Law Offices of Seth Grossman...
Question:  What is the charge for initial consultations?-----------------------------------------
SETH GROSSMAN  does not charge for initial consultations, and encourage consultations by telephone. Besides helping members of the public, this  also introduces them to the community. And it encourages people with possible legal issues to seek and obtain professional assistance right away, when it is often easier to resolve a legal problem.

Here is some basic information we give in response to the most Frequently Asked Questions:


NEGLIGENCE/PERSONAL INJURY
 

Question:
 I was hurt in a car accident.  Can I  collect any money for my injuries?
 
Answer:
If you are physically injured because of the careless, reckless, or deliberate conduct of somebody else, you may be entitled to “money damages” for your injury. To recover money damages, you must ordinarily prove all three of these things:  
 
1. Another person either did something that a reasonable person
would not have done, or failed to do something a reasonable person would have done. ( Sometimes this is done deliberately or recklessly. Sometimes this happens because of carelessness, also known as “negligence”.)
 
 2. You were physically or emotionally injured, or your property was damaged, as a direct (“proximate”) result of that deliberate, reckless, or negligent conduct, or failure to act reasonably.
 
3. You are legally entitled to money damages because of that injury or damage.
 
Not every wrongful act results in injury. (A drunk driver runs through a red light, but you are able to get out of the way in time.) And your are not entitled to recover money for every injury. (If you buy certain car insurance, you may give up your right to sue for pain, unless a very serious injury involving permanent or long lasting disability or disfigurement is involved.) There are also limits on what you can recover if the person who caused the injury is a state, county, or local government employee.  Finally, if you are injured at work, special “worker’s compensation” rules may apply.
 
If you believe you or someone close to you has been injured through the fault of someone else, it is important to get legal advice as soon as possible after emergency medical treatment has been taken care of. It is important to take photos and measurements, and locate and interview witnesses as quickly as possible. As time passes, the accident scene changes, witnesses move, memories fade, and evidence disappears. It is also important to notify all insurance companies that may be involved. Insurance companies often try to deny coverage if  not properly notified right away.
 
You may also lose important rights if you fail to act quickly. For example, if an accident takes place at work, your employer must be notified right away, and certain written reports must be filed within a matter of days. If an accident is caused by most state, county, local government or public school employees, or even employees of certain government agencies you never heard of (like water utility or environmental commissions), your claim can be lost if you do not properly file a certain form within 90 days. In New Jersey, most lawsuits which claim money damages for personal injury must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.  In certain rare cases, such as in a claim of negligence against a doctor, a claim can be filed two years after you discover the negligence. But proving a delay in discovering negligence is often difficult and uncertain.
 
We charge a one third contingent fee on most claims for personal injury. We must also be repaid for the moneys we advance on your behalf for filing fees, deposition transcripts, investigations, medical records, etc. Whether or not we take cases on a contingent fee basis, and whether or not we ask you to advance some or all of the expenses of the lawsuit depends on the strength of your case, the amount of money involved, and whether the person you are suing has insurance or sufficient funds to pay if we are successful. 



LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION 

Question:  
Can I sue for harassment at work?
 
Answer:
This New Jersey law (NJSA 10:5-1) makes unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire you, or discriminate against you for certain “unlawful” reasons. These include  “race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, or because of the liability for service in the Armed Forces, etc.” If a court finds that you were discriminated against for such reasons, you may recover your lost wages, damages for emotional distress and punitive damages and your legal fees. However, these cases are often difficult.  Most larger companies are very careful to protect themselves against such lawsuits. Often, your co-workers will be afraid to cooperate with you. And in some fields, you may be better off moving to another company, than be known as a “troublemaker” throughout your industry. Finally, most workers who lose their jobs because discrimination have very limited funds, and can only hire attorneys willing to take the case on a “contingent fee” basis. Because law firms get paid nothing if they lose such a case, they are only take on cases with a strong likelihood of success. If you think you are a victim of discrimination on the job, it is important to discuss your situation with a lawyer before you quit, or do or say anything that puts your job in jeopardy.

THE “WHISTLEBLOWER” LAW (CONSCIENTIOUS EMPLOYEE PROTECTION ACT:  

This New Jersey Law (NJSA 34:19-1), makes it unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you on the job because you object to activities or policies on the job that violate the law, cheat or deceive customers, co-workers, or investors, provide improper care to patients, or otherwise violate the public policy of New Jersey.  If you are punished, fired, or not promoted for objecting to or refusing to do unlawful things described in this law, you must sue within one year.  If you win your case, you can be reinstated with back pay, obtain other damages for emotional distress and punitive expenses, and your employer may be ordered to pay your legal fees. As with Law Against Discrimination cases, “Whistleblower” cases are often difficult. Most larger companies are very careful to protect themselves against such lawsuits. Often, your co-workers will be afraid to cooperate with you. And in some fields, you may be better off moving to another company, than be known as a “troublemaker” throughout your industry. Finally, most workers who lose their jobs because they are “whistleblowers” have very limited funds, and can only hire attorneys willing to take the case on a “contingent fee” basis. Because law firms get paid nothing if they lose such a case, they are only take on cases with a strong likelihood of success.  If you think you are a victim of discrimination on the job, it is important to discuss your situation with a lawyer before you quit, or do or say anything that puts your job in jeopardy.

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT”:  

Many people want to sue their employer because their boss and co-workers don’t give them proper training, guidance, or respect, or treat them unfairly.   However, not every unpleasant work situation is a “Hostile Work Environment” as defined by law. “Hostile Work Environment claims are usually made under the Law Against Discrimination or the Whistleblower Law. In such a case, the employee claims that although the employer is not directly discriminating or retaliating against him or her in violation of one of those laws, the employer is indirectly allowing co-workers to do so.  


BANKRUPTCY

Question:  I am overwhelmed with debt.  What can I do?
 
Answer:
If you are experiencing financial problems, you may want to consider
exercising your right to file for protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code. For many people who have debt problems, bankruptcy provides an opportunity to obtain a “fresh start.” But, bankruptcy is not for everyone. Based on your individual financial circumstances, bankruptcy may not be the right choice for you.
 
The decision to file for bankruptcy is a serious choice.  It is a remedy that may affect your credit and may affect your ability to use the bankruptcy code at a future time. Be sure to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of bankruptcy with an experienced bankruptcy law attorney.

When You File Bankruptcy

If you decide to seek bankruptcy relief, you can represent yourself, you can hire an attorney to represent you, or you can get help in some localities from a bankruptcy petition preparer who is not an attorney.
 
Bankruptcy law is highly complex and technical. The Law Firm of Seth
Grossman strongly recommends that anyone who is considering filing bankruptcy use an experienced bankruptcy law attorney. In most cases, it is a serious mistake to file bankruptcy on your own or through a bankruptcy petition preparer, who is not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice.  
 
You can choose the kind of bankruptcy that best meets your needs, provided you meet certain qualifications. There are actually four (4) chapters under the bankruptcy code which are available to individual consumer debtors. However, most people file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
 
Before filing a bankruptcy case, either you or your attorney should analyze your eligibility for the different forms of debt relief available under the Bankruptcy Code and which form of relief is most likely to be beneficial to you.  Be sure you understand the relief you can obtain and its limitations.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 is designed for debtors in financial difficulty who do not have the ability to pay their existing debts.  
 
The purpose of filing a chapter 7 case is to obtain a discharge of your existing debts.  A discharge is a court order which states that you do not have to pay most of your debts. Most consumer debts, such as credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc., are dischargeable in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.  
 
However, some debts cannot be discharged. For example, you cannot discharge debts for child support, alimony, most student loans, court fines and criminal restitution, personal injury caused by driving drunk or while under the influence of drugs.  
 
Income taxes may or may not be dischargeable depending on when the taxes were due and whether you filed your tax returns. For the most part, if the income taxes were due more than three (3) years ago and you filed a complete and accurate return for the relevant tax year at least two (2) years prior to your bankruptcy filing,  then the income taxes would be dischargeable.
 
Under chapter 7, you may claim certain of your property as exempt. In other words, this property would be protected from attachment by your creditors or the chapter 7 trustee. If you have any property that is not exempt under the bankruptcy code, the chapter 7 trustee may have the right to take possession of and sell the non-exempt property and use the sale proceeds to pay your creditors.  
 
Before deciding to file bankruptcy, you should consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney or other bankruptcy professional to determine whether your assets fit within the bankruptcy exemptions.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 is designed for individuals with regular income who would like to pay all or part of their debts in installments over a period of time ranging from three to five years.  
 
An individual may choose to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is to avoid foreclosure proceedings against a home.  If you are behind on your mortgage payments or real estate tax payments, Chapter 13 offers you an opportunity to save your home from foreclosure.
 
By filing under Chapter 13, individuals can stop foreclosure proceedings and may cure delinquent mortgage payments over time. Nevertheless, they must still make all mortgage payments that come due during the Chapter 13 plan on time.
 
You may also choose to file a Chapter 13 plan to stop the repossession of a motor vehicle, protect any non-exempt assets, discharge a debt which may not be dischargeable in a Chapter 7 (such as DMV surcharges), or because you are not eligible to file under Chapter 7.

Where to Find Additional Information about Your Rights under the United States Bankruptcy Code

To obtain additional information regarding your rights under the United
States Bankruptcy Code, you may visit the website of the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey at www.njb.uscourts.gov.   
 
You may also contact the Law Firm of Seth Grossman and speak to one of our qualified bankruptcy attorneys.  Our initial consultations are always free.  
 
If you decide to retain the services of our firm, your attorney will explain our fees and provide you with a written fee agreement.  In most cases, our fees may be paid in installments. Our current fee schedule for bankruptcy matters is as follows:
 
Basic Chap. 7 (One person) $1,400.00
Basic Chap. 7 (A qualifying couple) $1,600.00
Chap. 7 Bus. Owners/Self-employed $2,135.00
Basic Chap. 13     $2,700.00
Chap. 13 Bus. Owners/Self-employed $3,110.00
   
The Law Firm of Seth Grossman is a debt relief agency. We help people file bankruptcy under the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Disclaimer

While the information provided on this website is accurate, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It should not be used as a substitute for reference to the United States Bankruptcy Code (Title 11, United States Code) and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, or to the local rules of practice adopted by each bankruptcy court. Finally, the information set forth on this website should not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel


DIVORCE

Question:  I cannot bear living with my husband/wife anymore?  What can I do?
 
Answer:
New Jersey is a “no-fault”divorce state. You can still get divorced  by claiming your spouse is at fault for the failure of the marriage. You can sue for divorce by reason of adultery, habitual drunkenness, drug use, or three months of “extreme cruelty”, etc. by your spouse. But most people today ask that they be divorced for such “no fault” reasons for the divorce as “18 months of separation” or “6 months of irreconcilable differences”. Even “extreme cruelty” has become a “no fault” grounds for divorce in New Jersey. Most judges today grant divorces based on subjective feelings of extreme “mental cruelty” for the same bickering and arguing  that are normally found in healthy marriages
 
Because New Jersey is a no fault state, our judges usually don’t care who was at fault for the break-up of the marriage. This is partly because it is difficult, if not impossible to know which “bad conduct” by one spouse caused the break-up, and which “bad conduct” is a reaction to “bad conduct” by the other spouse. Very often both spouses  share in the responsibility. Usually the judge simply agrees that such a couple should not be married to each other anymore, and treats the case like the break-up of a business partnership. And they try to do what is best for the children.
 
Here are the main issues that come up in most divorces:

1.  Alimony:  

When once spouse has become financially dependent on the other during a marriage, the other must often pay “spousal support” or alimony. This is described in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 of New Jersey’s divorce law. The spouse who pays alimony deducts alimony payments from his or her personal income. The spouse who receives alimony is taxed on it like any other income. There are several types of alimony:
 
A. Traditional “Permanent Alimony” is often awarded to a wife who gives up her career to have children shortly after the marriage. After more than a dozen years of marriage, the Husband has climbed the career ladder, while the Wife is making substantially less working part-time, or low-skill jobs. This is because the Wife is responsible for picking up the kids from school, and taking them to various activities. The Husband is ordered to pay to Wife enough money to maintain something close to her previous lifestyle. (Normally, both parties to a divorce have poorer lifestyles, because their combined income is the same, but they must now maintain two separate households.) Even though this is called “permanent” alimony, the divorce judgment should provide that it end if the dependent spouse remarries, or cohabits with an unrelated person of the opposite sex in an arrangement similar to a marriage.
 
B.  Rehabilitation Alimony:  This alimony is often awarded where one spouse is temporarily earning less than the other, but is expected to earn much more in a short period of time. Rehabilitation Limited Duration Alimony is often awarded to help a temporarily dependent spouse pay for vocational training or college tuition, and to maintain that spouse until he or she is able to earn more.-------
 
C. Reimbursement/Limited Duration Alimony:  The classic
example of this type of alimony is where a medical student marries a nurse. The nurse supports the medical student for six years of medical school. When the medical student graduates and becomes a well-paid doctor, he divorces his wife. In that case,  the wife is not financially dependent on her husband, but she is entitled to be reimbursed for the financial support she gave him when he was in medical school.
 
D. Material Change in Circumstances:  Ordinarily each party has the right to obtain changes in the amount of alimony if there is a “Material Change in Circumstances” after the divorce judgment or settlement is made.  A typical change of circumstance is where the paying spouse gets sick and is no longer able to work, or where the receiving spouse wins the lottery and no longer needs support. However, to avoid such uncertainty, parties in a divorce often give up their right to apply for such relief, and agree to pay and receive the agreed amounts, regardless of what happens in the future.

2. Child Support:   

In most cases, child support is determined by Child Support Guidelines found in Appendix IX of the New Jersey Rules of Court. In the words of the Court:  
 
“The premise of these guidelines is that (1) child support is a continuous duty of both parents, (2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and (3) children should not be the economic victims of out-of-wedlock birth. The economic data and procedures of these guidelines attempt to simulate the percentage of parental net income that is spent on children in intact families”.
 
 A.  Child Support Amounts:  Worksheets are generated by
computer programs to determine child support.  Here is a typical child support calculation. If Father earns $600 per week, and Mother earns $400, the parties have a combined income of $1,000 per week. The Father earns 60% of the Family Income. If there is one child of the marriage, the total support obligation of both parents is $232 per week, and Husband pays 60% of that amount, or $139.20 per week.  If there are two children, the combined weekly obligation is $317 per week, and Husband pays his 60% share, or  $190.20 per week. If the children are teenagers, Husband must pay a little more. If the Wife must pay $200 per week for daycare or babysitting in order to work, Husband must also pay 60% of that expense. If Husband is also paying alimony to Wife, Husband’s income is decreased by the amount of the alimony and Wife’s income is increased.  
 
The income of the paying spouse has a great effect on the amount of child support paid, while the income of the receiving spouse has very little effect. Therefore, in child support (not alimony) cases, the paying parent usually gains very little by proving the receiving spouse in earning more money than she claims.
 
B.  How long does child support continue?   Each parent must
contribute to the support of each of their children until that child is
“emancipated”. Very few children today are “emancipated” on their 18th
birthday. A child can be emancipated as early as age 16 if the child is legally married at that time, or as early as age 17 if the child joins the military at that time. But if a child goes to medical school, the child may not be emancipated until as late as age 26. Details on how long and much a divorced parent must pay for a child’s education after high school is described in a New Jersey Supreme Court case known as Newburgh vs. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). The issue of when a child is emancipated is often difficult and uncertain. Many parents who pay child support cause themselves great expense and difficulty by simply stopping child support payments when they believe a child is emancipated. The fact is that every court ordered child support obligation continues until it is modified or ended by a new court order.

3.  Equitable Distribution.  

NJSA 2A:34-23 states that when parties are divorced, the court may “effectuate an equitable distribution of the property, both real and personal” which was acquired by the parties, or either of them during the marriage. Although the law says  “equitable”, and not equal, distribution New Jersey courts normally divide marital property equally, unless there are special reasons for favoring one spouse. The fact that property is titled in the name of one spouse only  is not usually significant. Neither is the fact that one party contributed more to the purchase of an item. Husbands and Wives are normally deemed to be 50-50 partners where the lower earning spouse is deemed to have equally contributed to the marriage in ways other than money.
 
A. Property acquired by either party before the marriage is
usually not subject to equitable distribution, although sometimes, such property is deemed to have been acquired  “in contemplation of the marriage”. Property acquired by gift or inheritance is normally not subject to equitable distribution.
 
B.  Very often, the house is the only significant asset in a
marriage.  
Since it is rarely practical to physically divide this asset, and since it a mother with small children often cannot afford to live anywhere else, the sale of the marital home is often delayed until  the children finish school. Until that time, the expenses of maintaining the house are shared equitably.

4. Custody and Visitation of  Children:  

Divorce cases where parents cannot agree on the “Parenting Plans” for their children are usually very painful, difficult, and expensive. When a divorcing couple has unemancipated children, they are immediately referred to a divorce mediation program sponsored by the Court. The mediators in this program are usually well-trained and experience and do much to encourage parties reach fair settlements of issues affecting their children. But if a settlement cannot be reached the, judge usually orders the parties to pay for one or more very expensive experts to evaluate the child or children, and make recommendations to the court.  Few middle class people can afford these experts. Unfortunately neither the judge nor the experts know or understand your children as well as you do. At the end of these cases, both parents and the children are usually unhappy with the final decision of the judge. Often, the parties return to court over many disputes concerning the children for years after the divorce is granted.

5. Domestic Violence: 

If a spouse or household member is a victim of “domestic violence”, that person can get relief from the Superior Court of New Jersey during normal business hours, and from any municipal court or law enforcement agency during any other times. Domestic violence is described in NJSA 2C:25-17. and at the  New Jersey Judiciary Web Site at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/family/fam-06.htm. If the court believes
that a person is in danger of domestic violence, it can issue a restraining order keeping that person’s spouse or other family member away from the house and the person bringing the complaint. A hearing is then scheduled later so that a judge can hear both sides, and determine whether or not the other party committed an act of domestic violence. Some domestic violence cases are often very difficult, uncertain, and unpredictable, because there is often no evidence other than the testimony of the two parties involved. Sometimes,  parties misuse the Domestic Violence laws to get an unfair advantage in a divorce case. For these reasons, we recommend that parties live in separate places before starting a divorce action.

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REAL ESTATE  CONTRACTS  

Questions:  I am buying/selling a house.  When should I hire a lawyer?
Answer:  Before you sign any agreement!
No agreement to purchase real estate is enforceable, unless it is in writing. And no bank or mortgage company will process a mortgage unless there is a written agreement of sale. Therefore everyone who buys or sells real estate makes an Agreement of Sale. Here are some important facts to know about making an Agreement of Sale:
 
1. There is no such thing as a “standard” contract.  Some contract forms tend to favor buyers.  Others tend to favor sellers. Others tend to favor the realtors who put the deal together.
 
2. There is no automatic right to cancel a real estate contract
within three days.
 Only contracts prepared by real estate brokers/agents are required to have a three day attorney review clause. This clause allows a New Jersey attorney to disapprove a contract within three days from the day it was signed and delivered. There is often uncertainty and confusion as to when signed contracts were properly delivered to both parties.
 
3.  Our office charges $150 to disapprove a contract.  We do this
because the notice must be prepared and delivered in a very precise way, and because there is very limited time to act. Sometimes we refuse to take on such work when someone fails to instruct us to disapprove a contract until the last possible moment. Sometimes our job is made difficult because the agreement does not contain the full mailing addresses of the parties and the realtors.
 
4.  Having an attorney disapprove a real estate contract three days later, often causes much resentment and ill-will on the part of the realtors and the other party. Sometimes this results in that party buying or selling with someone else, or putting more unfavorable terms in the contract.
 
5. For the above reasons, we always recommend that clients let us review their real estate contracts BEFORE they are signed by both parties. This way, we can easily make needed changes to the contracts by adding or removing language and initialing the changes.
 
6.  Many clients do not consult with a lawyer until after they have signed the contract and after the three day attorney review period has passed. These clients believe it is important to have an attorney at closing, but not for the making of the Agreement of Sale. The fact is that the opposite is often true. At closing or settlement, the parties simply carry out the terms of the contract. If you have a bad contract, you will have problems at settlement even if you have brilliant lawyer there.
 
7.  Is it necessary to have a lawyer at closing?  It is our experience that having a lawyer makes a difference to protect your interests at about one third of all closings, and that a lawyer simply makes things go a little more smoothly at the other two thirds of closings. Unfortunately, we never know which closings require our attention until we get there.
 

NEW JERSEY LANDLORD-TENANT LAW  

Question:  I want to rent out my vacation house/condo/basement apartment.   Do I need a lawyer?
Answer: Yes!!!
New Jersey law has some very specific laws on renting out property to residential tenants. Here are some of them.
 
1.  Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.): Many towns do not allow you to rent out your property unless you have received a Certificate of Occupancy for renting from a local official. It is important to check with the City Clerk and Building Inspector or Code Enforcement Official of your town before renting out all or part of any residential real estate you may own.
 
2.  When you do get permission to rent out your unit, be very careful before you give keys to your tenant or allow your tenant to take
possession of your property:
--------------
 
a.  Make sure you check the background of your tenant, and check references and previous landlords.
 
b.  Make sure the tenant signs a lease and pays all money before he or she moves in.
 
 c.  The lease should contain a number of critical terms. For example, it should specify name each specific person who is allowed to occupy the unit. It should specify that late fees and attorney fees should be charged if the tenant did not pay rent or otherwise broke the terms of the lease—and it must specifically deem those fees to be “additional rent to be due and payable immediately’.
 
d.  In New Jersey, you are only allowed to keep  a security deposit of not more than 1 and month’s rent. You must place that deposit in an interest bearing account in a local bank, and give your tenant written notice of the name and address of the bank where the deposit is kept.
 
e.  If your residential tenant is late in making rent payments, or breaks any part of the lease other than his or her  obligation to pay rent, you cannot simply change the locks and evict the tenant. You cannot even sue for possession in landlord tenant court.  Instead, you send out certain written notices.
 
f.  If your tenant has failed to pay rent, or if your tenant has failed to comply with other sections of the lease, and if you sent your tenant the proper written notice, it will take you roughly one month to get into court, and another three weeks to have the tenant physically evicted after the court date. Therefore, if a tenant fails to pay rent when due, or breaks some other obligation, you must take action within a week, or you may find that you will never recover any lost money.
 

WILLS

Question:  Should I hire a lawyer to make a will?

Answer:  Yes.  
A very small mistake can make a will invalid. And there are many important decisions to make in even a simple will. We only charge $200 to prepare a simple will, and $150 extra to prepare a simple “mirror” will for a spouse. Most of our clients find that the information and advice we give in preparing their wills is worth the price.
 
If you die without a will, the state government uses its plan to distribute your property. Usually, this is fair. If you are married without children, your spouse gets 100% of your estate. If you are married with children, your spouse gets the first $50,000, and your spouse and the children share everything else 50-50. Your surviving spouse will be appointed to administer the state, but she will be force to post a bond that will be very expensive and difficult to get. Also, if any of your children are minors, they will receive their full share of the estate as soon as they are 18 years old.
 
If you wish to distribute your estate in a different manner, you must prepare a written will that is signed by you in the presence of two witnesses who also sign.  To avoid the need to produce one of those witnesses to prove the validity of the will, you can prepare a “self-proving will” by signing the will with the two witnesses in the presence of a notary public. Your will can specify that persons other than your wife and children receive your estate (although your wife must receive at least 1/3 of your property).  You can also name your own executor to administer the will, and you can specify that this person not post bond. You can also require that your children be 21, 25 or some other age before receiving your property.----
 
A will written completely in your own handwriting may be valid, but when you are no longer alive, it may be difficult to prove your handwriting. Your will should be kept in a safe place, and not accessible to anyone left out of the will. If the original signed will cannot be found after your death, the court may fail to recognize it. A photocopy may not be enough. A will does not have any legal effect until it is admitted to probate (recognized) by the Surrogate of the County where you live. That cannot be done until ten days after your death.
 

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

Question: If I have a will, do I also need a durable power of attorney?
Answer: Yes.
 
A will appoints someone to take care of your property after your death. However, a Durable Power of Attorney addresses the issue of becoming mentally or physically impaired. If you become mentally or physically unable to take care of your affairs and do not have a Durable Power of Attorney, the people named in your will have no right to take care of your affairs. Instead, they would have to go through a very expensive and unpleasant procedure to have you declared incapacitated, and to have themselves appointed as your guardian.
 
To avoid that proceeding, you can prepare a simple document called a
Durable Power of Attorney. Our office charges $150 to prepare that document. With a Durable Power of Attorney, you can name which people should manage your financial affairs if you were to become incapacitated, and specify what they can and cannot do.
 

ADVANCED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE (LIVING WILL):

The 2001 tragedy of Terri Schiavo shows the importance of having an Advanced Health Care Directive. Terri’s husband wanted to discontinue medical treatment. Her parents wanted it to continue. Because Terri Schiavo herself never made her wishes known through an Advanced Health Care Directive, the case dragged out in the local courts, went to the Florida Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, and even to the U.S. Congress.  As a result, Terry Schiavo’s family was torn apart and put through great financial hardship. You can avoid this problem by having us prepare a simple document at a cost of $150.