Over the decades, Sharpe & Sharpe, LLP has seen a number of questions that are common for first time clients. We wanted to provide some preliminary information to people who have a legal issue and are considering reaching out to an attorney.
ATTENTION: Please keep in mind that the following questions & answers are for general informational purposes only and do not establish an Attorney-Client relationship. If you have questions covering any of these, or other topics, we strongly encourage you to contact the office of Sharpe & Sharpe, LLP and schedule an appointment so one of our experienced attorneys can determine how Pennsylvania Law applies to your specific circumstances.
Q: Do I need an attorney for a settlement on a house?
A: Yes. Whether you are selling or buying a property, the process can be daunting. While the real estate agent might be helpful, you cannot always rely on them to have your best interest in mind. It is always advised that you have a professional protecting your interest in the settlement process.
Q: Do I need an attorney to give someone land?
A: Yes, when conveying property, an attorney can ensure your new Deed is properly drafted and can ensure it is properly recorded.
Q: Can zoning ordinances be ignored?
A: While they cannot be ignored, some townships provide for a procedure to apply to a non-conforming use. While it isn’t recommended any law be ignored, it could be days or it could be years before someone gets reported. Whether you are seeking a variance yourself or wish to ensure a neighbor is following proper ordinances an attorney can easily assist you.
Estate Planning & Administration
Q: Do I need to probate a will?
A: The facts and circumstances of the specific assets and to whom they are left are important factors in determining if the probate process is necessary. A general rule of thumb would be to meet with an attorney. If probate is not necessary an attorney should be willing to assist you through the process to save your family money.
Q: Do I need a Power of Attorney?
A: A Power of Attorney is just a part of comprehensive estate planning. The power of Attorney can appoint a trusted agent to perform any number of duties on your behalf. Whether it is business related, personal finance, bill paying, or medical related another person can only act on your behalf with professional institutions if a POA is executed.
Q: Do I need a Living Will?
A: A Living Will is a healthcare directive that puts to words your direction for medical professionals in the event of a medical condition where you are unable to speak for yourself. So long as you are able, your opinion will always control, but in the event something were to happen, you would have an Agent appointed to make decisions when you cannot and otherwise follow your instructions.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to make a Will?
A: Yes. While there are online services that offer a cheap non-lawyer alternative, these sites do not guarantee their services. Additionally, they are not specifically tailored for your particular state as opposed to an Attorney which must be competent in the law of your residence. If you are concerned enough to have a Will written, you should contact a professional face to face to discuss you specific desires and have a document made specifically for your needs.
Q: What does an Executor of a will do? A: An executor is appointed in a will upon someone’s death. The Executor has a fiduciary duty to all the beneficiaries of the will. The executor will locate assets, contact financial institutions, collect assets, pay bills and expenses from the estate, and file an inheritance tax return. Eventually the executor will meet with the beneficiaries to sign a family settlement agreement to distribute assets. An attorney for an estate can assist the executor in all of these functions and act as a mentor or assistant depending on the complexity or the estate and the level of experience of the Executor.
Business Law & Corporations
Q: What benefits are there to starting an LLC?
A: One of the many benefits of incorporating your business is the personal protection from liability it provides. If a claim arises against you in the capacity of your business your personal assets will likely be protected and not at risk. Failure to incorporate could result in a lawsuit against a customer or other businessperson for which you would be personally liable from your for. This could put your family savings, your retirement, your family house and personal belongings at risk. It is generally advised to discus incorporation with an attorney if you plan on operating a business, or incorporate to protect your personal life.
Q: How do I defend an unemployment appeal?
A: Depending on the initial determination, an ex-employee or an employer could have the burden to prove certain elements exist to either allow or prevent unemployment benefits. It is important for a party to have an attorney to ensure the proper procedure is being followed, and to ensure all elements are met to have a better chance of succeeding at an unemployment compensation appeal, employers and claimants alike.
Contracts & Leases
Q: Can I use a Lease, Agreement, or Contract Form that I found online?
A: While any writing is better than no writing, the problem with free and paid internet documents is that it isn’t always specifically enforceable in Pennsylvania. These services are all “buyer beware’ and offer no guarantee that they will withstand scrutiny if a legal problem arises. We would strongly recommend you meet with a knowledgeable attorney who can draft your agreement that will be valid in your state and tailored to your specific situation.