Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy laws serve two main purposes. The first is providing a fresh start for the honest but unfortunate Debtor (you) and the second, provides equal treatment of Creditors (the people you owe). If you file for bankruptcy and follow the Bankruptcy Code rules, bankruptcy law gives you a fresh start by canceling many of your debts through a court order known as a Discharge of Debt. Bankruptcy will allow you to pay your Creditors a portion of what they are owed depending on what you can pay. After bankruptcy, the Discharge of Debt prevents your creditors from trying to collect the remainder of what you owe them.

Discharging a loan is when a loan is released, and you no longer have an obligation to the Creditor to pay it. However, not all debts are discharged in a bankruptcy.

Though most of your debts will be discharged, there are some exclusions within a bankruptcy. If you sustain any debts during your bankruptcy, or failed to include any on your Bankruptcy list then these will not be discharged.

There are few other debts that are excluded from being able to ‘write off’ in your bankruptcy. These can include: alimony and child support, income and property taxes, governmental fines, student loans, and criminal restitution fees.

Other debts that would not be discharged are any charges that have been accrued through fraudulent mannerisms. For example, if you ran up debts right before your bankruptcy was filed or if you took a line of credit out to purchase vacations, or other luxury items, that you knew you could not repay then the Creditor could argue that this debt to not be included in the Discharge. Also, if you illegally obtained credit sources by providing false income statements, this could be held exempt as well.

If a spouse, family member or friend has co-signed on a loan for you, their responsibility to the debt will not be discharged. Even if the debt is discharged on your end, your co-signer will still have to repay the debt as promised, or risk repossession.

The answer to this depends on which chapter of bankruptcy you have filed under. If you have filed, or plan to file, under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should be able to keep the property as long as you continue to make the payments. With Chapter 13 you are able to modify loan agreements, allowing you to make smaller payments, stretch them out, or lower your current interest rates.

If you have filed, or plan to file, under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to determine if you plan to keep or return the property. If you plan to keep the property, you must make a Reaffirmation of Debt Agreement with the Creditor. Reaffirmation of Debt means that you agree to resume the responsibility of the debt after your bankruptcy is complete; the debt will not be discharged. If the agreement is not completed in a timely manner then the Creditor can reclaim the property.

A bankruptcy is reported to all three major credit reporting agencies and will stay on your credit for 7 to 10 years, depending on the Chapter you filed under. Having a bankruptcy on your credit history may increase interest rates or cause lenders to deny you a line of credit. You may also notice that down payments for utilities have been increased or have become mandatory.

Having filed for Bankruptcy can make it difficult to receive a loan. You will be viewed as a high risk to lenders. If you are able to receive a loan you may see a large increase in interest rates available and possible larger repayment requirements.

Filing bankruptcy stops all Creditors from being able to contact you. This means they cannot call you, send you letters, or sue you, and they must immediately stop all collection actions against you. Any current lawsuits will be closed, and Creditors will be unable to repossess or foreclose on property. Some of your debts may be discharged or forgiven. You may also be eligible to renegotiate the terms of some of your loans, which could lead to smaller payments.

Filing for bankruptcy is a last resort to solving your financial problems, but it can provide you with the fresh start you need and dig you out of the debt you are buried under.

Yes. Your federal tax returns should be provided from the year before and the year of your bankruptcy. A copy should be provided to the court, the trustee overseeing your bankruptcy and to each of your creditors. If you refuse to release you tax returns, your bankruptcy case could be denied.

When your Bankruptcy case is closed, you will receive a copy of the order in the mail. Unless a trustee has property to collect and distribute to your creditors, your case will be closed fairly quickly with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. With Chapter 13, your case will not be closed until your payment agreements are finalized with your creditors. However, if payments on are not made on time, the courts will dismiss your case completely and creditors may resume collection actions against you.

Probate & Estate Planning

Probate is a legal process that reviews a loved one’s will when you have passed. The probate process validates the will and assures that it was authentically written. This process also refers to the deceased person’s properties, assets and even his or her debts.
The probate process will occur even without a designated will.

Estate can be defined as any property and financial assets that one has. Estate is typically used to refer to these items when someone has passed away.

Probate estate can include any tangible property, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, or retirement plans that are in the descendants name only or that were jointly owned with another individual.
The administrator of probate will have to determine what is valid and what is not.
An executor is someone you leave in charge of the distribution of your assets, usually through direction in your will or trust. After your passing, the executor will manage your assets during the probate process to assure that your final wishes are executed properly.
You can name any individual you feel is responsible and familiar with your wishes to be the executor of your will. They can be a spouse, adult child, other relative, close friend, business partner, or professional fiduciary.
Not all wills go through probate; however, most states have a simplified process to complete. If the ownership of an asset is transferred from the descendant to a beneficiary, then going through probate is needed to complete this process.
Most of the time, if the property is owned jointly, the property will be transferred to the surviving owner. However, this can be contested within probate.
A trust is a legal entity created by an individual, or grantor, in which they are able to place their assets for ease of transfer. The assets are transferred to the control of another individual, called a trustee, to be held and maintained for a beneficiary. They are commonly used during estate planning to stipulate how and when assets should be distributed. Many individuals use trusts over wills to set aside money and other assets for minor, disabled, or financially irresponsible dependents. Certain types of trusts, like credit shelter trusts or irrevocable trusts, are created to protect assets from creditors or estate taxes.
The executor of your will must notify all inheritors of upcoming probate within 60 days. Then, a statement is filed with the court. Once this is done, it will take approximately 90 days from the notifications being made to see a courtroom. Most beneficiaries receive any payouts within four to nine months, as long as there are no conflicts.
In the State of Florida there is no “inheritance” or estate tax; your estate, however, will be required to pay federal estate taxes if the net worth of the estate is over the exempt amount set by Congress at the time of your passing.

In the State of Florida, if someone passes away without leaving behind a will, then the state will decide how to best distribute your assets. This may be done in a manner in which conflicts with how you would have distributed your estate, which is why estate planning is so important.

Personal Injury

You can benefit from a lawsuit if you or a family member has been hurt due to the negligence or reckless behaviors of another individual. While cases vary, you should contact your attorney to determine if your case meets legal action requirements.

When an individual is being negligent, this means that he or she is not mindful of the safety of others around them. If an injury occurs because an individual fails to regard the safety of the others around them, this can be classified as negligence. When an individual causes damages to another person via their own incident, this can hold them liable for the damages.

When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, most of the time it is to compensate for financial burdens or painful experiences that have occurred due to an incident that the neglectful party has somehow caused. A lawsuit can hold an individual accountable for their wrongful actions that have resulted in your injuries. Some examples of compensation can be: pain and suffering costs, loss of income, loss of your inability to complete job related tasks, medical bills, and even restitution for a spouse or family member’s wages if they were required to take off from work to care for you.

Determining how long a personal injury lawsuit will take is nearly impossible. The length of a lawsuit varies from case to case, and can depend on the willingness of both parties to reach a settlement, the amount of discovery or motions filed, and how much the case is fought in court. If your lawsuit is uncontested, it could only take a few months, however, if it is contested (and most are) it could take up to several years.

In the State of Florida, an individual only has a short amount of time to file and receive compensation for injuries they have sustained before the statue of limitations expires. This statute of limitations is four years from the date of injury.

You should always speak to an attorney and file as soon as you are able to. Waiting too long can complicate your claim for compensation, risks loss of memory or witnesses, and risks the chance of losing evidence.

This is different from area to area; legalities will be different in each jurisdiction. Sometimes, based on your determined level of fault, you may still be able to collect some compensation. However, in other areas you may not be. Contact your attorney today for a free case evaluation to see where you stand.

Not every case is the same, therefore, we cannot give you an exact number of what your case is worth. However, personal injury lawsuits are dependent on five things: previous and current medical costs, future medical needs, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Your attorney at Merritt Law Office should be able to give you somewhat of a rough estimate after medical records, police statements, witness statements, and proof that your accident has affected your life negatively have been received.

Not without consulting an attorney. You should always contact a lawyer to protect yourself from settling early with an insurance company who has no plans on doing anything other than protecting themselves. If you were to sign a release, this could create issues with getting any future compensation if the need occurs. This includes future medical costs, and problems that may arise due to the injury. Even if it seems like a good idea, it isn’t.

Just because you are fully covered on insurance, does not mean that they are responsible to pay for everything. While most people assume they have full coverage, there are some things that your insurance will not be responsible for paying. For example, if the other party cannot pay for your injuries, there may be a clause in your coverage that states that your insurance will not pay for them either.

You should contact your insurance company to see what exactly your coverage is responsible for. You should hire an attorney or consult with one if your feel your insurance company is trying to avoid paying for something that they should be responsible for. If other insurance companies are involved, there may be conflicting arguments as to whom is responsible for making the payment.

A catastrophic injury is one that affects the brain, spine, and spinal cord areas. This includes skull or spinal fractures. Catastrophic injuries usually result in permanent physical or mental impairment to the injured individual.

Litigation

Litigation is the process of taking legal action, usually for compensation or restitution for injuries or damages done to a plaintiff.

Cases can go through litigation for various reasons. Sometimes, individuals are unable to sort their differences out without a court ordered document telling them how they should. It is important that if you feel you will not come to an agreement in regards to a situation that is costing you money or time, you should think about taking legal action.

An attorney knows all of the rules and laws that you, as an average person, may not. Therefore, it is important to at least consult with an attorney in regards to your case. If you are the suing party, then it is important to consult with an attorney in order to assure you are taking the right paths in pursuing your case. If you are the party being sued, it is important to consult with an attorney to make sure you know your rights.

You should speak with an attorney as soon as you think you may have a case to take to court. However, if you have already started the legal process, it is not too late to bring in the help of an attorney.

If you have been served papers to appear in court, you should begin your search for a suitable attorney as soon as you receive them.

There are specific timelines involved with court proceedings and seeking the aide of an attorney as soon as possible will allow your attorney the time needed to prepare for your proceedings.

Mediation and arbitration are both alternative dispute resolution processes that allow both parties to avoid full on litigation. Both methods can be more cost effective than litigation and allow the parties to come to an agreement together rather than having their fate decided by a judge (or jury).

Mediation is a non-binding process that employs the help of a neutral third party to work towards a settlement agreement. Parties are able to change their minds after mediation and to continue the case forward to trial. It is the hope of mediation to reduce the tension and open the minds of both parties to each other’s side.

Arbitration is a legally binding process that also uses a third party to reach an agreement. Once an agreement is met, a document is drafted and signed by both parties. This document takes place of a court order issued by a judge and holds the same legal weight and requirement of fulfilling your end.

Yes, it is possible to stop the court proceedings once they have already begun. There are a few reasons that this may occur, the first being that the plaintiff drops the case and decides not to pursue legal action against the defendant. Another reason is that both parties were able to come to an agreement or settlement outside of the court process.

The length of a lawsuit varies from case to case, and can depend on the willingness of both parties to reach a settlement. The amount of discovery, the number of motions filed, and how much the opposing side fights your every move can affect the length of your suit. If your lawsuit is uncontested, it could only take a few months; however, if it is contested (and most are) it could take up to several years.

The court clerk within your jurisdiction will file a judgement against the other party shortly after receiving the judgement issued by the judge who presided over your case. The payout is not immediate; the defendant will be given a specified amount of time in which they will have to comply with the judgement. If the defendant refuses to make payments, wage garnishments or liens may be placed against the defendant as a means to collect payment.

A civil court judge is not able to impose criminal sanctions on the defendant if you win your civil case. However, charges could be brought against the defendant during or after your civil case has concluded.

If the defendant has already been convicted of the same crime/incident for which you are bringing a civil suit, then the evidence, or “findings of fact”, used during the criminal trial and the defendant’s conviction can be used as evidence in your civil case. The evidence could be brought in under the doctrine of “Collateral Estoppel”, which essentially allows a civil court judge to accept criminal case findings as civil evidence without having to prove everything for a second time around.

Foreclosure Defense

Having an attorney by your side can provide you with leverage when negotiating the terms of your foreclosure. The attorneys at Merritt Law Office are experienced and knowledgeable in foreclosure defense and can help you to properly respond to any Summons or Complaints issued, while working to possibly find an alternative to foreclosure for you.

With Merritt Law by your side, you do not need to attend a court hearing if you do not wish to do so. We will handle preparing and arguing the motions and fully litigate the case on your behalf. Whether or not you want to attend a hearing is solely your choice and right to do so when you have an attorney representing you.

If you fail to respond to the lawsuit, then you are doing what the bank hopes that you will do. They don’t want you to respond because if you do not, then they will be able to get a summary judgement hearing sooner where a final judgement will be issued in their favor.

A short-sale is much like a regular sale of a home, only the listed sale price will be less than the amount that you owe on the home. As your representative, we will handle the negotiations with the bank to determine an acceptable short-sale price.

A short-sale is different from a foreclosure in that you are attempting to sell the home and get as much money as you can to cover the amount of your loan. The bank will not recover the full amount owed but it is more than they would get if your home went into foreclosure. Foreclosure is when the bank seizes ownership of your home due to non-payment. A short-sale will also do less harm to your credit.

A deficiency is the difference between how much you owe on your mortgage and the price that the bank is able to sell your home for in a foreclosure or short-sale. For example, if you still owe $200,000 to your bank and the bank is only able to get $125,000 for your home then a $75,000 deficiency junction can be placed against you.

A deficiency judgement allows lenders to pursue collection actions against individuals who foreclose or go through a short-sale of their property. This is another good reason to consider hiring a foreclosure defense attorney – to help you avoid a judgement and try alternate options like a loan modification.

Merritt Law Office offers a free case evaluation to determine how we can best help you. If possible we can negotiate with the bank on your behalf to agree to an alternate route other than foreclosure. Some of your other options may be:

  • Mortgage modification
  • Selling your home at market value
  • Refinancing your home
  • Short-sale
  • Filing for bankruptcy

A foreclosure can negatively impact your credit and may look bad to future lenders. In most cases, lenders review the last seven and a half years of your financial history when determining your risk for a loan.

Predatory lending describes a wide range of unethical financial practices. In terms of foreclosure defense, it specifically relates to the actions of lenders taking advantage of inexperienced homeowners. The main tip off of predatory lending is the failure to verify the financial capacity a prospective homeowner actually has in repaying the loan. As a result, most victims of predatory lending become victims of foreclosure as well. State and federal laws specify rules and regulations that lenders are supposed to follow when making a mortgage arrangement. Other predatory lending tactics may include:

  • Modifying the terms of a mortgage agreement at the last minute
  • Failing to disclose mandatory terms of a mortgage agreement
  • Forceful sales tactics; pressuring homeowners to agree to the terms or to refinance their home
  • Falsifying the value of a home
  • Misrepresentation of terms, contracts, agreements, or other documents.
  • Failure to disclose known defects in the home.
  • Encouraging homeowners to falsify their income in order to qualify for the loan
  • Encouraging or even berating homeowners to apply for a loan that they cannot afford

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy laws serve two main purposes. The first is providing a fresh start for the honest but unfortunate Debtor (you) and the second, provides equal treatment of Creditors (the people you owe). If you file for bankruptcy and follow the Bankruptcy Code rules, bankruptcy law gives you a fresh start by canceling many of your debts through a court order known as a Discharge of Debt. Bankruptcy will allow you to pay your Creditors a portion of what they are owed depending on what you can pay. After bankruptcy, the Discharge of Debt prevents your creditors from trying to collect the remainder of what you owe them.

Discharge of Debt is when a debt is released and you no longer have an obligation to the Creditor to pay it. However, not all debts are discharged in a bankruptcy.

Though most of your debts will be discharged, there are some exclusions within a bankruptcy. If you sustain any debts during your bankruptcy, or failed to include any on your Bankruptcy list then these will not be discharged.

There are few other debts that are excluded from being able to ‘write off’ in your bankruptcy. These can include: alimony and child support, income and property taxes, governmental fines, student loans, and criminal restitution fees.

Other debts that would not be discharged are any charges that have been accrued through fraudulent mannerisms. For example, if you ran up debts right before your bankruptcy was filed or if you took a line of credit out to purchase vacations, or other luxury items, that you knew you could not repay then the Creditor could argue that this debt to not be included in the Discharge. Also, if you illegally obtained credit sources by providing false income statements, this could be held exempt as well.

If a spouse, family member or friend has co-signed on a loan for you, their responsibility to the debt will not be discharged. Even if the debt is discharged on your end, your co-signer will still have to repay the debt as promised, or risk repossession.

The answer to this depends on which chapter of bankruptcy you have filed under. If you have filed, or plan to file, under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should be able to keep the property as long as you continue to make the payments. With Chapter 13 you are able to modify loan agreements, allowing you to make smaller payments, stretch them out, or lower your current interest rates.

If you have filed, or plan to file, under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to determine if you plan to keep or return the property. If you plan to keep the property, you must make a Reaffirmation of Debt Agreement with the Creditor. Reaffirmation of Debt means that you agree to resume the responsibility of the debt after your bankruptcy is complete; the debt will not be discharged. If the agreement is not completed in a timely manner then the Creditor can reclaim the property.

A bankruptcy is reported to all three major credit reporting agencies and will stay on your credit for 7 to 10 years, depending on the Chapter you filed under. Having a bankruptcy on your credit history may increase interest rates or cause lenders to deny you a line of credit. You may also notice that down payments for utilities have been increased or have become mandatory.

Having filed for Bankruptcy can make it difficult to receive a loan. You will be viewed as a high risk to lenders. If you are able to receive a loan you may see a large increase in interest rates available and possible larger repayment requirements.

Filing bankruptcy stops all Creditors from being able to contact you. This means they cannot call you, send you letters, or sue you, and they must immediately stop all collection actions against you. Any current lawsuits will be closed, and Creditors will be unable to repossess or foreclose on property. Some of your debts may be discharged or forgiven. You may also be eligible to renegotiate the terms of some of your loans, which could lead to smaller payments.

Filing for bankruptcy is a last resort to solving your financial problems, but it can provide you with the fresh start you need and dig you out of the debt you are buried under.

Yes. Your federal tax returns should be provided from the year before and the year of your bankruptcy. A copy should be provided to the court, the trustee overseeing your bankruptcy and to each of your creditors. If you refuse to release you tax returns, your bankruptcy case could be denied.

When your Bankruptcy case is closed, you will receive a copy of the order in the mail. Unless a trustee has property to collect and distribute to your creditors, your case will be closed fairly quickly with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. With Chapter 13, your case will not be closed until your payment agreements are finalized with your creditors. However, if payments on are not made on time, the courts will dismiss your case completely and creditors may resume collection actions against you.

Probate & Estate Planning

Probate is a legal process that reviews a loved one’s will when you have passed. The probate process validates the will and assures that it was authentically written. This process also refers to the deceased person’s properties, assets and even his or her debts.

The probate process will occur even without a designated will.

Estate can be defined as any property and financial assets that one has. Estate is typically used to refer to these items when someone has passed away.

Probate estate can include any tangible property, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, or retirement plans that are in the descendants name only or that were jointly owned with another individual.

The administrator of probate will have to determine what is valid and what is not.

An executor is someone you leave in charge of the distribution of your assets, usually through direction in your will or trust. After your passing, the executor will manage your assets during the probate process to assure that your final wishes are executed properly.

You can name any individual you feel is responsible and familiar with your wishes to be the executor of your will. They can be a spouse, adult child, other relative, close friend, business partner, or professional fiduciary.

Not all wills go through probate; however, most states have a simplified process to complete. If the ownership of an asset is transferred from the descendant to a beneficiary, then going through probate is needed to complete this process.

Most of the time, if the property is owned jointly, the property will be transferred to the surviving owner. However, this can be contested within probate.

A trust is a legal entity created by an individual, or grantor, in which they are able to place their assets for ease of transfer. The assets are transferred to the control of another individual, called a trustee, to be held and maintained for a beneficiary. They are commonly used during estate planning to stipulate how and when assets should be distributed. Many individuals use trusts over wills to set aside money and other assets for minor, disabled, or financially irresponsible dependents. Certain types of trusts, like credit shelter trusts or irrevocable trusts, are created to protect assets from creditors or estate taxes.

The executor of your will must notify all inheritors of upcoming probate within 60 days. Then, a statement is filed with the court. Once this is done, it will take approximately 90 days from the notifications being made to see a courtroom. Most beneficiaries receive any payouts within four to nine months, as long as there are no conflicts.

In the State of Florida there is no “inheritance” or estate tax; your estate, however, will be required to pay federal estate taxes if the net worth of the estate is over the exempt amount set by Congress at the time of your passing.

In the State of Florida, if someone passes away without leaving behind a will, then the state will decide how to best distribute your assets. This may be done in a manner in which conflicts with how you would have distributed your estate, which is why estate planning is so important.

Personal Injury

You can benefit from a lawsuit if you or a family member has been hurt due to the negligence or reckless behaviors of another individual. While cases vary, you should contact your attorney to determine if your case meets legal action requirements.

When an individual is being negligent, this means that he or she is not mindful of the safety of others around them. If an injury occurs because an individual fails to regard the safety of the others around them, this can be classified as negligence. When an individual causes damages to another person via their own incident, this can hold them liable for the damages.

When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, most of the time it is to compensate for financial burdens or painful experiences that have occurred due to an incident that the neglectful party has somehow caused. A lawsuit can hold an individual accountable for their wrongful actions that have resulted in your injuries. Some examples of compensation can be: pain and suffering costs, loss of income, loss of your inability to complete job related tasks, medical bills, and even restitution for a spouse or family member’s wages if they were required to take off from work to care for you.

Determining how long a personal injury lawsuit will take is nearly impossible. The length of a lawsuit varies from case to case, and can depend on the willingness of both parties to reach a settlement, the amount of discovery or motions filed, and how much the case is fought in court. If your lawsuit is uncontested, it could only take a few months, however, if it is contested (and most are) it could take up to several years.

In the State of Florida, an individual only has a short amount of time to file and receive compensation for injuries they have sustained before the statute of limitations expires. This statute of limitations is four years from the date of injury.

You should always speak to an attorney and file as soon as you are able to. Waiting too long can complicate your claim for compensation, risks loss of memory or witnesses, and risks the chance of losing evidence.

This is different from area to area; legalities will be different in each jurisdiction. Sometimes, based on your determined level of fault, you may still be able to collect some compensation. However, in other areas you may not be. Contact your attorney today for a free case evaluation to see where you stand.

Not every case is the same, therefore, we cannot give you an exact number of what your case is worth. However, personal injury lawsuits are dependent on five things: previous and current medical costs, future medical needs, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Your attorney at Merritt Law Office should be able to give you somewhat of a rough estimate after medical records, police statements, witness statements, and proof that your accident has affected your life negatively have been received.

Not without consulting an attorney. You should always contact a lawyer to protect yourself from settling early with an insurance company who has no plans on doing anything other than protecting themselves. If you were to sign a release, this could create issues with getting any future compensation if the need occurs. This includes future medical costs, and problems that may arise due to the injury. Even if it seems like a good idea, it isn’t.

Just because you are fully covered on insurance, does not mean that they are responsible to pay for everything. While most people assume they have full coverage, there are some things that your insurance will not be responsible for paying. For example, if the other party cannot pay for your injuries, there may be a clause in your coverage that states that your insurance will not pay for them either.

You should contact your insurance company to see what exactly your coverage is responsible for. You should hire an attorney or consult with one if your feel your insurance company is trying to avoid paying for something that they should be responsible for. If other insurance companies are involved, there may be conflicting arguments as to whom is responsible for making the payment.

A catastrophic injury is one that affects the brain, spine, and spinal cord areas. This includes skull or spinal fractures. Catastrophic injuries usually result in permanent physical or mental impairment to the injured individual.

Litigation

Litigation is the process of taking legal action, usually for compensation or restitution for injuries or damages done to a plaintiff.

Cases can go through litigation for various reasons. Sometimes, individuals are unable to sort their differences out without a court ordered document telling them how they should. It is important that if you feel you will not come to an agreement in regard to a situation that is costing you money or time, you should think about taking legal action.

An attorney knows all of the rules and laws that you, as an average person, may not. Therefore, it is important to at least consult with an attorney in regards to your case. If you are the suing party, then it is important to consult with an attorney in order to assure you are taking the right paths in pursuing your case. If you are the party being sued, it is important to consult with an attorney to make sure you know your rights.

You should speak with an attorney as soon as you think you may have a case to take to court. However, if you have already started the legal process, it is not too late to bring in the help of an attorney.

If you have been served papers to appear in court, you should begin your search for a suitable attorney as soon as you receive them.

There are specific timelines involved with court proceedings and seeking the aide of an attorney as soon as possible will allow your attorney the time needed to prepare for your proceedings.

Mediation and arbitration are both alternative dispute resolution processes that allow both parties to avoid full on litigation. Both methods can be more cost effective than litigation and allow the parties to come to an agreement together rather than having their fate decided by a judge (or jury).

Mediation is a non-binding process that employs the help of a neutral third party to work towards a settlement agreement. Parties are able to change their minds after mediation and to continue the case forward to trial. It is the hope of mediation to reduce the tension and open the minds of both parties to each other’s side.

Arbitration is a legally binding process that also uses a third party to reach an agreement. Once an agreement is met, a document is drafted and signed by both parties. This document takes place of a court order issued by a judge and holds the same legal weight and requirement to fulfill your end.

Yes, it is possible to stop the court proceedings once they have already begun. There are a few reasons that this may occur, the first being that the plaintiff drops the case and decides not to pursue legal action against the defendant. Another reason is that both parties were able to come to an agreement or settlement outside of the court process.

The length of a lawsuit varies from case to case, and can depend on the willingness of both parties to reach a settlement. The amount of discovery, the number of motions filed, and how much the opposing side fights your every move can affect the length of your suit. If your lawsuit is uncontested, it could only take a few months; however, if it is contested (and most are) it could take up to several years.

The court clerk within your jurisdiction will file a judgement against the other party shortly after receiving the judgement issued by the judge who presided over your case. The payout is not immediate; the defendant will be given a specified amount of time in which they will have to comply with the judgement. If the defendant refuses to make payments, wage garnishments or liens may be placed against the defendant as a means to collect payment.

A civil court judge is not able to impose criminal sanctions on the defendant if you win your civil case. However, charges could be brought against the defendant during or after your civil case has concluded.

If the defendant has already been convicted of the same crime/incident for which you are bringing a civil suit, then the evidence, or “findings of fact”, used during the criminal trial and the defendant’s conviction can be used as evidence in your civil case. The evidence could be brought in under the doctrine of “Collateral Estoppel”, which essentially allows a civil court judge to accept criminal case findings as civil evidence without having to prove everything for a second time around.

Foreclosure Defense

Having an attorney by your side can provide you with leverage when negotiating the terms of your foreclosure. The attorneys at Merritt Law Office are experienced and knowledgeable in foreclosure defense and can help you to properly respond to any Summons or Complaints issued, while working to possibly find an alternative to foreclosure for you.

With Merritt Law by your side, you do not need to attend a court hearing if you do not wish to do so. We will handle preparing and arguing the motions and fully litigate the case on your behalf. Whether or not you want to attend a hearing is solely your choice and right to do so when you have an attorney representing you.

If you fail to respond to the lawsuit, then you are doing what the bank hopes that you will do. They don’t want you to respond because if you do not, then they will be able to get a summary judgement hearing sooner where a final judgement will be issued in their favor.

A short-sale is much like a regular sale of a home, only the listed sale price will be less than the amount that you owe on the home. As your representative, we will handle the negotiations with the bank to determine an acceptable short-sale price.

A short-sale is different from a foreclosure in that you are attempting to sell the home and get as much money as you can to cover the amount of your loan. The bank will not recover the full amount owed but it is more than they would get if your home went into foreclosure. Foreclosure is when the bank seizes ownership of your home due to non-payment. A short-sale will also do less harm to your credit.

A deficiency is the difference between how much you owe on your mortgage and the price that the bank is able to sell your home for in a foreclosure or short-sale. For example, if you still owe $200,000 to your bank and the bank is only able to get $125,000 for your home then a $75,000 deficiency junction can be placed against you.

A deficiency judgement allows lenders to pursue collection actions against individuals who foreclose or go through a short-sale of their property. This is another good reason to consider hiring a foreclosure defense attorney – to help you avoid a judgement and try alternate options like a loan modification.

Merritt Law Office offers a free case evaluation to determine how we can best help you. If possible we can negotiate with the bank on your behalf to agree to an alternate route other than foreclosure. Some of your other options may be:

  • Mortgage modification
  • Selling your home at market value
  • Refinancing your home
  • Short-sale
  • Filing for bankruptcy

A foreclosure can negatively impact your credit and may look bad to future lenders. In most cases, lenders review the last seven and a half years of your financial history when determining your risk for a loan.

Predatory lending describes a wide range of unethical financial practices. In terms of foreclosure defense, it specifically relates to the actions of lenders taking advantage of inexperienced homeowners. The main tip off of predatory lending is the failure to verify the financial capacity a prospective homeowner actually has in repaying the loan. As a result, most victims of predatory lending become victims of foreclosure as well. State and federal laws specify rules and regulations that lenders are supposed to follow when making a mortgage arrangement. Other predatory lending tactics may include:

  • Modifying the terms of a mortgage agreement at the last minute
  • Failing to disclose mandatory terms of a mortgage agreement
  • Forceful sales tactics; pressuring homeowners to agree to the terms or to refinance their home
  • Falsifying the value of a home
  • Misrepresentation of terms, contracts, agreements, or other documents.
  • Failure to disclose known defects in the home.
  • Encouraging homeowners to falsify their income in order to qualify for the loan
  • Encouraging or even berating homeowners to apply for a loan that they cannot afford