Ask The Attorney
Here are some of the most common questions asked of our attorneys and the general responses. Keep in mind that every situation is unique, so your specific questions about your circumstance are best directed to our office.
Should I consider bankruptcy?
If your unpaid bills are piling up, you are struggling to make ends meet, and creditors have begun calling, you need the advice of a bankruptcy attorney. Call our office to schedule your free bankruptcy consultation and get the answers you need to secure your next step. A free consultation to discuss your specific circumstances can be arranged at (619) 476-9436.
How long does a typical bankruptcy case take?
Bankruptcy is a temporary case, and while it feels never-ending and all-encompassing, it is not. Every case has its own details and nuances which dictate the length of the bankruptcy process. Regardless of the time involved, our staff will support you through the entire process, being familiar with your specifics in order to make the process as smooth and easy as possible. Call our offices to schedule a free consultation at (619) 476-9436.
What should I look for in a bankruptcy lawyer?
Anyone in the position to be considering bankruptcy, should consult an attorney. You need someone experienced specifically in bankruptcy cases in your state, as laws differ across the nation. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing all aspects of your finances. Inability to disclose some aspect could have a huge impact in your bankruptcy outcome. Your bankruptcy lawyer should have extensive court experience. While many bankruptcy cases are settled out of court, you want someone prepared to enter the arena, if needed. Your lawyer should also listen to the specifics of your case, rather than simply barreling down a pre-determined path which may not apply to you. Our offices at (619) 476-9436 can be contacted to schedule your free consultation.
What do I need to know in order to file for bankruptcy?
It would be impossible to impart everything you’d need to know without several bankruptcy classes or a law degree. This is why your best bet is to embark on the process with a professional bankruptcy attorney in the lead. You need someone who knows the laws, who will patiently guide and advise you through the bankruptcy process, who will listen and learn your specific circumstances and then discuss possible options with you. You also need someone who can tell you how to stay out of this situation in the future and how to strengthen your credit rating. We can begin discussing your personal case in your free consultation.
Should I try to delay bankruptcy as long as possible by selling my assets before I file?
No. You do not have to lose everything you have worked hard for before you file for the protection of bankruptcy. Waiting to address your financial crises typically makes the situation worse, not better. Get a lawyer involved early in the process and avoid these costly mistakes.
I’m afraid of the social stigma of filing for bankruptcy. Can I avoid that?
These days that stigma is really very minimal, as many individuals have suffered financial distress and have filed for bankruptcy for a new beginning. Even the most fiscally conservative people can find themselves in a tough financial situation which is not in their control and anyone can make mistakes which impact your credit. You are no different. We can often protect your assets, as well as your good name by settling out of court and handling things as quickly and quietly as possible. Call us and we will help you determine if you need to file for bankruptcy – that’s far better than ignoring the situation and finding it get even worse.
Should I just try to work out a repayment plan with my credit card company?
It would be great if it were this easy, but remember that credit card companies are businesses who love to profit off of their customers. Their motivation to give you the “big break” you need to get back on your feet is nonexistent. They will always configure a deal which ultimately benefits them more than it does you. The odds are that your debt will increase in the long run once the high interest rates take their toll on your balances. This method rarely helps the average person. Going through legal channels to consolidate credit card and other debt is by far the better option for you in the long run!
Living Wills and Trusts
What if I decide to change my mind on the specifics of a trust?
You can make as many changes as you would like to your trust and it is a simple process to do so, if you are working with a knowledgeable attorney. The most common changes made include changing the trust’s beneficiary(ies) or the trustee. The Sexton Law Firm wants you to be prepared in your estate and will planning. We offer regular and free planning workshops.
Can I avoid probate by holding “joint tenancy” with my wife?
Joint tenancy means that each person names has equal right to any and all assets. It will not ward off probate forever. When one spouse dies, assets are easily transferred to the living spouse, but when that person passes, assets will be subject to probate. The only way to head off the expense of probate is to establish a trust for your beneficiaries.
Is there a benefit to having both a will and a trust established?
Absolutely. Without a trust established, a will is subject to probate. This means it must spend up to two years in the Superior Court system. Assets are tied up to beneficiaries the entire time and the procedure is very expensive. This process is also public record, so anyone can research both your assets and the beneficiaries. A trust cannot be subject to probate, so beneficiaries receive assets much sooner and without the expense and hassle of extensive court proceedings.
Why do I need both a will and a trust?
Establishing a will ensures that your wishes for the distribution of your assets is clear to all interested parties and to the courts. A trust ensures that your wishes will be upheld and probate court will not be necessary. In probate court, your will can be overturned and the State of California has the final word as to the distribution of assets. For further clarification on the benefits of each, set up a free consultation by calling(619) 739-4804 or attend one of our free estate planning seminars.
If my estate goes through probate, what costs could my family expect?
First of all, probate can be avoided with proper planning and document preparation. All of the time and expense associated with probate can be avoided. If you do not plan for the future of your estate and the assets are more than $100,000, the state courts will be involved in the probate process. Fees are dependent on the gross value of the estate’s assets (see below chart). While the assets are considered in the fees, the amount which you owe is not. For example: Let’s say the gross value on your home is $250,000. Your mortgage however is $275,000. The gross asset value used to determine your probate fees is still $250,000 because what is outstanding on the mortgage is not considered. The following chart outlines the minimum fees established by the state of California for probate cases. They are tied to the gross asset value of an estate and do not include any special fees which may be accrued, like those for tax preparation, the sale of assets, and litigation.
|Gross Asset Value
of Entire Estate
|Minimum Probate Fees
Proper Estate Planning
Proper Estate Planning
We offer free will and trust estate planning workshops. Please attend to learn more!Or, you can call our offices at (619) 476-9436 to schedule a free consultation.
What skills should I look for in a personal injury lawyer?
Whether your personal injury case settles out-of-court or there is a hearing, your lawyer must have great negotiating skills. Not all lawyers have these. They are important because attorneys must be able to withstand pressures from big insurance companies to accept low offers. They must be able to fight and negotiate on your behalf without being intimidated. You need a lawyer who is knowledgeable as to how these companies function and operate and then must be able to negotiate a fair settlement for you. Negotiating skills must clearly be paired with a thorough understanding of personal injury law. But the key to a successful case for you is your lawyer’s ability to persuade and negotiate the best settlement possible for you. If your lawyer’s persuasive skills are lacking, your compensation will suffer.Set up a free initial consultation so I can learn the specifics of your case and tell you what skills I have to offer.
Are not all personal injury attorneys ambulance chasers like the ones I see on TV?
The lawyers with the slick TV commercials are in the minority, but you should be aware of qualities you do not want in your lawyer. You want someone you can trust, who is capable inside the courtroom and out, who listens to you, who appears in their own flesh rather than hiring a fancy actor to entice clients. Be a conscientious consumer and ask for referrals, research the lawyers, ask your friends, consult the Business Bureau. Ask about experience in similar cases. If you don’t feel good about your choice, reconsider before you are too far in to do so. We at the Sexton Law Firm happily offer a free consultation so we can meet you and you can ask us in person any and all questions you have.
I’ve heard of people keeping a diary after they were injured. Should I?
It’s a great idea. While we try to negotiate and settle your case quickly, every day of healing brings forgetfulness of the intensity of the emotions and pain you may have endured. A diary of your day-to-day struggles and doctor’s visits and recovery path serve as a refresher for you and also provide insight into the impact on your injury has had on your life, work and family. While this step does not occur to many people until it’s too late to be of much benefit, taking the time to chronicle your journey can facilitate settlement of your case and even lead to a greater monetary settlement.
I’ve been told not to answer any questions my insurance company asks me unless I legally have to.
You can answer their questions but you are right to be leery. Anything that you volunteer can be used against you in your case and can result in less compensation if what you volunteer supports the insurance company’s settlement offer. Never lie, as that can also be used against you, but do be tight-lipped. You have every right to speak to your attorney before answering any of their questions.
Do I have to hire a lawyer right away?
You do not need to hire a lawyer the same day or even week of your injury. You have some time to investigate your choices and make the right one for you. However, there are filing deadlines for certain types of injury cases. While you do not have to file or hire someone right away, too many individuals find themselves waiting to long to begin the hunt for a lawyer and go through all the steps which must lead up to initiating a claim. There are some general guidelines as to how much time you have based on the type of injury sustained, but bear in mind that these do not apply to every situation. To be certain, consult an attorney about your individual circumstances: Motor vehicle accidents – 2 years; slip and fall – 2 years; product liability – 2 years; most government claims – 6 months.
My insurance company seems very concerned about me and has an expedited settlement for me. I’m just not sure if it’s a good offer.
Insurance companies have a bottom line. They have expenses. They want to make money. They usually do not have a personal relationship with their customers. That being said, be careful. A quick offer and new concern for you as a customer, should raise a red flag. To be secure and ease your worries about an unfair settlement, have a personal injury attorney review the offer. Keep in mind, insurance companies are a businesses and like any business, they want to be profitable and make money. Often times they can do this by offering you a settlement which is less than your injuries deserve or warrant. To be sure that the offer is a good one, consult with your own personal injury lawyer. We are happy to review any offer you receive from an insurance company and will give you our opinion regarding your case. While an enormous award would be great in every case, we want you to be fairly compensated at a minimum and will inform you of your rights so you are not made a victim again.
When I’m hurt, do I need to go to a special doctor or can I go to my normal doctor?
Depending on the type and extremity of your injuries, a specialist may be the better choice. Make sure whomever you see has a flawless reputation and is a great diagnostician. If they are called to testify in your case, they need to be knowledgeable and honest and add influence and credibility to your case, instead of inviting uncertainty and questions. If you need a recommendation for a doctor who will be more interested in making you well than being in the pockets of insurance companies, give us a call. We have worked with and against many of each kind! The Sexton Law Firm offers a free consultation.
How long do I have to file my case?
There are deadlines, depending on many details and circumstances. Since there are so many variances, it is best to consult an attorney and begin the process as soon as possible. The general rule is approximately one year after the injury took place.
What is the first thing I should do following my injury?
After initial emergency medical treatment, get a lawyer. Try to find the most competent, knowledgeable and assertive one you can find. I know how insurance companies work, and I know what strategies they will employ to encourage you to settle as quickly as possible. The more you know, the more equipped you are, the more prepared you are with an attorney, the better you stand to get your full benefits and compensation awarded to you.
How am I supposed to support my family if I can’t do my job anymore?
Worker’s compensation provides little in the way of payment for future earning loss when you are unable to advance in your career as a result of injury. Vocational rehabilitation, which may be offered as part of your worker’s comp, allows for retraining at a job which you can perform.
Can I get pain and suffering as part of my worker’s compensation?
No. Compensation for past and future pain and suffering is awarded only in personal injury cases and is not part of worker’s comp.
I have a bunch of paperwork to fill out after my accident. I’m not entirely sure what their purpose is and wonder if this is standard practice?
Never sign something if you don’t understand it or its purpose. Be wary about signing anything from your employer or the insurance company after an injury, even if it does seem standard. You could be unwittingly signing a settlement, could sever rights to future disability or could agree to return to work by a certain date, even if you are not ready which could then lead to termination from your job. When it comes to paperwork after an injury, it is always a good idea to have a practicing, current lawyer read through the documents before anything is signed. Be an informed consumer. Have your questions answered by a professional.
My company and their insurance company have asked to work with me to reach a fair settlement. It all seems legit. Is there anything I should be concerned about?
The key word in your question is “their”. You are being asked to work with your employer and their insurance company. They are on the same side, and it is not yours. While your employer and the insurance agent may be kind and understanding, ultimately, they are concerned about their costs and reputation, not yours. In this situation, who will be there to protect you? Will you be able to stand up to them if their tactics take a turn for the worse? Will you understand all the legal terminology sure to be thrown about? Will you be certain when a fair settlement is reached? It is possible to work under these terms but advisable. It is rare that hiring a lawyer to represent you will result in the same settlement. The likelihood is that you will avoid the tragedy of being injured on the job and also strong-armed into a poor settlement. We are always on our client’s side and take pride in evening out the tables. We offer free worker’s compensation consultations at all of our locations.