Frequently Asked Questions

General Law Questions

When should I hire an attorney?

You should hire an attorney when you are uncertain of your legal options or need assistance in protecting your legal rights. It is generally better to speak with an attorney when a legal issue arises than to wait for the problem to become a crisis. The best use of an attorney is at the planning stage to preserve all your options.

What should I look for in an attorney?

Your attorney should be knowledgeable and experiences in the area of law for which you seek assistance. You should have the ability to communicate directly with the attorney and feel confident that your needs are being met.

Bankruptcy Law Questions

How do I know which bankruptcy Chapter to file?

There are two common Chapters for individuals seeking bankruptcy protection. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation type of bankruptcy in which the individual is seeking a discharge. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization over a 3-5-year period, in which the debtor pays into a plan to address secured, priority tax debts, and unsecured debts over time. Knowing which type of bankruptcy case to file can be rather complicated. Business bankruptcy options can be more complicated. You should speak with an attorney to evaluate all your financial circumstances before filing a bankruptcy.

How often can I file for bankruptcy?

If you filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a discharge within the last 8 years, you would need to wait at least 8 years before filing a new Chapter 7 bankruptcy to be eligible for a discharge. Chapter 13 cases do not have the same type of restriction, but the timing of a second Chapter 13 case being filed can affect whether you are eligible to get the benefit of the "automatic stay" to prevent collection actions by a creditor, such as a foreclosure proceeding.

Can I file for a bankruptcy on some of the accounts I owe, or do I have to include all of them?

The decision to file for bankruptcy includes all your assets, all your income, and all your debts. You may not selectively choose to include or exclude certain debts. However, the treatment of certain debts in a bankruptcy proceeding may be different. For example, you may choose to keep paying on a mortgage loan to keep your house and choose to stop paying on a vehicle loan for an automobile that you will surrender.

How are taxes and student loans treated in bankruptcy?

Certain debts such as federal, state, and local income taxes, and federally insured student loans are presumed to be non-dischargeable. There are special rules relating to taxes and student loans that you should discuss with an attorney.

What are the differences between secured and unsecured debt?

Secured debt is an obligation owed to a creditor that has a lien on your asset. The asset is considered "collateral" to secure payment on the debt. The most common forms of secured debt are mortgage loans and vehicle loans. An unsecured debt is an obligation owed to a creditor without collateral. Typically credit card debts and medical debts are unsecured. Secured debts and unsecured debts are treated differently in bankruptcy proceedings.

Can I file for bankruptcy and stop a lawsuit against me?

The filing of a bankruptcy immediately stops all collection efforts against you. Federal bankruptcy law includes an "automatic stay," preventing any further lawsuit or collection effort, such as a wage garnishment or bank attachment from going forward.

Estate Planning Questions

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a person's effort to make arrangements for their loved ones in advance of their death. Estate planning avoids having a probate court try to guess a person's intention if they do not have a will or trust in place. Estate planning can include a will, trust, power of attorney, living will, and health care power of attorney.

When do I need to make an estate plan?

Many people are motivated to create an estate plan when they get married and/or have children. However, it is beneficial for everyone to have an estate plan in place to establish a person's intentions relating to inheritance and end of life planning.

My loved one has passed away. What do I do?

When a person dies, certain assets may automatically transfer to named beneficiaries under a life insurance or investment account. Other assets may transfer outside of probate court, such as joint and survivorship real estate or property recorded to transfer on death. All other property is generally transferred through a probate court proceeding. The probate court has the authority to transfer assets that are identified in a will. Without a will, the court must rely on some default rules of inheritance.

Please contact Michael A. Steel at Steel & Company Law Firm to fully assess your situation

The information contained in this website is provided for general information purposes only and should not be constructed as legal advice on any subject matter. An attorney/client relationship has not been created by the submission of an inquiry or by viewing this website.