Do I Really Need an Attorney?

I can’t count the number of phone calls I have received over the years from people who begin their conversation with, “I’m not sure I need an attorney…”  Do you always need one for every situation in life?  Probably not.  After all, every sniffle doesn’t mean you need a doctor, and there are a lot of online resources that can walk you through simply issues.

But if you have a question that might need a lawyer, why not make the call and determine if one is necessary?  My first response to that eternal question as to whether someone needs legal advice is the same: “Our attorneys don’t charge for the initial consultation, so it won’t cost you anything to decide if you need their services.”

phone attorneyThe question is really one of risk. The risk of asking an attorney if you need his or her help is low. (Well, it’s low at our firm anyway—the initial consultation is free and the advice is always honest. I can’t speak for other firms.)

But the risk of potentially needing legal help and not getting it is tremendous. The cost associated with handling a legal issue is far less than the cost associated with fixing a legal problem. Legal issues become legal problems when you ignore them or, often worse, try to handle them without the help of a lawyer.

Many people decide to wade those legal waters alone only to discover soon afterward they’re in way over their heads.  Why not ask questions first before making that leap?  Hiring an attorney may save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.  On the other hand, if your situation isn’t nearly as full of minefields as you envisioned, our attorneys will be happy to let you know that as well. (Assuming (correctly, we think) that people value honesty and us giving away the business is enough reason to hire us next time.)

We’re here to help, but only if we are really needed.  If you can navigate those waters just fine on your own, we’ll let you know, and if you really need a legal team on your side, we’ll be honest and tell you that, too.

Just don’t drown in legalities before taking us up on a free consultation!

Arkansas Medicaid: What You Need to Apply

Helping your parents or other family members enter a nursing home is always difficult, no matter the financial situation. There is the stress of deciding which home is best for your loved one. There is the sadness in seeing your loved one taken away from the home that he or she has come to love. And there is usually some guilt (or at least second-guessing) about whether the family could shoulder the burden itself.

arkansas nursing home medicaid

It is particularly hard when you’re not sure how your loved one is going to pay for it. Most Arkansas residents depend on Medicaid to pay for their nursing home costs. Wilson & Haubert can assist you and your family with the Medicaid application process and, though it may seem daunting and you will have some “homework,” we try to make it as painless as possible.  Like any homework, we do our best to outline exactly what you’ll need to do and that begins with providing you with a list of documents that DHS will want.

Here is a list of the types of things we need to complete an Arkansas Medicaid application:

  • Social Security Cards
  • Medical Supplement Cards
  • Birth Certificates
  • Complete financial statements from 90 days prior to admission
  • All deeds owned within last five years
  • And Power of Attorney Documents
  • Marriage License
  • Property Tax Statements for preceding year
  • Utility bills for last 90 days
  • Life insurance policies

We want copies of anything and everything related to these documents—you may retain all original documents in your possession.  It is also important to provide complete copies of all financial statements (all pages (front and back) and check copies, if applicable.)  Doing so provides DHS with detailed information on all expenditures. The more details in your Medicaid application, the better.

Work through that complete list one item at a time and you will soon have everything we need to go along with your Arkansas Medicaid application.  We will organize the documentation and spreadsheet to include all assets so we may have clear, concise materials for our files and for DHS’s review.  Having all those preliminary supporting documents upfront with the application makes our job and DHS’s job much easier. (Which means you are likely to get approved for Medicaid faster!)

There will most likely be additional items a Medicaid caseworker will request later as they work through the case.  But, having done the bulk of document gathering at the beginning of the application process means less work later when a deadline is looming for those items.  At the end of the day, we are here to help answer questions and assist in streamlining the process for you and for your caseworker.

Please contact us if you are concerned about you or a loved one qualifying for Arkansas Medicaid. It may be cliché, but when it comes to planning for long-term care, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound (maybe five pounds!) of cure.

What is a Fathers Rights’ Lawyer?

I think the best material for a blog is straightforward, clear answers to common questions. I have been getting a lot of questions lately about the Fathers’ Rights Movement and whether I am a Fathers’ Right Lawyer. So here’s a little bit about that.

fathers' rights

Family law and family courts have traditionally been unfair to men. I don’t think there’s any debate about that. The assumption was that children will be better off with mom and that, after a divorce, dad’s role is to see the children every other weekend and pay mom child support. If you were gonna ask for a different arrangement, you better have a good reason. And because dad was usually the one paying mom, child support was viewed as a punishment for being a father. Joint custody or shared custody was seen as harmful to children because it reduced stability.

Has that changed? Well, it depends on where you are. Truthfully, it hasn’t changed a lot in rural areas in Arkansas, where traditional gender roles are stronger. There are certain counties and certain judges that, no matter what the circumstances, just aren’t going to give a father custody unless mom is an absolutely terrible parent.

Laws (and the lawyers and judges that use them) change slowly. (This is good if you want to be able to make sure your will is going to work in fifty years; it’s bad if you’re a good dad and you want the law to treat you like one.) The Fathers’ Rights Movement grew out of a frustration that family courts are unfair to dads and haven’t caught up with the cultural shift towards shared parenting roles. The organization is a strong proponent of shared custody or joint custody and fairer child support laws.

Some law firms market themselves specifically to men as an attempt to tap into this frustration. (The most notable example is Cordell and Cordell, which just put an office in Little Rock.) I think this is smart marketing, although I don’t think that a Fathers’ Rights Lawyer necessarily has any advantage. Most family lawyers represent both mother and fathers and, since roughly half of our cases would involve dads, I think that’s all the experience you need.

So, if the solution isn’t necessarily to hire a Fathers’ Right Lawyer, what’s a dad to do? Move to Little Rock. If that’s not practical, make sure you hire someone who regularly practices in your county. He or she will know the judges and be able to tell you how they tend to rule.

And if you do happen to live in Pulaski, Saline, Lonoke, or Faulkner counties, call us!

The Good Kind of Legalese

This is a guest post by Cecelia, who manages the office.

We recently expanded our Firm’s square footage and have finally moved into the newly renovated space.  Our hope is the new office not only functions well for all of us that come to work here each day, but has a great feel for you as well. It’s easy for us to forget that it is often stressful visiting with an attorney, so anything we can do to make you more at ease just makes your time spent with us more productive and much more relaxing. That’s right: Our new office promotes legal-ease.

We have a spectacular view of the Arkansas River and the Little Rock skyline from our conference room, and we planned the space so everyone who walks in the front door gets to enjoy that sight.  It is rare that a person walks in the door for the first time and doesn’t exclaim “Oh, I love your view.” When you walk in, you’ll know that this isn’t your grandfather’s law office: You won’t find any fox and hound scenes on the walls here, and we’ve deliberately avoided crusty law books and mahogany. You will find a soothing modern décor with lots of glass to bring in the light from the Southern exposure.  All our attorneys meet by appointment so you shouldn’t have to wait long when you arrive, but should you arrive early, you’ll find a comfy red sofa and a small fridge with soft drinks or water just below the TV to make the wait less tedious!  The Andy Griffith Show or Bonanza is usually playing on the big screen.

There’s no denying you may have weighty matters to discuss and decide while you’re with us.  But, regardless of the reason you sought out our Firm for your legal needs, we want to do what we can to make it an experience where you feel comfortable —both with your attorney of choice and our Firm’s environment.

And just to answer one frequently asked question ahead of time: We love our concrete floors!

How a Business Attorney Can Help Your Struggling Business

If your business has been struggling and you simply can’t pay your debts, it’s time to take stock and consider your options. What’s the first thing you should do? Consult with a business attorney. If you continue on the path you are on without making any changes, things are likely to become untenable, and your business may never recover.

A business attorney will conduct an initial evaluation of your business to determine the structure of your debt.  Depending on your current financial situation, there are several possible resolutions your business attorney may suggest. These include the following:business debt

Debt consolidation

If you are committed to your business and intend to stick with it for the long term, your business attorney may recommend that you look at consolidating your debt. Your accountant can help you figure out which debts are the most important. However, you will also need a lot of input from your business attorney, because you can put yourself at risk of a lawsuit from the creditors you choose not to pay.

You should also ask your attorney how you can minimize any potential fallout from your decision. You can then craft a formal proposal to your creditors with the help of your business attorney.

Closing down

If you don’t foresee your business being able to come out of the red anytime in the future, your business attorney may advise you to close down. Closing down will allow you to liquidate your assets and pay some money to your creditors. The proceeds from the sale of your assets may not be enough to pay all your debts, but it can help you pay off the most important ones.

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is another option your business attorney may recommend, but you want to carefully consider the repercussions that will ensue before taking this decisive step. No doubt your business attorney will outline the requirements for filing, as well as your obligations to creditors and the IRS, if you decide to go this route.

While filing for bankruptcy may seem like an easy way out because it offers the opportunity for a fresh start, it has several consequences that you should be aware of. Your attorney will also review these with you.

Striking a deal that will allow you to pay your creditors a portion of what you owe is usually considered a better option than filing for bankruptcy, but your business attorney will advise you accordingly.

Your business attorney will also assess your case to determine whether you should file for business bankruptcy or personal bankruptcy.

If you’re unable to pay off your business debts, doing nothing is not an option, because your creditors will come after your business assets to collect on the debts. Contact a business attorney (or us!) for legal advice. An attorney can advise you of the legal implications of maintaining the status quo and help you choose the most viable solution.

On Probation in Arkansas? So long, Constitution!

probationWe all know police need probable cause to conduct a search of your vehicle and a warrant to conduct a search of your home. Well, they usually do, anyway. If you are on probation or parole in Arkansas, however, you have probably waived these requirements and given written consent for law enforcement to search your home or car at any time without a warrant. If this sounds scary, it is. It may not be as scary as prison, but it’s scary.

In exchange for not being incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, many people are given the option for probation. (For more information about some specifics about probation in Arkansas, click here or here.) If they are incarcerated, they may be released early by satisfying the conditions of parole. When someone is given parole or placed on probation in Arkansas, they must abide by certain conditions. One of these conditions is that you agree to allow your car or home to be searched without probable cause and without a warrant.

This means that the police no longer need probable cause to search you or your vehicle, and they do not need a warrant to search your home. During the time you’re on parole or probation, you have basically waived your right to any protection under the 4th Amendment. If you think it’s strange that you can actually waive your right to protections in the Constitution, you’re not alone: It is strange.

In normal circumstances, if police have a lead or hunch that some type of illegal contraband is within a person’s home, they would need to gather evidence and present that evidence to an Arkansas judge. The judge would then issue a warrant if he or she believes that probable cause exists. With a search waiver, police just need to decide what time they would like to stop by and take a look inside your home. You might as well give them your car keys and house keys.

The good news is that even if you have signed a search waiver, you have certain defenses against police abuse of that waiver. An Arkansas Criminal Defense Lawyer can walk you through the steps to know whether you can fight the search.

If you feel you or your property was unlawfully searched, even if you are on parole or probation, give us a call today to speak about your case and any possible defenses you may have.

What is a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Discharge?

Bankruptcy Discharge. It’s got a nice ring to it. It sounds like maybe you just get to forget about all your bills and move on, right? Well, not quite.

What Does the Term “Discharge” Mean in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

“Discharge” in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy refers to clearing the debtor’s (the person who filed bankruptcy) all, or most, past debts. Although most people expect that filing bankruptcy will wipe out all of their debts, that is not always the case. Chapter 7 Bakruptcy only discharges certain debtors of certain debts. The availability of discharge depends on the type of bankruptcy proceeding involved, who the debtor is, and what type of debts the debtor has.

Although a debtor is not personally liable for discharged debts, a valid lien that has not been avoided (made unenforceable) in the bankruptcy case will remain. Therefore, a secured creditor may enforce the lien to recover the property secured by the lien. (This is another reason why it’s so important to tell your bankruptcy lawyer about ALL your debts!)bankruptcy-discharge

In most cases, Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers automatically receive a discharge at the end of their case. In Chapter 7, the court usually grants the discharge 60 days after the 341(a) Meeting of Creditors. Typically, this means you will obtain a discharge about four months after filing your Chapter 7 petition.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can advise clients which debts will be discharged by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and which debts will remain.

Which Debts Can Be Discharged in Arkansas?

Although not all debts are dischargeable, the majority of your debts will be discharged through Chapter 7, especially if you do not have any extraordinary circumstances. Among your dischargeable debt, only your debts that arose before the date of filing for Chapter 7 will be discharged. You will still be responsible for any debt you incur after filing your petition but before receiving a bankruptcy discharge.

The Bankruptcy Code lists 19 categories of debt that cannot be discharged. Everything that does not fall within these categories is dischargeable. Below is a list of the most common dischargeable debts. However, any misconduct or fraud in connection with the below categories may make them non-dischargeable.

Common Categories of Dischargeable Debt in Arkansas

  • credit card charges (including overdue and late fees)
  • collection agency accounts
  • medical bills
  • personal loans from friends, family, and employers
  • utility bills (past due amounts only)
  • dishonored checks (unless based on fraud)
  • student loans (only in a few rare circumstances)
  • repossession deficiency balances
  • auto accident claims (except those involving drunk driving)
  • business debts
  • money owed under lease agreements (includes past due rent)
  • civil court judgments (unless based on fraud)
  • tax penalties and unpaid taxes past a certain number of years
  • attorney fees (except child support and alimony awards)
  • revolving charge accounts (except extended payment charges)
  • social security overpayments, and
  • veterans assistance loans and overpayments.

What are the benefits of chapter 7 discharge?

Relief from Annoying Creditors

When you file for bankruptcy, creditors must stop contacting you and trying to collect the debt. You no longer are required to pay the debt, but if you have co-debtors that did not file, they are required to pay.

Stop garnishments and Lawsuits

You can stop garnishments and pending litigation. In most cases you can request that garnishments that happened right before you filed bankruptcy be returned.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

This is obviously a weighty and lengthy subject for a blog. I won’t pretend to offer anything comprehensive here; after all, I’m just a family lawyer, not a child psychologist or therapist. I have no advanced training in these issues.

And I don’t have much personal experience about divorce to bring to bear on these questions. Of all the divorces I have seen, both professionally and personally, I doubt I’ve seen any two people handle the situation any better than my parents. I have no horror stories from which to draw. I have always been thankful for that; having now seen the ugly side of many divorces, I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to have had parents wise enough to minimize the conflict and, as best they could, shield me from it. I guess that fact, and all the ugly situations I’ve seen, makes me want to help others make better decisions about this subject.

So my observations must come from what I’ve seen over the past several years, having handled dozens and dozens of Arkansas divorces. Most of what I’ve gleaned, unfortunately, comes from bad experiences. As a general rule, parents don’t handle talking to their kids about divorce very well.talk kids divorce

There are two reasons why this is a worthwhile thing to consider: First, and most important, it has a big impact on kids. In this age of political and social division, it’s impossible to get people to agree on anything. But one thing everyone does agree on—at least in theory—is that we need to protect kids from bad stuff.

The second reason is also important: The way you talk to your kids during a divorce can affect your child custody case. There is a lot of agreement on this front, too: Judges and attorneys and attorneys ad litem and professionals are on the same page that you simply should not use your kids to gain an advantage in a custody battle. If you do, you will hurt your credibility and trustworthiness, both of which are critical components of victory in a custody dispute.

Here’s what I’ve found to be some of the most important things to remember:

  1. If it all possible, speak to your kids together with your spouse, and make sure you speak to all the children at one time. When you present a united front, you minimize speculation and, even worse, older children feeling pressure to keep secrets from younger children.
  2. Make sure that you emphasize that you’re going to do everything you can not to disrupt their lives. Stability and continuity are the most important things for kids during this time.
  3. Plan what you’re going to say, preferably with your spouse. This is not the time to wing it.
  4. If you need to speak to your children without the benefit of your spouse, make sure not to blame them. It doesn’t matter whose fault the divorce is; it is never helpful to assign blame to the other person.
  5. It is not your kid’s fault that you’re getting a divorce, and you can’t say this enough. Say it over and over again.
  6. Avoid details. They aren’t helpful for your kids.

The funny thing about all this advice is that it’s obvious to any person. But most advice is obvious to everyone except the person going through a situation where it’s hard to follow.

This brings up another piece of advice that’s probably more important than anything: If you’re going through a divorce, surround yourself with wise people who can help you make good decisions. People tend to lose their minds during this stressful time, so no amount of good advice makes it through. That’s what your friends and family are for, assuming they are mature enough to tell the truth.

A good lawyer is a big help, too. Call us if you need us.

How to Stop Foreclosure through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

stop foreclosureForeclosure is one of the most traumatic financial situations a person may face. And unfortunately, it is very common. If you are facing foreclosure, you may feel powerless and confused. But you can stop it if you take action. You can seek debt relief, work a deal with your mortgage company, or file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Depending upon your particular situation, a knowledgeable Arkansas Bankruptcy Lawyer can walk you through your options and help you decide on the best way to save your home.

How to Stop Foreclosure through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Here are some steps to take to stop foreclosure with Bankruptcy:

1. Get the Documents Ready 

Gather all the documents dealing with your mortgage loan. You should also have ready all the legal documents and paperwork that you received regarding foreclosure action. These legal documents also need to be included as part of evidence for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

2. Gather your Current Statements 

If you have any other accounts that you owe money on, then you need to get the current statements for each account. When you file for an Arkansas bankruptcy, all your debts are an issue. You cannot just file bankruptcy on your mortgage debt.

You also need to obtain all the current bank statements, especially from any of the other financial accounts that you have. You will also need copies of your most recent tax returns and paystubs. It’s not just about documenting your debt; you need to document your assets and earnings too.

3. Obtain and File the Petition 

Once you gather all this information, you are ready to file for an Arkansas bankruptcy. Online forms are available, but naturally I suggest you hire a lawyer. Bankruptcy law can be confusing. If you are doing it yourself, after you fill out the form, then you need to file it with the United States Bankruptcy Clerk for either the Eastern or Western District of Arkansas, depending on where you live.

4. Send a Copy of the Stay to Your Lender

The Clerk will mail out your first round of notices. So, you need make sure all the addresses are included and correct in your petition. All of your creditors, co-owners, and co-debtors will receive notice of your bankruptcy.

5. Sign a Reaffirmation Agreement 

It may be in your best interest to enter into a Reaffirmation Agreement with your mortgage lender. However, it may not. You may not be able to afford your house or you may be upside down on your property. If you do enter into a re-affirmation agreement, you can keep your home and get out of foreclosure. However, you’ll have to carry on making mortgage payments according to the terms you’ve agreed to in your re-affirmation agreement.

The most important thing you need to know about avoiding foreclosure is that you have to do something. You cannot ignore your mortgage company. Please contact us for more information about all your options to save your home, including Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

“Back to Bremen” Book by Cecelia Wilson

Anyone who’s ever worked very long in a long firm knows that it’s not really the lawyers that run everything; it’s the support staff. Here at Wilson & Haubert, we would be lost without our Office Manager Cecelia Wilson. She’s the one that keeps the wheels from coming off.

When she’s not wrangling a bunch of lawyers and running the office, she enjoys writing plays, books, and magazine articles. She has written the feature section in “Searcy Living” for years and always receives rave reviews on her pieces there. In that capacity, she has written extensively about interesting people in the community. According to her, everyone has a story; it’s up to her to capture it.Back to Bremen

She recently wrote and published a non-fiction book, “Back to Bremen,” about her dear friend Edith Röpke Harris.  Over the years, Edith shared with Cecelia the story of her childhood in World War II Germany. It is truly the kind of story you usually only see in the movies.  Throughout this time, Cecelia wrote condensed versions of Edith’s story as magazine articles, but they always toyed with the idea of someday discussing all the details for a book.  In 2013, Cecelia and Edith finally found the time to uncover all the details and begin the process of writing a full-length book on Edith’s story.

During months of interviews, Edith was surprised to find she remembered smaller facts she hadn’t thought of in seventy years.  There was a lot of research to be done as well to hone in on approximate dates, events, and specifics on the war itself.  For a year, Cecelia searched for a publisher interested in the manuscript; almost another full year was spent with an editor, with the publisher and his staff on cover art, page layout, and readying the manuscript for publication.  But, on March 28, 2017, on Edith’s 81st birthday, “Back to Bremen” was released. According to Cecelia, all the hard work was worth it. Not only does the family have a written history for their descendants, but the general public can now read this fascinating life that is also part of history.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.com, where it has received many excellent reviews. To discover more about the book, go to the book’s website.