Social Security Reminder

Your Social Security benefits were not meant to be used to pay off a credit card debt in Small Claims Court.  If you are living off Social Security, you may be able to claim those benefits as exempt from a debt collection judgment.  The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. August 15, 1953 is the anniversary of when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing financial assistance for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and the unemployed.  While everyone should pay their bills, people have to be able to stay in their homes, feed themselves, and put gas in their cars.  Therefore, do not promise Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  You can learn more at St. Johns County Legal Aid at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine (no appointment necessary to pick up a free pamphlet about collection exemptions and how to claim them).  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of pamphlets […] Read More

What If I Cannot Afford An Attorney?

There are many situations in which having legal counsel is beneficial; however, robbing Peter to pay your attorney…probably not a good idea, besides, you may not have to cover the legal fees yourself, depending on your financial circumstances. In a Criminal Case The Sixth Amendment gives you the Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  Legal Counsel is so necessary in a criminal case that if a defendant cannot afford counsel, the State provides counsel without fee. In a Civil Case That Constitutional right to an attorney does not extend to civil matters (such as divorce, landlord-tenant dispute, or foreclosure defense).  We are fortunate in our area to have St. Johns County Legal Aid, a local non-profit agency that primarily serves the most vulnerable demographic of our population, aiding awareness of legal rights and options in matters of debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, family law, and many other civil subjects.  Their motto is “A Wealth of Justice for Those Who Have Neither,” and they mean it. If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of […] Read More

Good Sources for Legal Help

Unless you are a legal professional, you may not recognize the nuances of the law, some of which could work against you (and some of which could work for you).  Depending on the case, attorney involvement can avoid or reduce adverse effects of a problem, and may cause a situation to be less costly.  Furthermore, good legal advice may be more readily available than you realize and less expensive than you anticipated. Sources of competent legal advice may include: Legal Aid. Visit the Legal Aid office for your area. Even if you do not qualify for their help, they have information pamphlets which may be useful.  You can find out more online at http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html Contact an Attorney. An initial consultation is sometimes free of charge or at a low fee, depending on the matter. Online Media. Forums such as this website offer dialogue opportunities where you can write in general questions. Remember not to share personal information in an open forum, and be sure you are communicating with a qualified legal professional. “Land Title Talk” Radio Show is on each first and third Friday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. on 102.1 FM WFOY or online at www.1240News.com. This is the […] Read More

Courtroom Experience

The St. Johns County courtrooms are getting updated—huge TV sets are being installed.  With A/C, big TVs, and plenty of seating, the question is, which courtroom do you want for the Super Bowl? Not every person’s experience in court is as grand as a Super Bowl party.  While the courtrooms are physically comfortable, they can be an intimidating scene.  There are some very serious people who look like they know what they are doing, and there is a guy with a gun. You might not be up for this.  While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you may want to seek competent legal counsel before going in front of that big screen TV and the Judge. Attorneys remove the emotion so their clients can take the necessary steps to move through a legal problem.  A lawyer can reframe the situation into business terms to help you look at the possible choices and consequences.  Furthermore, the more you know about the legal process, the less stress you have about the unknown. If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, […] Read More

Legal Lecture May 27: “Nursing Home Medicaid Eligibility for Yourself and / or Your Spouse”

Megan Wall, Managing Attorney for St. Johns County Legal Aid, will present “Nursing Home Medicaid Eligibility for Yourself And / Or Your Spouse” at Coquina Crossing Wednesday, May 27 at 11:00 a.m.  What a bargain:  the lecture is free and open to the public, and also includes lunch catered by The Bistro!  Pro bono appétit! St. Johns County Legal Aid is a local non-profit agency aiding awareness of legal rights and options in matters of debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, family law, and many other civil subjects.  Their motto is “A Wealth of Justice for Those Who Have Neither.”   Read More

Some Things You Can Fix…Some You Cannot

Sometimes there are no great solutions.  Sometimes “solutions” do not work.  However, competent legal counsel can help reveal options open to you and help you pursue them.  And sometimes just knowing what could happen next in the legal process can help you prepare and deal with outcomes as they occur. Talking to an attorney does not have to be a frightening experience, or an expensive one.  Many attorneys offer free consultations (which you can find out with a phone call to their office) or you may be eligible for Legal Aid (depending on your income level). If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of pamphlets you may find helpful.  You can visit their office at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine, or call to make an appointment at (904) 827-9921.  The Legal Aid website is http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/home.html.   Read More

Your Landlord & Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system provides Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning to your rental unit, but only the Heat is essential as far as your landlord is concerned.  Though we live in Florida, your renters’ rights do not extend to Air Conditioning. Defense attorneys have a term for landlords who shut off the heat on a tenant…that term is called payday.  A landlord who tries to evict by changing the locks or shutting off utilities on a tenant could be liable for damages or 3 months’ rent (whichever is greater).  However, Florida tenants are not entitled to live in rental units with working air conditioning. If you have a problem with your heating, ventilating, and/or air conditioning (HVAC) system, talk to your landlord.  If that does not help, follow proper legal procedures to lodge a complaint, and make sure your rent is paid up, even if you are paying it to the registry of the court.  For more information on renters’ rights, contact Legal Aid for help at http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html.  Even if you do not qualify, they offer free pamphlets on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. Read More

Legal Aid Not the Same As Public Defender

The Sixth Amendment gives you the Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  Legal Counsel is so necessary in a criminal case that if a defendant cannot afford counsel, the State provides counsel without fee.  This does not apply in a civil matter (such as divorce, landlord-tenant dispute, or foreclosure defense); that is where Legal Aid plays a vital role in providing legal services for civil cases involving the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Legal Aid is not the same as a Public Defender.  You will not be assigned an attorney if you cannot afford one for a case where your lender is suing to foreclose on your home. St. Johns County Legal Aid is a local non-profit agency that primarily serves the most vulnerable demographic of our population, aiding awareness of legal rights and options in matters of debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, family law, and many other civil subjects.  Their motto is “A Wealth of Justice for Those Who Have Neither,” and they mean it. If you think you cannot afford an attorney in a civil case, contact your local Legal Aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a […] Read More

New Lease on Life – Legal Aid

What do you do if you are disabled, elderly, living on a fixed income, and your landlord locks you out of your apartment?  Contact Legal Aid. St. Johns County Legal Aid “Provides a wealth of justice for those who have neither.”  It is a lot of administrative law, poverty law—a lot of law that most people are unaware of—that makes a huge difference in individual’s lives.  It can give a new lease on life, whether in a landlord-tenant case or other civil law matter (such as consumer debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, and family law). If you are seeking an attorney but think you cannot afford one, contact your local legal aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for service, the offices have many helpful pamphlets or they can refer you to attorneys willing to take cases at reduced rates.  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every business day. In St. Johns County, visit http://jaxlegalaid.org/v2/pamphlets/St.%20Johns%20County%20Legal%20Aid%20Information.pdf, and in Jacksonville, visit http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/v2/. Read More

What Is Good in 20 Years?

You can get a 20-year warranty on a mattress, roof shingles, and vinyl flooring.  You know what else is still good in 20 years?  That debt judgment against you. So you got sued in Small Claims Court.  If you had nothing for a creditor or debt servicer to collect, then they still did not get paid and all they got was a judgment against you.  The thing is, that judgment is good for 20 years.  Your creditor or debt servicer can collect at any time during those 20 years.  That is a good deal for creditors and debt servicers…not so much for you. The other thing is, once you have a money judgment against you, the collection can happen with fewer symptoms than a heart attack.  You wake up one morning and the money in your bank account got disappeared.  They can garnish everything in your account up to the amount owed without prior notice.  Again, a good deal for creditors and debt servicers…not so much for you, especially if you were trying to pay rent that day. Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in […] Read More