.
The purpose of a power of attorney is to act as the person’s agent during their lifetime. The power of attorney is expected to help protect the individual’s estate while they’re alive.
What Happens to Power of Attorney After Death?
The law across all states dictates that power of attorney expires when the principal dies. However, expiration doesn’t take effect until the power of attorney is aware of the death of the principal. In practices, this means that they may continue to act on their behalf until they’re aware of the death.
Following the expiration of the power of attorney, the executor of the state is responsible for legal and financial matters. Named by the will, the executor is bound by the provisions of that will.
So while a power of attorney represents a principal in life, the executor represents the principal in death. Though the executor is only required to follow the instructions laid out by the will. In the case there is no will, the intestate laws of that state decide the estate of the deceased.
What About A Durable Power of Attorney?
There are two types of power of attorney: durable and non-durable.
If a person is assigned non-durable power of attorney, their duty expires when the principal becomes incapacitated. When the principal is incapable of handling their own affairs, a non-durable power of attorney is no longer valid.
On the other hand, a durable power of attorney would continue in their role despite incapacitation. This type of power of attorney doesn’t provide authority over life or death health care decisions. And although it provides a broader range of powers, it also expires upon death.
Need Legal Help?
The power of attorney after death ceases to have any power. Whether broad or limited, durable or non-durable, the legal power of attorney only grants powers while a person is alive. Following a death, the executor of the estate takes care of a person’s estate according to the terms of the will.
For more legal information regarding estate planning, be sure to check out our blog.
Are you wondering if there are more assets like homes, businesses and rental properties that you are not aware of? This is an issue that could be running through your mind if you are a creditor and have filed a legal claim against a borrower who has defaulted on his or her payments. Your lawyer is likely wondering about the same thing and may hire the services of a private investigator to conduct a Prelitigation Asset Search. This process is a standard part of prelitigation proceedings, and it can either help you settle your claims out of court or boost your chances of winning the lawsuit.
In most cases, however, it will be more favorable for you and the other party to settle your dispute during the prelitigation process. Doing so can spare you from the tedious and drawn-out process of the actual litigation. If you are not familiar with prelitigation, below are three questions that you should ask your lawyer about the process.
1. Should I Settle?
Prelitigation refers to any activity that takes place regarding a legal claim before you formally file a lawsuit. Once you have filed a claim, you have essentially started the prelitigation process. It is during this stage where your lawyer may hire an investigator to gather more facts and documents to boost your case.
You should ask your lawyer if it is better to negotiate for a settlement than go through with the lawsuit. In most cases, it is more beneficial to settle the claim fairly without having to file the case. Your lawyer will present you with the facts of your case and point you toward the best direction. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether to settle or go through with the lawsuit.
2. What Are the Benefits of Negotiating?
Negotiations to settle a legal claim during prelitigation is usually informal, with lawyers representing both parties present. Discussions ideally should focus on the facts of the claim with both parties trying to come up with resolutions and arrangements to settle the claim. Prelitigation negotiations offer a faster and cheaper alternative to solve the dispute.
Lawyer fees for prelitigation proceedings are far less expensive than having him or her file the lawsuit. Costs of a lawsuit include the expenses for preparing and filing your case, depositions, motions and the billable hours that the lawyer spends to prepare for your trial.
If you ask your lawyer the benefits of negotiating, he’ll likely give you the facts of your case and the best possible result that you can expect from negotiating. This should further influence your decision whether or not to push through with the lawsuit.
3. Will the Settlement Be Fair?
Asking your lawyer this question will put him or her on the spot, but it is a fair question to ask nonetheless. To answer your question, the lawyer has to assess or even hire an investigator to make sure that the debtor is being honest. Your lawyer will then present you with the figures and leave it up to you to conclude whether or not it is fair.
There are other issues that you need to consider when deciding whether or not to proceed with the lawsuit. Do you want to keep the costs down, maintain a good relationship with the other party or keep the negotiation and resolution confidential? Your answers to these questions will help your decision-making during the prelitigation process.
A personal injury attorney is one of the three types of lawyers that you need to have on your contact list or even hire on a retainer in the state of California. Whether you are planning to become a permanent resident or work for a certain period in California, it will be a good idea to know the likeliest types of legal representations that you might need. This is not to imply that you are sure to lodge or face a lawsuit should you decide to live in the state. Rather, the following is more like knowing where the umbrella is just in case the rain starts to fall. Therefore, what kind of attorneys should you look for if you are planning to move to California? Here are the three common types of lawyers that you need in California.
Foreclosure Fraud Attorney
If you plan on living in and owning a home in California, it will do you well to know one or two foreclosure fraud lawyers. Fraud schemes related to mortgage debt and foreclosure abound in the state, and you sure don’t want to be at the receiving end of one. Whenever crises in real estate occur in California, more people prey on homeowners especially those who they know are having money troubles. Scammers know that such homeowners are also likely having problems making their mortgage payments.
One such scheme is “dual tracking,” and the lenders themselves are the perpetrators. In this type of foreclosure scam, the lender is working his way to foreclosing the property while making the borrower believe that he is supposedly trying to find ways to resolve the loan. The scammer will surprise the borrower by sending a notice of default or a trustee sale.
This scheme is illegal in California, but you need a specialist in this field to help you deal with it. A good foreclosure fraud attorney will see signs of dual tracking however innocuous they may seem. California laws are designed to protect borrowers from dual tracking and other types of foreclosure frauds. Knowing a good foreclosure fraud attorney will help make sure that you enjoy this protection to the full.
Personal Injury Attorney
In California, personal injury pertains to any mental or physical harm that is inflicted on a person due to the negligence of another. Such injuries can be minor or can be so bad that it becomes fatal. This, however, does not apply to damage to property. Among the examples of personal injuries are those that are caused by accidents that involve automobiles, boats and trains; slip and falls; dog bites; and medical malpractice. If your lawyer is successful in proving that the other party was negligent, then you stand to collect money as reparation for the injury that you have sustained.
There are many reasons why you need to know at least one good personal injury lawyer. One of these reasons is that traffic accidents happen most frequently in California than in any other states in the United States. This is due to the large number of vehicles plying the state’s highways where you’ll also likely to be driving on once you move to California. Should you suffer the misfortune of being involved in a fender-bender, you’ll be thankful that you have the number of a good personal injury lawyer to help you deal with a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer can help explain your legal options or collect compensation if you were the aggrieved party.
Labor laws vary from state to state, and you’ll benefit from knowing a good employment lawyer if you are coming to California to work. They can be a godsend especially in recessionary times when employers try to cut their losses by shortchanging their workers. You can also consult an employment attorney if there is anything about your employment that you are not comfortable with and see if your work conditions are compliant with state regulations.
Knowing the types of lawyers that you need in California is one thing, finding good ones of each type, however, is another. Before settling on any lawyer that comes up on your search, it will do you well to do your research on those that you may hire soon. Most lawyers often offer a free initial consultation. You can take this opportunity to find out more about the lawyer and see if he or she suits your requirements.
When a legal concern arises, hiring a lawyer may be the smartest option. Most lawyers meet with clients for an initial consultation. Initial consultations essentially serve as an opportunity to determine if you want to hire a specific attorney to handle your case and offer you legal advice. If it’s your first time meeting with a lawyer, you may not know what to expect and how things will work.
It’s common for potential clients to be nervous or anxious when scheduling an initial consultation with an attorney. As a result, it can seriously benefit you to know what to expect when consulting with an attorney. What follows is a guide covering the basics of attorney-client consultations for the purpose of helping you navigate meetings and communications with your lawyer, or a lawyer that you are looking to hire. It will also discuss how to understand the fees and services that come with legal representation.
1. How do you prepare for your meeting with a lawyer?
Being prepared for your meeting with a lawyer can help relieve tension and increase your general comfort about the upcoming meeting. It is also essential to focusing your meeting with a lawyer so that he or she can give you accurate and relevant advice regarding your claim or legal matter.
To be best prepared for your meeting, you should gather all of the significant and relevant legal documents that relate to your case. If your lawyer has sent you forms to complete or requested certain documents, ensure they are accurate and completed to the best of your ability in advance and be sure to bring them with you to your meeting with a lawyer. It is common practice for attorneys to distribute client information sheets that need to be filled out before a client’s initial consultation. Completing paperwork, such as questionnaires and intake forms, helps your attorney narrow down what questions he or she will ask you, ensuring that your meeting time is spent productively. If you have received legal documents, either from the court or an opposing party to your case, it is important to bring these with you so that the attorney can review them and better understand your case.
It is also recommended that you write down a brief timeline of the events. This can help refresh your memory before your meeting with a lawyer and set the foundation for you to think about what you would like the outcome of the case to be. Creating a timeline can also serve as a good reference point, or a checklist, for gathering all of the necessary documentation. Additionally, a timeline of the events surrounding your case is extremely useful to an attorney during and after your initial consultation. The process of creating a chronological order of events can help you, and your attorney, strengthen your legal arguments. Having a clear visual representation helps all parties involved in the case to have a better understanding of the sequence of events.
You can also refer to your brief timeline of events to build a list of all the concerns and questions you may want to communicate during the meeting with your attorney. For example, you may be curious as to what kind of strategy the attorney is going to recommend for handling your legal matter or who else will have access to your case file and confidential information? It’s typically common to ask what the lawyer charges as a fee for his or her services. You may also want to get clarity on any additional costs that you may be expected to pay.
Some attorney’s websites may provide information that can answer some basic questions that people commonly ask about the consultation or appointment process. While it may not be perfectly applicable to your situation, it can provide you with some basic legal vocabulary and an understanding as to different types of cases. You can also read about a firm’s attorneys–including things such as their educational and professional credentials. Asking questions about this information can being to cost you money if the lawyer explains it to you, but the tips and information on an attorney’s website are accessible at no charge.
2. What should you expect the meeting with your attorney to be like?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that lawyers are people, too! They understand that it can be nerve-wracking to meet with an attorney for the first time–especially when the meeting involves disclosing private information and discussing sensitive matters. Keep in mind that lawyers are looking to help you with your legal issues and ultimately help you come to a resolution that satisfies you.
Most initial consultations are scheduled for one hour, but the length of your actual appointment time may vary. The complexity of your case, and how much information you have prepared in advance, usually determines how long your appointment lasts. Your first meeting with an attorney is an opportunity to share your story and obtain a powerful tool–legal representation. While it is important to tell your story, it is also important to get comfortable with each other. It is strongly suggested that lawyers and clients attempt to build a relationship with open communication, honesty, and trust. In addition to some general “getting to know you” questions, the attorney will ask you questions that are designed to focus the discussion on the background facts of your case that he or she feels are relevant or significant. He or she will take time to understand your current situation, develop your case, and work with you to decide how to resolve your claim.
Regardless of whether your legal issues involve a personal injury, criminal defense, divorce, or bankruptcy law issue, it is a client’s responsibility to be honest and as accurate as possible when relaying the events and facts of your case to your attorney. Honesty and full disclosure are always important when meeting with an attorney. Lawyer’s offices are safe environments where attorney-client privilege and confidentiality rules apply. Whatever you discuss during the your meeting with a lawyer stays private. If you have questions about attorney-privilege and client confidentiality, do not hesitate to ask your attorney to explain it to you.
Failure, to be honest, can significantly impact your case–there’s even a chance that you may be unable to win your lawsuit. The outcome of the case could go unfavorable if any unanticipated information or evidence comes out. When your lawyer is fully aware of the facts of your case, he or she is able to best determine whether you have a valid claim, and then continue on to prepare strong arguments to support your case.
It can be difficult to recall what was discussed during the meeting with an attorney. Even though you are meeting with him or her to share your story, your lawyer will have a lot of information to share with you in return; they will answer your questions, debunk legal myths, and offer peace of mind. Taking notes on important discussion topics during your consultation can help you remember key points from the conversation. For example, there may be follow-up information or paperwork that the lawyer asks you to acquire in order to proceed with your case. Everything the attorney says may feel important, but don’t feel the need to try to get everything down. It’s more important to listen to the lawyer’s advice and be able to ask any questions that may arise.
If the lawyer determines that you have a valid legal claim, and is willing to take your case, it is likely that you will be presented with a retainer agreement. This will usually be presented to you at the end of your initial consultation. Your attorney should explain the terms of the retainer agreement to you and you should not sign it until you are sure that understand it. Basically, this agreement is a contract that stipulates your obligations to the attorney, as well as the attorney’s duties to you. Some of the duties that may be listed in a retainer agreement include: protocol for communicating with you about the status of your case, the approximate rate the attorney is charging you for his or her legal services, any payments that are required at the onset of representation, and the frequency in which you are expected to make payments.
3. What should you know about making payments to your lawyer?
There are two ways that clients pay attorneys. The first way is called a “retainer,” where the client pays the attorney in advance for his or her legal services, and when the lawyer has worked for the full amount of the retainer, the client pays the attorney at their hourly rate. Retainers are most common in cases that don’t involve claims for money–usually criminal defense, divorce, and bankruptcy claims.
It’s normal for lawyers with more practice experience to charge higher fees than newer attorneys. Sometimes, an attorney may be able to work out a payment plan so that you can make reasonable payments over time. If you are unable to afford the fees that your lawyer outlines in their contract, ask the attorney whether he or she is willing to come to an alternative agreement regarding fee payment.
In cases like personal injury or workers’ compensation claims–cases seeking money–it is common for lawyers to stipulate to a set “contingency” fee in a “contingent fee arrangement.” When an attorney agrees to work on a contingency basis, he or she agrees to accept a fixed percentage of the amount recovered by the client. Percentages vary, sometimes depending on professional experience, but it is typical that attorneys working on a contingency fee basis be paid one-third (33%) of the amount recovered. During your meeting with an attorney, he or she will explain that a contingent fee agreement means that if you lose, you don’t have to pay the lawyer for his legal representation. However, the lawyer’s services are different from filing fees and court costs. Regardless of the case outcome, clients are typically responsible for paying these additional expenses.
At the close of your meeting with a lawyer, you should make sure that you have shared all the necessary information and raised all of your questions and concerns. Ideally, you should leave the consultation feeling comfortable with contacting your attorney, clear about the next steps in your case, and confident that your legal matter is in competent hands. Although meeting with a lawyer can be intimidating, being prepared and knowing what to expect can help you navigate the process successfully.
Legal Contributor ~ Madaleine Gray
Online dating sites are a place where millions of people go online to find the love of their life or a quick hookup. No matter what it is that you are looking for on these sites, people tend to make the same mistakes when registering. Some of these may be used to make a person feel safer when they date, but others are borderline or outright illegal. All in all, here are some important legal tricks of dating sites that you need to watch out for.
Agreeing to Terms They Haven’t Read
Giving a False Name
It doesn’t matter what website you’re signing up for, there is always going to be a problem with supplying a dating site a false name. When you join this site or any other dating site, you are agreeing to allow the dating site know who you are on paper in case there are instances of inappropriate behavior. When you create and hide behind a fake name while you are on the website, you are at best breaking the rules of the website. At worst, you’re breaking the law depending on the name you use and the jurisdiction in which you sign up. Sure, you might feel a tad safer by hiding your personal name, but it can still lead to issues. Be honest when you sign up for a dating site because your username hides your real identity anyways.
Supplying Illegal Pictures or Videos
A lot of dating sites are prickly about the content that you share on the website. Depending on where you’re dating from and where your date is, sending videos or pictures that feature nudity or sexual acts could be illegal for many reasons. Yet, people tend to persist in this form of communication even without thinking about the consequences. Most of the time, you won’t even get noticed by the dating website, but if you aren’t careful you can find yourself kicked off the website or reported to authorities.
Cat-Fishing for Money
The final trick that people use on a dating site that skirt legality is known as cat-fishing. This is when a person pretends to be someone that they are not and uses that identity to get gifts or to cause mental anguish to a person on the other end. The problem is that it is usually a man pretending to be a woman to get gifts from another man with promises of a relationship or other arrangement. This is technically theft by deception and can cause a lot of problems on both ends. Take the high road and avoid or report this behavior when you see it happening.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong on a dating site in terms of legal tricks. By learning about the ones that we have put up here, you will have a lower chance of being affected by them. Remember, it is worth taking a look at the fine print before you sign a contract to join a website, and your conduct has to fall in line with the site’s requirements, too.
Depending on who you ask, dating a lawyer can either be a great victory or the path to misery. It’s no secret that a lot of lawyers get a bad reputation for being involved in the legal process, but you have to keep in mind that they have a personal life as well. Here are some things that you should keep in mind before you start dating a lawyer on your own!
Prepare for Rescheduled Dates
The first thing that you need to know about dating a lawyer is that they have an absolutely crazy work and life schedule. That means you will have to reschedule dates at a moment’s notice when they are suddenly called back to the office for a late-night strategy session or to review some facts. With online communications becoming more and more popular the fact of the matter is that it is easier for lawyers to communicate from home. The result is that your date might have to work even at home.
Long Nights are Common
As with the idea of rescheduled dates, the chances are high that you are going to have to deal with long nights at the office. You might think that you are okay with this in the beginning of the relationship, but it could sow some doubt down the line. Lawyers are often tasked with defending innocent people or ensuring that guilty ones are punished. In that context, it might be a little easier to spare your beau for a night.
They Might Not Make as Much as You Think
If you’re thinking about dating a lawyer for their large wads of cash that they make, the chances are that you will be disappointed. After all, not all lawyers make a lot of money with their firms. On average, you can expect them to make a living that is above average, but not by much. That being said, you will live comfortably, especially if they start climbing the ranks at their law office of pursue a career as a judge.
Lawyers Use Dating Sites to Find Love Because It’s Easy
Lawyers are not exactly the type of people that you find lurking at all night bars or clubs. They tend to be a little more bookish and seek out dates whenever they can. For that reason, the chances are better for you to find a lawyer on an online dating website like Flirt.com. The fast and easy matching process along with the fact that they can date on the go is a high appeal to most lawyers. While they might not be able to spare time every single day of the week for chatting and dates, if you show some interest they will likely make time for you both to chat.
Most Lawyers are Looking for Long-Term Partners
The thing about lawyers is that they ache for stability. They like justice, the law, and the ability to get support from their significant others when work and life has them down. That means they tend to look for long-term partners instead of one-night stands. You might have some difficulty finding lawyers that are looking for hookups, but they will be lined up around the block for dates that could turn into something significant and long term. Make sure you tell your lawyer date right away if you are looking for something fast and easy or to find a real partner. Your honesty may get you any sort of relationship that you desire.
Lawyers are individuals that are as complex as the rest of us, but their job has certain features that you need to know about. Their unusual hours, tendency to need to work late nights, and their academic background might make it tough for someone to find a lawyer to date if they’re more wild in nature. Nevertheless, with these tips in mind, you’ll be able to approach a relationship with a lawyer with the kind of preparation that they would admire.
Honesty between client and attorney is the backbone of any crimnal case. Most lawyers will have an idea of what questions the prosecutor will ask along with all the evidence and witnesses. After assessing all of this information your lawyer will map out a plan of where he thinks the case will go. He’ll then ask certain questions of you to help build his and or your case.
This is where your full disclosure of everything he asks of you needs to be completely honest. If you don’t handle the matter in this way then you are leaving the door open for surprises during your trial and your lawyer can possibly be blindsided. If that happens you will most likely lose your case since your lawyer probably won’t be able to recover from the surprise.
Most lawyers will tell you that if you don’t tell them the truth it sours their view of you and can make a positive attorney/client relationship a negative one quickly. Needless to say, this is not a good situation for you. There are two ways you can “lie” to your lawyer.
One way is to omit part of a story. If you leave out important events or facts when you are explaining the story to your lawyer this gives your lawyer a false impression on what way to steer your case and also about the strength of it in the first place.
The other “lie” is the flat-out kind. For instance, if you say it wasn’t you when it was or maybe you state that you told someone they couldn’t do something when you actually said it was ok. Anything similar to this can derail your case almost instantly.
One thing that should be mentioned is the way you communicate with your lawyer. Meaning if you are unresponsive when he needs to reach you and get answers or information from you then your case will suffer. If you are busy with other things such as your job or running a business you should allow time each day to check in or answer any communications with your lawyer promptly. This will go along way to make your relationship with your lawyer run smoothly and allow him or her to provide the best defense possible for you and your case.
Similarly don’t put things off. Try not to miss or reschedule a meeting with your lawyer. The sooner they have all of the information they feel they need, the sooner they can get into your case and plan your defense. You’ll also have some answers once this happens which will give you some idea of any outcomes you may be facing.
To summarize it is extremely important, to be honest, and give your lawyer all of the information you can. Good or bad. Basically, you should answer all questions your lawyer asks you honestly.
We hardly ever go to a lawyer when things are going well for us. Aside from preparing a will or reviewing a contract, if we’re meeting with a legal professional, we’ve either made a serious mistake, or someone has wronged us.
Choosing an attorney to represent you is a critical decision, no matter your circumstances. Having the right lawyer in your corner, who will fight to get you the best possible outcome, involves careful research and consideration on your part.
Though I hope you never have to face a day you’ll have no choice but to call on an attorney, you need to be prepared, and the following considerations will help you choose the person who will take a stand and fight for you.
Know Your Circumstances
The first thing you’ll need to think about is what’s going on in your life that you need an attorney to help resolve. If you’re being convicted of a crime, you’ll need a criminal lawyer to help you beat the rap, or at the least, reduce your sentence. If you’re facing a divorce, a civil lawyer who specializes in divorce is an obvious choice.
Other factors that you should consider, but may be out of your control, are how much you can afford to spend on an attorney, how much time you’ll have to prepare if your case is going to court, and the judge who will preside over your case. Finding a lawyer who has an established history in cases with your presiding judge can be a huge help to you.
Consider Their Track Record
One of the most important factors that will help determine if a lawyer is worth pursuing is their experience and history in cases similar to yours. Consider how long a lawyer has been practising, and get a copy of their court history: the more cases they have won, the better chance they’ll be able to get a resolution that will benefit you.
Along with their past history, determine how much of your attorney’s caseload is currently devoted to your type of case. If you need an attorney to represent you in a motorcycle accident, but 75% of their cases are devoted to medical malpractice, you may risk being a low priority for that attorney.
Ask Another Attorney
No one knows a lawyer better than another lawyer. If you have a lawyer who’s represented you in the past, even if they’re not a fit for your current situation, or your family’s attorney who helped your dad set up his will, reach out to them to get their opinion on the attorney you’re considering.
Look at the Cost
Though it’s an obvious factor, you can’t just look at the end dollar amount you’ll owe your attorney for their services. Other factors involving cost include the services, and extent of those services, included in your fees, any costs your lawyer will require up front, and payment options to settle your costs over time. Be wary of “in as little as…for a simple case” ads that lawyers post: your case may take turns that neither you, or potentially your lawyer, predicted, and suddenly your “simple case” is anything but simple.
Additionally, more does not automatically equal better with attorneys; just because a lawyer is charging more does not make them anymore certified or competent to win your case than anyone else. Look at certifications, track record, and the amount of trust you place in a lawyer before deciding they’re worth an extra $2,000.
The law covers an endless array of subject matter – it only makes sense that those pursuing a career in such would have to specialize in a more condensed, specialized area of study.
For those of you simply looking for a lawyer to aid you with whatever legal issue you are faced with, this can seem daunting – there are so many different types of lawyers that specialize in any and every type of legal issue, so how can you possibly know where to start with your search?
As overwhelming as this vast amount of options may seem, it will truly only benefit you in the end. You will have someone on your side that is educated and experienced in dealing specifically with the type of situation you are in and needing help with.
To get you looking in the right direction, we’ve put together a brief overview of the two main components of law and the different types of lawyers involved in each.
First Things First: Criminal Vs. Civil Lawyers
The first and most basic breakdown when it comes to law is into two categories: criminal or civil.
Criminal law is concerned with the punishment of individuals who commit crimes. Offenders are prosecuted based on Canada’s Criminal Code and various federal laws.
Civil law is the system of law concerned with private relations between members of a community – civil cases are remedied by monetary damages rather than criminal punishments. Civil law revolves around suits and actions, where the plaintiff is the suing party and the defendant is the one being sued.
Criminal lawyers most often act as defense lawyers for individuals who have been accused of committing a crime. They study the case, witnesses’ statements, etc. and present the defense to the court in an attempt to convince the jury of their client’s innocence.
Criminal lawyers can further be broken down into public or private – public being paid by the government and provided to the accused, and private being hired and paid directly by the accused/the accused’s family.
Civil law is much more broad than criminal law in terms of subject specialization.
To give you an idea, here is a list of some of the different types of civil lawyers and civil law services available:
- Divorce Attorney
- Family Law Attorney
- Bankruptcy Attorney
- Immigration Attorney
- Personal Injury Attorney
- Real Estate Attorney
- Estate Planning Attorney
- Tax Attorney
- Employment Attorney
- Corporate Law Attorney
- Intellectual Property Attorney
- Copyright Attorney
Find Your Perfect Match Today
When you are on the hunt for a lawyer, whether simply for legal advice or for help with a more serious legal issue, it is important to remember that there are many differences between each type of lawyer and the area of law that they practice.
Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference regarding the situation you are in – shop around, read references, ask questions, and you are sure to find the lawyer that is right for you.
We all encounter the legal system at some point in our lives, maybe for an adoption, a lawsuit, criminal proceedings, or an inheritance. In 2006, a record-setting 102 million cases were heard by state courts.
Even though we all have some level of experience with courts and legal proceedings, most of us do not have a clue how to handle them.
That’s the purpose of legal aid services. Attorneys advise, defend, and guide people through the confusion of the law.
How do you know if you can handle a case on your own or if you need legal aid services? This article will answer that question and help you find services that you can afford.
1. What Types of Legal Cases Are There?
Before we jump into legal aid service specifics, let’s look at what types of legal processes happen in courts.
There are two main types of court cases: criminal and civil. There are also two main types of courts: federal and state. We’ll break these down for you below.
Federal Court Cases
- Criminal– A person is accused of a crime, such as assault or Internet defamation.
- Civil- There is a legal disagreement between two people or organizations (lawsuits).
- Bankruptcy- A person can no longer pay their debts, so the court helps divide their remaining money and property between the people they owe. The rest of the debt is then erased, and the person has a fresh start.
- Appeals- A case that has already been decided is brought back up because something was not done correctly in the trial.
If your case is in a federal court, you definitely must have a lawyer!
State courts hear all of the same types of cases that federal courts hear but often on a smaller scale. Below is a list of all the types of civil cases state courts handle.
- Small Claims Court- People or organizations sue each other for $10,000 or less. No one can have a lawyer in these cases.
- General Civil- People sue one another usually for property damage or injury.
- Family Law- This court helps settle divide assets in divorces, decides custody battles, finalizes adoptions, and assigns child support payments.
- Landlord/Tenant- This type of case is typically a dispute between a landlord and tenant about eviction or getting a deposit back.
- Probate- These cases include wills and handles the estates of people who are unable to take care of themselves.
- Juvenile- This category includes criminal cases for people under the age of 18 (juvenile delinquency) and home placements when someone under 18 can no longer stay with their guardians (juvenile dependency).
30 million cases are heard in state courts every year while federal courts only hear about 1 million. Chances are then, most of your legal encounters will be in state courts.
Attorneys are only appointed in criminal cases. In all other types of cases, the client must pay for their own lawyer or defend themselves.
2. Why Can’t You Represent Yourself?
We’ve all seen television shows where a crazy client tries to represent themselves and all the lawyers are telling them not to. Why is that?
The truth is people often don’t know how to explain themselves. They know what happened, but when it comes to an intimidating courtroom and a judge, they don’t know what to say.
This is devastating when you consider the fact that explaining your case well can lead to reduced sentences or even dropped charges.
Another reason to get legal aid services is that the law is complicated. You can try to study up and understand the legal standing of your case. But wouldn’t you rather have the opinion and advice of someone who went to law school and passed a state law exam?
The Australian court system is pretty similar to America. A recent study there found that the cases of 63% of people who represent themselves are over in 5 minutes. 26% of these cases are done in less than 2 minutes.
Do you think you can adequately explain yourself to a judge in that amount of time?
3. Do You Qualify for Free Legal Aid Services?
You may be eligible for free legal aid services based on the following categories.
- Income- If you can prove to a judge that you are “indigent” or low-income, you may be able to get free or low cost legal representation. Laws vary on this from state to state.
- Health- If you are a disabled veteran, check with your local veterans administration. You may qualify for certain types of legal aid. Also, if you have HIV/Aids, you may be able to get free services or reduced rates.
- Civil vs. Criminal Cases- If you’re accused of a crime, the state is obligated to give you a public defender if you can’t afford a lawyer. The state will only appoint attorneys for criminal cases.
- Safety – If you are the victim of domestic violence, you may qualify for free legal services. The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) has more information.
- Civil Rights- If your legal issue is a civil rights case, you may be able to obtain free legal services. Law firms often like to take on this work pro bono because they can become large lawsuits.
- Immigration Status- Immigrants can often receive free legal assistance for visas, work authorizations, green cards, etc. Check with your local legal services agencies.
- Organizations- If you are a community organization that helps the underprivileged in some way, you may have law firms in your area wanting to support your work. Check with local legal aid services to see if your organization qualifies.
4. How to Find Legal Aid Services?
Legal aid societies offer free legal assistance to people who cannot pay an attorney. Many people do not qualify for their free serves though, because they make too much money. Only about 50%of people who apply for help from a legal aid society receive it.
Lawhelp.org is also a great resource. They offer legal advice and resources for low-income people.
Another place to find affordable legal advice is a law school. State law determines what law students can actually do, but they can always give advice even if they can’t represent you.
Some law schools also have law clinics with reduced rates for people with a low income.
You can also consider contacting your state bar association. They may be able to help you find a lawyer who is willing to do a pro bono case.
Make sure to ask some local lawyers for their rates too. They may not be as high as you think or they may offer discounts.
Some law firms will also only charge you if you win your case. Just make sure you know the percentage they charge if you win before you ask them to represent you! Go and find the Child Support Appeals here.
Remember when asking for attorneys, make sure to find a local lawyer who specializes in the area of the law you need. You can do some research depending on where you are. For Australians, Save U Legal | Tweed Heads Drink Driving + Traffic Lawyers can be a great place to start. You do not want a divorce lawyer representing you on a burglary charge! You don’t want a divorce lawyer representing you on a burglary charge!
Interested in researching specific legal aid services in your area? Start by checking the specialties of attorneys near you.