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Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Divorce And Underwater Mortgages — An Underwater Dilemma

If you currently owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth, you are not alone. According to MarketWatch, there are more than 4 million homeowners in the United States who owe their banks 20 percent more than their houses are worth. In the best possible situation, you could try to live in your home until the housing market recovered and your house became more valuable. But if your marriage is ending, you may be required to sell your house as part of the divorce proceedings. So what are your options for selling your home if it is underwater?

Consider a Short Sale of Your House

If neither you or your soon-to-be ex can afford the mortgage payments after your divorce or if neither party has a desire to continue living in your underwater home, you could try to sell your home for less than the amount of money that you owe your mortgage company. This is known as a short sale. Generally, it is considered a better idea than letting the house go into foreclosure because, according to the New York Times, a short sale will have less of a negative impact on your credit history. Plus, having a foreclosure on your credit history can also affect other aspects of your lives. For example, some employers are leery of hiring a person with a bankruptcy on their record. 

But short sales are not simple, so you may want to seek legal representation during the process to protect your interests. The bank that owns your mortgage is definitely going to have high-powered lawyers representing their needs, and they are going to try to get as much money from you as possible. Remember, during a short sale, you will be selling your home for less money than you owe the bank. And banks are not in the business of giving away their cash. So in order to recover part of their losses, the bank’s lawyers may attempt to:

  • Garnish your wages
  • Attach your bank accounts
  • Pursue payments in the future

A lawyer from a firm like Iannello Anderson can look over the final paperwork from the bank to ensure that it does not contain wording that could hold you liable for the balance of the loan in the future. Another reason you may need a lawyer during this process? Real estate agents are not allowed to offer legal advice even if they know the answers. And, finally, you may not have a choice of whether or not you want to hire a lawyer as some real estate firms are now requiring that short sellers hire legal representation. 

One Party Keeps the House

If either you or your spouse wants to continue living in the house, the other party could receive a credit for the negative equity during the divorce proceedings. For example, if you and your spouse have total assets of approximately $500,000, and your home has a negative equity of  $50,000, the spouse who keeps the home will end up with $50,000 in marital debt. In some cases, the judge may give the person keeping the house a credit for $25,000, which is half of the negative equity. This situation may be appropriate for you if:

  • The party who wants to stay in the house can afford to pay the mortgage on their own. 
  • The home may be worth more in the future and a spouse is willing to take that gamble and continue paying for and living in it. 

In some cases, the divorcing parties may decide to cut their losses and zero out the negative equity, which means that it will not be factored in during the division of assets.

Divorce is tough enough in the best of times, but it can be especially gut-wrenching when a house with an underwater mortgage is involved. Unfortunately, there are typically no winners in this scenario, and the best you can hope for is to protect your interests as best as you can. 

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Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Uncategorized |

3 Mistakes To Avoid When Answering Questions At A Disability Hearing

For many people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits, one or more hearings are necessary to finally be approved for benefits. Therefore, it’s important to know what to expect at a hearing and what mistakes you might make or might have made in a previous hearing that you should avoid in the future. Take a look at some common missteps that people seeking disability benefits make so that you’ll know what to avoid in the future.

Exaggerating Your Disability

When asked about the severity of your disability, it can be hard to know how to answer. Of course, you want the court to understand the seriousness of your medical issue. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand the nature of a chronic condition – you may have run into friends and family members who see you on a good day and don’t understand why you can’t work, not realizing that the bad days outweigh the good, or that you would not be able to perform any job duties on days when your symptoms were in full force. If you suffer from an invisible disability, you may even have been accused of faking.

All of this can lead to an understandable impulse to exaggerate the severity of your symptoms in order to be taken seriously. You may be tempted to say that you never have good, pain-free days, or that nothing that you can do relieves the pain. However, you should remember that in this case, you’ll be talking to people who deal with the details of disabling conditions every day. They’re aware that symptoms usually ebb and flow and can often be relieved with pain medications or other treatments. If you inflate the severity of your symptoms, you’ll be less likely to be taken seriously.

Downplaying Your Disability

Another common mistake is downplaying the extent of your disability. Once again, this can be a side effect of living with a disability – you may find yourself frequently reassuring worried family members or friends that you’re not in any immediate pain or danger, or that you can do things for yourself. If this is the case, it can become second nature to insist that your symptoms aren’t that bad, and that you’re OK.

However, in your disability hearing, you’re not there to reassure anyone or convince anyone that you can be self-sufficient – you’re there asking for help. Downplaying your symptoms is counterproductive. When asked about the severity of your pain or the frequency of your symptoms, it’s important to be honest and accurate. Don’t worry about what you think sounds best or least upsetting. Just tell the truth.

Giving Vague Answers

One more mistake to avoid is vague or indirect answers to questions about your condition and your symptoms. The judge at your hearing will expect someone who is truly suffering to be able to describe exactly how they are suffering, so use the most descriptive language possible. Don’t just say that you have pain – describe the pain. Is it throbbing or stabbing? Burning or stinging? Shooting or aching? Words like these paint a clearer picture of what you’re experiencing. It also helps to give time frames. Do you have five minutes of intense shooting pain multiple times a day, or five hours of aching, throbbing pain starting when you wake up in the morning?

You’ll also want to come prepared with clear examples of how your disability ha affected your ability to work and impacted your daily life. Were you fired from your last job because you were no longer able to lift or you kept missing work due to needing medical care? Were you unable to attend a family function because of pain, depression, or anxiety? Are you unable to lift your small children, or sit on the floor and play with them? Specific examples will help make your case stronger.

It’s also a mistake to go to a hearing without an attorney to help you prepare your case. An expert in disability law can do a lot to prepare you for your hearing and ensure that you get the result you’re hoping for. If you don’t have legal representation yet, meet with a disability attorney, like those from Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law, in your area before your hearing to find out how they can help you get your benefits.

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Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 in Uncategorized |

5 Tips For Managing Your Expense Records During A Personal Injury Case

Whether you’re trying to win compensation after a car accident or need help to deal with the consequences of a dog bite, records of your expenses are crucial. The court won’t meet your demands for awarding a specific amount of money unless you have hard proof that the injury really cost you that much. Use these five tips to make sure you’re building a complete portfolio of expense records as you prepare for your personal injury case.

Request Letters From Work

Don’t just assume your pay stubs or tax records will be enough to prove your last income due to the injury. Request letters on the company masthead from your boss, manager, and the payroll department at your employer. Each letter should outline how much money you receive on a weekly or monthly basis, how long you were away from work, and whether you’re still employed or no longer work there due to your medical complications. If you’re having trouble contacting your employer because they let you go in violation of your state’s employment law, let your lawyer handle the requests instead of just skipping this crucial form of documentation.

Collect Medical Receipts

If your health or car insurance company is footing the bills for your emergency room trips and your physical therapy, it’s easy to forget to collect receipts. Unfortunately, many insurance companies provide hard-to-decipher payment records that don’t include the co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses you were responsible for paying. Get separate print outs every time you visit a healthcare professional for treatment related to the injury, including the following:

  • Therapy sessions for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety
  • Physical therapy to restore your ability to function
  • Acupuncture and massage, as long as the providers are licensed according to your state’s requirements.

Remember Travel Expenses

Your personal injury claim expenses go beyond just what you’re billed from the emergency room and your lost wages. Add up the gas costs and plane fares from your travel related to the case, including trips to the doctor, lawyer’s office, and scene of the injury to collect evidence. It’s best to keep these trips separate from other errands and tasks so you can prove each expense deserves to be included in the final award amount. Taking a quick vacation while you’re already traveling to see your lawyer will make it harder to convince a judge to take your travel expenses seriously.

Photograph Everything

Police investigators tend to take fairly good photographs at the scene of an accident, but you’re on your own when getting visual documentation of other types of personal injuries. Start taking photos as soon as you physically can to capture as much evidence as possible that would affect the amount you receive. For example, photographs of your injuries can prove that your medical expenses were warranted, no matter what an expert witness for the opposing side might claim. You can also make backup copies of your expense records and receipts with a decent digital camera to prevent any accidental or purposeful destruction of evidence from ruining the case.

Estimate Future Costs

Finally, get professional help from a disability lawyer when trying to estimate the long-term impact of the injury on your future earning power. Your personal injury attorney can provide you with a recommendation, or they may already have the extra expertise needed to handle this task for you. A professional projection of lost income and ongoing medical treatments is far more compelling than a few numbers you’ve added up on your own. The projection needs to take inflation and other factors into account to be accurate over a period of decades for you to get enough money to cover your actual future expenses, especially if you are completely or partially disabled by the injury. For more information, see a website such as http://caminezlaw.net.

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Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Uncategorized |

How To Maximize Potential Compensation In Your Car Crash Case

After being injured in a car accident, you’ll have to negotiate with an adjuster for the insurance company that represents the person who’s at fault for your injuries. This negotiation process is never fun and games, as the adjuster is sure to work hard at minimizing any payments they’ll be responsible for providing you with. So if your case is potentially worth thousands of dollars, it’s essential to hire an experienced lawyer who focuses on personal injury cases and knows the laws inside and out. Here’s what you can do to help your lawyer maximize potential compensation in your car crash case:

Take Photos

It’s important to take photos that document the accident and help prove your point of view about what happened. If possible, go back to the accident scene and take photos of the ground, landmarks, and any other visual information in the area that is pertinent to your case. It’s also important to photograph your entire vehicle up close and in sufficient lighting so that damage from the accident can be clearly seen without glare. If you have been physically injured, take photos of your bodily injuries once a week throughout the proceedings of your case to help prove how long you’re having to deal with said injuries.

Find Witnesses

While you’re at the accident scene taking photos, take the time to talk to people living in the area who may have seen what happened. If you do find witnesses to the accident, ask them to fill out a simple form stating their names, contact information, and the specifics of what they saw when the accident happened. You may want to ask your lawyer to create your own personalized form and make copies of it before looking for witnesses to ensure that you get the information you want and need from each of them. This will ensure that nothing important, such as a license plate number, is overlooked when witnesses relay their accounts.

Gain Some Written Insight

It can be helpful to ask your friends and family to write accounts of their insight into the pain and suffering you’ve had to go through since being in an accident. The kind of pain they see you in while they’re in your presence, the loss of work you have experienced, and what you are doing with your time during recovery can all be recorded by loved ones and turned over to your lawyer, which will help to fill in the blanks. Like with getting witness information, you can have personalized forms created to have your loved ones fill out – but open letters that allow them to speak in their own words and in their own way may be more insightful to your lawyer and the courts if they have to get involved in your case.

Record Your Progress Updates

In addition to having your friends and family members provide insight into your healing progress, it’s important that you document your progress personally. Consider keeping a diary dedicated just to aspects of your life that involve the accident. Each morning or evening take the time to record how much pain medication you’ve had to take, whether or not you had to miss work and if so, how much money was lost, and what your overall mindset if like in regards to your pain and suffering. Your diary can be used as an extensive account of your life after the accident, and can be used to help calculate the amount of compensation your lawyer should ask for.

You’ll find that these techniques will not only help your lawyer maximize potential compensation for your case, but it also help to keep you involved in your case and ensure that you maintain a sense of control over the process. Contact a local personal injury lawyers, such as Otorowski Johnston Morrow & Golden P.L.L.C., for more information. 

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Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Uncategorized |

3 Keys To Finding The Right Foreclosure Attorney

Many people’s biggest fear when filing for bankruptcy lies in the possibility of losing their home. In these situations, it’s important that you have a qualified foreclosure attorney who can fight your case on your behalf and help you to hold on to your property. However, choosing the right lawyer isn’t always easy. To help you make an informed decision, here are the three keys to finding the right foreclosure attorney:

Find a Lawyer with Experience in Foreclosures

Foreclosure is a very sensitive area of real estate law, and as such it’s important you find the right type of lawyer to represent you. While there are many lawyer who specialize entirely in foreclosure, you will typically come across many others with more general specializations such as real estate or bankruptcy. Whatever type of lawyer you choose, you must ensure they have a proven track record in handling complex foreclosure cases and delivering real results.

When choosing a foreclosure lawyer, make sure you find out how many cases your potential attorney has filed. Rather than gauging each individual by their years in the field, choosing an attorney on the basis of successful defenses will ensure you have the legal help you require.

When looking for an attorney, make sure you hold a number of one-to-one meetings to give yourself a chance to discuss your case before signing on the dotted line. Even if the first attorney you meet feels like a perfect fit, speak to a few others so that you can weigh up the pros and cons of each before coming to a decision.

Calculate the Cost

The cost of a foreclosure attorney depends entirely on your case. If you have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have a good chance of keeping your home, and so hiring a foreclosure attorney will be somewhat of a formality. However, if you have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you face a lengthy legal battle to maintain possession of your property, and so your legal fees will be substantially higher.

While it is difficult to calculate an exact figure for your legal fees, it is possible to narrow your costs down to a small range. Typically, foreclosure attorneys will charge their fees in one of two ways:  

Flat fees

As the name suggests, these are lump-sum costs that you pay in advance of your trial. Typical costs range from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on your situation and how much work the attorney is required to put into the case.

Choosing a foreclosure attorney that charges a flat fee at the front end of the case is a good way to place a limit on your fees; however, the flipside of this is that you may end up paying a large amount for a little work. Therefore, it’s imperative that you analyze your situation in detail prior to hiring an attorney on a flat-fee basis.

Hourly Rates

If you would rather pay the exact amount for the legal service provided, consider hiring a foreclosure attorney who charges by the hour. Typical hourly rates for a foreclosure attorney ranges from $100 to several hundred dollars, although rates may be higher for particularly tricky cases or those with extremely tight deadlines.

Hiring an attorney that charges by the hour can be a great way to ensure you aren’t paying over the odds for your legal support. However, it’s important that you keep tabs on the overall cost to ensure your finances aren’t spiraling out of control.

Verify Their Credentials

It’s important that you don’t just take your potential lawyer’s word for their professionalism. In today’s modern era, you have access to a number of different metrics that you can use to assess your attorney’s credential. With the amount of information available at the click of the button, there is no excuse for not doing your homework!

The first thing to do is ask your potential lawyer for a list of references. In most cases, they will be happy to supply you with names and contact details of people who will back up their credentials. If they don’t, tread carefully. Word-of-mouth is a potent marketing tool for attorneys, so if your prospective lawyer doesn’t want to give details of references, they may be hiding something.

If you have chosen to use a bankruptcy attorney to defend your foreclosure case, you can use the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) to verify their claims. If your attorney’s law firm is a member of this association, you can rest assured they will hold themselves to a high standard.

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