Debtors Prison An American Carol

All right, five months ago it is Christmas time. As usual, there was a Christmas Carol movie is playing on a number of different cable stations. I think my three favorite are Bill Murray’s Scrooge, Vanessa Williams’ a Diva’s Christmas Carol and Patrick Steward`s, A Christmas Carol. I think Mr. Steward’s came closest to what Charles Dickens wanted to say. In each movie the main plot was pretty much the same, old greedy Ebenezer Scrooge or a Scrooge type character who refuses to part with a single coin and was out to squeeze every last possible coin from poor souls no matter how or why they got into debt. It did not matter what damage or suffering his greed caused. All that mattered was putting that shiny coin into his pocket.
With that in mind, one of his favorite things to do in getting that coin, in the book, was to buy the debt of others have the unfortunate debtor arrested and jailed as a debt dodge. It didn’t matter if they were employed trying to pay or not. Debt was an actual crime in the 18th and 19th centuries. With his victim in jail, in jail without a trail or due process, Ebenezer would seize and sell their homes, furniture anything with the remotest monetary value, turning the debtors ill parents, wives and children out to suffer in the streets. You know in the real world of the 19th century single and or widowed women with children just as often wound up in debtor’s prison as men did. Debtor’s children and wives were often sent to workhouses and orphanages. Places that were too often a half a step from hell. That is if they weren’t just dumped on the streets after their house was seized.
That would be a scary world to live in wouldn’t it. Thank the Lord we don’t live in such times, right? After all it only happens in fiction and history books, right? I mean such a thing could happen not in today’s America, right?
Wrong Virginia! It is very real! And it could very well happen to you!
Just ask the Minnesota woman, who went to jail over a $250 owed for a credit card she didn’t know she had. Or The Illinois breast cancer survivor who was jailed over a $280 medical bill the hospital told her she didn’t owe. There was a woman sent to jail over a $60 phone bill owed by her husband dead 10 years. Let’s not forget the Kansas City guy who went to jail for $1000 he owed a furniture store after making payment arrangements. This last January a judge sentenced a man in Kenny Illinois to an ‘indefinite jail term’ over $300 he owed a lumber yard.
This doesn’t include to poor souls sent to jail because they didn’t have the money or a job to pay a fine. Only to discover that their $60 fine after 90 days spent in jail is now $6000. After all someone has to pay for the prison, prison guards’, food and uniforms.
After all didn’t one bund ant say “If you were a good person and a favorite of God you would have been born rich?”

Chapter. 7 Bankruptcy

Here we are once again. So as before I am a paralegal, I am not a lawyer. My articles are in no way intended to be, to be taken as, mistaken for legal advice. This is legal information only to help you ask the best questions so you can get the best help from your lawyer. Let’s not forget that when a lawyer of a paralegal becomes involved your problem becomes an ISSUE.

All right you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy. 1st thing 1st, contrary to what crazy republican’s would like you to think bankruptcy is not a bad thing. It is not going to destroy your life, it doesn’t mean you are a failure, or that you’re scammer trying to dodge your debt. All a chapter 7 bankruptcy does to restart you financial life. Kind of like asking for a ‘do over’ when you mess up playing a game.

As for your creditors, all you are doing is using the courts to tell them, “I am sorry I haven’t got it and I can’t get it. So back off.”

Now a bankruptcy is supposed to stay on your credit records for no more than 7 years. The story if you file for and are granted a bankruptcy you will be prevented from getting any credit or loans for 7 years. Plus when you do start getting credit again you will have to pay a much higher interest rate.

That is no longer true.

Will it is somewhat true. When you file your 1st bankruptcy form often called the ‘petition’ you will be unable to get any form of credit or loan until get your bankruptcy ‘Discharge’.
SIDE-NOTE: Don’t panic though. If something bad happens and you need to borrow money you have way to deal with it. You will have to get permission from the trustee though.
However not even 30 days after your ‘Discharge’ you will start receiving credit card offers. Everything from the loan shark offers:
These guys will offer high credit limits with very high interest rates. You miss a payment date with these guys by so much as an hour your interest rates will double sometimes triple. Miss a 2nd one and you could be looking at debtor’s prison.
SIDE-NOTE: Thanks to the crazy republicans and growing privatized prison system here the United States debtors prisons have become a a very real and serious threat in over 24 states. Just ask the breast cancer survivor in Illinois who went to jail 5 days after getting home from the hospital. She was arrested and jailed for a $260 hospital bill. A bill the hospital told her she did not owe. It had cost her father a $1500 to get her out. $260 for the bill she didn’t owe, $600 in legal fees, and $740 for the food she ate, for her Dad and lawyer to be processed in to see her. The rest paid for her stay at the Bar Hotel.

Next week I will talk about what debts are covered by a Chapter 7

PROBATE

All right, once again I am not a lawyer, I am a Paralegal, so anything you read is not to be taken as, construed as, intended to be taken as legal advice.  Let’s not forget when a lawyer or a paralegal becomes involves you problem becomes an issue.

Okay let’s talk about Probate. Probate is a legal system focused on taking care of things after you die. Namely it takes care of who administers and how someone handles your Wills and your Estate after you leave. Simply put, Probate Law will make sure your wishes are followed and no one is cheated.

Let’s start with Wills.  Wills are binding legal documents describing what you would like done after your death.  For example you have an ancient beautiful grandfather’s clock that has been handed down through generations and you want it to go to your great-grandson Eric who has been in love with your clock since he was two.  With a Will you can make sure he gets it. Also if you think there might be a huge fight over your clock and you’re afraid that fight might hurt your family, you can order your clock sold and have the money equally divided among your heirs.  You can also leave directions on how to deal with your physical remains.  If you have children, you can leave directions about who you want to take care of them.

Speaking of wills, let’s talk about a living will.  A living will is once again a legal binding document. It deals with what you want done if things go bad with your health.  You can direct how long you want to be kept on life support, or how far your doctors can go as they try to save your life.  If your heart stops do you want CPR?  Who can make decisions about your care or what life support measures can be used in your care. If can’t think for yourself but don’t need life support who do you want making decisions about your care.

Probate law also covers your life insurance policies. Making sure your loved ones gets their money and what you want done with it gets done.

An Estate is your money, for example bank accounts, even to your last tax refund and personal property such as cars, jewelry and art work. Of course let’s not forget your house.

SIDE-NOTE: Just so you know the infamous Estate Tax as of 2013 does not come into play unless you have property and assets worth over $5,250,000.  I don’t know too many people in my world

with those kind of assets.

SIDE-NOTE; An Asset in the legal world is anything such as a house, car, jewelry bank accounts or stocks and bonds. Or say you have written a book and it sells fairly well. It can be anything as long as it has a money value attached to it.

This is Probate next week I will be getting into the actual costs of the Probate Legal System.

Lawyer & Money 5

Once again, I am not a lawyer, I am a paralegal. Also when a lawyer or a paralegal become your problem becomes an issue.

Getting back to Virtual Firms. When the intake form you filled out online has been downloaded, and has been be evaluated by a paralegal or lawyer. One of 3 things will happen after the evaluation. 1st a paralegal may call you asking for more information about your issue, 2nd a receptionist will call you to set up an appointment with the firm lawyer that is best equipped to deal with your issue, Last if your issue is something like Incorporation, a paralegal will be in contact with you to gather the needed information to correctly create the Incorporation forms after which the forms will be either mailed, faxed or emailed to you. Also, the paralegal will give you the instructions on how to make sure the form is correctly filed when you get to the courts. You will still need to deal with the court costs and filing fees. A lot of Legal documents like Incorporation, a Will, bankruptcy discharge do not become real until they are registered with the court. Unfortunately these fees vary from city to city and state to state. Just wait until I start getting into the money you will need when you and your lawyer actually go to the court house.

Side-Note: The web-site legalzoom specializes as a 3rd type law firm.

Okay, I’ve covered some of the personal expenses faced by your lawyer. I’ve also touched on the support staff used by law firms. I should include the tech support personal your lawyer will need people to keep all the computers and other tech. up and running. I have yet to hear of or meet a judge willing to accept ‘Oh, yeah we had a computer crash’ as a valid excuse. Let’s not forget about the contract support personal like accountants and investigators. All these people want to get paid.
There is additional support personal like experts in different types of evidence that will have to be paid for. Which, I will be getting deeper into later. In the mean time let’s talk about office costs.
Just renting an office costs a small fortune. Let’s say you’ve gone to a small firm located in an older building. Your firm has only 2 or 3 lawyers and only needs about 500 square feet. Smaller than the apartments many people live in. The landlord is a real nice guy and is changing your lawyers only $10 per square foot. Not a lot of money huh?
Well that comes out to $5000 a month and your lawyers haven’t even turned on the power yet. Next worry, equipment for the office. Desks, chairs, filing cabinets and the potted plant. All of which costs money too and I haven’t got into the technology yet.
That’s why a lot of independents work from home. They take over one of the bedrooms or basement and build their office there.
See you Next week

Money & Lawyers 4

As before when a lawyer becomes involved your problem becomes an ISSUE. Also, I am a paralegal not a lawyer.

Side-note: A Casual Business dress style for men is usually a very nice, starched pair of blue jeans, (I am not talking about the $12 Wal-Mart specials) a sport coat and good shirt. (No t-shirts) For women it is a lot more complicated. We are talking about really good dresses, slacks, blouses make up, shoes and so on. Let’s face it is more expensive to be a woman then a man.

Let’s not forget everyday expenses like rent, food, non-work clothes, and even medical expenses. You know, unimportant silly things like that.

Oh yeah, let us not forget about those no big deal student loan payments. After all finance companies are certainly not going to wait until your lawyer finishes his/her boot camp years before student loan companies start collecting. Like I said before these people don’t play. After all the 8% interest your lawyer has to pay on thousands they owe means a lot more money, than the 0.5% interest on the government loans to corporations   have yet to pay on the millions they owe.

So after 5 years of busting ass your lawyer maybe making from between $65,000 to $130.000 per year. This depends on the size and location of the firm your lawyer is working for.  The larger the firm means a larger salary for the associates.

Side-Note:  Associates are the employee lawyers of a law firm, there are firms that have no Associates.  These firms only have 2 or 3 lawyers.

Now depending on the size of the firm there is support personal.  In a super small firm with 2 lawyers there is at least one receptionist/paralegal.  In other firms there will be file clerks keeping hard copies of all the written documents, paralegals, litigation assistants, data entry clerks, evidence clerks (They record and keep track of all evidence, discovery brought to the law firm and what case it relates to.)  All these employees need to be paid. Not to mention the contract employees like investigators. With the advent of the web something new has been added, the Virtual Law firms.

Side-Note: Discovery is almost exactly what it sounds like. It is the forms, documents and evidence opposing law firm submitted to the court or your lawyer. Sometimes your lawyer has to take your opponent to court and force them to grant access to records or material that could prove your case.

Side-note: Intake is the interview performed by a lawyer or more often a paralegal. The interview is an effort to define and gather information about your issue.

Virtual law firms are basically websites.  A lot of intake is now done on the website by filling out a form online which is then downloaded to a firm paralegal to be evaluated, then transferred to the firm lawyer best equipped to handle your issue.

Next week I will get into more of the support staff. Plus I will get into the costs independents face.

Money&Lawyer 3

When a lawyer becomes involved your problem becomes an issue. Also remember I am a paralegal not a lawyer.

Okay, picking up from the last lawyer post. As I said your lawyer is tremendously in debt when s/he starts their career. Now begins the task of paying that debt.  Unlike the movie ‘The Firm’, I doubt very much that your lawyer will have found law firms that will help your lawyer pay off that debt.

More likely if a new lawyer manages to connect up with a law firm s/he is looking at 80 plus hours per week, for the next 2 to 3 years. More often than not your lawyer will have to pull an extra 6 or 7 hours on Saturdays. Then they’ll spend Sundays reading and or writing legal briefs, or legal memos. This is often referred to as Lawyer’s boot camp.

Side-note: A lot of very happy marriages came to an end during those boot camp years.

Now unless your lawyer has graduated from a high and I do mean high-ranking law school.  Plus s/he was in the top 5% of that graduating class. Your lawyer’s salary for the next 2-3 years is going to be $30,000 per year. Just so you know in most law firms for your lawyer to get a sick day during boot camp, s/he or their spouse, or her/his child had better be in intensive care with the mortuary staff standing just outside the room.

Side-note: Being a salaried employee means no matter how many hours you put in you do not get any more money. There is no overtime, no time and a half, no holiday pay, no sick pay, and forget about paid vacations. Your lawyer’s agreed salary is all s/he is going to get until boot camp is over.

The next worry, these new lawyers have are uniforms.   These are specific types of cloths s/he will have to have once the start work at a law firm. I am talking about very nice cloths. You see for lawyers in law firms packaging is everything. Even independent’s worry about packaging but they can break a few more dress codes rules then an attorney working for a law firm.

Side-note: Packaging is how a lawyer presents themselves to the world Let’s be honest the average person is more likely to trust and higher a well dressed, successful appearing lawyer and their paralegal than ones that look like they have been on the street for the last 3 months.

Most of the smaller firms will let their lawyers get away with a style that is called business casual. However, going to court still takes a formal suit and those cost.

Next week I will continue with more start up costs your lawyer faces.