How to File for Divorce: Understanding the Legal Process

Divorce is the legal end to a civil union. There are many different pieces in the steps of how to file for divorce. However, if you follow this guide, then the process should flow smoothly.

If you're in the United States, then you're well aware that every state has different rules and regulations for how to do anything, pretty much. The laws on how to file for divorce are no different.

Nevertheless, every state requires that a judge review and approve the divorce settlement. Conversely, if the two of you cannot agree, then there will be a judgment on how the personal capital and property will be divided between you and your ex. This decision will include who will retain ownership of houses, cars, cats and, yes, even your children.

What it really boils down to is the signed court order from the guy in charge. Until you have that sweet document, you're not home free. Meaning, without that signed piece of paper, you cannot remarry (so be careful in proceeding with any romances until you're truly in the clear.)

The rules that differ in each state include, but are not limited to:

  • How long you must live in that state before you can file for divorce
  • How long you must wait before your divorce can be finalized after you officially file for it
  • And, how the state handles child support and alimony

A Beginner's Guide to Divorce

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route

Divorce from Start to Finish


  1. 1
    Before you begin, see if you can identify your ideal outcome
  2. 2
    Consider all important parts of the process
  3. 3
    Get your lawyer
  4. 4
    Think paperwork
  5. 5
    Do you want to have an amicable end?
  6. 6
    Do you want all your worldly possessions divided equally?
  7. 7
    Should you be considering debt, shared custody, or real estate?
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Major Components in How to File For Divorce


Major considerations should include your shared life and assets. What do you want to keep with you or part with during the process of how to get divorced? The car, house, cat, bat, mat and other prized possessions you both worked for all need to be considered seriously. You are being given an opportunity to start over — not completely, but close. What a great time to become a minimalist and leave your lover with the best revenge of all: materialist greed and the feeling they won.


You are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. So, jot away. Make a list of what you want and what you do not. This list will help you throughout the process to keep a clear head and not stoop to stealing your ex's favorite stuffed chinchilla when you really do not want or need that wretched thing.


The process of how to file for divorce will be long, and you will see more of your ex than you probably want; additionally, there will be more paperwork than it takes to papier mache a life-sized horse, but you will get through it. So, hang on, hang tight and, hopefully, hang loose as you approach the single life.

Things to Consider

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The list of things to consider is long and laborious. It's literally every object — both real and imagined — in your life. This includes debts, pets and net gains. At the end of this all, you will know better than most couples the price of entry and exit from a relationship. The process of how to file for divorce is one of labor and endurance, so get ready.


Another consideration is your legal standing. You will more than likely need a lawyer to help you through the swamp of divorce paperwork. So you will need to begin looking or make contact with your existing lawyer as soon as possible. Both you and your spouse should have lawyers, separate lawyers.


Above all, you will need to consider the lives of the people you will effect your decision to part ways: mainly, your children (if you have any). These little ones will need more support over the coming months than you probably have to give. You will need to consider shared custody, the weekend visit, daytime phone calls, each child individually, and the overall timeline.

How to File for Divorce

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Luckily, the old tautological truth holds. You need to start with first things first when deciding how to file for divorce. Figure out where you need to file. There may be specific requirements, depending on the state. There are certain exceptions for same-sex couples, international lovers and the rare emergency.


Time to revisit that list. Discuss with your spouse about what you will divide. It will be helpful to know what you want to do with your real estate, mortgages, bank accounts, loans, personal property and credit card balances before you employ the services of a lawyer.


From that point on, if you are not representing yourself, then the lawyer will be a huge asset for figuring out the specifics of your situation. Prepare yourself, though, because it will be expensive and complex. There truly is not an easy way to decide on how to file for divorce.

It is not highly recommended that you represent yourself unless you know that the process will go smoothly, or you yourself are a divorce lawyer. This is one of those instances where you will not regret using the services of a law office, however expensive it might be.

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Documentation


Next stop: forms. There will be many signatures and long, documents written in legalese to read. So, head down to the local courthouse virtually or in real life. Once there, you will obtain the pile of necessary paperwork.


Included in that stack will be words such as petitioner (you) and respondent (your soon to be ex.) Most likely, you will file a no-fault divorce, so the reason you will list on the forms for cause of divorce will be "irreconcilable differences." As you work your way through on how to file for divorce, you also will fill out forms about property and children. After you finish the forms, have a lawyer review them.

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Filing & Notification


After all the forms are filled out and signed, you'll reach the big moment. Go down to the courthouse and file that paperwork with the proper governmental agency. Note: Be sure as you work your way through how to file for divorce, that you keep multiple copies of the forms for both you and your soon to be ex-marital partner.


The next step is optional, but highly recommended. Get a hobby or at least a well-deserved drink. You have just learned and hopefully implemented the first major step in how to file for divorce.


Next, tell your spouse you're leaving just as the court wants you to — by serving him or her with divorce papers. You cannot move this process along until you've done this step. How you do this step reflects on your personal character, not that of your soon-to-be ex. So, rather than asking a friend to ding-dong ditch your lover or delivering the papers via singing telegram, you might want to show some respect for the relationship you once shared and do this task in a decent manner.

Once this is done, then you'll need to fill out a declaration of disclosure form. This can include taxes and more forms. But not to worry, there is always another form, so you won't get out of practice with that signature of yours!

Next, you will need to serve your spouse the financial disclosure forms, which represents an agreement regarding all your debts. Yes, that includes their maxed-out credit card from college you didn't know about until last week. This, unfortunately, is also a part of how to file for divorce.

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Final Document


If you thought you would see less of your soon-to-be ex as you went through all these steps, then you were wrong! At this point in the process of how to file for divorce, it's time to write up an agreement with your spouse. Signed, extensive, all-encompassing and notarized this document must be.

Last, you'll receive your judgment. The court will send you a judgment notice, letting you know about your attempt to divorce. There may be additional steps the court demands of you, including changes to the agreement.

Conclusion

Divorce agreement on a paper

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Marriage is a serious endeavor and divorce is even more so. The breaking apart of a union between those closest to each other requires a great deal of strength.


The best advice on how to file for divorce? It begins and ends with taking care so you make the process as painless as possible for all parties. Follow the steps on this list closely and the advice of lawyers.


Every ending eventually will have a new beginning. It's times like these when old truths hold true and clichés actually bring you some modicum of comfort. So, find yourself a song to sing and a new leaf to turn. You have just finished learning how to file for divorce.

How To Pick A Personal Injury Lawyer: Ultimate Guide

Not all personal injury lawyers are made equal. Choosing the right personal injury lawyer after you have suffered an injury or been accused of causing one is paramount to ensuring your interests are protected.

Picking a personal injury lawyer is not a complicated process, but it does require you to do your homework. To help you pick a personal injury lawyer, we have put together the following guide.  

What Is A Personal Injury Lawyer?

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A personal injury lawyer specializes in legal cases in which the plaintiff has been injured and is now looking for some ways to hold the other party at fault for what they have done. The lawyer can also represent the defendant that is being accused of causing the injury.


More often than not, the case is settled outside the courtroom with the culpable party paying the injured party monetary compensation, such as medical fees. In situations where the case cannot be settled privately, the lawyer will take the case to trial.

At the most basic level, the personal injury lawyer's first step in taking on a client's case is to investigate the client's alleged injury. From there, the lawyer will interview witnesses (if there are any,) gather evidence and request relevant documents, such as police reports, hospital records and an employer's documentation of the injury.


If the lawyer determines there is a case to be made against the alleged defendant, then he or she will have to decide whether it is in the client's best interest to settle or go to trial. To make this decision, the lawyer will consider the weight of the evidence, witnesses and the weight of their testimony and, finally, the likely outcome of the case if it were to go to trial. The lawyer will also take into consideration the wishes of the client. 

Why You Might Need One?

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You May Overlook Certain Details Of Your Case


As a victim in a personal injury case, it may be difficult for you to see things that make the defendant seem less guilty. Without a set of professional eyes to examine the facts of the case, you may place unwarranted culpability on the defendant and ignore facts that make you look at least a little to blame. Vise versa, you may overlook evidence that pins the fault on the defendant and instead wrongly conclude that it was something you did that caused the injury.


In either situation, you risk forfeiting your right to receive compensation or pursuing legal actions that were baseless in the first place. The result is time, energy and money wasted. Or, in the case of a warranted action, the result is money lost.

You Are Ill-Equipped To Fight The Big Guy


Say you slipped and fell inside a big box store while shopping for groceries because the floor was wet and there were no signs to warn you of any danger. Your shoulders are hurt because of the fall. For a month now, the discomfort from it has kept you from doing the things you enjoy doing. You decide to sue the store.


You are confident you'll win because there was, you hope, a video of your fall and witnesses who would come forward to testify on your behalf. So, you file a case and, shortly after, the store responds by filing a reply to dismiss your claim. The court agrees. You are at a loss and without a solution to the injury you so unjustly endured.


The moral of the story is you can't — and shouldn't — fight the big guys alone. Corporations and insurance companies are well-equipped with high-salaried lawyers to defend their clients. They will harness whatever resources there are to not have to pay for your injuries or, God forbid, admit fault.


When you are faced with a Goliath of a defendant, it's best to solicit the help of a personal injury lawyer, especially one who has experience in handling these kinds of defendants.

You May Say Or Do The Wrong Thing To Jeopardize Your Case


We've all been warned against apologizing in the event of a car accident. What about other things and rules we should observe when we fall victim to injuries or someone accuses us of being the perpetrator of an injury? Either way, having a personal injury lawyer on your side can help prevent and correct mistakes as your case gets resolved.

You Don't Know The Ins And Outs Of The Legal Process And Medical Terminologies


A qualified personal injury lawyer should have a well of knowledge regarding personal injury law. He or she can advise you on the weight of your evidence, file legal documents and requests, and tell you if it's too late to file your claim. Without the aid of a personal injury lawyer, you risk missing out on key defenses and filing deadlines, and confusing procedural rules, which can all cause your case to go down the drain despite any obvious merit.


Retaining a personal injury lawyer is important if you want to navigate successfully through the often congested and complicated legal system. It also is important to hire a personal injury lawyer for the purpose of understanding anything related to medical diagnoses and processes, which is a highly specialized area of knowledge that cannot be learned easily by lay people.

How To Pick A Personal Injury Lawyer

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Do Your Research


Don't just rely on the advertisement on the bus stop bench or the one on the radio station repeated that's repeated every half hour. Don't even base your decision on what you see on the billboard on the side of the highway. Do your own research. And, while you're at it, ask yourself what you're really looking for in a personal injury lawyer, and know what you're looking for hinges largely on what kind of money you're willing to spend.


Some personal injury lawyers will take on a case on a contingency basis, meaning he or she will only receive compensation if your case resolves favorably in court or in a settlement. This is often the case with lawyers specializing in car accident injuries. Otherwise, fees for lawyers will vary depending on the level of experience and expertise.


Some things to consider in your research:

  • What type of personal injury lawyer is this? Pro-plaintiff (for the person injured), pro-defendant (for the person alleged to have caused the injury), or both?
  • How has this lawyer's cases gone in the past? Did they represent corporate clients, low-income clients, high-profile clients or a mix of different clients?
  • Does the lawyer have trial experience, or is the lawyer an experienced negotiator who has successfully settled many cases before trial?
  • How long has the lawyer been in practice?
  • Does the lawyer practice personal injury law only, or does he or she take on other types of cases?
  • Does the lawyer understand medical terminology and processes?
  • Is there any client testimony regarding the lawyer's performance?

Check And Verify The Lawyer's Record And Claims


After you have done your initial research, verify the lawyer's records and claims with reliable sources.


Here is a list of things you should check and how to check them:

  • Disciplinary record. No one wants a lawyer who was in violation of a state's bar rules. To find out if a certain lawyer you are considering has been disciplined for bad conduct, check with your state's bar association. Disciplinary records are a matter of public record and can be accessed easily online in some states.
  • Reputation. Check lawyer review sites like Avvo.com to see if the lawyer is as reputable as he or she claims. Better yet, ask those in your community about the lawyer's reputation. Is the lawyer involved in local affairs, attend events and known as a straight shooter?
  • Referrals. You might know someone who has used the lawyer's services before, so ask them if they would recommend the lawyer to you?
  • Track record. What were the outcomes of the cases the lawyer handled in the past? Was he or she more successful at negotiation or conducting a trial?

Tools to help you find the right personal injury lawyer include:

  • Google. Search for personal injury lawyers in your area. From there, read the lawyer's website thoroughly and consider the things mentioned above. 
  • State bar association. You can always contact your state's bar association's referral service.
  • Lawyers.com. This search tool not only lets you find qualified lawyers in your area, but it also shows the lawyer's community ratings.

Contacting And Meeting The Lawyer For An Initial Consultation


Once you have narrowed your list of potential lawyers, the next step is to call and request an initial consultation. Before you go to that first meeting, prepare a list of questions to ask your potential lawyer.


You may want to ask the lawyer about:

  • His/her fee structure 
  • Other similar cases and their outcomes
  • Details of the lawyer's experience and areas of expertise
  • The degree of confidence the lawyer has for winning your case
  • How long the case is expected to take

Do not hesitate to contact the lawyer after the meeting if you think of follow-up questions. Choosing the right personal injury lawyer to represent your interests hinges on the information you learn.

Conclusion

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Whether you are an injury victim or are being accused of causing an injury, you do not have to go through it alone. With the help of the right personal injury lawyer, you can rest easy knowing your interests are represented with the care and diligence you are due.

What Is The Purpose Of A Durable Power Of Attorney?

Power of attorney gives a trusted individual the right to make decisions and take actions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney is most often used by seniors to give another person the authority to act in their name in medical and legal matters, including those about property, taxes, business deals and real estate. It is also known as a continuing power of attorney because it will continue even if the principal; the person granting the authority, becomes mentally incapacitated or incompetent.  

The documents drawing up a power of attorney (POA) can be particularly about the purposes and duration for which it is conferred. The agent is usually a trusted friend or close relative who can be relied upon tomake decisions in the best interest of the principal when he or she can no longer do so. For seniors and their families, it’s best to plan and set up a durable power of attorney, especially for medical matters, well before it will be needed.

What Is A Durable Power Of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is also known as a continuing power of attorney and remains in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated and incapable of taking or communicating decisions. Different states have their power of attorney forms which state the conditions and duration of the POA,as well as the start date. These forms must be filled out completely and correctly for the POA to become effective.

What Is A Power Of Attorney? 

Power of Attorney gives a trusted individual the authority to act on your behalf. It can pertain to legal or medical matters or just be limited to a single task. The scope and duration of the POA can be specified in the document. The person delegating the authority is called the principal, and the individual who is given the authority is called the agent or attorney-in-fact.

Types Of POA

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There are two types of POA: medical and general. General Power of Attorney gives the agent the authority to act for the principal in financial and legal matters like property and real estate, business, taxes, lawsuits and in dealings with the government agencies such as applying for benefits.

Medical Power of Attorney typically gives the agent the authority to make decisions regarding medical matters and healthcare. It is sometimes named differently in different states and may be known as Health Care Proxy, Designation of Health Advocate, Designation of Healthcare Surrogate, etc.

Both types of POA can continue even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated if the word “Durable” is added.

Defining The Scope Of Power Of Attorney

The scope of POA can be defined so that it is limited to a specified matter or duration. The limits are clearly specified in the document. A durable power of attorney remains effective even if the principal becomes mentally incompetent. The state of being mentally incompetent is defined as the inability of the principal to make an informed decision or of communicating such decisions. In fact, this is why seniors and their families should plan and set up durable POA well in advance of it becoming necessary.

Mental incapacitation can result from mental illness or physical injury which affects the functioning of the brain. This includes strokes, coma, paralysis, etc. For seniors, it may stem from the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In general, certification from a medical doctor is required for a POA that springs from mental incompetency.  

How Long Does Durable Power Of Attorney Last?

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The durable power of attorney comes into effect when the form is properly completed unless specified otherwise. Alternatively, a “springing” durable power of attorney springs from an event such as the mental incapacitation of the principal, which is specified in the document. Durable POA typically ends with the death of the principal unless an ending date is specified.  

When Is A Durable Power Of Attorney Used?

A durable power of attorney is typically used when seniors need someone else to make decisions and take actions on their behalf in medical and legal matters. This may be done in the event of a sickness or injury or just because the principal needs help with managing affairs such as medical care, bills, and legal matters. It continues if a senior cannot make informed decisions about these and other matters. For seniors and their families, it is usually best to plan and establish a durable POA well before it will be needed.

Durable POA may also be needed if an injury or illness makes it impossible for the senior to communicate such decisions. For example, a disease such as a stroke may make it physically impossible to speak or communicate by any other means, even if mental functions are unimpaired. Many seniors may just choose to delegate durable POA to a trusted individual because they need someone to act on their behalf in making decisions regarding medical care, managing social security, applying for benefits, paying bills, etc.

Planning Ahead

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Seniors and their families should plan and prepare for a durable power of attorney, especially for medical matters. In case of an accident or injury, or the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it will save time, money and trouble if a trusted family member or friend can step in and take over the decision about medical care and treatment. It’s best to be proactive rather than wait too long and risk a situation where the principal is no longer capable of making a decision about choosing an agent.

If a senior does become mentally incompetent due to injury or illness without establishing a durable POA, relatives will have to go to the courts to make decisions about their medical care and treatment. This can be expensive and time-consuming and distract their efforts at a time when the medical care of the individual should be the highest priority.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Durable Power Of Attorney?

Durable POA is a relatively easy way for seniors to get help in managing their affairs without the intervention of a court. Even if there is no serious medical condition or emergency, it can be helpful to have someone who can manage financial and legal matters for them. It’s important to have someone who can make decisions about medical treatment and long-term care if and when the need should arise.

On the other hand, there is great potential for fraud and abuse in this position of trust, and unfortunately, this does happen very frequently. One way to prevent against fraud and embezzlement is to specify the limits of the durable POA.

Benefits

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Durable POA allows your agent to help you make decisions about medical care and deal with financial matters like bank accounts, taxes, social security, insurance, property, etc. Your agent can deal with third parties like banks, credit card companies, and government agencies and programs like Medicare and social security on your behalf. They will have to provide a letter of attorney to establish this authority.

A durable power of attorney is a relatively easy way for seniors to manage their affairs without the intervention of a court. The terms and limits can be specified. Durable POA ends with the death of the principal, which means that the agent does not have any control over the estate unless that is specified elsewhere.

Disadvantages

While there are many benefits for seniors in giving durable POA to someone they trust, there is always the risk that this trust may be abused. Fraud does happen, and it can be a way for an agent to embezzle funds and transfer property to themselves or others. They can even change the names of beneficiaries on life insurance policies and annuities to benefit themselves.

In some cases, an agent may not be acting from malicious intentions but still fail to carry out the wishes of the principal. As in all matters, mistakes can be made. If fraud is detected, by the principal or the heirs, the agent may be sued for the return of assets as well as damages.

Can Durable Power Of Attorney Be Revoked?

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A durable power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the principal provided he or she is of sound mind. A properly-drafted statement of revocation will have to be given to the agent as well as to any third parties with whom the agent has had dealings in that capacity. If the agent is a spouse, the durable POA is automatically revoked in case of divorce.

Durable POA is automatically revoked on the death of the principal, and the agent has no control over the estate unless specified elsewhere.

Conclusion

A durable power of attorney helps seniors by giving a trusted individual the authority to act on their behalf in medical and legal matters. It can be important in situations where the principal becomes mentally incompetent to make informed decisions due to injury or illness. Durable POA is a way for seniors and their families to manage their medical and legal affairs without the intervention of the courts.

Your Guide to Choosing a Patent Lawyer

It's an exciting thing to come up with an idea worthy of protection. Most people on this planet will never know what that sense of pride feels like. So if you have created an original product idea or concept, we think it would be wise to take the proper steps to protect it. You need a patent, and this is where a patent lawyer comes into the picture. You have the idea, also called a piece of intellectual property; your patent lawyer has the knowledge and resources to help you apply for that patent and then enforce it if infringement occurs down the line.

What Is a Patent Lawyer?

A patent lawyer specializes in obtaining and protecting patents. They represent clients in all manner of procedures pertaining to patent law and an intellectual property practice. If you are an inventor, innovator or creative type with an idea or product you want to protect from ever being stolen from you, then you would benefit greatly from the services of a patent lawyer.
As in most other areas of law, it is possible to obtain a patent and attempt to protect your intellectual property without a lawyer. However, patent law is very complex and, to the untrained mind, it can be overwhelming. Patent lawyers help keep clients safe from loophole exploitation and other damaging attacks that can result from technical mistakes and going it alone.
You may hear the terms "patent attorney" and occasionally "patent agent" in place of "patent lawyer," but don't be confused. "Attorney" and "lawyer" are used interchangeably in the United States, and both patent attorneys and patent agents have the same license to practice and represent clients before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, there is a major, key distinction between a patent attorney/lawyer and a patent agent.

Patent Attorneys vs. Patent Agents

Key Aspects of a Patent Lawyer's Role

When to Hire a Patent Lawyer

Again, maybe you have a great idea and now you need to protect it. Or perhaps you are planning ahead for the invention or concept you've been working on.
It's time to consult a patent lawyer. They are incredibly effective in protecting intellectual property rights; after all, that is basically the job description.
Below, we'll cover a few reasons why hiring a patent lawyer is an intelligent decision for any creative individual, artist, or corporate entity looking to register and/or defend a patent.

Defending a Patent

Familiarity with Current, Evolving Intellectual Property Law

International Law & Protections

How to Choose a Patent Lawyer

Before you make any major public disclosure of your idea or invention, you should find the right patent lawyer for your situation. First, this attorney should be qualified and registered to practice before the USPTO.
In addition to a law degree and license, however, you may wish to find a qualified and registered attorney with a technical background in the sciences or other expertise relevant to your specific invention.
So don't settle for just anyone with a law degree; there are brilliant patent attorneys out there that will serve you wonderfully if you do your homework and compare their backgrounds.

Shop Around to Find the Right Fit

Consider an Attorney with Expertise in Your Specific Field

Discuss the Total Cost of Obtaining Your Patent

Determine if the Firm Also Does Litigation

Conclusion

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With so many people and so many corporations on the planet today, a unique idea or invention is a treasure. Historically, some people buried their treasure to protect it. Today, a successful patent application is the first step in protecting your treasure from others trying to profit from your intellectual property at your expense.
There are many things to look for when trying to choose a good patent lawyer. Above all, your choice should be someone you trust and with whom are able to build a strong working relationship.
Your lawyer should your best interests always in mind and be there for you through every part of the patent application and protection processes. Keep these points in mind when searching for the right patent lawyer and you'll surely be in good hands.

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How To Make A Will: Understanding The Legal Process

Do you want to prepare your last will and testament to leave a legacy for your loved ones and family members? Have you been scouring the internet, trying to determine all the legalities involved but are not sure where to get started? Learning how to make a will is not nearly as complicated as you may think, but there are key elements to consider when creating yours. Whether you are just thinking about making a will or are on the fence as to if you even need one at all, our comprehensive guide will give you the tools you need to move in the right direction.

What Is A Will?

Overview

In simplest terms, a will is a legally binding document that details your last requests in the event of your death. The person creating the will is known as the testator. The requirements involved for how to make a will legally binding diverge based on state. It is important to know of some general mandates to make sure you follow each step to the letter.

Key Elements 

There are key elements to know of when learning how to make a will. To begin with, a legally binding will must always be put down in writing. Depending on your state, a handwritten will may suffice. However, only around 25 of the 50 states acknowledge handwritten wills as legally binding, so check your state regulations for further information. If you can use a handwritten or holographic will, it must be composed, signed, and dated by you alone.

A small fraction of states will acknowledge oral wills, known as nuncupative wills, usually in rare instances such as deathbed requests. Several states will also recognize a video recording of your last will and testament. However, it is always a good idea to obtain legal counsel before going this route, as many states do not accept them and they are often best suited to accompany an actual written will.

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When learning how to make a will, you must carefully compose the body of the will to include any beneficiaries you choose. The body must name any people you will leave your possessions and estate to, like your spouse, children, other family members, and friends. In the event that you are purposely leaving someone out of your will, you must spell this out in the document.

If you have minor children, you will want to list the individual you are appointing as their guardian in the will. A valid will must also list each possession and the piece of property you will bequeath, with instructions for how they are to be relayed to the beneficiary. Exceptions to this rule would be an insurance policy or if your estate is under a joint tenancy, in which case your assets automatically go to the living beneficiary or tenant upon your death. Finally, your will needs to name the executor of the document and an alternative choice in the event that the former cannot perform his or her duties.  

Do You Need A Will?

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In a Nutshell

One of the main considerations that arise when considering how to make a will is if you even need a will. No matter how small your assets may be, it is always a good idea to create a legally binding will so your property does not get caught in probate or go through unnecessary channels before reaching your preferred beneficiaries.

It may be difficult to think about and plan for your death. Yet, it is far better to prepare for the unexpected for the sake of your loved ones and to ensure that your property transitions to the individuals of your choosing.

Things to Consider 

If you were to choose not to make a will, your property would automatically pass to the state upon your death, leaving them responsible for determining who they transmit it to. If you are married and have children, in most cases your assets will pass directly to your spouse and kids. If you do not have a spouse or children, the state will usually bequeath those assets to your closest relatives.

In the event that none of these individuals exist as beneficiaries, your assets become the property of the state. If you have children, it is even more imperative to learn how to make a will. If you do not have a will drawn up, upon your death, the courts will decide who your minor children and property will go to if your spouse or the children's other parent is not of sound mind to care for them.  

How To Make A Will And The Legal Process

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Step-by-Step Guide 

The first step in learning how to make a will is to decide how you will create it. You may do it on your own using one of the many software programs available or consult an attorney to draw it up for you. Using a valid software program or legal services are the best routes as drawing it up on your own could result in an invalid document.  


Next, you need to consider who you want to list as the beneficiaries in your will. Your beneficiaries are the individuals who will receive your assets, whether those assets be monetary, physical property, or other types of possessions.


The following important step in how to make a will is to select the individual you want to act as the executor. This is the person who will ensure the requests detailed in your will are followed to the letter. You might select your attorney or bank as the executor which will come at a cost of around 2 to 4 percent of your total assets. If you were to choose one of your close friends or a family member as the executor, they should still receive either hourly compensation or part of your final assets for their services.


If you have minor children, you must select a guardian to take care of them. While you are not legally required to ask the individual before listing him or her as a guardian in your will, it is usually a good idea to do so. Otherwise, select three individuals who you would deem wise, responsible guardians and name them in your preferred order in your will.


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Next, you need to consider who you want to list as the beneficiaries in your will. Your beneficiaries are the individuals who will receive your assets, whether those assets be monetary, physical property, or other types of possessions.


The following important step in how to make a will is to select the individual you want to act as the executor. This is the person who will ensure the requests detailed in your will are followed to the letter. You might select your attorney or bank as the executor which will come at a cost of around 2 to 4 percent of your total assets. If you were to choose one of your close friends or a family member as the executor, they should still receive either hourly compensation or part of your final assets for their services.


If you have minor children, you must select a guardian to take care of them. While you are not legally required to ask the individual before listing him or her as a guardian in your will, it is usually a good idea to do so. Otherwise, select three individuals who you would deem wise, responsible guardians and name them in your preferred order in your will.


Another important step to remember in learning how to make a will is to spell everything out clearly. You do not want your will to be unclear or prone to interpretation. List your beneficiaries and their allotment of your estate concretely so there is no confusion later. It can be difficult to make sure that everyone you choose is receiving a portion you feel is fair and just. The ultimate decision is up to you, but you may consult with your heirs, particularly your spouse or children to see what assets have meaning to them and those which do not.


Sometimes, learning how to make a will that is valid and legally binding may not allow you to relay your final thoughts to your designated beneficiaries to your satisfaction. You may also write a letter as an appendix to the will that can be read to your heirs and explain your wishes in full.


Creating A Valid Will 

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One of the most important aspects of how to make a will that is binding is to have witnesses sign it. Without the signatures of at least two witnesses, your last will and testament will be considered invalid. Much of the time, those witnesses cannot be listed beneficiaries in your will. They must also be no younger than 18 years of age. The witnesses need to watch as you sign your name and date the will, then sign their names afterwards.  

Part of learning how to make a will is to ensure that it is safe and secure until the day it needs to be executed. Once you have completed your will, put it in a secure place known to a trusted few. You want your will to be safe, but you also want it to be easily found by your chosen family members or friends in the event of your passing. You may have several copies of the will, but it is best to keep the original one in a location like a fireproof safe or other secure storage space.

Conclusion

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Learning how to make a will that is legally binding and carries out your wishes to the letter is not inherently complicated. It requires some careful thought, consideration, and time beforehand. Do not create a will without using valid software programs or seeking the advice of an attorney as this could result in an invalid document.

It is important to remember that your will might need to be updated during the passage of the years. If you get married, divorced, have children, or experience any other similar life-changing events, you will need to update your will with the appropriate beneficiaries. Check your will every 2 or 3 years to see if changes need to be made and make sure everything is up to date.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?

However common, sexual harassment in the workplace is an unfortunate and illegal practice. Sexual harassment is classified as sex discrimination and it is expressly prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, it’s important that you educate yourself on your rights and what actions you can take against it.

Here we will discuss what sexual harassment in the workplace is, examples of sexual harassment, how you are legally protected, and what you can do about it.

What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined by the US Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

The takeaway from this definition is that sexual harassment is any unwanted behavior that is sexual in nature. In the workplace, sexual harassment may take the form of directly sexual behaviors like touching. Sexual harassment also includes non-sexual behaviors that negatively generalize a person or group of people based on sex.

Federal law and state law protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. Some states have stricter sexual harassment laws. Investigate the laws for your state for more specific state law information on sexual harassment.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment may come from non-verbal, physical, verbal, or visual behaviors. The following are examples of behaviors that qualify as sexual harassment in the workplace.

Non-Verbal Sexual Harassment

  • Hovering or following around
  • Sexual facial expressions
  • Sexual gestures
  • Staring

Physical Sexual Harassment

  • Assault
  • Blocking movement
  • Grabbing
  • Unwanted hugging
  • Unwanted kissing
  • Unwanted petting
  • Unwanted touching

Verbal Sexual Harassment

  • Requesting sexual acts
  • Sexual innuendos
  • Sexual jokes
  • Sexual threats
  • Unwanted comments about body
  • Unwelcome comments about gender

Visual Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual photos
  • Sexual videos
  • Sexual drawings
  • Sexual emails

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Severe or Pervasive Cases

Sexual harassment in the workplace may be severe, pervasive, or both as defined by law.

Severe

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Severe cases of sexual harassment are solitary incidents of extreme sexual harassment or sexual violence. Most times, courts will not permit sexual harassment cases for single incidents unless it is deemed severe.

Pervasive

Pervasive sexual harassment is ongoing. These incidents may be less severe but still damaging. Prolonged exposure to unwanted sexual behavior can negatively impact an individual and the workplace.

Quid Pro Quo

A quid pro quo sexual harassment incident is a singular event. Typically the quid pro quo sexual harassment comes from an authority figure. The authority figure might use their position of power to sexually harass an employee. In these cases, the employee might fear demotion or job loss.  

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment is continuous or pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace. It is defined as unwanted and unwelcome sexual conduct or discrimination based on sex. Hostile work environments are sometimes severe, abusive, and long-lasting.  

Know Your Rights

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Sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law and you have rights. You have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. Your employer is required to take “reasonable action” against any perpetrator of sexual harassment.

Retaliation

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for filing a sexual harassment report. You, or other people who have witnessed and support your claims, legally cannot receive any punishment from your employer for taking action against sexual harassment.

Employer Responsibility

Both federal law and state law strictly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Most employers with 15 or more employees are required to take action that will ensure employees are not subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.

If the harasser is a supervisor, the employer is legally liable for the behavior. In order for an employer to be held liable for the harassment made by a co-worker, client, or another party, they must know about the sexual harassment claims. Submitting an official sexual harassment report in writing is sufficient notice of this claim.

File a Civil Lawsuit

If your employer fails to correct the situation and change the work environment, you may file a civil lawsuit against your employer. Read the Actions To Take Against Sexual Harassment section for more information before starting a civil lawsuit.

Potential Legal Remedies

A legal remedy is a court-ordered compensation to a victim for damages inflicted pertaining to the case. In sexual harassment cases, victims may be entitled to receive such compensation as:

  • Back-pay
  • Court costs
  • Compensatory damages (emotional ramifications of sexual harassment)
  • Hiring
  • Payment of legal fees
  • Promotion
  • Punitive damages
  •  Front-pay
  • Reinstatement

Actions to Take against Sexual Harassment

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Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace is traumatic. Everyone deserves a safe workplace free of unwanted and inappropriate behaviors. There are specific actions to take if you are experiencing sexual harassment at work. These procedures cannot guarantee that the situation will change, but they can help you through the process.

Clearly Express Disinterest

Follow Your Company’s Protocol

Thoroughly Document Everything

Keep a Paper Trail

Report Sexual Harassment in Writing

Safeguard Your Notes

File a Complaint with the EEOC

Hire an Attorney

Conclusion

Knowing your rights for sexual harassment in the workplace is a solid first step to bettering your situation. If your employer does not take reasonable action with any expediency, you can move forward with a sexual harassment case.

Sexual harassment cases are among the more difficult cases to prove in a court of law. Meticulously documenting any incidents of sexual harassment and following your company’s protocol will help build your case. After you have taken the right steps against sexual harassment, seek legal counsel to move forward with the civil suit.

The most important thing to know about sexual harassment in the workplace is that it is not acceptable, it is not legal, and you do not have to tolerate it.

Featured Image: Image by Mihai Surdu from Pixabay

How Much Do Lawyers Make: Your Ultimate Guide

Have you ever had to hire a lawyer? It can be a very daunting task but one that is quite necessary when you have a legal situation. Along with all the fees that can be added to your court case, it can be a bit surprising to find out how much do lawyers make from it all.

Going to court is one of the not-so-fun things that we sometimes must do. Whether we are the ones initiating or if someone else is suing us, it can be costly either way. There are ways to keep the cost down if we know how much do lawyers make before we even have them represent us.

How Much Do Lawyers Make?

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The salary amount of a lawyer can be based on what type of attorney they are, years of experience and their education. Here is the breakdown of attorney’s and their salaries.

Corporate Attorney

This attorney represents cases involving businesses and their transactions. Rarely do they actually go to court for these are usually negotiated beforehand. The salary is between $–$$, depending on the size of the firm. In order to get a job in this area of law, you must have graduated from one of the top three law schools: Yale, Harvard or Stanford. But this isn’t enough to land the job - you must also have had excellent grades and a great GPA as well as worked in the field as a clerk.

Public Defender

This is an attorney that represents you in a criminal case when you can’t afford one on your own counsel. This beginning salary is $, but someone having 11 years or more experience could earn $$ in this position.

Prosecutors

These are the lawyers that work for the government in your area. They prosecute the cases in a criminal court, representing the people. This salary starts at $ but could be more depending on the agency.

Patent Attorneys

These attorneys, who are also called patent agents, represent those who have created something and need to get a patent or documentation proving ownership for it. They are with the USPTO, which stands for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Experienced patent attorneys make $$ or more a year.

Personal Trial Attorneys

These lawyers, if they are representing someone very affluent, can earn a lot of money. They can make a salary from around a half a million dollars up to $$$ million annually!

How Much Does A Lawyer Cost?

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Depending upon the services that you need and what kind of rate you agree to, the following are the types of ways your lawyer can bill you. As with all of these, make sure that you have a contract that states what it is that is included in these fees. Watch out for administration and filing fees---for these are generally not included.

Flat Fee

This means that you will not wait until the trial to settle the payment agreement. It could be that you give them the entire amount up front to represent you. This is the simpler method because it is straightforward and leaves no room for surprises on how much do lawyers make. There are some cases in which this works well. They are amicable divorces, immigration cases and bankruptcy disputes, to name a few.

Hourly Rate

It is generally as it sounds. The attorney charges for his services by the hour. They state how long they will need to work on your case and then send you an itemized bill. Of all the ways to bill their clients, this is the most popular one. This rate is not charged without consulting the client first. It is agreed to prior to billing as with all other fees so there are no surprises. Keep in mind on this particular one that the rate will vary depending on certain factors. This includes the location of the firm, business costs and level of experience of the attorney.

Contingency

This type of fee isn’t used for all cases. It is when you have a case like an accident, collection or injury case; when it is settled, the lawyer takes his or her fee. This is a percentage that is agreed upon prior to the attorney taking your case. This fee is contingent upon the outcome of your case.

Retainer

This is a payment that you give to the attorney directly to have the counsel start on your case. It is to retain his or her services to help you on your case. When the attorney works on your case, the counsel will be deducting fees from the retainer amount. You will receive statements reflecting monthly charges or another deduction method. Should you decide not to continue to pursue the case for any reason, you will probably not get your money back from the attorney.

Referral Fee

Should your own attorney not be able to represent your specific case due to his lack of experience, they can refer you to a colleague or another firm. This would be an additional fee and would show up on your bill. It is important to verify the experience of your attorney on your case should you not wish it to be referred during the process.

It is important to note on all of these types of fees that these can be used on civil cases. Flat and/or hourly rates are mostly for criminal cases for those take longer and are more entailed. They also require a retainer fee. By knowing these fees, you will know more on how much do lawyers make.

How To Choose The Right One In Your Price Range

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Picking the right lawyer can be the make or break point for your case. It could mean---if you were in a criminal case---the difference between being acquitted or going to jail. This being the case, you should not be quick to grab just any lawyer. It isn’t enough that they have a shingle hanging above their door or their name on a big office; it is their experience that you are paying for.

Does Your Case Need a Lawyer?

This is something that you must consider at the very start, even before deciding on an attorney. Look at the time involved in putting a case together and going to court. Also, apply this knowledge you now have on how much do lawyers make. There is nothing wrong with filing if it is worth it. It will require a lot of effort. Your time is valuable, and it should be compensated so make sure that this case will cover those costs. You might not need to hire a lawyer to do this, but again, your time is money so be wise about your decision. A good attorney makes things go right without all of the stress.

Trust

This should be the number one reason to find the best attorney for your case. You need someone that is a liaison between you and the court system. Not all of us have law degrees nor have even stepped foot on the Yale or Harvard campuses. It is important to have a qualified attorney that knows their way around the legal system whether it be taxes, divorce proceedings, injury and DUIs, naming a few. You should not face these alone, and even if it costs more, it will ultimately help you in the long run to have someone in court on your side.

Confirm All Costs

You must verify all the costs that are involved before settling with an attorney. Don’t be afraid to get a written estimate like you would for a car repair. No one says you can’t shop around for best attorney like you shop around for the best car? You might find that one attorney has more fees included, such as admin, filing, etc. But don’t base everything on how much do lawyers make because the price isn’t the only factor. You must feel comfortable with this attorney for he or she will be representing you.

Paperwork

No one likes paperwork. We leave that up to some else when we can, like some administrative assistants. But when we need legal papers to be filled out and filed on our behalf, this is the area that we might not want to make a mistake on. Attorneys are almost essential for this part because they know what the court needs for whatever case that they are representing. They are familiar with due dates, type of forms and even what certain judges need to see to move the case along.  It is best to have a lawyer that you can call that you trust to help with this instead of going it alone. It could be costly for you; it could cause your case not to go your way.

Conclusion

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When you finally get the breakdown on how much do lawyers make, you can see why they charge what they do. Their overall costs are based on the type of case, location, education and experience. It isn’t--in most cases--that they are overcharging you, it is the fact that we must be more aware of their fees. We must verify that we understand exactly what they are charging so there are no surprises. It is hard enough to go through a case against us; we certainly don’t need to add more stress on top of it. Attorneys are there to help, and if you find the right one for you, you won’t mind the costs.

Debunking Prenuptial Agreement Stigmas: 10 Reasons They’re a Good Idea

So you’re thinking about getting married? Bringing up the subject of a prenuptial agreement can seem hurtful and unnecessary to a romance-fueled situation. Many believe that the sole purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to ensure the financial stability of the significantly more well-off member of the union, but a prenup is actually so much more than that.

The financial settlement proceedings of a divorce can be incredibly emotionally-charged and financially ruin both spouses. For these reasons, divorce proceedings can get ugly, and sitting down to discuss a prenup beforehand can keep that from happening, if the union ends. This type of agreement can offer protection to both partners even if both partners aren’t considerably well-off.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

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A prenup is a legal document that determines how assets will be divided and protected in the event of a divorce. These types of agreements might not be as important to young people getting married for the first time. They are just starting out and haven’t yet built a life for themselves; most of their possessions will be shared assets, so it’s impossible to predetermine how to divide them ahead of time.

But if you’re getting married later in life, you’ll probably have more of your own assets to protect. Consider:  you've worked countless hours at the office, and spent years building a life for yourself. If you end up divorcing, you may be forced to give half of it to someone who wasn’t there to build it with you. And honestly, how is that fair?

The Stigma Surrounding Prenuptial Agreements

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A failed relationship is a devastating situation, but it can be planned for. Accepting divorce as a thing that sometimes happens and planning ahead for it can make the consequences less severe for both sides in the event of a split.

At the end of the day, the purpose of a prenuptial agreement is communication and to set expectations within the relationship. You’ll want to make sure you’re both happy with how your own property, any shared property, and, if applicable, alimony payments will be separated and dispersed in the event of a divorce. So why do so many people find the idea of a prenuptial agreement so offensive?

Here are some of the reasons there's a stigma surrounding prenuptial agreements:

Presence Of Doubts

Many argue that the existence of a prenuptial agreement reveals that one partner has doubts or may be expecting an impending marriage to fail. Thinking about the end of a marriage during what should be the “good times” in the relationship might give the appearance that one partner isn’t as happy as the other thought. But that simply isn’t always the case.

Apparent Lack Of Trust

Setting boundaries included in a prenup can also come off like the requesting partner doesn’t trust the other when in reality, you may want protection from things you already know about, such as student debt. Or you may wish to protect your partner from your own debt.

It’s Not Very Romantic

Well, this stigma is actually true. Prenuptial agreements are not romantic topics. They require a couple to venture into uncomfortable territory and imagine the end of a marriage that is just starting out; that is depressing. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship itself has no romance or that the agreement keeps future romance away.

Either way, appearances are just that:  appearances; things are not always as they appear. Your partner could just be cautious. And hey-maybe they are protecting you more than themselves. Many marriages have dissolved before making it down the aisle because one partner jumps to conclusions at the very mention of a prenup.

10 Reasons They're A Good Idea

While there are blanket agreements that cover the basics, couples have the option to create their own agreements better-crafted to their specific lives. It provides a way to tailor and design the agreement to meet specific needs, wants and expectations. No two relationships are the same; therefore, no two prenups should be either. So why consider a prenuptial agreement?

1. They Make Sense

Modern-day society is a place of uncertainty, and marriage is no exception. Situations change. People change. And just like everything else, marriages can end.

Signing a prenuptial agreement shows your partner you’re realistic, responsible and forward-thinking. It means that you’re getting married for the right reasons and not for materialistic ones.

2. High Divorce Rate

It’s no secret that divorce rates among couples have been rising for decades and in the modern day, knowing a divorcee is a pretty common occurrence.

In a world where a large percentage of marriages end in divorce, considering a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot isn’t such a bad idea.

3. Protection of Valuable Assets

When you think of assets, you may think of expensive things. But they can also include items of sentimental and familial value.

In the event of a divorce, a partner may want to ensure that any family heirlooms, such as a pair of diamond earrings that have been in the family for generations, will be kept in their possession regardless of how the marriage ends. Items can also include collectible memorabilia or even a family pet you’d never want to part with.

4. Protects The Victim's Spouse

When it comes to any partnership, there is always the threat that one person may decide to leave. One spouse might not even see it coming, and then the next thing they know, they’re hit with a demand to terminate the relationship immediately.

In these cases, the partner who initiates the divorce has had much more time than the other to prepare for what lies ahead. Having a prenuptial agreement in place ensures that the victim has a plan and doesn’t get bushwhacked in rushed divorce proceedings.

5. Protects Your Credit

Going through a divorce can be traumatic in many ways. And on top of the emotional turmoil, it can pretty quickly destroy your finances and even threaten your financial future. Consequences can include damage to your credit, paying for alimony, your spouse’s debt and child support.

scissors cutting marriage certificate in half

Image source: Pexels

6. Debt Protection

While one spouse may bring more money into a marriage and wish to sign a prenup, it’s also possible for the opposite to be true.

A prenuptial agreement can also offer protection if one spouse brings significant debt into the relationship. This is an age of student debt after all, and the last thing anyone wants is to add their ex’s debt to their own.

7. It Forces Transparency

Discussing the different aspects of a prenup with your partner involves delving deep into each other’s financial lives. It forces you to examine aspects like each other's credit score, debt and spending habits.

So while a prenuptial agreement will protect you in the future, it also minimizes surprises that can occur during the marriage itself. For example, if your future wife or husband has high amounts of credit card debt, when he or she turns out to be a spender, you won’t be as surprised as you might have been.

8. Promotes Fairness And Equality

Signing a prenuptial agreement is a relatively simple process, and it is done under less emotional conditions. When terminating a marriage, having a prenup helps the couple reach a fair agreement.

However, if you sign an agreement with a cheating clause and one spouse is found guilty of infidelity, then the non-cheating partner will end up with everything.

9. The Reality of Gold-Digging

While a majority of people do get married for the right reasons, there are people out there who don’t. Gold-diggers are real, and they can be very persuasive and manipulative.

If you have high-valued assets, you are at a much-increased risk for attracting these types of people. Insisting that your partner signs a prenuptial agreement ensures that they are marrying you for the right reasons.

10. Decreases Stressfulness

When you sit down with your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement, what you are essentially setting up are the terms of separation. If you happen to separate in the future, having these terms already laid out can result in less bickering and less frustration over who gets what.

When a couple separates, emotions run high. Having a prenuptial agreement sets up the situation where both sides know what is expected of them.

Conclusion

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So, do you still feel the same way about prenuptial agreements? Would you sign one, or do you wish you had? When people are prepared for potential disaster, they feel less stressed about it. A prenuptial agreement is a preparation tactic that acknowledges sometimes divorces happen. This agreement plans for the worst to keep either party from being devastated by it.

Prenuptial agreements usually come with a stigma, but those stigmas aren’t the reality. More romantic-minded people may feel their partner isn’t sure or isn’t all-in. And that’s completely not true! Wishing to sign a prenup doesn’t mean one partner doesn’t think or want the marriage to work out. It only means that they want to keep the potential for a difficult situation as pain-free as possible.

Types Of Compensatory Damages

If you've been injured or suffered a loss that is the fault of someone else, whether to file a civil lawsuit or not is a big decision. Obviously, consulting with an attorney is something you should give priority. But, before taking that step, you'll want to do a little research and learn the basics of lawsuits. One of the first things to learn is the different types of damages, usually in the form of money awarded in civil cases.

Compensatory and punitive damages are the two basic types of awards you could seek in a civil lawsuit. While punitive damages may be more exciting in a made-for-TV way, this article will concentrate entirely on compensatory damages. By knowing what they are, you'll have a better understanding of what to expect from a potential lawsuit and be able to talk with your attorney more intelligently.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

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The definition of compensatory damages is an award of money in compensation for actual economic loss, property damage, or injury. Again, compensatory damages are separate from punitive damages in a civil lawsuit. Compensatory damages are broken down further into the following two categories.

Special (or Actual) Damages

This is an award designed to reimburse the injured party for expenses related to property damages, medical costs, and loss of income. The award will be in the amount of actual losses. For example, a car totaled in an accident would be valued at its retail price minus any depreciation. This award is designed to replace real losses to return the injured party to the financial condition they were in before the loss took place.

General Damages

These may be awarded for personal harm suffered by the injured party including pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and lost opportunity for the future enjoyment of life. Due to the often difficult circumstances involved in these awards, the court will use outcomes of similar prior cases to determine amounts awarded.

Types of Compensatory Damages 

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Now that we've defined the major types of compensatory damages, we'll break down the specifics of each condition in which they may be applied.

Medical Expenses

When you are injured, you could be left with some costly medical bills. As part of a civil lawsuit, your medical expenses could be a large percentage of the damages to which you're entitled. The greater the amount of money owed for medical services, the greater the amount of damages the lawsuit will pursue.

There could be damages after initial treatment, in the form of long-term care, to be factored in. Examples of medical expenses include:

  • Ambulance services
  • Emergency room and hospital care
  • Physician care
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Occupational rehabilitation
  • Home care

As you can see, the list of potential medical expenses is long. Medical bills can be presented as evidence of initial care costs while your attorney can find experts to assist in determining potential long-term care needs.

Property Damage

The injured party may also seek compensation for the repair or replacement of any property damaged in an accident. In an automobile accident, for example, not only is damage to the car recoverable, but lost or damaged property inside the car (tools, golf clubs, child seat, etc.) may also be eligible for compensation. Cost of a rental car or other alternate means of transportation may also be eligible while repairs are being completed.

Valuing damaged property may require an appraiser, whose job it is to determine the extent of the property damage. If the property is not salvageable, the victim can seek compensation in the amount of its value before the accident. If repairs can be made, the loss of use by the injured party, besides the repair itself, becomes part of the total damages.

Another factor in total costs could be interest and loss of profit. For example, if the injured party loses business equipment or tools used in their employment, these are damages that could be added to a lawsuit.

Loss of Income 

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If there is an injury, and it prevents the injured party from working or running their business, damages may apply in the amount normally earned during the recovery period. This is known as lost wages. Time missed from work due to a doctor's appointments, physical or occupational therapy or other related treatments of the injury would also be considered as lost wages.  

A permanent injury that prevents the injured party from working for the rest of their life may also be eligible for compensation to cover the loss of future earnings. Finally, if a person dies due to an accident, the deceased party's family can bring a civil lawsuit for the lost income that the victim would have earned based on their age and current salary.

A younger person has a longer work-life expectancy and would suffer a substantial loss of future earnings in the event of untimely death compared to an older person.

Pain and Suffering 

The amount of pain and suffering an injured party goes through is difficult to assess. Everyone's pain threshold is different, but there are ways to measure and document the injured party’s level of suffering.

Information can be collected from medical records and providers concerning the amount of medication the injured party required, the kinds and duration of treatments needed, and the expected length of the recovery period. Family members and friends of the injured party can be interviewed to find out if the accident caused any effect on the victim’s quality or enjoyment of life.

Pain and Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress Suffering 

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Different from pain and suffering, the effects of these mental conditions include terror, shock, apprehension, confusion, humiliation, and sorrow. Some states make it difficult to prove with strict guidelines such as the “zone of danger” test which considers how physically close the injured party was to the accident.

Another limit is the “physical manifestation rule” which requires that the emotional distress experienced by the injured party be exhibited by physical conditions such as depression and anxiety intense enough to cause ulcers or loss of appetite and weight. Proving these conditions is difficult and requires expert guidance.

Loss of Consortium 

This is another type of compensatory damages available in the case of a permanently disabling injury. Loss of consortium is the inability of the injured party to engage in acts of companionship with their spouse or loved one at the level they once did. Damages awarded tend to be less but can still be significant in a case involving a permanent outcome such as paraplegia.

Lost Opportunity 

These compensatory damages are sometimes recoverable in addition to lost wages and loss of future earnings. They refer to a business opportunity of the injured party that has been impeded due to an accident. A claim of this type must be supported entirely. Failure to do so could damage the merits of the entire case and cause a judge or jury to reject other damages sought by the injured party.

When Are Compensatory Damages Awarded? 

Compensatory damages are awarded in civil court cases where the injured party's loss has occurred as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another party. For compensatory damages to be awarded, a judge or jury must be able to determine the actual monetary value of the loss suffered by the injured party. Some examples include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Work-related injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Municipal infrastructure failures
  • Institutional neglect of safety issues
  • Business or corporate negligence
  • Certain criminal offenses

Examples of Lawsuits Involving Compensatory Damages

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Here are a few examples of real-life lawsuits that resulted in compensatory damages being awarded:

1. $80 Million Verdict Reached in Medical Malpractice Suit

A defective medical stapler almost cost a retired police officer her life. She went into the hospital for routine hemorrhoid surgery, but the surgeon used a defective stapler. The damage caused her bowels to rupture. She went into sepsis and shock. She eventually recovered, then took the stapler manufacturers to court and netted a verdict of $80 million.

2. Lawsuit Over Toxic Water  

An Ohio woman successfully sued a Teflon company after her attorney proved that they knew that their products contaminated local water. She was awarded $1.6 million in damages, and her case was followed by more than 3,000 others claiming that their water was affected too.

3. Fast-Food Hot Coffee Lawsuit 

A jury awarded a woman $200,000 in compensatory damages to pay for medical bills and other related expenses due to being burned by a cup of hot coffee purchased through the drive-in window at a fast-food chain. Because the company had prior knowledge that their coffee could cause serious injury, yet did nothing to remedy the situation, the jury also awarded the woman over $2 million in punitive damages.

Conclusion 

As you can see, there's a lot to learn about the world of civil litigation. Seeking the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney should be one of the first things you do in case of an injury or loss that's the fault of another. It's also helpful to educate yourself to be of help to your attorney and to know you're getting sound legal advice.

Knowing the ins and outs of topics like compensatory damages will only help you be a better plaintiff. Your legal team will appreciate it, and it will increase your chances of achieving the outcome you desire. Arming yourself with a basic knowledge of your rights under the law is the first step to a successful civil lawsuit.

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How To Pick A Real Estate Attorney

Buying or selling your home can be a stressful process, with many steps you may be unfamiliar with. Most people only buy a house once or twice in their entire lives. Since this can be such a big investment in your life, you want to make sure you have trained professionals on your side to help you through the process. Having a real estate agent helps, but having an experienced one is invaluable. Involving a real estate attorney in your transaction can protect your interests and ensure that your closing goes as smoothly as possible.

What Is a Real Estate Attorney?

In many states, lawyers can help regular people with many issues they run into, from traffic tickets to buying a house. Real estate attorneys are lawyers who specialize in dealing with matters related to property, from buying a home to boundary disputes. They often handle closings—the final step in a real estate purchase transaction where the documents finalizing the transaction are completed. They also work with mortgage lenders and title insurance companies to make sure the transaction goes smoothly and that your property is protected.

Why Do I Need One? 

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There are many reasons to have a real estate attorney involved in your property transaction. In most cases, the real estate attorney is the go-to expert in providing legal advice should you run into an unexpected situation. They ensure that the transfer of property is legally binding and done in their client’s best interest and can help you navigate issues if there is a dispute.

Personal Interest

The real estate attorney does not have a personal interest in the outcome of the transaction other than making sure their client’s best interests are taken care of. Other people involved in the transaction (including real estate agents) may have a great financial interest in the outcome because they are working on a commission basis. While those with a financial interest in the transaction may try to steer your decision-making process, your attorney is there to provide the information to help you make the best decision for yourself.

Legal Advice 

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Most states have rules against the unauthorized practice of law. In a real estate transaction, the real estate attorney is the only person who can accurately explain the law to you and provide legal advice. Whether you are involved in a residential or a commercial transaction, a skilled real estate attorney can be a great resource if you have questions.

Real estate attorneys also have the legal training to help you handle property issues that may pop up unexpectedly, or help you navigate complications in your transaction. The attorney is the person best equipped to help you figure out what to do if it is discovered that there are disputes over property lines, easements, or other matters related to the transaction.

If there is a dispute over the contract for the property, a real estate attorney can also answer any legal questions you may have about your obligations under the agreement. Questions about backing out of a contract or getting your earnest money back are best directed to a professional who can explain to you the repercussions you may encounter if you cancel the contract.

Title Searches 

Real estate attorneys not only provide legal advice and answer questions. In many states, they also perform title searches to certify the title to the property is free and marketable. This usually entails a search of all the public records to determine ownership of the property and the status of any outstanding mortgages and liens on the property.  

The results of the title search determine what requirements may need to be met in the transaction to secure a title insurance policy for the new buyer. For example, if there is an existing mortgage on the property, a title insurance company may require the old mortgage be paid off to issue an insurance policy.

Working with Other Parties and Performing Closings

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The real estate attorney and their team also work with mortgage loan officers, the other party’s attorney, and the real estate brokers to make sure that the transaction proceeds smoothly. Most times they will help you sign your final mortgage loan package at closing and send your mortgage documents back to your lender to get authorization to fund your loan.    

In some states, real estate closing transactions are legally required to go through a real estate attorney’s office, and the law requires the funds to be disbursed through the attorney’s trust account.  

Drafting and Recording Documents 

One of the most important things that a real estate attorney does for a property transaction is review and draft the documents that will transfer ownership of the property. Attorneys can draft purchase contracts, deeds, and other agreements related to the transaction.  

It is also the attorney’s responsibility to make sure the documents for the transaction are correct. Mistakes in the legal description of the property being transferred can cause serious problems down the road, so you want to make sure you have a real estate attorney involved to cut down on any potential problems in your documentation.  

Some states require deeds and mortgage documents to be filed with county Register of Deeds offices to be effective. The attorney can facilitate this part of the process to make sure your transfer of property is legal, binding, and effective, and that official public notice of the transfer of ownership is available in your local property records.

How to Find a Good Real Estate Attorney

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Since having a real estate attorney is important to a successful and smooth transaction, you must know how to find an experienced attorney who will be a good fit for your needs.

Recommendations 

If you don’t already know a good attorney, you can always ask for referrals from people you know. Take recommendations from brokers involved in your transaction with a grain of salt because you don’t know what kind of arrangement they may have with the attorney’s offices. Sometimes, perfectly good attorneys may feel the need to help a transaction go through to keep getting business referrals from the brokers.  

State Bar Referrals 

In some states, you can contact your state bar association and ask for a referral to a licensed real estate attorney. Many bar associations keep records of licensed attorneys in their state and can direct you to someone with a good record with the state bar who also specializes in real estate transactions.

Lawyer Match Services 

There are also several online referral services. You can usually use these services to search for the area of law you require an expert in, and they can match you with law firms or attorneys in your area who work in the appropriate area of law.

Consultations 

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Once you have a list of potential real estate attorneys, you can always narrow down your options by asking for a consultation. Before you go to their office, you will want to ask about a consultation fee. Some attorneys may offer free initial consultations, but some charge a small fee for an initial interview. If the attorney charges for an initial interview, you will want to know what the fee is, and how long the consultation will last. You may get most of the information you need over the phone without an in-office consultation.

Some information you should consider before making a final selection of your attorney includes:

  • The fee arrangement required by the attorney
  • Whether the attorney is licensed in your area (and maybe how long)
  • Whether the attorney has been investigated or disciplined by the state bar
  • Whether the attorney has handled similar cases in the past
  • Whether the attorney has experience in real estate transactions
  • Whether the attorney fees are refundable if the transaction falls through

Starting Your Case or Transaction 

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Once you have selected the real estate attorney to handle your transaction, the attorney’s office may contact you to collect important information to get a file started for your case or transaction.  

Most times, the attorney’s office will have information sheets for you to fill out detailing the property address, your name and the proper spelling for names of the people or entities that will take title to the property, the sale price of the property, and other pertinent information. If you are selling the property, they may also ask you to confirm whether you have a current mortgage or home equity line of credit on the property (which they will verify in the public records during a title search). To help your transaction go quickly and smoothly, it is in your best interest to fill out and send the information sheets back to the attorney’s office.  

Conclusion 

While many people may think trying to go through a real estate transaction without an attorney involved may save them money, in reality, that is not the case. Having an experienced real estate attorney on your side can not only ensure that your transaction is legally binding, but it can also provide you with peace of mind. You can rest easy knowing the legal issues associated with transferring property are taken care of.  

If you are taking part in transferring real estate, it is in your best interests to reach out to a real estate attorney to help you navigate the process and answer any legal questions you may have.

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