FAQ - Commonly Asked Legal Questions

Divorce Cases

What is Divorce Law?


Any legal matter between individuals who are connected domestically falls under the umbrella of family law. This could include people who are related by blood, by marriage, or by more casual relationships. Because of the emotional and sensitive nature of many of these relationships, legal counsel is strongly advised. Lawyers can help to provide a sense of comfort and balance, and of course, strong legal representation. Do you have kids involved? Maybe you need child custody; we can help with that.




How is divorce handled in Pennsylvania?


In Pennsylvania, a divorce may be classified as no-fault or fault. In a consensual no-fault divorce, the parties may be divorced as early as 90 days after service of the filing. If a no-fault divorce is contested, the plaintiff must wait two years after the parties have separated to have grounds for a divorce to be entered. In a fault divorce, one of the parties must prove that there are fault-based grounds for the divorce such as desertion, adultery, cruel treatment, imprisonment or insanity. Our attorneys can assist you in either type of divorce. Regardless of the type of divorce couples must agree on such items as:

  • Alimony
  • Division of Assets




When to hire divorce lawyers?


It’s never too early to hire a family law attorney. Choosing to seek legal representation at the onset is extremely beneficial, as it gives your lawyer more time to formulate a proper plan of action. However, attorneys are quite capable of stepping in at any point during the process to provide you with the necessary assistance.




Do we accept credit cards?


No, we only accept the following payment methods?

  • Cash
  • Check
  • Cashier's Check





Wills & Estates

What's a Living Will?


A Living Will, or Advance Healthcare Directive, allows you to make your wishes known in regards to medical treatment and life-prolonging actions, if you are no longer able speak for yourself. A Living Will sets out, in black and white, exactly what you have decided for your future.




What's a Healthcare Proxy or a Healthcare Power of Attorney?


These legal documents let you name a person who can make healthcare decisions for you, in the event that you’re incapacitated and have been rendered unable make those decisions or communicate them properly.




I want your help, but I'm in the hospital. What now?


Our lawyers will come to you, whether you’re in the hospital, unable to leave your home or are confined to hospice. Simply call us and we’ll be there at a time that’s convenient for you. Feel free to invite family members to attend the meeting. It will give them an opportunity to ask questions and get answers about what lies ahead.




What happens to my belongings if I die without a will?


Different states have different laws in regards to this issue. In Pennsylvania, the state will give your assets to your closest relative, if there is one, according to a predetermined list. The individual will receive everything in your estate, and can distribute it in any way he or she sees fit. Even if you’ve previously informed your family of how you want your belongings and assets allocated, the final decision rests with that designated beneficiary. He or she can choose to honor your wishes, or not. Preparing a Will allows you the opportunity to really think through how you want to handle beneficiaries, property distribution and any personal gifts you may wish to make. Our experienced attorneys can draft a will that meets the state’s legal requirements so that, after your death, it can be executed as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you don’t have any living relatives, think about leaving your assets to friends or a charity that matters to you, otherwise, with no relatives and no will, the state will seize your assets.




How do I choose an Executor?


A Living Will, or Advance Healthcare Directive, allows you to make your wishes known in regards to medical treatment and life-prolonging actions, if you are no longer able speak for yourself. A Living Will sets out, in black and white, exactly what you have decided for your future.




What is a Trust and why would I want one?


A Trust is basically an agreement that gives assets to a beneficiary or beneficiaries, under specified conditions. There are many different kinds of Trusts and the laws can be convoluted, but setting up a Trust has many tangible benefits. In general, it gives you the kind of flexibility that a Will alone simply can’t provide. A Trust lets you determine, in a finely detailed and possibly conditional manner, exactly how your assets are to be transferred. You can specify beneficiaries, disbursement timelines, and contingencies, such as a percentage of funds remaining available for your use if you become incapacitated with the balance passing to a beneficiary. A properly prepared Trust may also help your beneficiaries avoid probate, one of the steps involved in executing a Will. It may also help reduce the amount of money your estate will pay in estate taxes. Once a Will is executed, it becomes a public document and resides in the public domain. If you have sensitive or personal issues that need to be addressed, a Trust is the preferred method of ensuring that your wishes remain private.





Social Security

What's the difference between SSI and SSD?


SSD (Social Security Disability) is a government program that helps workers who are disabled and cannot work for 12 months or more. How much financial help you receive is not based on your level of need. It’s based on what you paid into the system while you were working (payroll taxes). The more you paid, the higher your benefit will be if you become disabled. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a needs-based benefit for low-income individuals who become disabled and are unable to work. The payment will vary, depending on your situation. The more income and assets you have, the fewer benefits you will receive. This benefit is not tied to your work history. Certain people may be entitled to both sets of benefits. Please ask our lawyers for advice on your individual circumstances.




Who can apply for Social Security Disability?


If you are disabled, either physically or mentally, meet the criteria defined by the Social Security Administration, and have paid FICA payroll taxes during your employment history, then you may be eligible to fill out a social security application.




If my application was denied, does this mean I'm not eligible?


Of course not. There are many reasons why an application could be denied including, but not limited to:

  1. The application might not have been filled out properly or submitted in a timely manner
  2. You might have left out important information, or it might not have been presented clearly




Is there a deadline on appealing a denial?


Yes. You need to file an appeal within 60 days of your denial.




How long will the appeal process take?


There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Generally, it takes around six months, but it can drag on longer if the Administrative Law Judge is burdened with a large case load. In that situation, it can take 12-14 months or longer.




Is there any qay to move up the date of the appeal hearing?


Unfortunately no. Hearings are assigned as applications are submitted. The only way to speed the process is to file as quickly as possible, with no errors.




Will my benefits be retroactive to the date I first applied?


Government benefits apply to the first full six months after you are disabled. If your denial is overturned, your benefits start retroactively on the date they should have been approved.




How often is a social security application denied? Is it a common thing?


It’s very common. Most applications are denied for one reason or another. Many people assume incorrectly that the first denial is a final decision. Nothing could be further from the truth. If your application is denied, you should appeal.




Are there different approaches to appealing a denial?


Some states require you to request a reconsideration before you can officially appeal a ruling. In this process, you are asking the court to review the claim in case it was denied through some error on the part of the reviewer. This procedure rarely overturns a denial, and can tack on at least four months to the appeals process. Reconsiderations are no longer required in Pennsylvania. You can appeal immediately after a denial.




What if my appeal is also denied? Do I have any other options?


Certainly. You can request that the case be examined by the Social Security Appeals Council. If you are still not approved, you can file a lawsuit in a Federal District Court.




Do I really need an attorney? Can't I file the appeal by myself?


You can certainly file the paperwork and attend the hearing yourself. However, the process can be complicated, and if you make a mistake, your application can be denied simply because of that single error. Our experience has taught us how avoid those missteps and present your case in the best possible light.




If my appeal is approved, how long will it be until I receive a check?


There are no easy answers here. Some people receive their check faster than they receive the approval notice. Other people can wait for months.




How much money will I receive?


The amount of money you receive is based on how much you paid into the system before you were disabled. Visit the Social Security website to use their online calculators to estimate the amount of your benefits.




It’s difficult for me to get around because of my injury. Do I have to actually attend the hearing? Is the hearing a lengthy undertaking? Will I be required to testify or participate in any way?


It’s usually a good idea to attend the hearing. Although you can certainly appoint someone to represent you, a friend, family member or attorney, you still have to explain to the Social Security Office, in writing, why you won’t be attending. You don’t typically have to testify, unless the Administrative Law Judge thinks it’s necessary.




How much will your firm charge to handle my appeal? Do I still have to pay you if my appeal is denied?


Our firm gets paid on contingency – that means we only get paid if we win your case. The contingency fee is a percentage of the ‘lump sum’ payment that you’ll receive. If your application is denied, you owe us nothing.





Workers' Compensation

What is Worker’s Compensation?


If you’re hurt on the job or contract a work-related illness and become unable to perform your duties, Workers’ Compensation benefits can help compensate you for the loss of those wages until you are able to return to work.




What’s the difference between partial and total disability benefits?


If you sustain an injury or illness that prevents you from performing your job, you may be eligible for Partial Disability. If the situation is severe enough that you cannot do any job, Total Disability benefits may apply.




Is every injured employee eligible for Workers’ Comp?


It depends on the situation. Most employers are required to insure employees with Workers’ Comp coverage.




What types of injuries are covered?


Anyone suffering from a work-related injury, illness or disease is eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. There are some exceptions, like a self-inflicted injury or one that occurs while a worker performs illegal acts. If you’re hurt while you’re robbing your workplace or under the influence of illegal drugs, you won’t be covered.




What do I do if I’m hurt at work?


Report the incident to your employer immediately. If you need emergency medical treatment, make sure you get it. Although your employer may designate the doctor or facility, you should personally inform the healthcare provider that you have suffered a work-related injury. You’ll need to fill out forms that give your employer relevant information about the injury and how it was sustained. If it’s serious enough, and you miss work due to the injury, your employer is required to report it to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Once the claim has been processed, your employer can either accept or deny it. If it’s denied, it’s time to appeal your case to a Workers’ Compensation judge.




If I report my injury, could I lose my job? Should I be worried?


It is illegal for an employer to fire a worker for being injured on the job.




I like and trust my employer. Why would I need a attorney?


Even the smallest work injury can, often surprisingly, have nasty long-term consequences. Sometimes the injury or illness is more serious than the original diagnosis. Other times, complications set in during recovery. It’s hard to predict exactly what type of response a specific individual will have to a certain injury or illness. At the end of the day, most employers will want to minimize the benefit payout and get you back to work quickly. They, and their lawyers, will be looking out for the best interests of the company. You deserve to have someone looking out for you! Knowing that experienced professionals are protecting your interests lets you rest easy while you’re recovering. Reducing your stress and eliminating unnecessary worries may even help you heal faster. Give us a call. The consultation is absolutely free and we’d be happy to answer your questions. Having a lawyer involved at the outset can smooth the process while keeping your best interests front and center.




What types of benefits will I receive?


There are four general categories of Workers’ Compensation benefits:

  1. Payments for lost wages
  2. Specific loss benefits for the lost use of body parts or scarring
  3. Medical expenses
  4. Death benefits for surviving dependents




If I’m awarded Workers’ Comp, how long will I receive benefits?


You’ll receive benefits for as long as the injury prevents you from working…weeks, months, or even longer.




My injury is so minor…do I really need to make a big deal about it?


You should report ANY injury that happens at work. This covers you in case the minor injury somehow becomes a bigger issue (infection, misdiagnosis, etc.). It also informs your employer about any safety issues that might affect other employees.




I found out my employer doesn’t have Workers’ Comp. Now what?


It is illegal for an employer not to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, except in some limited situations. In most circumstances, employers are responsible for paying any bills resulting from your injury. You may also be eligible for benefits from the Uninsured Employer.





LAW FIRM HERE FOR THE PEOPLE OF WILKES-BARRE AND SCRANTON, PA.

 

At The Law Offices of Matthew Kelly Associates, we are 100% committed to protecting your welfare. We will listen, we will act, and it will always be in your best interests. As referrals from our clients make up a large part of our business, we work hard every day to maintain our reputation as one of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton’s most dedicated legal teams.

Schedule your free consultation today! Call us at 570-405-8710. See how our experience in legal aid can make a difference, and we will provide you with the best lawyers around. We serve the areas of Lackawanna and Luzerne County.

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