Do I Need a Probate Lawyer?

When a loved one passes, a variety of issues typically arise. One concern may be whether or not you need to retain the services of a Peoria IL probate lawyer. The answer depends on several factors that should be considered.

Executor of an Estate

An executor of an estate is a person named in a last will and testament to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. The executor generally is required to ensure that valid debts of the estate are paid and that any taxes due and owing are satisfied. They are also expected to distribute the assets of the estate as directed in the last will and testament.

If you have been named the executor of an estate, your immediate response may be to retain legal counsel. In many cases, this is a wise course when you have been appointed to oversee and address the affairs of a loved one’s estate.

Unless the estate qualifies for a simplified probate process, or can bypass the formal probate process altogether, the executor will need to become involved with the probate court. The reality is that probate court procedures, and their associated laws, are some of the most complex in the U.S. legal system. Thus, if the estate will be involved in probate court proceedings, an executor should consider getting legal assistance from a probate attorney.

Disputes Regarding an Estate

In a surprising number of cases, heirs or legatees of an estate can end up at odds with one another. If family members and others associated with the estate are in dispute, the involvement of a probate lawyer may be the best solution. There are a number of different ways in which a probate attorney can be of invaluable assistance in this type of situation:

  • An objective and non-emotional attorney can help negotiate or intervene between family members.
  • Someone with a vested interest in the estate who hires a probate lawyer has a better chance of protecting their rights than someone who does not have a legal representative

Tax Issues

Occasionally an estate may face complicated tax issues. In the grand scheme of things, one of the goals in settling an estate is minimizing the amount of money paid out in estate and inheritance taxes.

As an aside, tax issues can best be addressed in a proactive manner. A person with more substantial assets is wise to engage in comprehensive and advanced estate planning. This can help minimize tax consequences for their heirs after passing.

Retaining a probate attorney can be a crucial step to ensure that tax issues are properly addressed. The costs associated with hiring an attorney may be offset by what is saved in estate or inheritance taxes.

Retain a Probate Lawyer

No matter the specific circumstances, the first step in retaining a probate attorney is scheduling what is called an initial consultation. Through an initial consultation between an attorney and the prospective client, a probate lawyer has the chance to evaluate any potential issues with an estate. In addition, the individual seeking legal representation can ask questions of an experienced probate attorney. As a general rule, a probate attorney does not charge a fee for an initial consultation with a prospective client.

Smith and WeerThanks to our friend and contributors from Smith & Weer, P.C. for their insight into probate law.

Does my ex have any right to my personal injury award?

Whether or not a spouse has legal standing for a claim against an ex-spouse’s personal injury settlement hinges on certain material case facts of the actual claim as an experienced Charlottesville divorce lawyer might explain. The date of the occurrence is one primary factor, but there may also be other legal factors that allow a former spouse to claim a portion of a personal injury settlement. The personal financial liability that one former spouse may have to the other can also matter, especially when there is a situation or agreement regarding child support or alimony that is delinquent. Potentially the most important factor in standing to claim an ex-spouse’s personal injury settlement is the actual state in which the divorce was granted.

Community Property States

There are nine community property states in the U.S. that recognize all property acquired during a marriage as co-property of both spouses. The question would be what the court will allow based on the factors of the divorce. Time is very important, and it is entirely possible that a portion of a settlement for a personal injury that occurred while the couple was married could be claimed by the former spouse, even if the claim is paid after the divorce is finalized. This could also be a claim that a current spouse could defend as well, so the potential for a complicated legal issue is clearly present even in community property states. Former spouses may also have a claim if they had to stop working in order to serve as primary caregiver for the injured spouse while they were recovering from the injury. In addition, some injuries are permanent, which can create a problem concerning the amount a former spouse may collect. If the personal injury settlement is based on an injury that occurred prior to the marriage, and paid during or after the marriage, then the uninjured spouse may not have a basis for a claim without mitigating circumstances.

Equitable Property States

The remainder of states are equitable property states that dissolve divorces according to itemized analysis of each asset. There is no guarantee of equal portions being distributed between the divorcing individuals when assessments are made determining non-marital property. Depending on the approach taken by the state concerning marital assets, the pain and suffering component of a personal injury settlement can be determined by the state as belonging completely to the injured party, but the portion that is purposed as recovery for lost income could still be assessed as marital property. Complications can also arise with a personal injury claim when the injured plaintiff has negotiated with the insurance company to forfeit income replacement for an increased amount of pain and suffering damages, which happens regularly in personal injury settlement cases. Some equitable property states are actually unitary in marital property approach, meaning that the entire amount of a personal injury claim belongs completely to the injured person. However, workers compensation injury settlements are usually marital property because they are economic recovery damages.

Divorce Decree Agreements

In many ways, a final divorce decree is effectively a contract between the divorcing parties that should include all aspects of asset allocation before the divorce is finalized. Regardless of the state’s approach to marital assets and liabilities, an enforceable contract between the two former spouses will control distribution of the personal injury settlement. This technical approach to a planned divorce is the best method of ensuring that an ex-spouse will receive an appropriate portion of the settlement based on all case factors. Injuries that are permanent can also be questionable claims, because often the ongoing income recovery damages will be for a period of time during which the two are not married, meaning the court will probably need to intervene with an additional ruling on the settlement intentions and allocations.

MWThanks to our friends and contributors from MartinWren P.C. for their insight into the effects of divorce on a personal injury award.

5 Common Causes of Car Accidents

Distracted Driving

Modern technology is great. It has brought all the world’s information to our fingertips. Unfortunately, that information is also available when we’re driving. We all know the temptation to check what’s going on when we hear the familiar beep beep asking us to look at our phones. But giving in to that temptation can be dangerous.  While a driver is looking down at a phone, he or she is not looking around them, and the world keeps moving. Pedestrians, bikers, and other drivers are all in danger when someone gives into the temptation to look at their phone. This is one of the most common causes of car accidents these days.

Drunk Driving

Some of the most devastating accidents I’ve seen in my career have been the result of alcohol and driving mixed. You just can’t drive and react the way a sober person can when you’re intoxicated. There’s also no way for other drivers to protect themselves from drunk drivers. If someone swerves into your lane and drives right at you, what can you do except brace for impact? Drunk driving kills, and it is a major cause of car accidents.

Aggressive Driving

Everyone gets frustrated by traffic sometimes, but when that boils over into aggressive driving, accidents can happen. Drivers must take care not to needlessly endanger others. But when someone gets aggressive, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Cutting other drivers off and forcing them to slam on their brakes isn’t just unsafe, it can be deadly. In Colorado, if you’ve been the victim of an overly aggressive driver, you may be entitled to punitive damages. If you want to know more, contact a car accident lawyer. Most of us offer free consultations.

Bad Weather Conditions

Most places have some type of bad weather during parts of the year. Where I’m from, we get snow pretty regularly for about 4 months each year. That can make driving treacherous. Cars just don’t react the same way in snow as in dry conditions. They take longer to stop and are more likely to skid out of control. That doesn’t mean accidents are inevitable though. Drivers are still responsible for driving appropriately for the conditions. If everyone did that, there wouldn’t be accidents because of bad weather conditions.

Lack of Care

This is probably the most common source of accidents. Failing to pay proper attention while driving. Whether it’s failing to stop and a stop sign, failing to yield to oncoming traffic when turning left, or failing to notice stopped traffic in front of you, a simple lack of care can have devastating consequences.

So there you have it, the five most common causes of car accidents. Contact me directly at the link below if you want to know more.

Cannon HadfieldThanks to our friend and blog author, Sam Cannon of Cannon Hadfield, LLC for his insight into car accident.

What to do After a Car Accident

A car accident is an unexpected, unforeseen, and almost always traumatic experience, but being prepared is the best way to get through what will undoubtedly be a trying and taxing time. The following are our recommendations of what to do after a car accident.

First, call the local authorities to report that an accident occurred. Generating a formal accident report by the appropriate governmental agency will establish how the collision occurred, what parties were involved in the collision, and which party was at fault. This accident report will be the starting point of any personal injury claim you wish to pursue.

Second, take pictures of the accident scene, surrounding area, and your injuries. Make sure to take photos of any traffic signals and signs, the road conditions, and any other pertinent parts of the accident scene. It will be important to recreate what happened if you wish to pursue a personal injury claim. Also, take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved. Most importantly, immediately take pictures of the injuries that you sustained in the accident including any cuts, bruises, and other physical indications of your injuries. The damage to your car may be repaired and your injuries may heal; thus, taking pictures is the best way to document this evidence.

Third, when considering what to do after a car accident, you should talk with all parties involved in the accident and get their contact information, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and auto insurance information. The parties’ contact information will become necessary in order to file a claim against the insurance company for the at-fault driver.

Fourth of what to do after a car accident, is to interview any of the witnesses to the accident. Document their contact information, including their name, address, phone number, and a brief description of the witness’s version of events. Having corroborating testimony, besides that of your own, is essential to what to do after an accident.

Fifth, seek medical attention quickly and promptly for any injuries that you sustained. The importance of seeking medical treatment cannot be overstated. Upon seeking treatment, make sure you clearly describe how you were injured and the extent of your injuries.

What to do after a car accident is not a scenario any of us wish to ever be in or think of. If you are ever involved in a motor vehicle collision follow our recommendations and also contact an experienced Milwaukee WI personal injury attorney for further guidance.

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Hickey & Turim, SC for their insight into what to do after an accident.

Law gavel on a stack of American money

Can a Victim of Assault File a Civil Lawsuit?

Victims of assault may file a claim against their perpetrators in civil court and, in some matters, other parties may as well.

Many victims have successfully sued in cases concerning assault or abuse. Most of these cases stem from a criminal prosecution. A perpetrator may face criminal charges in court that can lead to fines, jail time, probation and other sanctions. They might also find themselves in civil court, where  they may be held accountable for harm and emotional damage that was caused by their actions.

Types of Damages and Claims

Compensation in a civil suit regarding abuse will depend on the specific facts of the case and the legal theory on which the matter is argued. While associated with a criminal matter, civil courts consider assault a personal injury lawsuit. Thus, it should be managed by a lawyer familiar with representing clients in civil matters that deal with personal injury and assault. An experienced attorney will understand that compensation in a civil lawsuit concerning assault or abuse will depend on the degree of physical and emotional harm suffered by the victim and the physical and emotional harm that they will continue to suffer from in the future.

Because of the sensitive nature of these matters, juries may award high damages. This leaves the perpetrator – even if they are sitting in jail after a conviction – liable to pay a judgement. Unfortunately, if the perpetrator is unable to cover the debt, collection may not be possible. Liability insurance policies commonly do not cover damage, injury or suffering from intentional acts, leaving only personal assets as the main source of compensation.

Managing the Case

If the perpetrator is found guilty in a criminal court, the victim may have a greater chance for compensation in their civil suit. The civil lawsuit may require the victim to present evidence used in the criminal suit.

What If There is No Criminal Case?

If there was no criminal matter or if the perpetrator was not convicted of a crime, the victim can still file a claim against the perpetrator. In fact, with the standard of proof being lower in civil matters, the personal injury attorney will only need to prove it is more likely than not that the perpetrator is responsible for the pain, damage and suffering inflicted on the victim.

To make sure an assault related civil lawsuit is managed properly, you may need an experienced DC personal injury lawyer in your corner. Contact a personal injury lawyer to set up a free consultation to review the details of your case and determine your next step forward.

Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into the possible civil implications of a criminal act.