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Category Archives: Real Estate

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The 10 Real Estate Commandments: An Essential Guide For Any Aspiring Real Estate Lawyers

Lots of people aspire to be an attorney, some from the time they were a kid. But few know precisely what area of law in which they want to work. From environmental law to corporate law, there are a wide variety of options out there for aspiring lawyers.

One particularly fascinating area of law is real estate law. This area of law is multi-faceted and there will always be a need for real estate lawyers so long as people own real property. But what are the steps you should take if you want to be a real estate lawyer?

If you’re interested in a career in real estate law, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything you need to know about prepping for your future career!

1. Prep for Law School

The best time to prep for a career in law is long before you even get to law school. That doesn’t mean you need to major in political science or philosophy, it means taking the time to hone the skills you’ll need for law school.

If your university has a moot court or mock trial team, take advantage of them! These are critical skills that’ll give you a leg up once you’re in law school. If your school doesn’t have those teams, look for debate teams or anything that can help you build your speaking and critical thinking skills.

Last, but not least, be sure to keep your grades high. High grades and a good LSAT score are necessary to get in at the top schools (and get scholarships, too).

2. Choose the Right Law School

There’s no shortage of law schools available in the United States. In fact, there are a few hundred to choose from. But not all law schools are created equal!

There are many things to consider when trying to pick the right law school. Many people pick the highest ranked school they get into, but there are other factors to consider.

Are they giving you a scholarship? Is it located in the area in which you want to practice after you graduate? Do they offer clinical opportunities in the area of law in which you want to practice?

Think about all these things before deciding on a school.

3. Work Hard

Once you’re in law school, you’re going to want to hit the ground running. You won’t get to choose your classes in your first year of law school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start prepping for a career in real estate law.

Property Law will be a class you want to pay close attention to your first year. That doesn’t mean you can let your other courses slide. The better your grades and your ranking, the greater your chances of getting the most coveted summer clerkships.

4. Curate Your Course Selection

After your first year of law school, you’ll have more control over your schedule. This is your opportunity to curate your courses toward real estate law. Consider courses in property, bankruptcy, and wills and estates, among many others.

Don’t be afraid to jump in on practical courses that give you real-life experience doing the type of work that you’ll do in practice.

5. Get Involved

One of the best things law schools offer are clinical programs. These programs allow second and third-year law students to be sworn into the bar for limited practice. You will have a professor supervising the program, and you’ll get to work with real clients who need legal help.

Many law schools offer clinical programs in real estate and housing law. These will be a huge boon for your career because you’ll have actual experience practicing real estate law, and not just coursework. 

6. Shoot for the Right Summer Clerkships

Summer clerkships are a must when you’re in law school. Like clinical programs, clerkships give you real-life, practical experience working as a lawyer. Many of clerkships are paid (some big law clerkships pay quite generously) and can give you a little financial padding for the rest of the year.

If you want to make the most of your summer clerkship experience, look for firms or non-profits that feature real estate law as part of their practice. The more practical experience you have, the better your chances of landing a real estate law job before you even graduate.

7. Consider a Post-Grad Training Program

Many law students don’t go straight to a firm post-grad. Some participate in judicial clerkships, while others choose to get an LLM first.

Another option is a fellowship or a government honors program. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has an honors program for new graduates that allows people interested in real estate and housing law the opportunity to hone their skills before going into practice.

8. Start at a Law Firm

It may be tempting to go it alone straight out of law school. You don’t have to deal with the rat race of finding a job and suffering through being a first-year associate. Unfortunately, unless you have a family member who is an attorney and who is also willing to mentor you, you’ll miss out on a lot by skipping working for a law firm.

Being an associate at a law firm will help you hone your skills in real estate law and you won’t have to learn how to navigate the court system on your own. You don’t want to lose clients because you submitted a complaint in the wrong format! 

9. Diversify Your Practice Area

If you have the goal of hanging your own shingle, then take advantage of working at a law firm to diversify your knowledge of real estate law. It’s more than real property transactions, after all.

Get experience in landlord-tenant law, tracing title, foreclosure, and liens. The greater your depth of knowledge, the more successful you’ll be in solo practice.

10. Hang Your Own Shingle

Once you feel you have an in-depth knowledge of real estate law, you can hang your own shingle!

You may be able to bring your clients with you from your previous firm, but be sure to check your contract to make sure. Otherwise, you’ll have to build up your client base. 

Most solo practitioners don’t have a large office staff as you had at a law firm. It’s important that you make the most use of technology to keep up with new and existing clients. Discover more ways to generate leads and answer calls without taking time out of your schedule to do the leg work.

Ready to Join the World of Real Estate Lawyers?

A career in real estate law is exciting and rewarding. Whether you plan on defending tenants against terrible landlords or you want to help make sure that home buyers have clear title on their new homes, you’ll love this field of law. This guide will help you get where you want to be.

Interested in learning more about real estate lawyers and or law in general? We’ve got you covered!

Check out the rest of our blog for lots of super helpful articles!

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3 Eye-Opening Reasons To Hire A Real Estate Closing Attorney

The median home price in the US is almost $280,000. It varies greatly by location, of course, with median prices in West Virginia coming in at $159,000 on up to $619,000 in Hawaii. 

Regardless, a real estate deal will always represent a large investment. 

To protect yourself from any costly pitfalls, it’s a good idea to hire a real estate closing attorney. Here are 3 reasons why.

1. Contracts Are Tricky

It is always a good idea to have a lawyer look over any contract you are planning to sign. It’s even more important when you’re talking about the stakes involved in a real estate deal. You could potentially lose a lot of money if you don’t understand something about your contract or purchase agreement.

You might think that’s what your real estate agent or broker is for. It’s true that your agent will advise you on the best course of action and help you protect yourself. But agents aren’t lawyers. They aren’t as well-versed in the law and they aren’t contract experts. 

A lawyer will make sure that all the proper verbiage is there to protect you in any situation that could arise. 

2. The Title Search

It is extremely important that the title document is correct. This is what gives you the legal right to own the home. If there is something wrong with the title you could end up not being able to sell the home in the future.

In some states, it is not normal to pay title insurance. This makes having a lawyer involved even more critical. The lawyer will carefully review the title and ensure that there are no errors in the legal description or problems with previous owners. 

Even if title insurance is included in the deal, an attorney is helpful. They can explain the effects of things like easements, restrictions put in place by the previous owner, and zoning laws.

3. The Closing Process

You’ve come a long way from that first day you googled “houses for sale near me“. The closing process has finally begun. But before you start celebrating, you have to make sure the deal is done.

A real estate attorney is immensely helpful in ensuring that all the paperwork is taken care of properly.

Closing a real estate deal is stressful because it is both complicated and confusing. A lawyer can help you sort through all the unfamiliar terms. They can also explain things like how closing costs get calculated and distributed. 

Perhaps the most important consideration is that every party involved in the closing process will have its own attorney. If you don’t have one, you could lose out if there is a dispute or misunderstanding. 

Peace of Mind with a Real Estate Closing Attorney

A real estate deal is stressful enough without going into it underrepresented. A real estate closing attorney is well worth the cost for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you got everything you were entitled to during the process.

Now you can enjoy your new home with no worries in the back of your mind.

To learn more about when you should definitely hire a real estate attorney, check out this blog post!

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Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney When You Buy or Sell a House?

Real estate transactions can be difficult to decipher, and simple mistakes can lead to costly implications. Usually, there’s a significant amount of money involved, so it’s important to get all the help you can get.

Hiring a real estate attorney is vital for ensuring the entire process goes smoothly. Such an attorney knows the ins and outs of property law and will help to protect your interests as you make a big financial move.

Getting professional help from an attorney that understands all the legalities about real estate will make the process of buying or selling property less stressful and straightforward.

Read the following guide to learn if you should hire a real estate attorney.

1. They Don’t Have a Vested Interest in the Property in Question

A real estate attorney has no incentives to increase or decrease the price of the property.

When dealing with an attorney, you have to agree about the fee which will be paid directly to them irrespective of whether the deal is sealed or not.

This means they have no motivation to close a deal that isn’t on your favor. They are only motivated by the fact that you’re their client.

You’re free to change your mind any time about selling your property, and that won’t affect your representation.

2. They Can Assist in Choosing Potential Properties

You can seek advice from an experienced attorney on where to buy properties in your city. They will help in selecting potential properties and review any contract that your mortgage or real estate broker asks you to sign.

An attorney negotiates for you and drafts the contract of sale to make sure your interests are safeguarded.

If you’re a seller, your attorney can market your property as well. They can also work with real estate agents to facilitate the sale of your property.

3. They Help with Conducting a Title Search

Does the person or institution selling the property to you have the legal rights? The only to find out is by conducting a title search. The attorney conducts the title search and ensures that no encumbrances that will affect the transaction.

Once they discover an issue with the title of the property, they advise you on how to proceed from that point.

4. They Have the Expertise to Deal with Complex Contracts

When you’re buying a property from entities such as corporations, partnerships or trusts, both the negotiations and contracts are likely to be more complex.

You will need someone with knowledge on these types of contracts who will ensure the contract is legally binding.

5. They Can Help to Address Particular Stipulations

When buying a home, it’s possible to overlook certain stipulations. For example, a covenant or easement on a house can affect the way the property is sold.

The unexpected stipulations are likely to lower the price of a house. Hire a lawyer to take advantage of such stipulations.

6. You Can Easily Modify Your Loans

If you’re selling your property and you want to modify your loans, real estate attorneys can be of great help. These lawyers work directly with lenders and other parties and can quickly speed up the modification process.

Hiring a lawyer gives the seller or buyer a big advantage by minimizing the need for external help.

7. They Offer a Professional Contract Review

Reviewing the purchase contract can be intense since most of these documents are dense and packed with legal jargon. You might end up feeling bored reading through all details and end up signing before grasping the content.

If you have hired an attorney, they will ensure that you grasp all the content and advise you to avoid the contract if some of the contents are detrimental.

8. They Play a Useful Role When the Property Has Physical Damage

When you’re about to buy a property, but a building inspector points out some defects such as electrical issues, do you abandon your mission or proceed?

You need to find an experienced real estate lawyer who can negotiate credits or repairs for these issues.

After the negotiation, the lawyer will draft an agreement that resolves these issues to your satisfaction.

9. You Need an Attorney for Consultation Purposes

What of a situation where you are buying or selling a property from someone you trust 100 percent? Will you still need a lawyer?

In this case, a lawyer may not be needed for negotiation purposes, but you may have to consult a lawyer to understand an issue such as tax consequences of the purchase or sale.

10. They Will Handle All the Paperwork for You

Real estate has its fair share of ups and downs, but if there’s one factor that has remained constant over the years is the paperwork involved before money and title change hands.

You need an expert in your corner to help you understand the entire process and safeguard your interest.

11. A Real Estate Attorney Can Help You Achieve a Proper Closing

There are important steps that occur at the end of a real estate purchase deal. You need to check closing documents such as the deed and ensure once you finish paying for the property, the title is passed to you.

A real estate attorney facilitates this process and also ensures there is a closing statement that records the transaction between you and the other party.

If you intend to buy or sell a property, look for an experienced attorney who will help you have a smooth transaction.

You can learn more about selling your house here.

Is Hiring a Real Estate Attorney an Unnecessary Expense?

Some people think that hiring a real estate attorney is an unnecessary expense when it comes to buying or selling a property.

The legal fees are not as high as you think, but it’s dependent on the complexity of the transaction and whether selling or buying a property.

Want to find out the legal difference between a real estate agent and a broker? Check out our blog.

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3 weeks ago Real Estate

4 Things You Need to Know About Preparing Wills and Estate Planning

6 in 10 Americans don’t have a will.

Many adults think they’re too young to worry about writing a will but the truth is they’re not too young. It’s important to plan ahead even though no one wants to think about the grim realities of death.

Failing to properly plan your estate could leave your assets in jeopardy and your children’s fate uncertain. Fortunately, preparing your will is something you can start today.

Keep reading for 4 tips on wills and estate planning to help ensure your family’s future is secure.

1. Keep It Updated

Simply writing your will is not enough. It’s important to regularly review it to make any necessary changes and ensure it’s up to date.

An out of date will could have worse consequences than not having one at all.

It’s recommended to review your will every 5 years, but anytime you experience a change in your life you should take a look at it. Changes that may occur and impact your will include heirs having died or remarried, your estate administrator dying or no longer being capable of performing their duties, and your own marriage or divorce.

2. Storing Your Will

The second most important thing after creating your will is properly storing the document. If your family or heirs can’t find your documents, things won’t go as you had planned.

It’s recommended to keep copies in a safe at your home and in your lawyer’s vault.

Don’t keep your will in your safety-deposit box. When you die, access to your safety-deposit box may be put on hold and your heirs might not be able to access it right away. 

3. Hire a Professional

When it comes to planning your estate, there is no shame in hiring a professional with expertise in the area.

No two estates are alike and what you need to include in your plan depends on a lot of individual factors. For example, if you own a business you will need a succession plan.

If your children have special needs, they may need to have a special needs trust established. Professionals like Family Wills and Trusts can explain options to people of every income level. 

4. Living Wills

Living wills are just as important as traditional wills thanks to the capabilities of modern medicine.

Living wills also called advanced directives, help your family make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. With a living will, you will choose a person who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them yourself. For example, if you are on a ventilator or a feeding tube, this person will help doctors determine whether you want to be kept alive. 

More Help with Wills and Estate Planning

It’s understandable why so many Americans avoid creating their wills and estate planning because the process can be confusing. It’s also natural to not want to think about our own demise.

However, it’s important for the future of our assets and heirs that we clearly lay out our intentions before our passing. Consider hiring an estate planning lawyer to make sure you are covering all your bases.

To find a lawyer in your area, click here.

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3 weeks ago Real Estate

Is It That Time In Your Life to Consider an Estate Attorney?

No one wants to think about a time when they won’t be there for their family. Yet the fact is, no one’s time on this earth is indefinite. In addition to the natural progression of age, there are any number of accidents that could happen without warning. It is important to protect your children and family members from undue strife in the event you are no longer here. Estate planning allows you to plan for the future to care for your children, spouse, and family when the time comes.

When You Should Do Estate Planning

Estate planning is something that should be done by all new parents. It should also be updated periodically as your assets change. If you have never done estate planning and you have assets, children, or possessions that you want to be sure of where they go, you will need to make sure that you engage in estate planning as quickly as possible. If you are retired, recently purchased your home, came into some money such as an inheritance, or discover severe health issues, these are also common reasons to begin estate planning in earnest.

What is Estate Planning

Estate planning is about more than just drafting a will. The last will and testament is of course important, especially if you have children. This document will dictate how your assets are divided, who is to take custody of your children if they are minors when you pass, and your final wishes. However, there is more to estate planning than this document.

Estate planning also involves additional measures such as trusts and other instruments that can help keep your estate out of probate. It is much easier for your surviving family members to take possession of your property and assets if you plan accordingly in advance. If estate planning is not done properly, even with a will your estate could be in probate for months before your family sees a dime.

Estate planning can also include planning for final expenses, such as getting life insurance and setting up beneficiaries, buying burial plans, or buying burial lots. In short, estate planning encompasses everything that needs to be addressed when you are no longer here to take care of your family.

Hiring an Attorney

There are a lot of kits available online to draft your own will, but this is generally not recommended. To be truly effective, estate planning needs to be done with the aid of an attorney well versed in estate and probate law. This will ensure that your estate is handled effectively when you are no longer here to direct it. A good attorney will also be a wise choice for executor of your estate to make sure that all is as it should be. If you need to start thinking about estate planning, contact an attorney today to get started.

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7 basic rights you should be aware when leasing a commercial property

Taking out a commercial lease is an important step in the establishment and growth of your company. However, you must ensure that you are getting the best deal possible and that the terms and conditions of the lease are sustainable. There is no such thing as a legally-mandated standard lease. Anyone who tells you there is not being truthful. All commercial lease contracts are subject to negotiation. Nothing is final until you and the landlord have signed the contract.

That said, you do have rights as a commercial tenant. The landlord does not have absolute power over your tenancy. They cannot act arbitrarily and unreservedly in pursuit of gain and profit. Here are 7 basic rights you have as a commercial tenant:

1. The right to have clear common area maintenance terms

The CAM (common area maintenance) section of the lease tends to be the most confusing. You must insist on clarity before you sign anything.

The rent that you are charged should be based on the overall size of the building, not the percentage of the building rented at a particular time. You should not have to pay for activities related to the landlord’s legal fees or marketing efforts. You should also get a detailed accounting of any administration fees. These should not be more than 3 percent, and they should not be used to pay for the landlord’s employees or renovation costs in other units.

2. The right to a CAM stop lease

Most leases require you to pay a proportionate share of CAM fees, property taxes, and repair and maintenance costs in addition to the rent. However, you are obligated to pay only for an increase in CAM fees and property taxes. You can ask the landlord for a CAM stop lease to ensure that this is so. You can also ask for a cap on the CAM so that it does not increase more than a negotiated percent. It is important to monitor how CAM fees increase during the term of your lease. You have a right to receive a complete breakdown of such charges.

3. The right to assignment

If you are like most companies, the success of your business depends a great deal on your location. This may owe to market proximity or cost-effectiveness. You should preserve your right to have someone else take on the lease if you sell your business. There may come a point at which you decide to sell your shop at that location or decide to relocate to another office building. Many landlords want the right to terminate the lease in such instances. However, this is not automatic, and you should request the landlord to remove this provision if it is in the lease. The latter can always be renegotiated so that both you and the landlord are protected.

4. The right to participate in arbitration

Many contracts include arbitration clauses. These commit the parties to the contract to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than litigation. This is a good mechanism to have in a contract, as it will save you from having to go through a costly litigation process with the landlord should a point of contention arise. However, you must defend your right to participate in selecting the arbitrator and the range of other decisions that must be made if at any point you must go before such a tribunal.

5. The right to a sublessee

If you rent a large office space, it is good business sense to share the rent with another company that may be interested. This may not have been your intention when you first signed the lease. However, changes in the organization of your company may have led to a significant downsizing, which created more than enough space to share with another business.

Many landlords do not like sublessee arrangements, but you should fight for the right to have one. It is a rather straightforward proposition: you continue to pay the rent and the sublessee pays you their portion of it.

6. The right to avoid excessive capital expenditures

You should avoid signing any lease that shifts the cost for major renovation, refurbishment, or replacement work to you. In the event that you are renting a space that is already scheduled to undergo major repair or restructuring work, it is possible to strike a deal with the landlord in which you offer to pay for only part of the cost. Or, you can make yourself responsible for all maintenance to the space that you are renting for the entire year. A range of other options are available. The main thing is not to be sucked into paying for a repair or renovation project that the landlord would have had to undertake anyway.

7. The right to have your attorney negotiate on your behalf

Your attorney should review all documents related to the lease. They should be present when you are negotiating in-person with the landlord. There may be times when it is best for your lawyer to do all the negotiating on your behalf. Some landlords do not like this; they prefer to work face-to-face with the people who will be renting in their building. However, as a business you have the right to leave all such matters to your company’s attorney.

The Importance of Retaining Legal Counsel

Boss lawyers can help you create and negotiate the commercial tenant agreement that is best for your business. Leasing language can be obscure and difficult to understand. Given the impact that a commercial lease can have on the financial health of your company, you want to have a clear and exact understanding of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Only an experienced attorney with specialist knowledge in this area of law can help guide you through the perplexities of lease agreements.

The bottom line is that if you are looking to establish your company in an office building you will need legal representation. You should contact lawyers with proven expertise and insight into commercial lease law.

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The Importance of Reading Blogs on Real Estate Law

Often there are situations where employing the services of a lawyer happens to be a natural move. Such as in case of a criminal arrest, battle over custody or a contentious divorce. But with regards to investing in real estate like purchasing a house, not all hurry in calling a lawyer. They perhaps assume that ample research coupled with advice from various homeowner friends is what will suffice for a smooth transaction.

But the truth however is real estate lawyers exist for a vital reason. First they are adept with the law along with being familiar with the different prospective pitfalls as well as be by your side while making this vital investment in the future and that of the family.

Benefits Galore

If you wish to know more about the real advantages of hiring a real estate lawyer then keeping reading the blog further.

  • Professional Contract Review- Contracts related to real estate purchase can be large documents that are full of legal jargon. One may indeed feel pressured from eager sellers to sign the contract without adequately understanding and reading the contents. Professional real estate lawyers will make sure that you thoroughly understand every term present in the contract as well as advice about potentially detrimental contents if any.
  • Address Complex Contracts- At the time of investing in real estate especially from corporations, trusts or partnerships, the negotiation, and the contract will be immensely complex. Here a real estate lawyer can act as a savior. They will possess the required expertise in such transactions thereby ensuring that the contract remains legally valid and at the same time respect the charter agreement regardless of the type of entity one does business with. To know more contact Friscia Law.
  • Addressing Liens and Title Search- Post signing the purchase agreement, the title search will be needed for informing the buyer and the institution which issued the mortgage regarding the seller possessing the legal right of selling the property. Here there will be no encumbrances like liens or judgments which will prevent or hinder the transaction. In fact, even if this form of a problem crops up, the real estate attorney will offer suggestions to the lawyer to satisfy such claims and later on obtain proof of satisfaction.
  • An Ideal Closing- At the time of a real estate purchase closure a couple of important steps take place. These include closing paper’s preparation like the deed, the property passes title from the buyer to the seller, pay the purchase price balance, and the preparation of a closing statement that will itemize the transaction. The real estate lawyer will offer valuable assistance should there be any disputes over costs or there are any last-minute questions.

The bottom line is, for anyone who is in the process to purchase a commercial real estate or a home and looking for experienced legal advice should right away contact the best real estate lawyer. Always hire an experienced lawyer as they will have the expertise and insights required to safeguard your interest from offer till closing.

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What To Consider When Hiring An Estate Planning Firm

Estate planning is highly-recommended in many situations. If you have several assets that you want to transfer to heirs at a particular time with the least amount of financial burden as possible, then hiring an estate planning lawyer or firm is beneficial for you.

Beyond the last will testament, estate planning also involves plans for living trusts, solutions to avoid or mitigate estate taxes and ensure that the assets are protected from creditors of your beneficiaries. While this is crucial, hiring one should be done carefully with proper consideration.
Listed below are factors that you need to look into when hiring someone who specializes in estate planning:

1. Hire a firm with a specialty

Several things can be done by a general lawyer or firm, such as drafting a simple will, creating a power of attorney, and so on. However, estate planning should not be taken lightly and should be left in the hands of specialists.

It’s understandable that hiring a generalist firm may be the cheaper option, but you will save more money in the long run when you choose the right law firm and lawyer, such as Brian Douglas. These tasks are far more tedious and complex, and sufficient years of experience are needed to be able to do them successfully.

When looking for a specialized firm:

  • Check your local bar association websites for a list of lawyers that have a specialization on estate planning.
  • Opt for lawyers who are certified in the field – which means they have completed certain years of experience, presented professional references, taken additional education or courses in that area, and passed an exam.
  • Look at bar records of firms and lawyers that you are interested in working with to ensure that they are in good standing.
  • Get a referral from family or friends for firms or lawyers who have helped them for estate planning.
  • Take time to meet your prospect firms and lawyers. See at least three of them so that you have a standard for comparison.

2. Presence of a malpractice insurance

Another consideration when hiring an estate planning firm is their malpractice insurance. You want to be compensated for loss or secure against legal liability when there are any mistakes that the estate planning lawyer or firm would commit.

Having a malpractice insurance is a good sign that the firm is willing to take responsibility for their actions, and not everyone has them, so it’s always best to double-check. This is one of the things to ask during the initial legal consultation.

3.  Their stand on the probate process

While estate planning helps you to manage your assets before death, probate is what happens when you weren’t able to sort out your properties before death. The probate process is costly because it can take years before settlement.

Your beneficiaries will be burdened with legal fees, in comparison to the situation where there was a concrete plan beforehand. If the firm or lawyer hints or pushes you into a will and probate route, definitely look for a different one.

4. The fees involved

You will undoubtedly be paying higher legal fees for a firm to create, maintain, and continuously update your estate plan because of specialty and complexity. However, it is still so much better compared to hiring someone who doesn’t even know what to do in the first place.

There are different ways of how firms charge fees – some have flat-fee services, others have bundled services, and some have separate fees for varied services. Look for a firm that is clear with disclosing what they charge and how much, with being keen about the kind of service that you need.

Here are some tips in this area:

  • If you happen to speak to a lawyer who gives a price without knowing your estate, it might mean they’re inexperienced or incapable. At the same time, those who charge by the hour may lengthen appointments just to get more fees from you.
  • Opt for flat-fee services if you only need a particular service, like drafting a will. However, if you need more services and assistance, it could be best to get bundled services.
  • A good law firm will be able to clearly explain how the rates are computed. The cost will vary according to you’re the kind of assets you have and the amount, the complications with your properties, the lawyer experience, what state you are in, and so on.

Final thoughts

Estate planning is highly-encouraged to avoid problems with your assets when you leave them to your beneficiaries. Have an estate planning checklist and use the guide above to look for the best firm that can help you out. Once you find the potential firm, make sure that you are comfortable working with them and that you can establish a trusting relationship for your benefit.

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Real Estate Agent VS Broker: What’s The (Legal) difference?

In 2018, the National Association of Realtors had a total of 1.36 million active members. That’s an increase of 50,000 members from the previous year!

California alone is home to almost 205,000 real estate agents. The state also has more than 95,000 active brokers in operation.

As a home buyer or seller, you’re likely thinking of hiring one of these professionals. This is a wise idea, especially since tricky and complex laws govern real estate transactions.

But first, you need to know the difference between a real estate agent vs broker. Not only are these titles not interchangeable — the responsibilities themselves differ, also. What’s more, there are legalities involved in who can claim each title.

Don’t worry though, as this post covers the most important differences between the two. Keep reading so you know which real estate agent professional to hire and team with.

Real Estate Agent vs Broker: Who’s the Boss

So, what is the difference between a real estate agent and a broker?

Some real estate agents are also brokers, but not all real estate agents can work as brokers. Brokers can work as agents, but most of the time, they have other agents working for them. Under law though, all real estate agents need to work for a broker.

That said, even if you hire a real estate agent, you’re pretty much working with a broker too. For real estate agents to be legal real estate professionals, they should report to a broker.

In short, brokers are the boss of real estate agents, and they can also be their own boss. Many brokers run their own independent firms, or they hire other licensed agents.

Breaking It Down Further: Who Real Estate Agents Are

A real estate agent is a real estate salesperson with a license. The law requires them to work for a real estate broker. That means they can’t work alone or as an independent party.

What It Takes to Become One

There are strict educational requirements before one can become a real estate agent. Most states require applicants to complete real estate pre-licensing courses. The number of hours for these required courses also vary from state to state.

Some states also need applicants to have finished real estate college-level courses. California, for example, requires applicants to have finished three of these courses. In Illinois, an applicant needs to at least have a GED or finished high school.

Only after meeting these requirements can applicants take the real estate licensing exam. Once they pass the test, then they can get their license and start offering their services. 

What They Do

Most home buyers and sellers have more direct contact with real estate agents. That’s because these salespersons represent buyers and sellers, working on their behalf. They deal with price negotiations, transaction management, and even marketing for home sellers.

Agents are also the real estate experts who give buyers a tour of homes for sale. For selling clients, their role involves generating prospects and buyer leads. They handle open houses and answer general inquiries about properties for sale.

Real estate salespersons should also have some knowledge of legal matters surrounding properties. But when it comes to dealing with actual documents and agreements, you need a real estate lawyer.

The Boss is Here: The Lowdown on Real Estate Brokers

We’ve established that the key difference between a broker vs agent is that the former is the boss of the latter. Or in some cases, a broker can legally serve as your real estate agent too.

But, that’s not all. Brokers have often undergone more extensive real estate education and training. In fact, this is a legal requirement in some states, including California, Florida, and New York.

Greater Level of Education and Training

Let’s use California as an example again.

Real estate agents there should have completed 135 hours of the pre-licensing courses, whereas brokers should have finished 360 hours of these courses. That’s more than twice the amount of education and training.

Also, before someone can become a broker, they should have worked as a real estate agent first. How long depends on the state they operate in. In CA, FL, and NY, they should have worked as agents for at least two years before they can take the broker exam.

Speaking of which, broker applicants need to pass two exams. First, the real estate licensing exam, and then the broker exam. The broker exam is also more difficult than the licensing exam for real estate agents.

The Duties of a Broker

Brokers can also do the same things as agents, but they have more on their plate, especially if they run their own broker firm.

Brokers manage all agents under them, maintaining ethical and legal practices. They train agents and resolve issues between them and clients. They provide leads to their agents, carry out marketing for the firm itself, and keep records.

Reputable real estate brokers also often maintain a network of legal contacts. If you need help finding a closing attorney, a broker can recommend or refer you to one. They can also help you establish an escrow account and even manage your properties for you.

For a more detailed list of broker duties, you may want to check this article by BrokerBreakUp. It can help you further understand what exactly brokers can bring to the table.

Hire a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a broker is their more in-depth knowledge. They often got more experience under their belt, which is a plus if you’re facing a complex real estate case. For instance, having a lien on a property you want to sell or dealing with a foreclosure.

But this doesn’t mean they’re always the best choice, especially if they run a brokerage firm. Because brokers have other agents to manage, that may limit the time they work with you in person. And since they’ve got more training (and two licenses), they often charge higher.

If you want a more personal home buying or selling experience, you may want to go with an agent. Do the same if you’re worried about the higher broker fees.

But also consider how a broker can sell your home for a much higher price. They may ask for a bigger commission than an agent, but it may be small compared to what they can sell your house for.

Choose Who You’re More Comfortable With

Now that you know the real estate agent vs broker difference, it’s up to you who to hire. Explore your options and make sure you choose someone you’re comfortable with.

Remember, home buying and selling can take weeks, even months. Selling alone can take up to 65 days on average. So, you want to work with a real estate professional you can stick with for that long.

Looking for more property-related advice? Then be sure to check out our Real Estate section for more guides and tips!

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Got Property in the Probate Process? Here’s a Step-By-Step Guide

The word “probate” is a legal word derived from the Latin term “probare” which essentially means “to prove.” And while most legal matters are matters proven in court, the probate process in America is one that is all about proving some number crunching. The very first probate court in America launched in 1784, to provide for a court that existed solely to determine what assets were proven and then divided after death.

Probate court can be a lengthy and confusing process. If you have property in probate right now, eliminate some confusion by getting everything you need to know about the probate process right here.

What is the Probate Process?

In a nutshell, the probate process is the legal process that proves an individual’s assets and determines asset division upon their death. In many cases, a will is in place and this is the document that will serve as the law or ordaining legal principle that makes those determinations.

Once someone dies, the executor advises descendants of their expected inheritance. But even in the simplest of situations, a legal process generally has to occur before they will get their stake of a will.

And in some situations, a will does not exist, nor does an executor. So a probate court appoints someone to direct the assets, to mitigate squabbles and battles over anything from money to the family spoon used at Christmas.

First, the will is proven in court, and then the assets and liabilities are paid or expunged. The property appraisal occurs, and debts or taxes get paid from assets.

Once that process is complete, the remaining assets are divided among descendants. The entire process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Does All Property Go Through Probate?

This process of waiting until probate is over to receive inheritances is the standard one. But there are many ways to access property before probate is over.

In some cases, a cash amount may be released for the short-term while probate proceedings go on.

And not all property must go through probate in its entirety.

In the state of California for example, as much as $100,000 in property can be passed to descendants without probate.

Putting property in trust also allows you to avoid the probate process on those assets as well. A good probate lawyer can help you determine how to do this before you even prepare your will or estate plan.

If you already have property in probate, avoiding it at this point is not possible, and that’s why you need a good lawyer to help.

If the estate is not complicated, you may be able to go through a simplified probate process in your state. Or at the very least, you may be able to get some short-term funding approved for release before the probate process is complete.

Spare Your Loved Ones. Probate.

As many as 55 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan or will.

This is why the probate process can take as long as two years to complete. Register today to get access to a comprehensive list of lawyers willing to help make the probate process easier for you.

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