When to get an attorney and when not to get one!

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To Hire or Not to Hire?


“Your Honor, I object!” How many times have you heard that on a TV show? Often times the judge’s response is along the lines of “On what grounds?” It is then the attorney’s job to explain why he thinks what the other attorney is doing is wrong. The reasons can range anywhere from leading the witness, to badgering the witness, to showing off. The fact of the matter is, however, that it is the attorneys who know what to look for in these cases.


It is their job, and they have received a high level of training in order to make themselves qualified for the position of defending you. The question many people ask themselves, especially in today’s economy, is “when do I get an attorney involved?” The truth is, attorneys are expensive, and many times people don’t see a need for them.


If a person has the time to do his own research and the case is not a serious one, a diligent person could probably run the case mostly on his own. But how many people have the time to thoroughly do the necessary research? How many people even know where to start when it comes to researching their case?


Most of the time, people who try to run their case on their own tend to create a bigger mess than they had to begin with, and wind up hiring a lawyer in the end anyway just to clean up the mess for them. When this happens, fixing the mess often leads to more expenses than would have normally been incurred, and the client would have been better off hiring an attorney from the start.


Some of the benefits of hiring a lawyer are:


  • Getting the work done: That is, after all, what attorneys are being paid to do. They have the resources and the time to focus on the research for your case and have a vast amount of knowledge regarding different cases, so they generally know what they are doing.


  • Resources: Have you ever tried to work your full time job while trying to learn something completely new without a teacher? You just won’t have the time to do one of them properly, and most likely it won’t be your day job. Most law firms are equipped with several attorneys as well as paralegals that have nothing better to do than work on your case. Doing research and determining how specific laws apply to your case is what they are in business for.
  • Education and experience: Lawyers have at least three years of law school, in addition to however many years of work experience they have acquired. This means that they have exposure to obscure cases that may apply to you, in addition to knowing what each law says and how to apply it to your case. They  know what they are doing, and in this business, that is hard to beat.


The only real downside to hiring a lawyer is the cost. However, when you look at the benefits of having an attorney, it is difficult to choose not to. So the answer to the question “When do I get an attorney involved?” is  “As soon as possible.”

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What happens if there is a problem with Probate?

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In Pennsylvania probate is a simple process.  Your attorney will prepare a Petition for Probate and an Estate Information sheet in most counties but in some, like Philadelphia, your attorney must pre-register with the Register of Wills.  The main function of the Register of Wills is to ascertain the correct party to administer the Estate.  If the decedent died with a Will the Register will examine the Will, have the Witnesses sign affidavits if the Will is not self proving and swear in the Executor or Executors.  If the decedent died without a Will the persons that will inherit under the Intestate Laws have the right to be appointed Administrator.  The Register could ask those who want to serve to provide proof of relationship, usually a birth Certificate.  If there is more than 1 party who is named in the Will as Executor or there are more than 1 beneficiary who could serve as Administrator and only 1 of those wants to serve the party who does not wish tom serve must sign a Renunciation before  notary.  Probate in Pennsylvania is usually a simple process and, with the aid of an experienced attorney, it should be completed within an hour.


There are situations where more than 1 person eligible to serve cannot agree or there are questions of the validity of a Will.  This will result in litigation before the Register of Wills.  The Register will not interpret clauses in a Will which may be ambivalent but will only determine if the Weill is valid and the person or persons name in the Will are qualified to serve.  In a case where there is no Will but more than 1 of the Intestate heirs want to serve without the other the Register will determine if one is more qualified to serve.  If the Register finds there is so much animosity between the parties that they neither can serve he will name a neutral party to serve.  The neutral party will retain an attorney to represent him or her, both charging fees.  A contest is commenced either by filing petition for Citation (similar to a complaint in civil court) and the Respondent will be given time to file an answer.  If there is a contest then a hearing will be scheduled before an Assistant Register who will hear evidence and make a determination.  If there is a question of the validity of a Will a party opposing the probate will file a Cavaet requesting the Register not probate the Will.  That will be followed by a hearing similar to the other forms of contest.  Any party can appeal the Register’s decision to the Orphan’s Court division of the Court of Common Pleas.


Although probate is a simple process in most cases it is important that a party be represented by a qualified attorney.  Decisions regarding the information on the Petition for Probate will determine the fee charged by the Register of Wills.  If the Decedent died without a Will and the Administrator does not reside in Pennsylvania a bond must be filed with the Register of Wills which your attorney can arrange to be done at probate.

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Should I retain an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia to guide me through settling an Estate?

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If you had to cross a beautiful meadow but there was a big sign saying “Beware, this is a mine field.  An experienced professional guide is available to guide you through the field and you are guaranteed you will not strike a mine if you retain him.”  Would you risk serious injury, maiming or death to save the fee of the experienced guide?  I doubt it but many people do just that and try to administer Estates without the guidance of an experienced Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphia. Do you know how to marshal a Decedent’s assets, how to find out what assets a decedent owned, how to obtain a federal tax ID number, which obligations can be settled at a fraction of the debt, how to prepare the documents required by the Register of Wills and the Orphan’s Court, how to prepare a Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax return, a United States Fiduciary tax return, a Pennsylvania income tax return?

These are things that must be done even in the smallest Estates.  But retaining an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia can, in addition, reducing the Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes paid by the Estate, you can save future income taxes because of his knowledge of the interrelation of the Inheritance tax and the federal income tax, he can settle debt obligations for a fraction of the claim even through there are enough assets to pay the debt in full, elect to shorten the statute of limitations available to creditors to file claims.  The list goes on and on.  The Administration of an Estate without the guidance of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia is a mine field as the layman will not even be aware of any problems until they strike.  2 recent examples of people who called me because they found my web sight come to mind.  An executor administering an Estate without the guidance of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia made decisions on her Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax returns designed to save Inheritance tax.  She was unaware of the effect that made on the Estate’s income tax until she was presented with a very large bill from the IRS.

Another example was an Administrator who believed she was the Decedent’s next of kin, transferred the Decedent’s home to herself and, when she had it under agreement of sale found out that she was required to get the Orphans’ Court’s permission and ended up loosing the house. These and other horror stories are too common and they could have been avoided by retaining an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia.  Avoiding situations like the ones described here are part of the routine services that are offered by an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia.

I accept fees based upon a fee schedule setting forth the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and/or the Pennsylvania Attorney general. These fees are based upon the size of the gross estate and start at 7% of the first $25,000 of the gross estate.  That means that if your gross estate is $25,000 the fee will be $1,750 leaving $23,500 to pay debts, taxes and inheritance.  The percentage falls as the value of the estate grows.  The fee also reduces as the Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphia saves you Inheritance taxes, income taxes and settles debts at a fraction of the face value.  Please do not walk into a mine field but retain the services of an experienced Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphia to make sure the path is easy and safe.

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How does an Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphiaset fees?

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Our courts have ruled that Estate Lawyers inPhiladelphiacan only charge reasonable fees. Of course that leaves the key question of what is a reasonable fee up in the air.  Our courts take into consideration the complexity of the Estate, the time expended by the Estate Lawyer, his or her experience and education as factors.

All Estates require certain routine services to be preformed.  The question of a fee’s reasonableness is reviewed in every Estate by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue in reviewing Inheritance Tax returns and the Pennsylvania Attorney General when a charity is involved.  Both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and the Attorney General have guidelines as to the reasonableness of an attorney’s fee based upon the size of the gross estate, but they will not publish those guidelines. In 1980 a Judge wrote an opinion in the Johnson Estate case that attached the guidelines of either the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue or the Attorney General to it.

Both the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue deny the Johnson Estate fee schedule is their 1980 guidelines but admit they are pretty close.   Although there are no higher court rulings a number of Orphans’ Court judges have ruled that the Johnson Estate Fee schedule will be accepted as a reasonable fee for an attorney performing routine services in an Estate.  If the fee is larger than the Johnson Estate fee schedule the attorney will have to demonstrate he or she was required to spend more time because non-routine services were required, usually litigation between beneficiaries or taxing authorities.  I will agree to a fee for routine services based upon the Johnson Estate fee schedule even though it is based upon 1980 rates.  This is because an experienced Estate Lawyer inPhiladelphiahas purchased proprietary soft wear that has reduced the amount of hours required to settle an estate.  I pass this savings on to my clients.

Many clients only look at the gross fee and then compare each fee selecting their attorney based upon fee only.  This is a costly mistake.  The gross fee is not what the services of an attorney cost a client. There are many other factors to consider.  All fees are deductible for Pennsylvania Inheritance tax purposes.  That reduces the fee by between 4.5% and 15%. If you retain the services of and experienced Estate lawyer inPhiladelphiahe will know how to pass his fee through to the beneficiaries so they may deduct it from their personal income taxes and therefore reduce the fee further with their tax savings.  Further, an experienced estate lawyer in Philadelphia can settle certain debts at a fraction of the amounts owed even through the Estate has more than enough funds to pay the obligation in full.  I have represented clients in Estates where the savings were so substantial that the attorney’s fee did not cost the estate anything.  The key to selecting an attorney is not the fee but should take into consideration the attorney’s experience and education and the net cost of the fee.

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How to Pick a Good Attorney, Abowitz Law Offices

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Choosing a lawyer can be a daunting task, as there is so much to consider. Obviously, you want a lawyer who can deliver the best possible results for your case, but preferably without emptying your bank account.


The first step is to identify your needs. Determine what type of case you have — civil, real estate, disability, etc. — and look into the steps needed to file for the case. The more informed you are about the process, the easier it is to know what you need your lawyer to do for you. You must also decide whether you will need a general attorney or a specialized attorney.


Once you have identified what type of lawyer you need, do not be afraid to vocalize your search for one. Referrals can come from anywhere: family, friends, a cashier, teller or loan officer at your bank. Anyone you come in contact with may know the perfect attorney for you.


Of course, you shouldn’t choose a lawyer on reputation alone. There exist many free online referral services, which list local lawyers and their specialties. Sometimes these online services even provide ratings, reviews, and success rates.


Additional referrals include local sources, such as your area’s Chamber of Commerce or especially your local law library. For advice in cases of divorce or adoption, consider non-profit organizations, such as women or family counseling.


After narrowing down your list of prospects, you should contact each attorney and ask to meet them in person. As a general rule, if an attorney doesn’t offer a free face-to-face consultation of at least thirty minutes, it could indicate that they value their time above yours. Likewise, however, when you find one that is willing to meet with you, be sure to come well prepared so as to make the most of your consultation.


Bring an outline of your needs, any pertinent details and all documentation that supports those details. During the interview, try to gauge if the lawyer’s personality is one you will be comfortable working with.


You want legal representation that is confident but not overly so. For example, a capable attorney should be able to outline a basic strategy, but should never guarantee that he can win your case, as it is impossible to guarantee a sure win.


Lastly, the questions you ask could be the deciding factor in your choice. Therefore, it is important to ask how you can contact him with questions or concerns. You want an attorney that is willing to make time for you and your case, so he should indicate a willingness to meet personally with you as needed. Upon request, a good attorney should be able to provide a timetable of how soon the paperwork can be filed.


To keep fees to a minimum some attorneys will allow you to do as much of the research, filing, etc. as possible. Most good attorneys will understand and respect your need to monitor the costs closely.


Armed with this information and a clear plan, choosing the right attorney for you should be a rewarding and less stressful experience.

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Tips for Choosing a Probate Lawyer in Philadelphia

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Are you searching for an experienced Probate Lawyer in Philadelphia? When it comes to selecting someone to deal with the important matters involved in the estate of a deceased loved one or family member, then you need to find someone who is suitable and sensitive to your needs. Below I will explore the top tips for choosing a probate lawyer. With over 1.5 Million people in the City alone, there is a selection of probate lawyers available for you to consider. However finding someone who is both experienced and compassionate can be a challenge, read on to understand my top 5 tips for choosing a probate lawyer:


1)     Research - It is important to learn what types of services a probate lawyer can offer you. You should aim to find someone that can offer both probate advice but also estate planning. By having a broader experience of estate law you can ensure the best experience. You should learn what areas of practice your probate lawyer specializes in such as dealings with complex wills and special needs trusts.


2)     References - Asking around friends and family to see if they have had dealings with a probate lawyer in Philadelphia can be a great help. Alternatively you may also ask the probate lawyer themselves if they have any testimonials or example cases for you to check over.


3)     Location - You don’t want to be driving too far to be having probate meetings and so it is important to choose a probate lawyer that has an office close to your home. Alternatively ask if the probate lawyer can visit you and the other family members if possible.


4)     Qualifications - Experience is more important than qualifications in probate law, however it is worth checking to see if your preferred probate lawyer has any qualifications. You can ask if the probate lawyer is up to date with the latest local probate laws and practices.


5)     Fee Policy - The benefits of using a probate lawyer are invaluable, however all lawyers have a standard fee structure in place. It is important to receive an up-to-date fee policy before you sign anything. You should aim to understand any costs and ask if an initial consultation fee would apply.


I hope that this guide has helped you to understand the importance of research when it comes to finding a probate lawyer in the Philadelphia area.


Considering Estate Lawyer Fees in Philadelphia

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Are you considering hiring an estate lawyer in Philadelphia but are worried about fees? Estate Law can be a complicated process including complicated family wills and probate tax issues. Today I will explore some of the most popular questions you may need answering before contacting your new probate lawyer. Read on to learn more about the most common things you should consider before signing any agreement with an estate lawyer in Philadelphia.


  • Are there any initial consultation fees? – On your first meeting with your estate lawyer you need to ask if there is any cost involved in the initial session. A good experienced Lawyer will not charge you any fee for the initial conference. Use this session wisely to fully understand the fee policy going forward so that you can decide if the estate lawyer is suitable for you.


  • Are there any contingent fees? – During your initial meetings your estate lawyer should be able to predict how long and costly your service will be based on the complexity of your estate and the Will. However it is important to clarify if there will be any contingent fees should things crop up along the process. A good experience  lawyer should not charge any contingent fees other than those outlined in the fee policy.


  • Do you have to sign a fee agreement? - A well-drawn up fee policy agreement is in both your interest and that of the estate lawyer. This is sort of a contract that is signed to agree on the fee prices and time expended in rendered services. This can also be known as an engagement letter. Although it is rare, should anything go wrong with your estate process then you can always come back to reference this agreement.


I hope that I have helped to explain the most important initial questions that you should be looking to consider when signing up with a probate lawyer in Philadelphia. A good experienced lawyer will pay for himself in the long term, however it is important that you fully understand the estate lawyer’s fee policy from the beginning of your journey. Work out the total estimated fees and avoid any estate lawyers that may charge unknown contingent fees. Read your agreement letter carefully before signing and you should be best protected and receive the highest value from your estate lawyer in Philadelphia.


Top 3 considerations for your Estate Planning Lawyer in Philadelphia

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Are you considering formal estate planning in Philadelphia? There can be many important factors to initially discuss with your estate planning lawyer. Today I will explore some of the questions you may experience when searching for a good quality experienced professional. Remember that in Philadelphia, laws may govern whom your estate will be left to without a will, therefore it is vital to have a professional draw up a clear estate will plan. Below are my top 3 considerations to check during your first consultation session:

1. Clear Declaration – Estate Wills can be complex documents and may be often misinterpreted. It is therefore vital to make a clear declaration when estate planning to ensure that everyone understands who gets what. In Philadelphia the law can determine who receives your estate without a Will therefore it is important to make a clear declaration of your wishes, which your estate planning lawyer can provide for you.

2. Discuss Estate Taxes – You may be surprised to learn that the beneficiaries of your estate may be subject to additional estate taxes after you pass. You should discuss these with your estate planning lawyer in Philadelphia, who will be able to explain the options your family and loved ones can try to reduce the amount of these taxes.

3. Consider College Funds – If you would like part of your estate to go to family ones to pay for their future college funds then you need to explain this to your estate planning lawyer. They can write up a bond type agreement to ensure that these funds are held for college education.

I hope that you would have found this information valuable on your search for an estate planning lawyer in Philadelphia. As you can see estate planning is a complex process involving complicated legal documents and you also need to consider other issues such as income taxes and any charitable donations. While you may be able to estate plan yourself, a mistake can be costly and may result in the most important people in your life missing out on what they deserve.

An experience estate planning lawyer in Philadelphia is the best way to cover all these issues. Nobody likes to consider these questions while you are alive and healthy but estate management is important and should not be put off. By following these tips you should be confident of discovering your new estate planning lawyer and enjoy peace of mind for you and your family.

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Why do you need an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia to probate?

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I have found that a number of clients who found me on the Internet have tried to Probate Estates in Philadelphia and surrounding counties because they have tried to go through probate without the aid of a Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia but were unsuccessful. Probate in Philadelphia is relatively simple but there are problems lurking. If the decedent died with a Will that named an Executor you may have to find witnesses who watched the Decedent sign the Will. If they cannot be found and the Will is not self proving (the witnesses and Decedent signing the Will before a Notary) there are alternatives that an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia will easily solve. If there is no Will the right to be appointed administrator passes to those who would inherit under the Pennsylvania Intestate laws. If that is the case the Register of Wills will require documentation in order to appoint an Administrator. If there is more than one person who would have the right to serve and they cannot agree the services of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia is crucial as the ultimate resolution will be the result of a hearing before an Assistant Register of Wills.

An Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia will make the probate process a simple procedure. Those who try to start an Estate without the services of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia can experience delays that result in the ultimate loss of benefits in the Estate administration process. Marketable securities may go down as, without the appointment of a fiduciary, securities cannot be sold and the prices may drop. Real Estate values may drop or the homes that are Estate property can deteriorate or worse, can be vandalized. Insurance on homes can lapse and the Decedent’s automobiles will not be insured if it is driven by anyone other than the appointed fiduciary. The services of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia can expedite this process, saving the Estate time and money.

If anyone who thinks that they can settle an Estate without the services of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia he or she will be fortunate to encounter problems at the very outset that require them to hire an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia as the problems that will be encountered as administration continues can be far more damaging.

I have found that clients retaining me as a result of finding my website on the Internet are concerned about the fees of an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia. As an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia I offer my clients a choice of fees for the routine services required to settle the Estate. The flat fee is based upon a guidelines of either or both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The fee goes down as the value of the gross Estate goes up. As the guidelines are based upon 1979 hourly rates they are very reasonable by 21st century standards. As an Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia you can retain me to settle an Estate knowing what my fee will be for routine services before we even start the probate procedure. The fee is 7% of the first $25,000 of the gross Estate. That means that 93% of the first $25,000 will be available to the beneficiaries of the Estate after the legal fees of an experienced Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia have been paid. The percentage drops to 6% and lower as the value of the Gross estate increases. I will also agree to an hourly fee based upon my billable rate if a client believes this will result in a lower fee. In addition the Estate Lawyer in Philadelphia will save the Estate more by settling some debts at a fraction of the claim, saving Inheritance taxes and Income taxes because of his knowing the interrelation of the tax laws and fulfilling all of the legal requirements of Estate administration. Once we have agreed to a fee that will be set unless there are unusual problems that require litigation or there are disputes among the beneficiaries.