FAQ's. Common Concerns about Personal Injury, Bankruptcy & Real Estate matters.
Going through something as difficult as a major legal event can leave you filled with questions about the past, present, and what to expect in the future. Get answers to some of the top questions I receive about Illinois personal injury, real estate and bankruptcy matters to help put your mind at ease. Check back often for even more answers to your legal questions. Better yet, give us a call to see how we can help.
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If I file for bankruptcy, how can I protect what belongs to my children?
As parents, we want to make sure that our children are protected and the same holds true when considering a bankruptcy.
Kids' Stuff and your bankruptcy
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, for the most part you will be keeping your property. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are allowed to keep property that is "exempt", or protected up to a certain dollar value - depending on what it is. One of the questions that your bankruptcy lawyer will ask, and will report on your bankruptcy schedules, relates to what you have at home by way of furniture, electronics, and what most people think of generally as "stuff". When mentally arriving at their childrens' rooms when answering this question, people invariably say something like "the bunk beds, a desk, computer, dresser... but that isn't mine, it belongs to my son/daughter". If your child lives with you and these are items that you bought for him or her, the bankruptcy court considers it as being yours. On the other hand, if your child is older and paid for it himself and you can prove it, then it doesn't count as part of what we call the bankruptcy estate. Don't stress out to much over this unless there is something in your kid's room of great value. Most people in a chapter 7 actually find that the items in their home are not worth more than what you are allowed to keep and even so, most bankruptcy trustees will not be interested in taking your child's desk.
Kids' Bank Accounts and your bankruptcy
If your child has an account set up under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act or the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (I can help you figure this out if you aren't sure), your child's money is safe, even if you are the custodian of those accounts. Likewise, if they have 529 Educational funds set aside for college, this is not legally your money and therefore is safe from your creditors and from the bankruptcy trustee, depending on when in time the money went in. That being said, as with anything in bankruptcy, you have to beware of the timing and be sure that it did not get transferred into your child's account for purposes of your bankruptcy filing, which is a huge no-no.
Bankruptcy is complex but doesn't have to be scary. Once in the right hands, your bankruptcy lawyer will answer any questions that you have about your children's money and personal property. We don't want to do anything that doesn't make sense for you or your family. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy and want to know more about how this could affect your kids, give us a call at 630 250-8813 to schedule a free bankruptcy consutlation in Schaumburg or Itasca.
How do I determine how much I should sell my house for?
If you are selling your house and are trying to figure out how much money to sell it for, you are asking the wrong question. What you should be asking yourself is how to find the best team of real estate professionals who will help you to maximize profit on the sale of your house while taking the stress out of it for you. Your real estate attorney does not negotiate price for you. While lawyers are trained negotiators, when it comes to the housing market in Illinois, it is actually the realtor's job to negotiate the best price for your home. The right real estate agent for you should know the market in your geographical area, and know it very well. Dealing with home values in your neighborhood is what realtors do day in and day out, and this is why it is best to leave the pricing of your house to them. Neither you nor your attorney should be setting the price of your home. While you are the one who is most familiar with the ameneties, beauties and flaws of your home, your realtor will be able to give you a realistic idea as to what you should list the house for and what amount you should accept. Knowing how to price a home correctly is an art and draws upon the realtor's experience as well as solid data such as "comps", or comprarable recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood. The realtor will base the asking price on the current market in your area, the size of your house, the amenities, the condition, and so forth. Ask for a range and have your realtor run numbers for you so that you will have an idea as to how much money you are likely to walk away with. Remember, your realtor is earning a commission off of the amount of money that you sell your house for, so it is in his or her best interest to obtain top dollar for you.
Once your realtor has negotiated a price and you have a buyer locked into a contract, the realtor's job is for the most part complete. In Illinos, you will need a real estate attorney to do the rest. To learn about what your real estate attorney will do for you, be sure to request a free copy of our Homeseller's Guide, which also contains handy worksheets to help you figure out how much profit you will make on the sale of your home. Or give us a call at 630 250-8813 and I'd be happy to talk to you about the process.
What's the difference between a property survey and an appraisal?
Sometimes people buying or selling real estate confuse property surveys with appraisals, and vice versa. Different states will use them differently, and this article addresses how property surveys and appraisals are used in Illinois real estate transactions, and the difference between the two.
A property appraisal is a formal report, usually done for the benefit of the bank, stating how much the property is believed to be worth at fair market value. The appraisal takes into account the neighborhood, size and age of the house, amenities, overall condition and so forth. If the property appraises too low, the bank may reconsider giving a mortgage to the buyer. A good real estate attorney will also make sure to protect buyers from over paying for the house in case it appraises lower than the agreed upon price.
A property survey is not ordered by the bank, but is typically ordered by the seller as most Illinois contracts require one for the sale of a single family home. The survey looks like a large blueprint of the land and is used to determine property boundaries. They are used to be sure that there aren’t any legal issues that could come up, for example- if your driveway was partially built onto the neighbor’s property. Surveys also pinpoint exactly where there may be any easements, typically for use by utility companies. Survey issues may affect the marketability of the house. If you are selling your house, I take care of ordering the property survey for you prior to the closing.
Selling a home is more than just an exchange of money for keys. The contract that you signed has many moving parts, placing time bound obligations on both buyer and seller. Give us a call at 630-250-8813 and we can take the worry out of your hands and handle all aspects of the real estate closing for you (except for packing. We’ll leave that to you).
Radon Gas is present in the home we are buying. What should we do?
You've found your dream home and all is well until you learn that the results of your radon inspection are in. The levels are 4.0 or higher, which is considered unsafe. Radon gas is a leading cause of lung cancer and you are understandably frightened. You don't want to live with radon! No one does, which is why there are companies out there whose job it is to remove the radon. Once they fix it ("remediation of radon"), radon levels should go down to almost zero. Home sellers know that nobody is going to buy a house with radon, which is why their attorneys and realtors should be preparing them for the possibility of having to pay for remediation. The reality is that if someone wants to sell their house, they must have it removed! As a buyer, you want to make sure that you have your radon test completed within the contractual time frame, which is usually five days from seller's acceptance of the contract. Extensions of this date may be necessary. If you learn of a radon problem, which is not uncommon, your attorney will ask that it be remediated, before closing, at seller's expense. Your attorney should also be asking that sellers pay for a re-test and present you with evidence that there is no longer a radon problem. This should all happen before closing. In the alternative, if you want to have it done yourself for some reason (usually if there is a time contstraint), you may wish to negotiate a credit of approximately $1,800.00 (Chicago area) so that you can have it taken care of yourself.
Your Realtor has disclosed Dual Agency- do I agree to it?
In the Real Estate world, dual agency means that your Realtor is working both for you and for the person on the other side of the transaction (both buyer and seller). While it is illegal for an attorney to do this in Illinois, it is legal for a Realtor to represent both sides on a real estate deal so long as it is disclosed. Whether or not you should agree to it is really dependent upon your own personal comfort level. You will each have an attorney looking out for your own legal interests, which is not the job of your Realtor. However, some people are uncomfortable knowing that their agent is working both sides of the same transaction because many people tell things to their Realtor in confidence. While in Dual Agency scenarios, the agent owes specific duties to both the buyer and seller, such as not disclosing the confidential information of one party to another- it can create awkward situations and inadvertent mis-steps on the part of the Realtor. The result of dual agency is that the role of the agent may be limited. The agent can no longer help negotiate terms for the sale or the purchase of a home, finding the home seller on their own. In my opinion, this defeats the purpose of having a Realtor. However, if a price was agreed upon before your Realtor comes on the scene or you otherwise have a high level of trust for your Realtor (which you should anyway), you may be more inclined to consent to dual agency.
What is a Memorandum of Understanding?
Once mediation is complete, your mediator will write up everything that was agreed upon. You don’t have to worry about taking notes or remembering everything that was agreed to, that is your mediator’s job. It will be typed up into a report called a “Memorandum of Understanding”. We send a copy of it to the parties (you & your spouse) and a copy to your lawyers, if you have any yet. It will clearly spell out everything that you agreed upon, including partial agreements. For example, if you agree that the house will be sold and the proceeeds divided equally, but are not in agreement as to when the house goes on the market or who will stay in the house in the meantime, as much detail as would be helpful goes into the memoroandum of understanding. It is not filed with the court as it is used by the attorney(s) to put into proper legal format, after (we hope) givng you legal advice overall with respect to the agreement.
I am here to help. Please let us know if you are interested in either learning more about divorce mediation or setting up at time to get started.
I’ve used Mediation in the workplace, with some success. Should I go back to that Mediator for my Divorce?
If in the past, you had a great eye doctor, are you going to return to that doctor for heel pain? Of course not, so why would you consider using a business mediator for your divorce? Divorce is a very complex, emotionally charged area and in my opinion, when searching for a mediator, you should use someone who is highly experienced in dealing with divorcing couples. Given the complete re-write of the divorce laws effective January 2016, this is more important than ever as you definitely want someone who is also well versed in the current laws!
At O'Connor Cadiz Law, we have gone through the 40 hours of mediation specific to divorce, and have been refining our skills every since! We know what it takes not only to have a good outcome in mediation but we also know what issues the judges are going to require be addressed at the time of your divorce. Download our free report to learn more, or give us a call at 630-250-8813. We offer mediation in both Schaumburg and Itasca; thus serving both DuPage and Cook Counties.
How long does Divorce Mediation take?
As long as you need for it to, so long as it is still productive. There really is no typical but a good starting point is to try a few sessions of around 3 hours to see how it is going. If it can be worked out in that time frame, great! If not, but you think it is definitely going somewhere, then you can schedule more time. Look for a mediator who will work with you at your pace. Sometimes people want to schedule a long stretch, others chose to break it up. There really is no science behind it and should be whatever works for your schedule. That being said, remember that this is a process and you should give your first session at least 3 hours. That is my recommendation.
If you think that divorce mediation might be right for you, either download my free report about divorce mediation, or else give us a call to learn more! Ready to jump right in? We can do that too! Divorce mediations can be done in either our Schaumburg or Itasca offices. Call us at 630 250-8813
What if my spouse tries to pressure me into an agreement I don’t want during Divorce Mediation?
A common concern during divorce mediation is that your spouse will pressure you or make you feel like you have to give in. You always have the power to say NO. Do not agree to anything if it is not what you want. Be open-minded, but don’t give in to something that you know is just not going to work for you. A part of mediation involves one-on-one conversations with your mediator when you have concerns. This will be different than the conversations or fights that you and your spouse would have at home on the same topic. Mediation is a controlled environment where bullying is not acceptable. Even calm statements meant to push your buttons can be concerning but remember, your mediator is there to address any problems or perceived threats that may come up. At any time, you can call it a day, as for a break, or talk to your mediator privately.
How much is Divorce Mediation and Who Pays for it?
The cost of mediation is around the same cost per hour as hiring a lawyer, but you are paying one professional for that hour instead of two. For example: your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer talk for an hour at $300 per hour = $600 total v. one hour of mediation at $300 per hour =$300 total for that hour /2 people= $150.00
If the math makes sense to you, call us, we'd be happy to tell you more about the mediation process. Are you a candidate?