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Legal Information
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Legal Information
  • Making a will and planning your estate
  • Buying or renting a home or apartment
  • Managing debt/credit
  • Making elder care plans
  • Identity Theft
  • Small Claims Court
  • Traffic Tickets

These common experiences can be intimidating when you don't have a working knowledge of the legal issues they touch upon. The stress associated with such issues can be reduced by careful and informed planning, and a little knowledge from the right sources.

This topic center provides you with the up-to-date and legally accurate information you need to successfully (and less stressfully) deal with important personal and family matters.

Information about other family-law concerns such as adoption, changing your name, divorce, special education, and prenuptial agreements, is also contained in this topic center.



Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What housing related legal issues should I be knowledgeable about?

  • To become a first-time homebuyer, you need to know where and how to begin the homebuying process.
  • Before buying a home, it is important to make a wish list of aspects that are important to you.
  • Living in a common ownership community (condo, cooperative, or homeowners association property) is becoming increasingly common, but many people do not know just what it involves or how it is different from what they are used to.
  • You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a year on homeowners' insurance by shopping around and being aware of your options.
  • A mortgage - whether it’s a home purchase, a refinancing, or a home equity loan - is a product, just like a car, so the price and terms may be negotiable.
  • You should be aware of certain rights before you enter into any mortgage loan agreement.
  • If you’re thinking about selling your home, you may be considering using the services of a real estate broker or agent. Before you sign a listing agreement be informed about your choices.
  • If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that gain from your income.
  • For those that decide to lease an apartment or home instead of buying, the lease is a legally binding document that courts will generally uphold in legal proceedings, so it is important for you to know the exact terms of the agreement before you sign it.

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What fiancial related legal issues should I be knowledgeable about?

  • No matter how old or young you are, there are some basic things you can do to better manage and protect your money.
  • Before you decide to file for personal bankruptcy, there is key information should know about the process and your rights.
  • If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy.
  • Credit laws protect your rights by requiring businesses to give all consumers a fair and equal opportunity to get credit and to resolve disputes over credit errors.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
  • Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money.
  • Learn the Internal Revenue Service’s top 10 tips to ensure a smooth income tax-filing process.
  • When internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information, it’s called phishing.
  • Take steps to limit the amount of spam you get, and treat spam offers the same way you would treat an uninvited telemarketing sales call.

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What family related legal issues should I be knowledgeable about?

  • There are many different types of adoption and it is important to understand the various options and determine the best route to building your family through adoption.
  • There are important legal steps a person needs to do when their name has changed, typically in the case of a marriage or divorce.
  • Despite widespread familiarity with the effects of divorce, the details of the divorce process are less well known.
  • There is no single correct answer for all families and/or individuals considering guardianship. Different individuals have different situations, needs, and available supports.
  • A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by two people before their marriage where they decide how their property will be divided if they get a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, or when one of them dies.
  • By law, schools must provide special help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called special education and related services.

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What elder care related legal issues should I be knowledgeable about?

  • Long-term care is a type of personal care you may need if you are unable to care for yourself because of a physical illness, a disability, or a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Long-term care can be expensive and depends on the amount and type of care you need, where you receive it, and what type of medical professional provides it.
  • You should plan and think about long-term care before you need care or before a crisis occurs.
  • Learn about key areas of concern, suggested questions to ask, and ways in which families might initiate conversations about these often difficult to discuss topics with their aging parents.
  • There are important steps adults can take ahead of time to protect their rights when they are unable to make or communicate their decisions about health care or finances.
  • A Power of Attorney for Health Care lets you choose another person to make health care decisions for you right away or when you are too ill to make decisions about your own care.
  • A Guardianship or Conservatorship is generally only considered after other alternatives have been explored. The Probate Court makes the decision about whether it is needed and who the Guardian or Conservator should be.
  • A Joint Bank Account is a common arrangement that people use to allow more than one person to access money in an account.
  • The Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for Finances allows a trusted person to spend money on your behalf and manage your property.
  • Under a typical Trust, one person allows someone else to control his property and to make it available for the benefit of himself or others.
  • A Representative Payee is responsible for receiving the older person's check from a federal agency (usually Social Security or Veteran's Administration) and spending it on the elder's care and support.
  • Medicare is health insurance for the following: 1) People 65 or older; 2) People under 65 with certain disabilities; and 3) People of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).
  • It is important to be aware of the 4 parts of Medicare that cover different types of services, which include Part A (Hospital Insurance), Part B (Medical Insurance), Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage), and Part D (Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage).

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What should I know about identity theft?

  • Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
  • Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your identity and financial information.
  • Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.
  • If you are a victim of identity theft, take four steps as soon as possible, and keep a record with the details of your conversations and copies of all correspondence.

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What immigration legal issues should I be knowledgeable about?

  • All foreign workers must obtain permission to work legally in the United States and each employment category for admission has different requirements, conditions and authorized periods of stay.
  • You may be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) through your family, a job offer or employment, refugee or asylum status, or a number of other special provisions.
  • There are important guidelines to follow for U.S. citizens wishing to bring a foreign national fiancé living abroad to the United States to marry.
  • The most common path to U.S. citizenship allows a green card holder (permanent resident) of at least 5 years to apply for naturalization.
  • As an employer, you may need to hire foreign labor when a U.S. citizen is not available. You will need to consider whether you wish to petition for permanent residence (a green card) for your prospective employee to work here permanently or whether you wish to petition for someone to come temporarily to the United States to fill an employment need.

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What is small claims court and how does it work?

  • Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively because the rules are simple and informal.
  • In general, a natural person (an individual) cannot ask for more than $10,000 in a claim. Businesses and other entities (like government entities) cannot ask for more than $5,000.
  • There are different kinds of cases you can file in small claims court.
  • The deadline to file a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations and most lawsuits MUST be filed within a certain amount of time.
  • The filing fee is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past 12 months.
  • The judge may make a decision at your hearing or mail it to you later.
  • You cannot appeal if you were the person who filed the claim. If someone else files a claim against you and you lose, you can appeal.
  • Collecting a judgment can be one of the more difficult and frustrating parts of your small claims case.

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What types of legal issues involving an automobile should I be knowledgable about?

  • Parking tickets are not filed with the court, but instead shows the amount you must pay to the parking agency where the violation occurred.
  • If the police stop you for driving too fast or running a red light, they can charge you with an infraction.
  • The police can give you a ticket for a more serious crime, like driving without a license.
  • When you get a traffic ticket, you must act before the due date on your "Notice to Appear" runs out.
  • When you get a traffic ticket, you can take one of four actions including pleading guilty and paying the ticket, plead guilty and go to traffic school (if you are eligible), provide proof of correction if you got a traffic ticket for a "Correctable Violation", or ask for a trial if you believe you are not guilty.
  • Whenever you’re in a vehicle, there’s a chance you’ll be involved in a traffic accident. Learn about some of the most frequently asked questions about automobile insurance claims.
  • It is very important to be aware of the steps to follow after a car accident in order to file police reports and when you file for insurance compensation.

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What should I know about wills and estate planning?

  • Upon death, an estate plan legally protects and distributes property based on your wishes and the needs of your family and/or survivors with as little tax as possible.
  • Advance directives are written documents that tell your doctors what kind of treatment you'll want if you become unable to make medical decisions (for example, if you're in a coma).
  • A living will is one type of advance directive that comes into effect when a person is terminally ill.
  • A will is the most practical first step in estate planning; it makes clear how you want your property to be distributed after you die.
  • An executor is the person who is responsible for settling the estate after death.
  • If you are active online you should consider creating a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled, like a social media will.
  • Probate is a legal process that usually involves filing a deceased person's will with the local probate court, taking an inventory and getting appraisals of the deceased's property, paying all legal debts, and eventually distributing the remaining assets and property.
  • A trust is a legal arrangement where one person (the "grantor") gives control of his property to a trust, which is administered by a "trustee" for the "beneficiary's" benefit.
  • A living trust, created while you're alive, lets you control the distribution of your estate. You transfer ownership of your property and your assets into the trust.

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Basic Information
Legal Center IntroductionHome: Buying a HouseHome: Getting a MortgageHome: Neighbor & Home-Related DisputesHome: Renting a House or ApartmentHome: Selling a HouseMoney: Bankruptcy: Deciding Whether to FileMoney: Basics for All AgesMoney: Cleaning Up Your Credit ReportMoney: Consumer ProtectionMoney: Credit and Debit CardsMoney: Dealing With CreditorsMoney: Making and Repaying DebtsMoney: Retirement PlansMoney: TaxesFamily: AdoptionFamily: Changing Your NameFamily: DivorceFamily: Guardianship of Children and AdultsFamily: Prenuptial AgreementsFamily: Special EducationElder Care: Long-Term CareElder Care: Making Decisions for OthersElder Care: Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap and Managed CareIdentity TheftImmigrationSmall Claims CourtTraffic Tickets and AccidentsWills & Estate PlanningLatest NewsBlog EntriesVideosLinks
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