General Questions

Do I need an attorney to help me with my Social Security situation?

We encourage you to seek qualified assistance if you feel you are entitled to benefits. Delays could cost you monies you might otherwise be entitled to receive. We at Hartsell & Williams, PA would be more than happy to discuss your individual situation and will help you to find the best course of action for you.

How much does an attorney cost?

While we normally do not give free consults, we understand that certain individuals within the Social Security system simply do not have extra money to pay for professional help. We view each individual on a case by case basis and set up our compensation accordingly. Please give us a call and we can discuss your individual case.

Real Estate

Do I need a contract if the seller agrees to sell me its property?

Yes. Oral agreements affecting real estate are unenforceable in North Carolina. When entering into a contract all parties including their spouses should be listed on the contract and should execute the contract. We can assist our clients with the preparation of the contract to insure that all material terms with which the parties agree are included in the contract.

Why do I need an attorney involved in the purchase of real estate?

The purchase of real estate is usually the biggest investment of money a person makes during their life. An attorney provides valuable services including reviewing contracts, examining the title to real estate and answering questions during the settlement of the loan.

Do I have to use an attorney for my closing?

No. Under current North Carolina law the settlement and closing of a real estate loan are not considered to be the practice of law. However, only attorneys are supervised by a licensing agency and have a fiduciary duty to you to see that the documents are executed properly and that the funds are properly disbursed. Many settlement companies do not carry insurance and have no duty to you. In addition only attorneys can give you a legal opinion about the documents you are executing and answer questions that may arise during the closing.

What is a title examination?

The attorney will review the public records at the Register of Deeds and Office of the Clerk of Court to determine that there are no defects in the chain of title and that there are no liens and encumbrances affecting title. Issues that can be discovered during a title examination are the existence of judgments, foreclosures, delinquent taxes, IRS tax liens and materialman’s liens.

Do I need a survey?

The purchaser of real estate should always get a survey. A survey not only shows the boundary of the property being purchased but will also disclose defects to the title that cannot be determined from the public record. Possible defects that can be disclosed by a survey include encroachments from neighboring fences or structures, setback violations and unrecorded rights of ways. A survey should be obtained even if the property being purchased is a platted lot in a recorded subdivision. In addition, if you do not get a survey of the property, then any defect that would have been disclosed by an accurate survey will not be covered by your owner’s policy of title insurance.

Do I need an inspection of the property? What if the house is new construction?

Yes. A purchaser of real estate should always have a licensed inspector thoroughly inspect the house including the plumbing and electrical systems. A buyer should also have the house inspected for termites. If an inspector finds issues with the house a subsequent inspection by a structural or professional engineer may be necessary. The inspection should be done even if the house is newly constructed. Even the best contractors may make mistakes during the building process which an inspector can discover.

I received a disclosure from the Seller indicating that there are no defects. Can I rely on this statement instead of incurring the cost of an inspection?

No. Regardless of what the Seller tells you about the condition of the house you should always have the house inspected. The inspection may disclose defects that the Seller is either unaware of or is trying to keep hidden until after closing. If you fail to have an inspection done prior to the purchase of the home, then you may not be able to sustain an action for defects against the Seller even if their disclosures to you are inaccurate. An inspection should also be done if you are buying a house “AS-IS”. The inspection may disclose defects with the house that are more serious than you first anticipated which may lead you to reconsider the purchase of the property.

What is title insurance and do I need title insurance?

Title insurance policies insure titles to real property for owners and mortgage lenders and provide the following protections:

- Payment of loss arising from errors in title examination or recording or which result from    hidden defects.
- Payment of legal expenses incurred to clear title defects, which threaten the lender or      owner with loss.
-Assurance that the marketability of the property remains unimpaired from title defects.

Policies are issued based upon a search and review of the public land records and other relevant documents. A thorough examination is performed to determine title ownership and any other matters affecting the property title and use of that property. Items that may affect a title include easements, restrictions, rights of way and judgment liens.

The coverage provided by a title policy is long-lived. The mortgage holder continues to be protected upon foreclosure of the insured mortgage or deed of trust. The owner of real estate is insured for as long as he or she owns the property, is the holder of a purchase money mortgage or deed of trust secured by the property, or is liable under the warranties included in his or her deed to convey the property. (Answer provided by Investors Title Insurance Company)

Why do I need title insurance if the attorney has examined the title to the property?

If a problem arises which was the result of a mistake made during the search, or if a defect exists which is not of public record but is an insured risk, then a title policy provides you with a reimbursement against loss that you may sustain. (Answer provided by Investors Title Insurance Company)

What are possible defects that would not be shown on the public record?

Owners title insurance will protect you against these hidden risks which would not be disclosed by even the most meticulous search of public records:

- Forgery
- Fraud in connection with the execution of documents
- Undue influence on a grantor or executor
- False personation by those purporting to be owners of the property
- Incorrect representation of marital status of grantors
- Undisclosed or missing heirs
- Will not properly probated
- Mistaken interpretation of wills and trusts
- Mental incompetence of grantors
- Conveyance by a minor
-Birth of heirs subsequent to the date of the will
- Inadequate surveys
- Incorrect legal descriptions
- No-delivery of deeds
- Unsatisfied claims not shown on the record
- Deeds executed under expired or false power of attorneys
- Confusion due to similar or identical names
- Dower or curtesy rights of ex-spouse or former owners
- Incorrect indexing
- Clerical errors in recording legal documents
- Delivery of deeds after the death of a grantor

(Answer provided by Investors Title Insurance Company)

You mean an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy insurance Policy insures against these title defects occurring?

No. But Owner’s Title Insurance does eliminate the risk of loss to you resulting from claims against the title. Up to the policy amount, the insuring company will pay the claim amount, negotiate a settlement, or assume all legal expenses involved in settling the claim. (Answer provided by Investors Title Insurance Company)

Driving While Impaired (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Can I get a Driving Privilege after my arrest for Driving While Impaired?

Yes. Typically you can get a Limited Driving Privilege within ten days of your arrest if you meet certain conditions. It may not matter that you have a prior conviction, that you refused the Intoxylizer or had an accident. This Pre-Trial privilege can be prepared by an attorney so that you can be “back on the road” while you are waiting for the clerk to release your Drivers License after 30 days. In certain circumstances, you may be able to get a Privilege sooner than 10 days!

Can I get a Privilege even if I am found guilty of Driving While Impaired?

Yes. Typically you can get a Privilege allowing you to drive from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Friday, plus “non-standard” work hours, to use for the one year that your license is revoked for Driving While Impaired as long as there are no “Grossly Aggravating Factors” in your case and you meet other conditions.

Can I get a Limited Driving Privilege even if I refused the Intoxylizer test?

Yes. If you meet the conditions of a regular Limited Driving Privilege and your case has been concluded and you have been suspended for a minimum of six months.

Do I have to do anything when I am stopped by the police?

You should be polite and respectful to the officer. You should tell the officer your name. You are not required to:

- Perform “Field Sobriety Tests”
- Take an Alcosensor test
- Take the Intoxylizer test at the jail or police station
- Make any admissions about anything

What happens if I refuse to take the Intoxylizer?

Your license will be revoked for thirty days for the civil revocation. Your license will also be suspended for one year. This suspension by DMV is different than the one year suspension from the court system. It is very important that you discuss these issues with an attorney to determine what can be done to protect your interests.

What do I do if I did not refuse but the officer says that I refused?

You have the right to a hearing to determine if you willfully refused to take the Intoxilyzer or give a proper sample. If you are going to object to the one year DMV suspension, then you MUST request a hearing when you get a letter from DMV regarding the suspension. If you do not request it properly, then you may not be allowed to a hearing. When you request a hearing, the suspension is held up until a hearing at DMV.

Can I get Limited Driving Privileges if I refused the Intoxylizer?

You are eligible to get Limited Driving Privileges, if you have no grossly aggravating factors. You may apply for limited driving privileges six months after your license has been suspended. You must have obtained an assessment and completed the recommendations from the assessment.

Disability Insurance Benefits

When should I file for disability benefits?

Social Security generally requires that an individual have an impairment that is permanent or has, or is expected to, last for not less than 12 consecutive months. If you have such an impairment, you should file right away. An initial consultation with a representative can often be helpful. A minimum amount of time is required since the initial determination is based on medical evidence, age, education, and past work experience. This consultation may help you eliminate, or avoid, future problems if an appeal is required.

How much work is required to qualify for disability benefits?

Basically you must have 5 years work out of the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled. These do not have to be 5 consecutive years.

How quickly will disability benefits be paid?

There is a 5 month waiting period before cash benefits are paid. No payment is made for or during these 5 months.

Will I qualify for Medicare if I draw disability benefits?

To Qualify for Medicare benefits you must receive cash benefits for a period of 24 months. However, if you reach age 65 in that 2 year period, Medicare may begin at age 65.

If I file for retirement benefits at age 62, does that prevent me from ever filing for disability?

No. Example: If after filing for retirement you have a severe impairment (for example, stroke or heart attack) you might qualify for disability. If you do qualify for disability after age 62 your monthly payment would be increased. You might want to discuss this with your representative.

Retirement Benefits

When should I apply for retirement?

You should inquire and get an estimate at age 62. You may want to delay retirement because of health insurance considerations. Also there may be other benefits that you may qualify to receive.

How much will I receive if I retire at age 62?

Your basic benefits will be determined on the number of years you worked under Social Security and the amount of your earnings in those years. Your retirement benefit will be at a reduced amount if you file before your full retirement age (age 65-67 based on your year of birth).

Survivor Benefits

How do I file for Survivor Benefits?

Social Security has a program set up with most funeral homes. The funeral home will notify Social Security of the individual’s death, date of death, and the next of kin’s name, address, and telephone number. Social Security will then call the next of kin for all needed information. If you have not been contacted by Social Security within four (4) weeks of the death, contact you nearest Social Security Office.

Will I need to wait for a death certificate?

Proof of death is required in all cases; however, the funeral home notice will often be all that is needed.

What types of benefits are survivors eligible to receive?

In general the following persons may be eligible to receive benefits:

- Minor children of deceased

- Adult children disabled prior to age 22. This includes children with Down Syndrome, Spinal Bifida or other severe development disabilities. Social Security must make a finding of disability before payment can be made in any case.

- Widows/widowers age 60 or older

- Disabled widows/widowers age 50 or older

- A one time lump sum death payment of $225.00 in certain limited cases

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Hartsell & Williams Attorneys, P.A.
71 McCachern Blvd., Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: 704-786-5161

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