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FAQs

The information obtained at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Click on a question from the list below to see the answer.

  1. How do I know if I need a lawyer?
  2. What are your hours?
  3. Can I get an evening or weekend appointment?
  4. How much do you charge for your services ?
  5. Where are your offices located?
  6. Does your office provide services in any foreign language?
  7. I lost my job and missed a couple of car payments.  My car was repossessed and now they sent me papers that say I still owe them a lot of money and I don't even have the car.  Can they make me pay?
  8. When my boyfriend and I were living together, he needed a car and had bad credit so I co-signed so he could not get the car.  Now he and the car are gone and he doesn't have a job and the finance company says I have to make the payments.  Can they do that?
  9. How can I get a free will?
  10. My wife and I just had our first baby.  We don't have much money or property.  Do we need a will?
  11. What is probate?  Is it costly?
  12. If I have a will, will probate be avoided?
  13. If I don't have a will, what happens to my estate?
  14. If I don't have any close relatives, and I don't have a will, what will happen to my estate?
  15. I am a divorced parent and my ex is a very bad person.  How can I make sure my ex doesn't get the kids if I die?
  16. What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
  17. What is a trust?
  18. Can I write my own will?
  19. What if my situation changes after I have a will done?
  20. My landlord has just given me notice that the rent is going up.  Can he do that?
  21. My shower is broken and my landlord never gets around to fixing it.  Can I refuse to pay my rent until it gets fixed?
  22. My landlord will not allow pets.  Can he stop me if I get a cat?
  23. I have just received a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.  What is the longest I can stay before I have to move out?
  24. I am going to be moving out soon.  Can I use my security deposit as my last month's rent?
  25. My ex-landlord held back part of my security deposit because I didn't clean it enough.  Can he do that?
  26. Is there any difference between renting and leasing an apartment?
  27. What is better for me, a lease or month-to-month rental?

 

How do I know if I need a lawyer?

If it will effect your freedom, finances, or family, then you should seriously consider consulting an attorney.  

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What are your hours?

We are open Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00

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Can I get an evening or weekend appointment?

Yes, we do have evening and weekend appointments available.  Please call during normal business hours to schedule an appointment.

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How much do you charge for your services ?

Municipal Court Tickets (including traffic tickets)-varies by location and charges
Collection Matters-cases are taken on a contingency basis
Wills-Free for those over the age of 60 under the Senior Will Program
All other Wills, Real Estate matters, and other matters-vary depending on circumstances

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Where are your offices located ?

We are located at 713 Landis Ave. in Vineland, NJ 08361.  If you are familiar with the area, we are located diagonally across the street from the new Post Office and Vineland New Municipal Court.  

From Rte. 55:  Exit at Rte. 56 (Exit 32) towards Vineland.  We are located between 7th and 8th Streets on the right side of the road.  

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Does your office provide services in any foreign languages ?

Yes.  We have secretaries on premises who are bi-lingual in Spanish and English.  Additionally, we can provide interpretation in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, German, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

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I lost my job and missed a couple of car payments.  My car was repossessed and now they sent me papers that say I still owe them a lot of money and I don't even have the car.  Can they make me pay?

Yes.  Welcome to the world of deficiency judgments.  If your car is repossessed, you will be charged with the cost of repossessing it, fixing it up for sale, and the sale costs, plus what you still owe.  If they sell if for less than the total amount, they can get a judgment against you for the difference and make you pay it.

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When my boyfriend and I were living together, he needed a car and had bad credit so I co-signed so he could not get the car.  Now he and the car are gone and he doesn't have a job and the finance company says I have to make the payments.  Can they do that?

Yes.  Co-signing is not just a method of allowing the flake to get a car.  It is a promise to pay if he doesn't.  They are enforceable and you should never co-sign with anybody for anything unless you are really willing to make the payments under any circumstances and you can afford it.

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How can I get a free will?

If you are a senior citizen or a U.S. Veteran in Cumberland, Gloucester, or Salem counties, you are eligible for a free will.  Simply call our office (696-2100) and make an appointment.  

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My wife and I just had our first baby.  We don't have much money or property.  Do we need a will?

Yes.  One of the most important things you can do for your children is to designate your choice of the person who would raise your children if you and your spouse were both deceased.  Ideally, you would choose someone in your age group that the children know and like and who has the same method of parenting as you and the same religion.  many parents don't have someone who fits the ideal description but you are the one best qualified to make the hard choice.  Don't designate someone without talking to them ahead of time.

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What is Probate?  Is it costly?

Probate is the process of gathering together all of the assets of an estate, paying the creditors, and distributing the assets to the heirs of the estate under the surveillance of the court.  It is the process by which the government tries to assure that no funny business takes place that deprives the heirs of receiving their share of an estate in a timely manner.  It is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are three elements of the cost of probate.  The first is court costs which include the filing fee (currently about $200), cost of a bond if required, and the fee of the court appointed appraiser.  The will can waive the bond, thus saving this expense.  The second element is the fee paid to the executor or personal representative of the estate.  This person does a lot of the leg work and has responsibility for the assets in the estate and their distribution.  If this person is an heir, they routinely waive their fees.  The attorney fees are set by statute as a percentage (sliding scale) of the estate and must be approved by the court.  

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If I have a will, will probate be avoided?

Not necessarily.  It is the value of the estate, and the presence of real estate and a surviving spouse that determines the necessity of probate or a shortened version of it, not the absence of a will.

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If I don't have a will, what happens to my estate?

The state has a plan all worked out for called intestate succession.  Based on your family situation, the state's plan makes assumptions on how you would have wanted to distribute your estate.  If this plan is not for you, you need to have a will to set forth your plan.  Generally, it goes to a surviving spouse, but if none, to your children, but if none, to grandchildren, but if none, to your brothers and sisters, and so on.  Instate succession does not include any provisions for friends, charities, or anything but close family members.

If you are a senior citizen or a veteran, our office can work with you to write your will for free.  Our firm participates in the Senior and Veteran's Wills Program offered per the surrogate of Cumberland County which allows US Veterans and Senior Citizens to obtain a will at no cost.

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If I don't have any close relatives, and I don't have a will, what will happen to my estate?

The state will try to find relatives, but if they fail within the framework of the state's plan, your estate will go to the state.  This is called Escheat.

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I am a divorced parent and my ex is a very bad person.  How can I make sure my ex doesn't get the kids if I die?

You may not be able to make sure.  You can designate your choice of guardian but if your ex contests the issue, the court will make a determination based on what is in the best interests of the children.  All things being equal, the natural parent is preferred over a non-parent.  If your ex exercises his visitation more or less regularly, and cannot be shown to be a foreseeable threat to the well-being of the children, he will probably be given custody of the children.

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What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

This is a document whereby you appoint someone to direct your health care if you are not able to do it yourself.  If, because of age, or health status, you cannot communicate your decisions to your health care provider, the person designated in your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care will do it for you.  This is a simple procedure and can avoid the costly process of having a conservatorship set up for you in court.

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What is a trust?

A trust is an arrangement whereby one person who owns property (Trustor) gives the management and control of the property to another person (Trustee) for the benefit of another person (Beneficiary).

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Can I write my own will? 

Yes, if you know what you are doing.  The requirements of a formal will are fairly demanding and it is easy to make a mistake which could jeopardize the will.  For basic wills, lawyers fees are minimal and the peace of mind is worth the price.  If you are a senior citizen or a veteran, our office can work with you to write your will for free.  Our firm participates in the Senior and Veteran's Wills Program offered per the surrogate of Cumberland County which allows US Veterans and Senior Citizens to obtain a will at no cost.  

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What if my situation changes after I have a will done?

You may have to make a new will or, if the change is simple, it can be done by a codicil.  Having a new child, getting divorced, getting married, having the proposed guardian die or move out of state are all reasons why you should change your will.

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My landlord has just given me notice that the rent is going up.  Can he do that?

YES, if you don't have a written lease for a fixed term with no rent adjustments allowed.  In other words, if you have a lease for one year and it is the fifth month, and the rent is set at a certain amount for the full year period then the rent can't be changed.  However, if you are on a month-to-month tenancy, the rent can be increased on 30 days written notice.

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My shower is broken and my landlord never gets around to fixing it.  Can I refuse to pay my rent until it gets fixed?

MAYBE, but you will probably wind up defending an eviction.  The best way to handle this situation is to give the landlord written notice of the broken shower and include the fact that if they don't fix it within a reasonable time, such as 3 days, you will call in a plumber, and have it fixed at their expense.  If they don't fix it within that time, then go ahead and get your plumber in to fix it, pay the plumber, and deduct that amount from your next rent payment and include a receipt for the plumber's bill with your rent.  Tell the landlord when you have it fixed so they won't also send out a plumber.  NOTE:  This will work for things that effect the habitability of the unit but not cosmetic items.

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My landlord will not allow pets.  Can he stop me if I get a cat?

YES.  The landlord has every right to prohibit the presence of pets in the rental unit since it can substantially effect the amount of repairs and cleaning when you move out and the pet may bother the neighbors who have the right of peace and quiet.

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I have just received a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.  What is the longest I can stay before I have to move out?

It depends.  Normally, the landlord can file and action in court to have you evicted as soon as the 3-day notice expires and you don't pay the rent.  Then, the Summons and Complaint have to be served on you.  After that, you have 5 days to file your Answer to the Complaint or the landlord will take your default.  After that, the landlord has to go to court and put on the case and get an order that the landlord is entitled to possession.  The Marshal's office will then serve you with a Writ of Possession and normally, come back in 5 days to put you out on the street if you haven't vacated by then.  This who procedure can take from 20-40 days on average.  You will still owe all of the rent for the time you stay in the rental unit, plus court costs, and Marshall fees.

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I am going to be moving out soon.  Can I use my security deposit as my last month's rent?

NO.  A security deposit is no the same as a deposit for the last month's rent which is required by some landlords.  A security deposit is for the cost of repairs for excessive wear and tear or damage caused by the tenant or the failure of the tenant to pay certain rents.  Any unused portion must be returned promptly to the tenant after they vacate the unit.

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My ex-landlord held back part of my security deposit because I didn't clean it enough.  Can he do that?

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YES.  The normal requirement is to return the unit in a clean and neat condition as when you moved in.  If you fail to do that, the landlord will probably hire a professional cleaning service to clean it as your expense.

Is there any difference between renting and leasing an apartment?

Renting usually refers to a month-to-month arrangement.  It can, and should be in writing.  The entire arrangement lasts only one month and is renewed each month on the same terms and conditions unless one side notifies the other of a change.

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What is better for me, a lease or month-to-month rental?

It depends.  A month-to-month rental provides maximum flexibility for both sides and the least security for each side.  The lease provides more security, but little flexibility.  You have to examine your own needs and proceed with the plan that best suits them.

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The information obtained at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
 

Hoffman Law Office.
Copyright 2003 Colleen Milner. All rights reserved.
Revised: November 02, 2004