For your convenience, my most common client questions are answered right here.
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Q: Do you charge hourly or a flat fee?
A: It depends. Bankruptcies, Estate Planning and business formation are usually a flat fee (there are some exceptions), Probates and guardianships are usually billed at an hourly rate. If I think I would be a $1,000 solution to a $500 problem, I will tell you up front not to hire me.
Q: What about pro bono? That means free, right?
A: I provide pro bono services in certain limited circumstances, such as volunteering time through community legal services. “But I really need a lawyer!” is not a convincing reason for me to represent you for free, any more than “I really need the money!” is a convincing reason for a bank loan. I work with clients who appreciate the Abraham Lincoln quote: “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”
Q: What is Probate?
A: Probate is an old fashioned term meaning “testing or proving of the Will.” In a nutshell, it means the court process that allows the court to verify the Will is valid, that the person named as Personal Representative (a.k.a. executor) is willing and able, that certain notice requirements are met, and that the estate is properly valued and distributed in the proper order. It involves filing lots of properly-filled-out papers with the court over a period of time (typically a minimum of 4-6 months, though some last for years).
Q: What kind of bankruptcy do I need? Is it right for me?
A: What kind of bankruptcy you need depends on your situation: high income or significant non-exempt assets may prevent you from filing a chapter 7, which is the quickest and least expensive type of bankruptcy. And to be honest, I have talked several clients out of hiring me to file a bankruptcy, for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are mostly “judgment-proof” so creditors cannot recover anything anyway. Sometimes the debts they have incurred are non-dischargeable, like student loans, recent taxes, or criminal fines, and bankruptcy will not do them any good. Sometimes they have a significant, non-exempt asset (like a long haul truck driver’s commercial vehicle) that is worth much more than the exemption allowed by law, and bankruptcy would cause them to lose that asset.
Q: Is there a minimum amount you have to owe before you can file bankruptcy?
A: No. You can file bankruptcy to discharge a dollar’s worth of debt, but it doesn’t make sense to do that. But if you owe more than what it would cost to file a bankruptcy, then maybe it makes sense. We can discuss the pluses and minuses before making any decisions.
Q: Do you charge for consults?
A: No for Bankruptcy consults, yes for other consults. Frequently I can resolve your non-bankruptcy problem or advise you which direction to go during the one hour consult, so I think that’s fair.